America as we know it includes a vast network of representative governments. During the colonial period of early America, Virginia was the first to introduce a representative assembly. This first glimpse of democracy influenced the shape of America today. It eventually caused the colonies to drift away from monarchial England, and to establish a democratic government. Ironically, from this government, slavery and racism sprouted.
In an attempt to make Virginia a more pleasant place to live, the governor was instructed to create an assembly with the power to make laws. The assembly included two members from each plantation to serve as burgesses or representatives. Convening in 1619 it became the first colonial, representative body (p.13). This was a significant step in the formation of America. A group of men representing the residents of a particular land would make laws that were meant for them. This was democracy at its earliest stage in America.
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Everywhere one goes today in America, there is democracy. Whether a church council, school club or the state general assembly, a representative group is always present. Democracy shapes America. One could view the first democratic group responsible for today’s freedom. This was the assembly formed by George Yeardly (p.13). Perhaps, if the Virginia Company had not instructed the governor to establish an assembly, the idea of democracy might not have instilled into the minds of the colonists. Surely, without this first appearance, it is questionable that an idea suppressed for centuries under the English monarchy would surface anywhere else. Moreover, it led the way for other settlements to adopt a similar code.
Another way the representative body shaped America was slavery. Most representatives approved slavery and practiced it. The early burgesses of the Virginian assembly received land as their pay wages (p.14). They needed people to work their newly acquired lands. Therefore, indentured servants were common on their plantations. The whole idea of indentured servants and their later inadequacy eventually led to the flood of black slaves to America. Because these representatives owned servants and slaves themselves, slavery was easily passed into law. It has a huge impact on the racial tension in America today. Because the representative government approved slavery, it existed in America.
Virginia’s first representative body helped form present America because it set an example of democracy for other colonies and broke from the common practice of lordship and monarchy. It eventually caused the colonies to drift away from monarchial England. If not for this first, the shape of America today would look much different.
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