tv 400th Anniversary of Virginia General Assembly - Part 2 CSPAN September 22, 2019 7:15pm-7:56pm EDT
stand here and in emancipation hall and commemorate this very important day. thank you very much. [applause] you're watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend. on c-span3. announcer: founded in 1607, jamestown, virginia was the first in glhf settlement in north america. the summer of 1619, marked the arrival of the first african slaves and the first meeting of the general assembly. which established representative government in the colonies. tv, aan american history commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the first virginia general assembly. ringing]
clang] >> good morning. kirk cox, speaker of the virginia house of delegates. i'm delighted to welcome everyone here at jamestown settlement in the recredit church in james forte. and those viewing these proceedings online or watching from beyond to the 400 that today. of the first and oldest continuous representative legislation body in the western hemisphere. dayforefathers on this very at years ago assembled here the birthplace of american democracy, jamestown.
freedom in the form of representative democracy began here in virginia. the unforgettable and inspiring event that happened here, what began here, has changed not only virginia, and not only america, but much of the entire world. special occasions and commemorations like this offer us an opportunity to pause and reflect on the history of 6019. as a retired schoolteacher, i taught government for 30 years. i know the year 1619 was pivotal. as well as complicated. events that year profoundly shaped the history of america. they are 1619 saw the beginning of the highs and lows of america. these included the noteworthy birth of democracy in the new world, and the ongoing expert and representative self-government. but also the forced arrival of
africans to in his, which tragically was a genesis of the shameful evils that was slavery. alsoal occasions like this challenge us, to seek insight and learn lessons regarding how our american evolution has brought us here. for example, we know from keen observers, that with those first steps, which english speaking settlers took in this new land of virginia, and down the sentries to this very day, promised hope and achievement have abide with difficulty, conflict and failure. andvirginia, our virginia our american journey continues as does the noble work toward finding and forging together a more perfect union. a historic milestone in commemoration also can encourage us to not just look back upon our storied past, but to look forward.
to lift up our eyes and aspirations and to envision a better, brighter, and more fair and just future as a people. as a commonwealth, and as a nation. for jenny deeply rooted in america's soil and history than any part of our country. by fellows honored citizens, fortunate enough to be elected as delicate's, senators to the virginia dealt general assembly are stewards of that great inheritance. we are fortunate to be among the many keepers of the flame. of american democracy that was first began here at jamestown .irginia 400 years ago back in 6090, elected representatives called burgesses, from the 11 major settlement areas, for the first time gathered as an assembly with governor and council of .eaders
the purpose was to pass laws to better manage the colony and to improve people's lives and livelihoods. earlier this that morning at the memorial church on jamestown island, delegates and senators who never present it portions of these 11 original burros, were present. just as their predecessors were 400 years ago today. they come along with our governor, representative tribes that were native to the soil, and the with leaders and guests, assembled where representation of the will of the people began. thrivedica evolved and to the united states. likewise, here now at jamestown settlement, in this re-created church, we are again joined by certain successors, representing the 11 major settlement areas. but also with us on this historic occasion, are two
leading participants and well-informed witnesses who attended that very first session of the virginia general assembly for centrica -- for sentries ago. by special arrangement, the marvelous wonders of living history, what is now hear the voices of virginia colonies by theovernor followed other first speaker of the general assembly. >> good morning. distinguished guests, gentlemen guests, gentlemen and kind ladies, it has only been a few years passed now since i returned to virginia in the spring of 1619. i brought with me my commission as governor of virginia. and a new set of instructions from the virginia company of
london that has come to be known as the great charter. which we hoped would bring stability to this colony that had been suffering under martial law for nearly nine years. we had been at peace with the powhatan indians for many years and the harsh hand of marshall are rather than a help to the colony was no hindrance. to further the colony growth and prosperity, the virginia company instructed me to and -- two and law and tortial institute, law and justice the colony. they also instruct me to call for each of the 11 towns and plantations along the river to send to reppo senate is here to the capital at jamestown but where these newly appointed burgesses would meet to pass laws on the governing of the colony. citizens of virginia no longer had to fear the arbitrary decisions of coming officials, for we had brought about a familiar form of governing here in virginia.
