quote: "...Government intended for the benefit of the people and the strength of the Colony" - Instructions to Governor Yeardley, 1618

Currently on view in the Capitol Visitor Center through December 2019, “The Great Charter and the General Assembly: Founding a Legacy in 1619” is an exhibition that commemorates the 400th anniversary of the Virginia General Assembly. In 1619 the Virginia Company of London sent a set of instructions to the Virginia Colony’s newly appointed governor, Sir George Yeardley (1587-1627).

The Great Charter and the General Assembly Exhibit Now in the Capitol Extension
The Great Charter and the General Assembly Exhibit Now in the Capitol Extension

These instructions came to be known as the “Great Charter” and resulted in sweeping reforms in the management of the colony. Among the most significant was the establishment of an elected assembly. This assembly first met at Jamestown, Virginia in the summer of 1619. This pivotal event in American history marks the founding of what is today the Virginia General Assembly, the oldest representative legislative assembly in the New World. Virginia’s General Assembly has been meeting annually ever since that first historic gathering 400 years ago. Virginia’s 400 year tradition of representative government and the institution of elections stand as lasting legacies and the foundation on which American government and democracy have been built.