So May marks the establishment of the first permanent English speaking settlement in the Americas at Jamestown. Now I realize this is a weighted anniversary for many reasons, mostly that permanent European settlements created more and more difficulties for the Native Americans who were nearly wiped out by smallpox and military action. There’s also the minor detail that the Spanish got to Virginia first, but got themselves killed before setting up anything permanent.
But for today, I’m going to focus on the positive! Sort of.
You see, there’s a conspiracy in this county which I was not fully aware of until I worked in a Virginia museum. Most history textbooks in the United States are published in the Boston area. Which means that the history most American school children learn is heavily skewed towards Massachusetts. This is why most people know the story of Plymouth better than the story of Jamestown and think that most of the work towards gaining independence was done in Boston and Philadelphia. People from Massachusetts have a lot of pride in this and they don’t like to be told that other states contributed to American history too.
And this is why I’d like to take this moment to celebrate the many contributions that Virginia has made to US History:
–First permanent English speaking settlement at Jamestown beat Plymouth by thirteen years. Eat the dust of the Old Dominion Miles Standish! Focus on Plymouth has also helped create the idea of that most colonists arrived seeking religious freedom (something that wasn’t even entirely true about Plymouth, much less the colonies in general). The fellas at Jamestown arrived seeking the one thing that is possibly more American than freedom (and high fructose corn syrup): money.
–Charles City claims that the first Thanksgiving celebration actually took place there. I see no reason to argue with them since this suits my purposes.
–First public university in English speaking North America. Go Tribe!
–First law school.
–First school of international political economy (I swear it’s more interesting than it sounds)
–President of the first two Continental Congresses: Peyton Randolph.
–The movement to propose independence at the Second Continental Congress came from Virginia.
–The Declaration of Independence was written by a Virginian (Thomas Jefferson).
–The decisive battle of the American Revolution was fought and won at Yorktown
–Much of the text of the Constitution was written by a Virginian (James Madison)
–Much of the Bill of Rights was written by a Virginian (George Mason)
–First President of the United States: George Washington.
All things considered I think we can agree that Virginia is fairly important. And it is with an eye to this that I recommend the new slogan for the Commonwealth: Virginia: We did it first, we did it better.