Sir William Berkeley – Interview with Dr. Warren Billings

Virginia history is filled with many important names, dates, and events. One of those great names who influenced much of 17th Century Virginia is Sir William Berkeley. John Smith is more famous and certainly influenced Jamestown’s early survival, but Berkeley took the struggling colony and moved it into a position that the later First Families of Virginia inherited and made into a powerhouse.

Berkeley is a bridge. But he’s no ordinary bridge. For the time in question, he was an ornate spectacle that shined in a bleak world. His work ensured that the rule of law would expand and remain. He instigated building, better crops, better production, and expanded liberty through local courts and free trade. His work attracted a higher class that might otherwise have never come to the colony, but that class soon plagued him. They ultimately brought him down in the end.

Berkeley’s life spans many worlds, pre-Commonwealth England, the English Civil War, The Interregnum, the Restoration, the Powhatan Wars, Matthews-Claiborne Virginia, Dutch Wars, and Bacon’s Rebellion. He played a part in it all, and above all else, he left his mark on Virginia’s landscape.

No one speaks of this pivotal figure more completely than Dr. Warren Billings, my guest for this episode. Tune in and learn more about this amazing 17th Century figure’s influence on Virginia’s History.

LINKS TO THE PODCAST:

DR BILLING’S WORK:

  1. Billings, Warren M. Magistrates and Pioneers: Essays in the History of American Law. Clark, New Jersey, 2011.
  2. Billings, Warren M. The Papers of Sir William Berkeley, 1606–1677. Richmond, Va., 2007.The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century: A Documentary History of Virginia, 1606–1700. Revised edition. Chapel Hill, N.C, 2007.
  3. Billings, Warren M. Sir William Berkeley and the Forging of Colonial Virginia. Baton Rouge, La., 2004.
  4. Billings, Warren M. A Little Parliament: The Virginia General Assembly in the Seventeenth Century. Richmond, Va., 2004.
  5. Billings, Warren M. A Law Unto Itself? Essays in the New Louisiana Legal History. Edited with Mark F. Fernandez. Baton Rouge, La., 2001.
  6. Editor, Robert Joseph Pothier, A Treatise on Obligations Considered from a Moral and Legal View. Union, N.J, 1999. (Facsimile reprint of a classic early American legal work, for which Dr. Billings wrote an introductory essay and furnished the source text.)
  7. An Uncommon Experience: Law and Judicial Institutions in Louisiana, 1803–2003. Edited with Judith Kelleher Schafer. Lafayette, La.: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1997.
  8. Billings, Warren M. In Search of Fundamental Law: Louisiana’s Constitutions, 1812–1974. Edited with Edward F. Haas. Lafayette, La, 1993.
  9. Billings, Warren M. Virginia’s Viceroy: Their Majesties’ Governor and Captain-General, Francis Howard, Baron Howard of Effingham. Fairfax, Va. 1991.
  10. Billings, Warren M. Jamestown and the Founding of the Nation. Gettysburg, Pa., 1990.
  11. Billings, Warren M. The Papers ofFrancis Howard, 5th Baron ofEffingham, 1643–1695. Richmond, Va., 1989.
  12. Colonial Virginia: A History. Written with John E. Selby and Thad W. Tate. White Plains, N.Y, 1986.
  13. Billings, Warren M. Historic Rules of the Supreme Court of Louisiana, 1813–1879. Lafayette, La., 1985.
  14. Billings, Warren M. The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century: A Documentary History of Virginia, 1606–1689. Chapel Hill, N.C, 1975.
  15. Billings, Warren M. “Virginia’s deploured condition”, 1660-1676 : The Coming of Bacon’s Rebellion. DeKalb: Norther Illinois University, 1968. Dr. Billing’s 1968 Thesis and where to access it.

SPECIAL LINKS:

Berkeley Signature

 

 

All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is of Dr. Warren Billings.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and “La Rejoussiance” from George Frideric Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks HWV 351 performed by Sir Charles Mackerras and the London Symphony Orchestra, also available on iTunes.

400th Commemorative Session – Virginia’s General Assembly

It was my great pleasure to be invited to the Virginia General Assembly’s 400th Commemorative Session.

The Assembly is the Western Hemisphere’s first and oldest representative government. The impact that that first meeting had on Virginia, America, and the rest of the world is immense. To mark the occasion 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution put together a week long program in which Historic Jamestown, Jamestown Settlement, and the College of William and Mary took part.

Historians, businessmen, and world-leaders were invited to participate in the American Evolution Forum on the Future of Representative Democracy, which has produced fascinating discussions covering the wide variety of issues that have affected and still affect representative government today.

