Virginia’s Capital Moves Twice
Today, Virginia’s capital (the place where the government meets) is Richmond. But how did Richmond become the capital when Jamestown was the place where the first government meetings were held? The House of Burgesses started in 1619 and met in the church at the Jamestown fort. This was the first form of representative government in Virginia.
Even though Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement, the people began to realize that it was not the best place to have the capital. Jamestown’s drinking water was contaminated by seepage of salt water from the brackish water of the James River and the Chesapeake Bay. Also, unhealthy living conditions caused diseases, so many people got sick. Fire destroyed the wooden and brick buildings at Jamestown too. Virginia’s capital, the place of government, needed to move to a better location.
The better site for the capital was at Williamsburg. Williamsburg is a town that has Virginia’s first college in it: the College of William and Mary, named after the king and queen of England at the time. College students actually thought of the idea to move the House of Burgesses from Jamestown to Williamsburg after Jamestown had a terrible fire. They presented their idea to the burgesses, and the burgesses liked it! So in 1699, the capital of the colony became Williamsburg. A special Capitol building was built in Williamsburg for the burgesses to meet in. The Capitol building is at one end of Duke of Gloucester Street, and the College of William and Mary is at the other end. Williamsburg served as the capital town of Virginia during colonial times. As time went on, the House of Burgesses changed its name to the General Assembly. The General Assembly is what it is called today! The General Assembly makes laws for Virginia.
Virginia’s population kept growing as more and more people immigrated to the new world. The population in Virginia began moving westward. People wanting to settle Virginia, own land, and make money growing crops followed the James River upstream instead of staying close to the Chesapeake Bay. Once again, it seemed logical to move the capital to a new town that was a more central location to where more of the population was living. Also, moving to Richmond increased the distance from attack by the British. By this time (the 1700s), England and the colonies were no longer friendly countries with each other, because the 13 colonies (America) wanted to become its own country. So in 1780, the capital was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond. That is where the capital has stayed for 231 years!
True or False Directions: Write “true” in the blank if the statement is true. Write “false” in the blank if it is false.
__________1. Today, Virginia’s capital is Williamsburg.
__________2. The capital is the place where the government meets.
__________3. The House of Burgesses at Jamestown was the first form of representative government in Virginia.
__________4. Jamestown’s drinking water was clean and healthy for drinking.
__________5. Some people at Jamestown got diseases caused by unhealthy living conditions.
__________6. The first college in Virginia was Williamsburg College.
__________7. College students thought of the idea to move the capital from Jamestown to Williamsburg.
__________8. The House of Burgesses’ name changed over time to become the General Assembly.
__________9. The capital moved from Jamestown to Richmond, because the water was contaminated in Williamsburg.
__________10. The capital moved from Williamsburg to Jamestown, because more of the population was moving westward.