Learn American History through 50 pop songs

The House of Burgesses


The Virginia House of Burgesses was the first popularly elected legislature in America. The house determined the eligibility of its own members, passed local laws, carried out the provisions of the governor and the charter, and regulated taxes.


© Copyright 2010 by Mr. and Mrs. Gillenwater

With England behind them, the crown an ocean away
A new type of governing where all have a say
A new type of governing – the Virginian way

1619 the first steps are seen
Toward government today in the USA

Way back then a Virginia settlement
Developed a limited government
They said NO, NO, NO absolute power
NO, NO, NO kings in high towers

They took some Magna Carta
And their colonial charter
And with the good fortune of distance
Broke from the monarchy system

The Virginia House of Burgesses
Are the first representatives

The Virginia House of Burgesses
Are the first representatives

Who set the people-rule model which history will follow


Virginia House of Burgesses— In 1619 The Virginia House of Burgesses formed. It was the first legislative body in colonial America.

Limited government— A type of government in which its functions and powers are prescribed, limited, and restricted by law

Absolute power— Typically refers to concepts of tyranny, corruption, authoritarianism, absolutism, and totalitarianism, and is associated largely with monarchy and non-democratic forms of government.

Magna Carta— The Magna Carta is an English document drawn up by nobles under King John which limited the power of the king. It has influenced later bodies of government in America such as the Virginia House of Burgesses.

Monarchy system— A form of government in which supreme authority is held by a single hereditary rule (a king or queen).

Tiered Questions

Tier 1 Questions

In what year did colonists make the first steps towards modern American government?

What type of government did colonists in Virginia want to avoid?

Tier 2 Questions

What do the lines “the crown an ocean away” and “with the good fortune of distance” mean, and how did those factors play a part in what colonists in America were able to accomplish?

What does it mean that the Virginia settlement was able to break from the monarchy system?

Tier 3 Questions

Compare and contrast a limited government and a monarchy system.

Why do you think Virginian settlers were determined to create a limited government?

The last line says these settlers “set the people-rule model which history will follow”. What do you think this means?

Test Prep Questions

1) The Mayflower Compact, New England town meetings, and the Virginia House of Burgesses are examples of

  • (1) early colonial efforts in self-government
  • (2) colonial protests against British taxation
  • (3) governments imposed by Parliament
  • (4) attempts to limit democracy

2) The Virginia House of Burgesses was important to the development of democracy in the thirteen colonies because it

  • (1) provided an example of a representative form of government
  • (2) created the first written constitution in America
  • (3) provided for direct election of senators
  • (4) began the practice of legislative override of executive vetoes

3) The Mayflower Compact, House of Burgesses, and Fundamental Orders of Connecticut are all examples of the efforts of colonial Americans to

  • (1) use democratic practices in government
  • (2) protest British land policies
  • (3) establish religious freedom
  • (4) overthrow British royal governors