What events in Virginia in 1619 helped shape the American history?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In 1619, Virginia was reeling from severe tragedies. The former Governor, Samuel Argall, had ruled with dishonesty, and the recent death of the Indian Chief Powhatan had thrown diplomatic relations into uncertainty. The lack of gold, one of the biggest reasons for the Virginia Company's (formerly the London Company) interest, made the welfare of the fledgling colony of lesser importance, and so there were fewer supply ships and contact with England.

However, Virginia Company head Sir Edwin Sandys had better plans, and sent replacement Governor Sir George Yeardley, who created the House of Burgesses; modeled after the British Parliament, it included twenty-two delegates, who met in July and offered new settlers laws officiated not by kings but by popular opinion and honest vote. This was the first governing body of its sort in the Americas, and set down guidelines for all similar systems that followed, including rules about eligibility (men over 17 who owned land). The concept of government by the people became a rallying point for settlers who wanted to escape the monarchies of Europe and England.

The second major event in Virginia in 1619 was the formal institution of slavery. The first African slaves to land on American shores were put to work in a capacity similar to indentured servitude, although this attitude did not last long. Some were able to buy or win freedom through conversion to Christianity, and some were even able to purchase slaves for themselves. Public attitudes toward slavery remained in this mode for several years before becoming a deliberate, race-based system. Slavery as a means of wealth and survival (expendable workers) continued to be the norm well into the 19th century.