250 Years of Revolutionary History

250 Years of Revolutionary History

As we approach the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution, I wanted to highlight another anniversary in Virginia’s revolutionary history.

This May 6 will mark 250 years since our predecessor, the Virginia House of Burgesses, was dissolved in 1774. George Washington was one of many revolutionary figures who served in the House, holding office from 1758 until he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in 1775. The watershed decision to dissolve the House came after burgesses adopted resolutions in support of Boston following the harsh British response to the Boston Tea Party. The House served at the call of the British-appointed colonial governor, who abruptly ended session as punishment for such a clear display of revolutionary sentiment.

But a number of burgesses remained in Williamsburg, asserting that they had been properly elected and could not be dismissed so easily. They moved to a small tavern and continued their duties there, eventually passing a resolution to convene a meeting in August of 1774 that would become the first Virginia Revolutionary Convention.

Despite gaining a reputation as a reserved and cautious legislator during his fifteen years of service, Washington joined the remaining burgesses and became a member of that first Revolutionary convention. It was a bold choice, one that came with many risks, but it represented his full commitment to revolution, a decision that would define the rest of his life.

Here in Virginia, the dissolution of the House of Burgesses paved the way for our first state constitution and the transformation from the colonial House of Burgesses into the House of Delegates, both of which were laid out in the fifth Virginia Convention. 

Washington was leading the Continental Army by that point and could not participate, but he had already helped lay the groundwork as part of the initial spirit of revolution in Virginia in 1774, 250 years ago.