TheColony of Virginia played a greater role in making the United Statesthan the Colony of Massachusetts
Wheneverhistorians talk about, ‘Colonial America,” they are generallyreferring to the first thirteen English colonies on the east ofcontinental America (Beverley 13). The colony of Virginia andMassachusetts were amongst the thirteen English colonies. The rolesthe two colonies played in the making of the United States stem fromthe events of the American Revolution to the time of constitutionwriting and implementation. The thesis in this essay includes theperiod of constitution writing even though the United States wasalready independent because the union was constitutionalized afteradoption and promulgation of the Constitution. The thirteen colonieslater amalgamated in the federal context to form the United States.Although not all of the thirteen colonies originated as possessionsof Great Britain, they eventually became part of the British Empire. Other states and regions that the United States possesses today suchas Puerto Rico and Alaska are products of governments that followedafter the constitution was adopted. Virginia was established duringthe Jamestown growth in 1607. It was the oldest and most denselyinhabited of the thirteen colonies and was chartered in 1606, 1609,and 1612 after which it became a Royal colony. Massachusetts wasfounded by the Puritans in 1628. Massachusetts acquired the Maineterritory in 1677 and became a Royal Colony in 1679. It wouldamalgamate with the Plymouth colony twelve years after getting theRoyal charter as a colony. Historically, both colonies played veryimportant roles in the making of the United States. However, thecolony of Virginia was far more instrumental in making the UnitedStates than the colony of Massachusetts.
Theeuphoria that shaped the politics and negotiations that led to theAmerican independence began in Virginia. Shortly after declaringherself independent in 1763, the colony of Virginia, through RichardHenry Lee, began a relentless campaign that drew the roadmap for theindependence of other colonies. Lee tabled the resolution to thecontinental congress that was keen to see that the independence ofVirginia translates into the independence of the other thirteen Royalcolonies. Lee’s document would be deemed appropriate by thecontinental congress and it went head to task Thomas Jefferson withpreparing the draft of the independence roadmap(Pittman 772).This historical fact already sets Virginia apart as a colony thatcreated the independence mood in the colonies. The document tabled byRichard Lee and drafted by Thomas Jefferson, both of whom wereVirginian statesmen served as a propaganda tool that sowed the seedsof liberty and equality by defeating a class system of governmententrenched by the crown in England. The two founding principles thatguided the political message in the draft were contained thedeclaration of independence and the existing the later liberty andequality calls that freed women and African Americans.
Theestablishment of the republic was founded on different aspectsliberty and constitutionalism. Virginia pioneered the idea ofreligious freedom through the Virginia Declaration of Rights(Brown 87).The declaration would later guide the enactment of the VirginiaStatute of Religious Freedom in 1786, long after the declaration ofindependence for the United States. The statute was the most radicalpiece of legislation in the world. No government had adopted such alaw that provided citizens with a choice to decide their religiouschoices. It actually formed the basis of American idea of religiousfreedoms. James Madison, another prominent Virginian took theinitiative to have the statute passed. Earlier, George Washington andPatrick Henry had proposed that tax revenue be distributed to all thedifferent Christian denomination in Virginia. Madison played a vitalrole in ensuring drafting the “First Amendment,” and the otherfirst amendments that later became the Bill of Rights.
Thecolony of Massachusetts was instrumental in sparking the AmericanRevolution through the events in Boston and the formation of the Teaparty by plantation farmers. Indeed Massachusetts is the “cradle ofliberty,” because it bore the brunt of the heinous acts of theBritish many years before the Revolution began. The patrioticposition that citizens of Massachusetts took was the motivationbehind the unity that informed the American Revolution. However, forthe United States to be created, the colonies needed leadership onhow they can work together to fight the British. The Colony ofVirginia provided the needed leadership in unifying the colonies intoa common cause and in leading the colonies down the difficult path offighting for independence. While Massachusetts earned the exaltedreputation as the “cradle of liberty,” Virginia earned a moreexalted reputation as the “cradle of independence,” which wasperhaps the needed trait to forge a bright future for the UnitedStates. It is now clear why Virginia was nicknamed the “OldDominion.” Evidence of Virginia role in ensuring that colonies areunited is the suggestion of Samuel Adams in 1772 that all thecolonial legislatures throughout the thirteen colonies adopt anorganized network of communication to be able to coordinate theiractivities. Samuel Adams knew that only through communication couldthe ideas from colonies be freely exchanged and acted upon in anorganized and united effort. As if it had become a custom, Virginiaheeded Samuel Adam’s call and responded by establishing a committeeof correspondence. Other colonial legislatures also formed the samecommittees of correspondence, which allowed all the thirteen statesto coordinate their activities towards a common cause.
Lastbut not least, on June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee, a representativeof Virginia in the Second Continental Congress, moved a motion thatstated as follows, “The Colonies of the United States are, and havea right to be free and independent,”(Barck 15). Henry Lee’s proposition was as a result of the instructions he hadreceived from the legislature of the colony he represented: Virginia.The Second Continental Congress debated the proposition by gaugingits merits against the interest of the thirteen colonies. On July 2,1776, the Congress approved the motion, which preordained thethirteen American colonies as sovereignty and independent to becomestates. From then, they would be known as the United States ofAmerica and not the United Colonies of America. To document thedeclaration of independence, it took the astuteness’ of a Virginianstatesman, Thomas Jefferson to pen down the words that defined theindependence of the United States. The declaration read as follows,“all men have unchallengeable rights of which the government existsto protect. In the event that the government fails to fulfill toprotect these inalienable rights, the people have the right toreplace it with another government to do so,”(Dana 324).This words precisely defined democracy, an idea that the UnitedStates is famously known for to date.
Historically,both colonies played very important roles in making the UnitedStates. However, the colony of Virginia was far more instrumental inmaking the United States than the colony of Massachusetts. While thecolonies needed leadership to force the British to accept that thestates needed independence, they needed a leader to forge a unitedfront. Otherwise the British would have divided them againstachieving the common objective. Virginia had the will, the rightpolitics, and the right leadership to lead the colonies intoindependence.
Barck,Oscar Theodore. ColonialAmerica.1968.
Beverley,Robert. Thehistory and present state of Virginia.Institute of Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg,Virginia, 2007.
Brown,Alexander. TheGenesis of the United States.General Books LLC, 2009.
Dana,William F. "The Declaration of Independence." HarvardLaw Review(1900): 319-343.
Pittman,R. Carter. "The colonial and constitutional history of theprivilege against self-incrimination in America." VirginiaLaw Review(1935): 763-789.