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House of Burgesses
Colony of Virginia
Coat of arms or logo
Patrick Henry in the House of Burgesses by Peter F. Rothermel
History
Established 1619
Succeeded by Virginia House of Delegates in 1776
Meeting place
House of Burgesses in the Capitol Williamsburg James City County Virginia by Frances Benjamin Johnston.jpg
Reconstructed chamber in Williamsburg
Jamestown, Virginia (1619–1699)
Williamsburg, Virginia (1699–1776)

The House of Burgesses was the elected representative element of the Virginia General Assembly, the legislative body of the Colony of Virginia. With the creation of the House of Burgesses in 1642, the General Assembly, which had been established in 1619, became a bicameral institution.

From 1642 to 1776, the House of Burgesses was an instrument of government alongside the royally-appointed colonial governor and the upper-house Council of State in the General Assembly.

When the Virginia colony declared its independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain at the Fifth Virginia Convention in 1776 and became the independent Commonwealth of Virginia, the House of Burgesses became the House of Delegates, which continues to serve as the lower house of the General Assembly.

Name

Originally a synonym of burgher or bourgeois, the word "Burgess" came to mean a borough representative in local or parliamentary government.

Legacy

Second Capitol at Williamsburg Virginia
Second Capitol at Williamsburg (viewed from Duke of Gloucester Street)

The House of Burgesses became the House of Delegates in 1776, retaining its status as the lower house of the General Assembly, the legislative branch of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Through the General Assembly and House of Burgesses, the Virginia House of Delegates is considered the oldest continuous legislative body in the New World.

In honor of the original House of Burgesses, every four years, the Virginia General Assembly traditionally leaves the current Capitol in Richmond, and meets for one day in the restored Capitol building at Colonial Williamsburg. The most recent commemorative session (the 26th) was held in January 2016.

In January 2007, the Assembly held a special session at Jamestown to mark the 400th anniversary of its founding as part of the Jamestown 2007 celebration, including an address by then-Vice-President Dick Cheney.

In January 2019, to mark the 400th anniversary of the House of Burgesses, the Virginia House of Representatives Clerk's Office announced a new Database of House Members called "DOME" that "[chronicles] the 9,700-plus men and women who served as burgesses or delegates in the Virginia General Assembly over the past four centuries."

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