Some of the key speakers featured in the Forum were –

  • Kathy Spangler, Executive Director, 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution
  • Virginia Representative Kirk Cox, Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates
  • Virginia State Senator Tommy Norment
  • U.S. Senator Mark Warner
  • U.S. Senator Tim Kaine
  • U.S. Representative Elaine Goodman Luria (VA-2), U.S. Navy veteran
  • U.S. Representative Bobby Scott (VA-3)
  • U.S. Representative Rob Wittman (VA-1)
  • Katherine Anandi Rowe, President, William & Mary (first female president)
  • Carly Fiorina, American businesswoman and political figure
  • Robert Gates, former U.S. Secretary of Defense from 2006-2001, scholar, and intelligence analyst
  • David Rubenstein, Financier and philanthropist, co-founder of The Carlyle Group
  • Annette Gordon-Reed, American historian and law professor
  • Eric Cantor, Politician, lawyer, banker
  • Jeffrey Rosen, American academic and commentator on legal affairs
  • Andrea Mitchell, television journalist and commentator
  • Andrew Card Jr., former White House Chief of Staff from 2001-2006
  • Karl Rove, Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff during the George W. Bush administration
  • Melody Barnes, lawyer and political advisor; former chief counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and of Center for American Progress
  • Robin Christian Howard Niblett CMG, British specialist in international relations
  • Larry Joseph Sabato is an American political scientist and political analyst, and Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia
  • Marc Short, Chief of Staff to Vice President Mike Pence
  • Sir David Natzler KCB, former Clerk of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom

I attended only the 400th Commemorative Assembly activities, which held 3 sessions.

 

The First Meeting took place at Historic Jamestown’s Memorial Church

Elizabeth Kostelny, CEO of Preservation Virginia, welcomed those attending the historic meeting and was followed by Virginia Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment.

The highlight from this meeting has to have been remarks delivered by Sir David Natzler KCB, retiring Clerk of the British House of Commons of the United Kingdom. His words linked Virginia’s representative government to other historical assemblies as far back as Athens as well as his native United Kingdom.

“These events were important not only in Virginia, not only in America, but throughout the world. The idea took root that people wanted to be governed by laws of their own making.”

Sir Natzler concluded by congratulating British Parliament’s oldest child, the Virginia General Assembly on her 400th Anniversary.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam followed Sir Natzler’s comments and spoke of the historic context and importance of Virginia’s General Assembly. He also mentioned who was not part of that First Assembly, women and newly arriving Africans. (The Jamestown Brides did not arrive until later 1620-1621 and the “20 and Odd” did not arrive until August, 1619. But followers of this podcast understand that there were a few women and Africans in Virginia pre-1619).

Following Governor Northam’s comments the first meeting adjourned. Lineage societies then placed wreaths outside of the Memorial Church’s tower before those on the Island moved to Jamestown Settlement.

 

The Second Meeting took place at Jamestown Settlement’s re-created  church

A processional led the Assembly into Jamestown Settlement’s church located within the re-created James Fort.

Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, Kirkland Cox welcomed guests, and was followed by Assistant Fort Supervisor of the Jamestown Settlement Brian Beckley, who played Governor George Yeardley, the man who opened that fateful Assembly 400 years ago.

Mark Greenough, Tour Guide Supervisor and Historian at the Virginia State Capitol, succeeded Mr. Beckley by delivering an interpretation while dressed to play Speaker John Pory.

Speaker Cox followed Mr. Greenough’s period interpretation before introducing the esteemed Presidential Historian Jon Meacham. Mr. Meacham’s speech highlighted some of Virginia’s historic contributions. One such highlight, the First Thanksgiving, brought loud applause. (In fact, Graham Woodlief sat in the row just ahead of me. He was gratified by the attention, as he mentioned to me afterward).

Meacham’s sentiments included memorable statements such as, “Jamestown is a mirror of who we were and who we are.”

Further, “Dreamers and doers came here and they built, and we stand in the light of their achievement.”

Finally, “In our finest hours, America has been about life, it’s been about liberty, it’s been about the pursuit of happiness not just for some, but for all. And in that history, history rooted here in this place, lies our hope.”

Mr. Meacham said many other things that delved into today’s current political landscape, but in my personal estimation, July 30, 2019 was about the beginning of a momentous, history changing event that though perhaps did not include everyone, would build upon this original foundation to include everyone. That being the case, I purposely chose what I deemed the most important and pertinent remarks from what was a well-crafted  and articulate speech.

If one would like to find Mr. Meacham’s full remarks, please visit this article by The Hill’s Judy Kutz, which also highlights some of the same comments already mentioned.

Speaker Cox brought the Assembly back to order, presided over the Mace’s presentation, conducted a roll call, and then called for a recess as the Assembly proceeded to the next venue,a tent set up for the day’s main Assembly meeting.