in which their own interests and concerns what drive legislation. at the company's behest, we divided executive, legislative and judicial power between the authority of the governor, the council and this new representative assembly made up of colonists living here in virginia. this elected assembly is now the voice of the people here. this assembly is also going to serve as a check on the power and a balance to the power of myself and my counsel. -- my council. is my believe that the citizens of virginia have certainly welcomed this method of establishing laws, grounded in english common law and click cleanse to two, including this newly formed representative assembly that will certainly continue to take and to the affairs of virginia for some time to come. -- to tend to the affairs of virginia for some time to come. today as we mark the first
meeting of that general sla that took place on the same date is few years past, some would say that as near as may be, we have wrought virginia to the laudable form of justice and government that we all knew in england. i call upon my good friend and counselor, the man i pointed speaker for that first meeting of our general assembly, master john, for his recollections of that gathering. speaker? >> thank you, governor yardley. i remember when you and i come along with a few appointed electedrs, and about 20 burgesses, began meeting together on this very date. doing torrid and sickly summer of 1619. our first legislative session was held in the choir of the church here at jamestown.
it was the most convenient place we could find to set. it is true the governor appointed me from his counsel. to serve as a speaker for the whole assembly. not because of my kinship to his wife, lady temperance. nay, but rather i was the only member of the assembly who had served as an elective lawmaker in the house of commons. there upon my experience to organize our new assembly, and reduce all the matters pending before it into a ready method, for the greater ease of the members. the first task of our proceedings was to review and discuss the new charter of 1618. after close examination, and committees, this charter received the general assent and applause of the whole sm lee.
assembly.whole the ending of cruel marshall and theartial laws granting of land to planters who had labored here, give us all great encouragement and hope. another great task was to propose debate and vote upon suitable laws for the welfare and peaceable government of this infant commonwealth. our new laws were carefully drawn from two sources. previous company instructions sent from london to governors here in virginia, were reviewed by committees. , fit to beuctions converted into new laws were reported and further debated. 18 of them were given yet one review more. the finalid pass
consent of the assembly. i recall, several of these laws, dealt with labor contracts and the production of particular commodities deemed profitable by the virginia company. secondly, another 18 laws were debated and passed, which originated within the minds of the people living and working here, in virginia. several of these laws rebutted regular religious observances and required our ministers to report -- to record births, deaths and marriages among our growing population. piecelaws safeguarded the and regulated our trade with the native indians that were living in great numbers all around us. the summary,
these laws were crated from proposals made on behalf of the sundry inhabitants who elected legislators counselors and burgesses. these new laws brought to life by our flock, did touch everyone living here to the life. assembly also produced several petitions to forward to company leaders in london. mostly to clarify some points in the great charter, touching upon land and rent and inheritance and new settlers. i included these petitions in a detailed report of our legislative and legal proceedings. i was charged with writing and then sending these across the ocean. i'm i am told that this report, some
30 pages of manuscript, has survived and is now known to all of you. i can testify that for many years, the future of our newly --mpted generally assembly general assembly remained very much in doubt. dissolving the crown the charter of the water company, and turned this land into a crown colony less than six years after our first assembly. tis also true that people living here did carefully nurture and protect the valuable life to elect their own, and thus maintain a growing voice in their own affairs. mythis special day, concluding charge to all of you is this.
premises in the great charter, and in governor yardley's commission. and follow the rules of justice and good government. people,benefit of the and the strength of our commonwealth. adieu. [applause] >> pulitzer prize editor john meacham not long ago said the a historian or storyteller's tip yourself in the shoes of the people engaged in those events and then try to figure out what they knew, when they knew it.
from the presentations we just witnessed, the wisdom of that statement is clear. thank you governor your way and speaker pory. also i truly hope everyone will find time or make time to see h theriginal 1619 minutes of first legislative assembly that convened four centuries ago today. time in 400 years at the national archives of the united kingdom in a public exhibit for several months here at the jamestown settlement. now it is truly my pleasure to welcome our next speaker who also had a marvelous way of making history come alive. john meacham is a talented, extremely gifted historian. he is one of today's prima biographers. he's won a pulitzer prize for his literary ventures and is a popular selling offer.
helped manyhas young people find understanding and wisdom and purposes in history. he tellsetter still, stories as well as anyone writing about america. 16 19gacy of jamestown in as i alluded to earlier is complex. evolution, american we have been working hard to make sure it is examined thoughtfully, carefully, and in full historical context. here, as with other aspects of history, we confront andradictions, contradictions between and deeds and braced done. but we can, should, and are sorting through this and trying mightily to better educate us all. historiany having an
like john meacham here today is a tremendous opportunity for education and learning. he famously remarked that readers will go along with you when you are telling stories about even very well-known events if you write it as it was lived, without knowing the end. well, we are very much in the flow of history these days, and none of us knows the end. the story of american history has been clarified and enriched by our distinguished speaker. i cannot think of a more appropriate engagement. on this important day in american history. ladies and gentlemen, please join me in giving a warm welcome to mr. john meacham. [applause]
mr. meacham: thank you. i can tell you were not sworn. whenever i think i am the most preeminent anything, my mind goes back to a moment, it was about 10 years ago now on the washington mall. i was at that point on my way to give a talk about andrew jackson. and a woman ran up to me, which doesn't happen enough, forever, actually. she said oh my god, it is you. well yes, existentially speaking. and she said, your books have meant so much to me, i love them. will you wait right here, i am to go buy your book and have you sign it. i sat there thinking, this is the way the world is supposed to be. women are supposed to run up to you, buy your book. it was a twofer. hand to god, she brought back jon grissom's latest novel.
