It didn’t take long for the Virginia Colony to move from a (mostly) struggling fort in Jamestown, to an established body politic with an elected general assembly. According to the Jamestown Rediscovery Website, the first General Assembly met in the “quire” (choir) on June 30, 1619 in the newly-built wooden church at Jamestown. As chartered by the Virginia Company of London, the Assembly’s main purpose was “to establish one equal and uniform government over all Virginia” and introduce “just Laws for the happy guiding and governing of the people there inhabiting.” It met as a single body and was made up of the Governor, Sir George Yeardley, his four councilors, and 22 burgesses chosen by the free, white male inhabitants of every town, corporation, and large plantation throughout the colony. As such, the Virginia General Assembly is the Oldest Continuous Law-making body in the Western Hemisphere.
On February 1, 1632 the assembly passed the “Seatage Act” ordering that “..every fortyeth man chosen and maynteyned out of the tithable persons of all inhabitants…” should build a “palisade” between the York and James Rivers. As described in the Encyclopedia Virginia An act for the Seatinge of the middle Plantation (February 1, 1632). The palisade (a fence or wall made from wooden stakes or tree trunks and used as a defensive structure) was an enclosed settlement including buildings, fields, stables, etc. The new settlement was to be called Middle Plantation, but was later renamed Williamsburg. The main purpose of the “palisade” was to protect against future conflict with the Virginian Native Americans.
The Assembly decreed that the volunteers for this construction project “..shall have fifty acres of land Inheritance, and be free from all taxes and publique chardges…”. The assembly further decreed that the project should be “…newlie built before the first day of March next..” under the direction of John Pott. Thus, the Virginia colony moved from a foothold in the New World to an expanding, self-governing state.