Teacher Resources
What is a Burgess

A burgess is an elected official that represents the area in which they live, also known as a representative. So, a “House of Burgesses” is an assembly of elected officials, or representatives. The House of Burgesses is similar to the House of Representatives in the United States today.


The  Virginia House of Burgesses was the first representative assembly in the original thirteen colonies

In 1619, the Virginia Company tried to encourage more settlers to move to Virginia in an attempt to create more profit. If you recall Jamestown faced many hardships which discouraged people from wanting to move to the new world.

The House of Burgesses was created so that people who could afford to pay for their passage to the new world would be given 50 acres of land and a vote in the newly formed government. New farmers would not just be tenants, but be allowed to vote for a burgess, or representative, who would then create laws for the new colony.

This meant that everyone who owned land in Virginia now had a voice in their own government.

Impact on American Government

The Virginia House of Burgesses influenced the creation of the modern United States Constitution. Today, we also participate in a representative government where citizens do not vote on laws directly, but by voting on people to represent their interests when making laws.