Let All Celebrate the 400th Anniversary in Jamestown

At least one elected Democratic Party official, it appears, will attend the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the birth of representative government in North America at Jamestown later this month: Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax. While making clear that he shares the animus of other Virginia Democrats toward President Trump, he is choosing not to boycott the event.

Writes Fairfax: “I intend to honor, in this 400th anniversary year, our proud achievements as a representative democracy and the achievements of the enslaved African-Americans and their descendants who have contributed mightily to Virginia’s success. That is more important than the frenzied and fickle politics of the moment.”

Trump has demonstrated that on occasion he can conduct himself in a dignified, non-partisan manner. He surprised everyone with his 4th of July speech, and I expect the Jamestown commemoration will be similar. Democrats boycotting the ceremony will be the ones who come across as petulant and partisan. Fairfax is to be credited for not joining them.

The commemoration is a big deal. The birth of representative government (and, the same year, the arrival of the first African slaves) is a milestone in Virginia history and the development of democratic institutions. It is bigger than Trump. It is bigger than the partisan divide of 2019. Let all Virginians, for one brief moment, join to celebrate what unites us. We’ll have plenty of time later to fight over what divides us.

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10 responses to “Let All Celebrate the 400th Anniversary in Jamestown

  1. Ahhh Trump’s 4th of July speech. I’ll bet you didn’t know that the band Jefferson Airplane was named after the fighter jet Thomas Jefferson flew in the Revolutionary War.

    Actually, I thought it was a good speech.

    As far as Jamestown – you failed to mention the latest episode of the Northam Follies. Channeling John Kerry … after inviting President Trump to the celebration Northam is now saying that his schedule won’t permit him to be there when Trump arrives and speaks. Meanwhile, the White House has apparently not commented on whether Trump will attend.

  2. Let see the top three elected Democrats in Virginia are: 1) a guy who admitted he was in blackface at least twice when he was close to becoming a medical doctor, only to deny one of the incidents the very next day & who also campaigned against his GOP rival calling him a racist; 2) a guy accused of two incidents of rape with the affected local police departments not explaining what, if anything, they are doing to investigate before any statutes of limitations expire; and 3) a guy who admitted he appeared in blackface as a teenager and who regularly place the race card as well. By God, these are fit candidates for endorsement by the Washington Post, which of course they did with or without investigation.

    • Meh. Jamestown’s 400th anniversary was celebrated 12 years ago.

      This seems like a fake occasion and there’s pretty much zero public interest. All elected officials should stay away. A Presidential visit is too expensive for a dog and pony show that no one will watch.

  3. Written by someone who clearly doesn’t appreciate the significance of 400 continuous years of representative government. This should be a huge deal. The 1607 English arrival at Jamestown followed several Spanish (ahem, European) settlements elsewhere in what would become the US, and thus was indeed a bit of fiction…..Sour grapes, Spencer, if it was President Obama coming you’d say different I bet.

    The irony of this flap is rich. The first reaction of the existing Virginians when the ships arrived was probably: “Go Back Where You Came From.” I’m sure the Africans who were being sold into servitude at that point would have cheered being told to go back where they came from instead. A few miles away and 160 years later the British Army WAS successfully SENT BACK where it came from. Everybody gathering at Jamestown to reprise one of the oldest and strongest political memes in American history seems perfect to me.

    • It has been said that of the roughly 8,500 people who arrived in Virginia from 1607 to 1617, only 750 of them were still there, alive.

    • Don’t forget Obama’s mother was descended from Mareen “The Emigrant” Duvall, a prominent Huguenot settler in Maryland. He started out as an indentured servant and wound up with a land grant from the Calvert Family.

    • 200 years of good government followed by 200 years of gross negligence. What will the next 200 years portend?

  4. Steve,
    Please count me as one of the people who is insufficiently appreciative of 400 years of representative government. My family is not of English descent. The closest I come is a bit of Scots-Irish on my mother’s side. The family attitude is that the narrative of the brilliance of the Brits should be taken with a grain of salt. . Plenty of European countries contributed to the concept of Western Liberalism. As for Jamestown, as you note, the Spanish cities of St. Augustine and Sante Fe predated the Virginia colony. As for boycotting the Trump visit, I do not care. Trump is despicable. He’s a serial liar, racist, and a fraud. I worked in Manhattan for four years in the late 1980s and remember just how badly he was regarded.

  5. A lot of German and Irish, myself, Peter, just a smidge English, but planting the seed of parliamentary governance in this polyglot New World was the single greatest English contribution. It is worth remembering and celebrating. You say nothing about Trump that has not been said by someone about just about all of his predecessors, just sadly he backs it up with new communications technology. Yes, we knew he didn’t carry New York….and he won’t carry Virginia next year, either, so I’m not sure why the posturing is so important (ah, right, this year’s elections). The people who should be coming are the Congressional leaders, who can trace their political lineage back to the House of Burgesses.

    • Read the early and mid 17th century Court Records of Virginia’s Easton Shore (today’s Accomack and Northampton Counties) collected in the Accomack County public library, and you will far better understand the ethics, culture, traditions, and life of the sorts of folk who first arrived at Jamestown. Quite likely you will be amazed, and far better understand how little all of us know about these people, and learn how much these folks contributed to who we all are today.

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