The Final Meeting took place at Jamestown Settlement’s Mall Area

The Assembly processional marched from the re-created church to the Settlement’s Mall Area, where organizers erected a tent for the day’s final meeting.

Speaker Cox brought the Assembly back to order before offering his own remarks and welcoming distinguished guests.

Illinois State Senator and President of the National Conference of State Legislatures, Toi Hutchinson followed Speaker Cox. Senator Hutchinson reflected on overcome challenges; challenges that could derail representative government if Americans are not on guard –

“I’m proud because despite the many challenges and setbacks this country has faced, America is still a place where our right to self-governance is not taken for granted, where we can challenge our government and debate our principles, and the institutions which provide for that right are held dear.”

“The institution of the legislature needs to be protected. For it is as strong and as fragile as democracy itself.” Said Senator Hutchinson before a crowd that stood in praise.

President Trump then arrived to deliver the keynote address.

President Trump Addresses Virginia’s General Assembly

In a historic twist on an already historic day, President Trump addressed the General Assembly. The President’s speech marked the first time that a sitting President of the United States addressed the Virginia General Assembly.

President Trump greeted those in attendance before highlighting Jamestown’s pre-1619 history. I’ll offer just a few remarks here, but if you want to see or read the entire keynote address, please, go here. Otherwise, here are a few key statements from the President’s speech.

Regarding Jamestown’s Early Years

“As we can see today on this great anniversary, it would not be the last time that God looked out for Virginia. Together, the settlers forged what would become the timeless traits of the American character. They worked hard, they had courage and abundance, and a wealth of self-reliance. They strived mightily to turn a profit, they experimented with producing silk, corn, tobacco, and the very first Virginia wines. At a prior settlement at Roanoke, there had been no survivors, none at all. But where others had typically perished, the Virginians were determined to succeed. They endured by the sweat of their labor, the aid of the Powhatan Indians, and the leadership of Captain John Smith.”

“As the years passed, ships bearing supplies and settlers from England also brought a culture and a way of life that would define the New World. It all began here. In time, dozens of brave strong women made the journey and join the colony and, in 1618, the Great Charter and other reforms established a system based on English common law. For the first time, Virginia allowed private land ownership. It created a basic judicial system. Finally, it gave the colonists essay in their own future, the right to elect representatives by popular vote.”

Regarding the Arrival of the First Africans

“As we mark the first representative legislature at Jamestown, our nation also reflects upon an anniversary from that same summer four centuries ago. In August 1619, the first enslaved Africans in the English colonies arrived in Virginia. It was the beginning of a barbaric trade in human lives. Today, and honor, we remember every sacred soul who suffered the horrors of slavery and the anguish of bondage. More than 150 years later, at America’s founding, our Declaration of Independence recognized the immortal truth that all men are created equal.”

“In the face of grave oppression and grave injustice, African-Americans have built, strengthened, inspired, uplifted, protected, defended, and sustained our nation from its very earliest days.”

Regarding the First Assembly’s Impact

“In the decades that followed that first legislative assembly, the Democratic tradition established here late deep roots all across Virginia. It spread up and down the Atlantic coast. One fact was quickly established for all time, in America, we are not ruled from afar, Americans govern ourselves. And so help us, God, we always will.”

“Self-government in Virginia did not just give us estate we love, in a very true sense, it gave us the country we love, the United States of America.”

“From the first legislative assembly down to today America has been the story of citizens who take ownership of their future and their control of their destiny. That is what self-rule is all about. Every day Americans coming together to take action, to build, to create, to seize opportunities. To pursue the common good and to never stop striving for greatness.”

“But among all of our America’s towering achievements none exceeds the triumph that we are here to celebrate today. Our nation’s priceless culture of freedom, independence, equality, justice and self-determination under God.”

“That culture is the source of who we are it is our prized inheritance it is our proudest legacy. It is among the greatest human accomplishments in the history of the world what you have done is the greatest accomplishment in the history of the world. And I congratulate you. It started right here.”

Concluding Remarks

President Trump’s arrival sparked a little controversy. There were those who did not welcome his attendance, and they expressed as much.

The great thing, as part of Virginia’s 1619 foundational legacy, is that such opposition is tolerated. Before that time, even in Virginia, such opposition would at least earn prison, torture, and usually death. 1619’s Assembly laid the framework from which liberty has evolved. Perhaps the demonstration was misplaced during such a historic occasion, but that still does not take away from the fact that one has the freedom to conscientiously object.

