The Great Reforms

The Great Reforms of 1619 led to the creation of the first democratic form of government in America. A series of instructions issued by the Virginia Company of London to Governor, Sir George Yeardley led to the introduction of the rule of law (based on English practice and precedent), protections for individual rights and private property, and the establishment of a General Assembly that represented the colonists’ interests.

Collectively, the reforms were designed to underpin a Christian commonwealth in Virginia that would guarantee the wellbeing of settlers and also those Indian peoples who converted to the Anglican Church and English ways. They were the beginnings of our nation’s democratic experiment. Every British colony that followed Virginia established its own representative assembly and judicial system to secure and protect colonists’ liberties.

The fundamental principle that governments depended on the consent of the people and the rule of law applied equally to everyone, originated in the Great Reforms of 1619.