[laughter] so whenever i think i'm that distinguish i remind myself that somewhere in america there is a woman with a forged copy of "the runaway jury." because you had to sign it. significant act for you to have a tendency income to you on this day. so i am delighted. the story that we commemorate today began with dreams of god and of gold, but not necessarily in that order. first by king james the in 1609, the first charter was 3805 words long. 98 of those words were about carrying religion, as it is put, to such people as yet was in darkness and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of god. concerned therter taking of, as it put it, all the
havens,ood, soil,, waters, fishing, commodities, as well as to dig, mine answers for all matters of gold, silver and copper. so god and mammon propelled men across the seas, and the evolutionary beginnings of popular government came soon after their arrival. we are here this morning in arge measure because in 1618, faction within the virginia company, led by sir edwin sands, successfully argued for a series of reforms resulting in what the governor and the speaker just told us was the great charter. a set of instructions sent to governor yardley who was to begin his term in 1619. officials of the company authorized the governor to oversee this election of two
male settlers from each of the 11 major settled areas to attend a general assembly here in jamestown. this new form of government divided political and judicial power between the governor, a council appointed by the virginia company, and the new general assembly. the assembly's first meeting took place four centuries ago this very day. throughsday, july 30 sunday, august 4. our friend john poirier, secretary of the colonies, served as speaker. six appointed counsel members attended, along with 20 of the 22 selected burgesses. , represented of government in the new world began. as abraham lincoln reminded us, we cannot escape history. and i would argue that we should not want to, or try to. for by our heritage and our hope, we as americans are
charged with a sacred duty to fulfill the injunction that to whom much is given, much is expected. and as americans, we have been given much. and those gifts in many ways are rooted here at jamestown. gifts of liberty and of opportunity, of self-government, and of what lincoln was to call a fair chance to enable us to lead lives of prosperity and of peace. which is why this is a good moment and a good place to reflect on who we have been, who we are, and where we might go in the next 400 years. for to know what's come before is to be armed against despair. if the men and women of the past, with all their flaws and limitations and ambitions and appetites, could press on through ignorance and superstition, through racism and sexism, through selfishness and greed, then perhaps, we too, can
take another step towards a more perfect union. history has the capacity to bring us together. for our story is ultimately one of obstacles overcome, crises resolved, and freedom expanded. jamestown's stories and america's, is about the best of us and the worst of us. there was human enslavement. they was the abuse and disposition of the neighbored -- the native inhabitants, some of whom it must be said were essential to the survival of jamestown in its earliest days. there was the subjugation of women. mixedwas, there is, our record of welcoming new immigrants to our shores. and yet, and yet. so much of american history is captured in the phrase, "and yet." place, in this
representative government, government of the people, not of princes, began. this first assembly on the banks of the james was the forerunner of the united states congress, of the other 49 state legislatures, and of all other american legislative bodies. in the fullness of time, this first planting blossomed into a worldwide flowering of democratic institutions, and of free nations. a development in which american leadership and sacrifice played, and should play, an indispensable role. that the note, too, first thanksgiving in america can be traced not to the yankees at plymouth rock, but to our fellow southerners here in virginia. an instance of new england cultural imperialism we should not reward. after all, don't we throw better parties? as a tennessean, i would say so.