Individual liberty continues to grow today as it faces new challenges. The inheritors of such a legacy must continue to champion that individual liberty on a local, personal level. That is the sentiment upon which Virginia and later the United States was built. That sentiment began 400 years ago on a hot, often disease plagued island, and we still celebrate that event today.

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The 400th Commemorative Session Virginia General Assembly Seal

ADDITIONAL 1619 LINKS:

  1. 1619 – Representative Government Is Formed
  2. 1619 – Women and Angolans Arrive
  3. Special Episode – The First Thanksgiving
  4. The Dr. James Horn Interview
  5. Virginia’s Outstanding Women – Interview with Dr. Sandra Gioia Treadway
  6. The House of Burgesses – Interview with Nancy Egloff
  7. Graham Woodlief Interview – the 400th Anniversary of the First Thanksgiving
  8. Tenacity, Virginia’s Remarkable 17th Century Women – Interview with Nancy Egloff
  9. Interview with Fort Monroe’s Terry Brown
  10. Falling Creek Ironworks’ 400th Anniversary – Interview with Archaeologist Lyle Browning
  11. American Evolution, Commemoration 2019
  12. Historic Jamestowne
  13. Jamestown Settlement
  14. Berkeley Plantation
  15. First Thanksgiving Festival
  16. Hampton, VA 2019 Commemorative Commission
  17. Project 1619
  18. 1619-2019 Commemoration at Fort Monroe
  19. Virginia General Assembly

 

 

All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is of the Virginia House of Delegates Sergent at Arms John L. Pearson, Jr. carrying the Mace into the Tent.

 

Virginia’s Native History – Interview with Dr. Ashley Spivey

Tsenacommacah, that’s what 17th Century English Virginia was called before the English named the land for Queen Elizabeth I. It loosely means “densely inhabited land.” By 17th Century standards the land was pretty well inhabited, and it was inhabited by the many tribes comprising the Powhatan Confederation. That Confederation greatly influenced 17th Century English settlements throughout the century and beyond as some of the Tribes in that alliance still dwell in Virginia today. That being the case, I wanted to bring to light Native Virginian’s fascinating lives and society. And I believe no one could better illustrate their lives and society than Ashley Spivey, herself a Pamunkey Tribe member.

Dr. Ashley Spivey joins me in this episode to discuss Indigenous Virginian history, the changes they felt, and the concerns facing modern Virginian tribes today. She brings to this discussion a spectacular wealth of information that has been forged through her upbringing, impressive academic credentials, and solid history and foundation work throughout Virginia’s landscape. Tune in, you’ll be glad you did!

LINKS TO THE PODCAST:

SOURCES:

  1. Custalow, Linwood “Littlebear”. The True Story of Pocahontas. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2007.
  2. Gallivan, Martin D. James River Chiefdoms: The Rise of Social Inequality in the Chesapeake (Our Sustainable Future). University of Nebraska Press, 2003.
  3. Gallivan, Martin D. The Powhatan Landscape: An Archaeological History of the Algonquian Chesapeake (Society and Ecology in Island and Coastal Archaeology). Gainsville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2016.
  4. Gleach, Frederic. Powhatan’s World and Colonial Virginia: A Conflict of Cultures (Studies in the Anthropology of North American Indians). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.
  5. Lutz, Lara; Gallivan, Martin D.; Turner III, E. Randolph; Brown, David A.; Harpole, Thane; and Moretti-Langholz, Danielle. Virginia Indians at Werowocomoco. Richmond, VA: Virginia Department of Historic Resources, 2015.
  6. Rountree, Helen C. The Powhatan Indians of Virginia: Their Traditional Culture (The Civilization of the American Indian Series). Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989.
  7. Rountree, Helen C. and Turner III, E Randolph. Before and After Jamestown: Virginia’s Powhatans and Their Predecessors (Native Peoples, Cultures, and Places of the Southeastern United States). Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2002.
  8. Rountree, Helen C. Pocahontas’s People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through Four Centuries (The Civilization of the American Indian Series). Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.
  9. Rountree, Helen C. Pocahontas, Powhatan, Opechancanough: Three Indian Lives Changed by Jamestown. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2006.
  10. Spivey, Ashley. “Knowing the River, Working the Land, and Digging for Clay: Pamunkey Indian Subsistence Practices and the MarketEconomy 1800-1900” College of William & Mary, Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects.Paper 1516639670, 2017.
  11. Waugaman, Sandra F. and Moretti-Langholz, Danielle. We’re Still Here: Contemporary Virginia Indians Tell Their Stories. Palari Pub, 2000.

BONUS LINKS:

 

 

All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is Dr. Ashley Spivey taken on the Pamunkey Reservation.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and “Uranus, The Magician” from the Planets Orchestral Suite Op. 32 by Gustav Holst performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Colin Davis, also available on iTunes.