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The Old Capitol Building, Williamsburg, Virginia, S.C.

The House of Burgesses was the lower house of the Virginia General Assembly, and was the first representative assembly to be established in North America. The House of Burgesses was established in 1619, twelve years after the founding of Virginia, in order to attract settlers to the colony. The House of Burgesses originally met in Jamestown, but moved to Williamsburg in 1699.

The later rebel military commander George Washington was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1758, and remained a member throughout the American Crisis. Patrick Henry was elected to the House of Burgesses during the Stamp Act Crisis in 1765, nine days before making his infamous speech comparing King George III to Julius Caesar and King Charles I. The House of Burgesses' adoption of Henry's Stamp Act Resolves were the most prominent assertion at that time that Parliament had no legal right to imposes taxes on the American colonies. The Stamp Act Resolves were widely published in colonial newspapers, and helped to foment popular opposition to the Stamp Act.

In response to the Townshend Acts of 1767, the House of Burgesses again passed a resolution stating that Parliament had no right to tax Virginians without their consent. The Royal Governor of Virginia, Lord Botetourt, dissolved the House of Burgesses, and the members began to meet in Raleigh's Tavern to act as a shadow legislature. After Virginia declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776, the House of Burgesses was renamed the House of Delegates. Sobel does not say whether the name was changed back after Virginia returned to British rule in 1778.