i'm a graduate of the university of the south. friend,fern -- my best his name is jack daniels. you all know him. we should not sentimental lies the american experience. the nation has been morally flawed since the beginning. we must be honest about that. and our honesty should lead us to do all that we can do to be about the work of justice. 1619, the white lion, a privateering vessel, arrived at fort sumter virginia at present day hampton. dd africansld 28-o who were traded in exchange for provisions. originally captured by portuguese slavers in west central africa, these were the first reported africans to arrive in english north america. and they were treated much as slaves were in other european colonies, regardless of age or
gender. the irony was not lost on the old world. english men of letters samuel johnson asked, that we hear the loudest yelps for negroes? how is it? well, this is how. we are not perfect. we are a fallen and essential people. we get some things right, and some things wrong. we try and we fail, but we must try again and again and again, for only in trial is progress possible. and the story of america is in fact the story of progress. at our best we reach out, we look ahead, and we dream big. and at our best, we close the gap between the ideal and the
real. nation, like the test of an individual, cannot be perfection, for perfection is not possible until the arrival of the new heavens and the new earth. the test, rather, turns on how often we heed our better angels rather than our worst instincts. the work of america is not done. the american revolution, indeed, the american evolution, unfolds still. that is our blessing and our burden. xenophobia,acism, driven by a fear of the un known, tend to spike in periods of stress, a period like our own. as we gather here, faith in institutions in ebbing.
seem more interested in producing heat than shedding light. our politics rewards the clinched fist and the harsh remark more than the open hand and the welcoming word. us that wey teaches have always grown stronger the more widely we have opened our arms, and the more generously we have interpreted the most important sentence ever originally rendered in english. thomas jefferson's assertion that all men are created equal. careful aboutm hyperbolic claims like the most important sentence in the english language, largely because of the old story about the texas school board candidate who is against teaching spanish in the public schools, and set on the stump one day, if glitch was good enough for jesus christ, it is good for texas. but that is in texas, so we
won't worry about that. i also point out it were not for tennessee, texas would still be part of spain, and they do not like that at all. first time i met george w. bush i told him that. funny., heheh, pretty jerk. [laughter] to build monuments to people who build loss -- build walls. we build monuments to people who open doors. we honor liberators, not captors. the battle between hope and fear, between what is right and what is convenient, between the larger good and personal interest. those are the battles that have been fought in our common experience for 400 years, and they unfolds still. and the terrain on which light and dark contend is nothing less than the arena of the soul. socrates believed the soul was
the animating force of reality. in the second chapter of genesis, the soul was life itself and the lord god breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. in the greek new testament, when jesus says greater love hath no man like this, that a man lay down his life for friends, the word for life can also be translated as soul. and our history is determined, our lives are determined by the outcome of the clashes within our soul, both individual and national, between liberty and slavery, between grace and rage, and between kindness and cruelty. dwells in ourod, national soul. yet there is evil, too. good and evil. such is the stuff of the unfolding lies of nations down the centuries.
ining a secret summit at sea august of 1941, franken roosevelt and winston churchill attended a church service above the prince of wales. together they saying onward christian soldiers, and eternal father. remarked, onward christian soldiers. yes, we are christian soldiers, and we will go on. with god's help. and on we went. a product of that rendezvous between fdr and churchill is the atlantic charter, a statement that war aims and the struggle against fascism and totalitarianism. without a great charter in jamestown, there might not have been an atlantic charter amid the winds of the second world war. more broadly, without a jamestown in 1619, there might not have been a lexington and concord in 1775.
nor a philadelphia in 1776 and 1787. --r a seneca falls in in our search, in our hunger for a way forward, through the mail's term of twitter and tribalism, i would commend -- the very kind of remembrance we are undertaking at this hour. the beginning of wisdom lies in an appreciation of the past, which has william faulkner taught us, is not dead, is not even pst. -- past. what can we learn from the kind of history we contemplate today? that the perfect cannot be the enemy of the good.
that compromise is the oxygen of democracy. and that we learn the most from those who came before, not by gazing up at them adoringly or down on them condescendingly, but looking them in the eye and taking them for what they were -- human. not as impossibly perfect heroes, or hopelessly irredeemable villains. knowing the history of freedom is not only illuminating, but enabling. a person who understands that the past and all its glory and grandeur and horror and injustice understands that the path of civilization, while never straight, is essentially upward, forward, to what churchill once called the broad and sunless up lens. for all its faults, jamestown was the place where different cultures all came together in english north america, setting the stage for racial, ethnic,
and eventually religious and other forms of diversity. capitalism and private enterprise are rooted here, too. jamestown is a mirror of who we were, and who we are. here,rs and doers came and they built, and we stand in the light of their achievement. in our finest hours, america has been about life, it has been about liberty, it has been about the pursuit of happiness, not just for some, but for all. history, history rooted here in this place, lies our hope. thank you. [applause]
theuncer: this year marks 400th anniversary of the first meeting of the virginia general assembly in jamestown, which established representative government in the colonies. you can watch more about this anniversary on the american history tv website, at cspan.o rg/history. announcer: this weekend, american history tv is joining our comcast cable partners to showcase the history of lansing, michigan. to watch more video from cities