400 years ago today, in a church in Jamestown, Virginia, the first ever representative government in the Americas convened for the first time to establish local law as “the House of Burgesses.” Governor George Yeardley, installed by royal charter, gathered 22 elected Burgesses, representing the 11 plantations and settlements in Virginia. King James I, who believed in the divine right of monarchs, attempted to later dissolve the assembly, but the Virginians continued to meet at least once a year with their royal governor to decide local laws and determine taxation. All the great powers in the world at that time—China, France, Rome, Japan, Russia–were all ruled by kings, czars, and emperors, but in Virginia a new precedent was being set—and four centuries later, their elected representatives are still deciding matters with a vote and pen, rather by sword or bloodline. Some of the Burgesses elected later became household names… (1619)

Significantly, the House of Burgesses decided, contrary to instructions, that their decisions would be immediately binding, rather than held in limbo for months until London had reviewed them. Each of the other 13 new English colonies in America followed suit, demanded their own legislatures and resisting London’s demands for more control. By the time of the Declaration of Independence, colonists had already a century and a half of practice in establishing democracy, and notable new members of the Virginia assembly—Patrick Henry, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson—would lead the charge to secure full independence from the British throne.

The original church, rebuilt after a fire; and Patrick Henry addressing the House

Living in Virginia 400 years ago was already a harrowing life. The six-day debut of the legislative session was cut short due to an outbreak of malaria.

MORE Good News on this Day:

  • The French national anthem, “La Marseillaise” by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, was first sung in Paris (1792)
  • President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law at a time when nearly HALF of all Americans over 65 had no health insurance and family savings were ever in jeopardy of being wiped out—and since then Medicaid has provided coverage for some 68 million children, parents, pregnant mothers and people with disabilities (1965)
  • Foreign ministers from Greece, Turkey and the UK signed a Cyprus Peace Agreement and Cease Fire to end weeks of shelling on the Mediterranean island (1974)
  • One final ‘old style’ Volkswagen Beetle rolled off an assembly line (2003)
  • Top of the Pops, the world’s longest running music show, was broadcast for the last time on BBC Two after airing for 42 years (2006)
  • 2009 Best Picture “Slumdog Millionaire” directed by Danny Boyle and starring Dev Patel first premiered at the Telluride Film Festival (2008)

Happy 61st Birthday to Kate Bush, the pioneering English singer-songwriter, musician, dancer and record producer, who became the first female artist to achieve a UK number one hit with a self-written song in 1978 when, still a teen, she topped the chart for four weeks with her debut single, Wuthering Heights. She has since released 25 UK Top 40 singles, including the Top-10 hits Man with the Child in His Eyes, Babooshka, Running Up That Hill, Don’t Give Up (with Peter Gabriel) and King of the Mountain. Eclectic, experimental, and theatrical, after she announced her first concerts in 35 years, the 22 shows sold out in a record 15 minutes. (1958)

Photo by Philip Chappell aka squidney, CC

Having released ten studio albums in five decades, (three at No. 1, including Hounds of Love), she was the first British solo female artist to top the UK album charts, and the first female artist to enter the album chart at number one. With the hype over the new London shows in 2014, she had eight albums in the UK Top 40 Albums Chart simultaneously, placing her third behind Elvis Presley (with 12 albums in 1977), and The Beatles (in 2009 with 11). A 3-disk live recording from the shows is called Before the Dawn. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018, and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for honors in the service to music… HEAR about her remarkable comeback, and WATCH her perform…

And, Happy 72nd Birthday to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor, bodybuilder, and former 2-term governor of California who is now fighting to bring redistricting reform to the American political system. “Born in Austria and Made in America”, the ‘Governator’  became the youngest man ever to win the Mr. Universe contest at age 20, then pursued a film career, starring in in Conan the Barbarian,Predator, the Terminator series, andTotal Recall.

Photo by Nate Mandos, CC

In 2006, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the Global Warming Solutions Act, creating the nation’s first cap on greenhouse gas emissions, which targeted utilities, refineries and manufacturing as part of a plan to reduce the state’s levels by 25 percent by 2020. In 2011, Schwarzenegger founded the R20 Regions of Climate Action to develop a sustainable, low carbon economy. In 2012, he helped to found the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy at USC to boost bi-partisanship cooperation in finding solutions to the country’s most serious challenges. Beyond his well-known support for the Special Olympics, he founded the Inner City Games Foundation in 1995 to provide cultural, educational and community enrichment programming to over 250,000 youth in 15 cities and 400 schools countrywide. (1947)

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