Virginia History


    Virginia was founded in 1607 in Jamestown. Since its early beginnings, Virginia has grown and prospered into a thriving state rich with diversity from culture to climate.


    What is the Commonwealth of Virginia?

    You will often hear Virginia called the Commonwealth. This does not mean Virginia has a different form of government than any other state. Merriam-Webster definition.

    The first use of commonwealth in Virginia was early in its history. One reason given by Governor Sir George Yeardley for authorizing the first General Assembly meeting at Jamestown in 1619 was "for the better establishing of a commonwealth here." 

    From 1649 to 1660, England and Virginia did not have a king. Instead, the Puritans ruled under a Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell. The government was called the Commonwealth of England. This commonwealth ended when King Charles II reclaimed the throne in 1660.

    In colonial times, Virginia was officially known as the Colony and Dominion of Virginia. When the 13 colonies broke ties with the British Crown during the Revolution, the old name was no longer suitable. The delegates to the convention in Williamsburg, when the first Constitution of Virginia was adopted on June 29, 1776, used commonwealth as the name for the new form of government. It is very likely they had in mind the Puritans' rebellion against the Crown in England over 100 years earlier. Pennsylvania and Massachusetts also chose to be called commonwealths after independence from Great Britain. The other 10 former colonies took the name "state," the term used in the Declaration of Independence.

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Last Updated: 6/14/2011 4:55 PM
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