History on the State of Virginia Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

17th century, a book inspired by Sir Walter Raleigh and written by Richard Hakluyt, entitled "Western Planting," built up great interest in American colonization. Focus of commercial explorations was possible trade with the East India Company for the West. The King of England formed and granted a royal charter to the London Company and the Plymouth Company (Interesting.com) to found a colony. In December 1606, the London Company, led by Captain Christopher Newport, reached a town and named it Jamestown, after the King of England. It was the first permanent settlement in North America, the whole of which was then Virginia. The first settlers in this new land consisted of 12 laborers, a few carpenters, a blacksmith, a mason, a barber and a tailor and 50 other men.

When Captain Newport returned England for a while and left the colony to the inefficient leadership of Governor Wingfield, trouble and misery followed, until the famous John Smith's arrival and courageous rescue. Smith was an adventurer in Europe and the American forest, where he was captured and condemned to death by fierce Indians. But Pocahontas, the daughter of the Indian chief, saved his life, and he was allowed to return to his own colony. He later became the governor of that colony and saved his people from starvation by trading with the Indians for corn (Interesting).

A second royal charter granted the London Company in 1609 increased its dominion and authority. Lord de la Warr became its first governor, followed by Sir Thomas Dale, who contributed a lot to the survival of Virginia. He partially abolished communism and thus stimulated industry and put an end to food scarcity. During his term, King James granted a third charter, adding Bermuda Islands to the colony and containing other features that gave it the right to self-government. The colonists could then make their own laws and choose their own leaders. An assembly then formed to share governing powers became the House of burgesses, first representative group in America (Interesting).

Tobacco was almost entirely the only crop and staple in the colony for a long time. The Indians taught them the grow it and soon, every farmer grew it. It was the most saleable item then and was so important that it was also used as money: the minister and public officers' salaries were in the form of tobacco.

The most memorable and important year in the early history of Virginia was during the rule of Sir George Yeardley in 1619 when two institutions were established: the notion of "a government by the people" (Commonwealth) and slavery. The notion of "a government by the people," was to evolve and expand into a reality of the "greatest self-governing people in world history." The second institution was seal this people's free institutions at the sacrifice of tens of thousand lives of slaves.

At this time, 90 young women were taken into the colony to become wives of the Settlers so that family life could be established. Some period of peace passed when they related well with the Indians who then were united with the white settlers through the marriage of the Indian girl Pocahontas to John Rolfe, a settler. But with the death of Powhatan, Pocahontas' father, and the succession of his hostile brother, the Indians became unfriendly and attacked the colonists, killing many of them.

The colony fell out of royal grace in 1624 and lost its charter. The King neglected its rule and popular government began to wilt. In 1642, Sir William Berkeley was appointed governor and ruled the longest until 1677. He was known for his fierce antagonism with Puritans. Hostilities broke out in England between them and the Cavaliers, with the Puritans winning under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. The Commonwealth lasted only briefly, but it will be remembered as the first and only time during the colonial period of Virginia that its people enjoyed absolute self-government. Furthermore, this period led to the great Puritan migration to Massachusetts.

Seven founding fathers of the Virginia colony stood out. John Blair sat in the House of Burgesses as the representative of William and Mary. An active patriot, Blair participated in the Virginia constitutional convention and was part of the Committee that framed a declaration of rights and the plan for a new government (NARA). In 1789, he was appointed by President George Washington as associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. James Madison represented Virginia in the Continental Congress from 1780-83 and 1786-88. He stood out as highly instrumental in the convening of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He is credited with the Virginia Plan, which was in a large part the basis of the American Constitution (NARA). Among his other brilliant achievements was that of leading in the ratification process in Virginia, of helping frame and insure the passage of the Bill of Rights and, with Thomas Jefferson, founded the Democratic-Republican Party. Most importantly, he succeeded Jefferson as President in 1809, and like his first three predecessors, was confronted with the problem and consequences of European wars.

George Mason was one of the richest planters in Virginia, particularly as the owner of Gunston Hall. He acquired the Ohio Company that speculated on Western lands. When the British Crown revoked its rights in 1773, Mason printed his first major state paper, Extracts from the Virginia Charters, expressing commentaries (NARA). He was elected into the House of Burgesses in 1759 and played a significant role in drawing up the Fairfax Resolves, which outlined the colonists' constitutional grounds against the Boston Port Act. He also framed Virginia's Declaration of Rights in 1776, which became a model to other Constitutions. James McClurg was a physician and surgeon in the military during the Revolution. He was considered one of the most eminent in Virginia, not only in his profession but also as Madison's secretary of foreign affairs. He moved strongly for the greater independence of the executive from the legislative branch.

Edmund Randolph studied law under his father, John Randolph. He rose to become mayor of Williamsburg and Virginia's attorney-general and then governor of Virginia in 1786 (NARA). As delegate to the Annapolis Convention in 1787, he presented the Virginia Plan for a new government, consisting of the three branches (executive, legislative and judicial). At the time of President Washington, he took over the post of Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State. Even after his retirement from politics, he continued to be regarded as a leading legal practitioner.

George Washington, the first American President, was first a military man and officer of the Virginia forces. Disappointed over the turn of his career, he resigned and settled with a wife to manage their plantations. He sat in the Virginia House of Burgesses some time between 1759 and 1774. He represented Virginia at the First and Second Continental Congresses, after which he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. He proved himself as the leader of a well-trained and disciplined force. He briefly retired afterwards, until he hosted the Mount Vernon Conference. His presence, dignity and participation greatly influenced the Constitutional Convention in Annapolis (1786), the result of which was his unanimous choice as the first President in 1788 (NARA). Washington governed America with the dignity for which he was known, gave substance to the Constitution, and harmonized competing factions and differing policies within the government and during his administration. His countless achievements would not end with his retirement when he agreed to lead the nation in a war against France in 1798. In his will, he emancipated his slaves.

George Wythe did not have the benefit of a complete formal education, but he rose to become an eminent jurist and teacher. He served as delegate to the House of Burgesses from 1750 to 1775, then as mayor of Williamsburg…

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