Using Primary Sources: John Pory's Proceedings from the 1619 General Assembly
What can we learn about people from the laws that they pass?
STANDARDS AND SKILLS
Virginia Standards of Learning (Virginia and US History, Virginia and US Government):
VUS.2 VUS.3 GOVT.2.d GOVT.3
Historical Thinking Skills:
- Using information sources
- Questioning & critical thinking skills
- Organizing information
- Making connections
- Demonstrate comprehension
- Comparing & contrasting
- Determining cause & effect
- Exercising civic responsibility
This lesson also meets national standards of learning for social studies.
In this lesson, students will practice their interpretive skills through primary source investigation and gain greater insight into the world of 1619 Virginia, and the evolution of the American lawmaking process.
- What was the first meeting of the General Assembly like?
- Who is represented in the lawmaking process?
- What do laws tell us about a society?
- How have priorities for Americans changed since 1619?
MATERIALS AND PREPARATION
Divide students into eight groups and assign each a law (Labor, Gambling/Vice, Drinking, Economy, Trade, Crime, Worship, Marriage). Have students work as a group to examine the law that they have been assigned. Provide each student with a primary source analysis tool and a transcript of the “Laws Enacted by the General Assembly”. Students may also have access to the recording of the “Laws Enacted by the General Assembly” and read along beginning on page 13 of the transcript.
Using the transcript and secondary sources for additional context, students should determine the following:
- What do they think that the laws meant?
- What do they suppose was the impetus for the law?
- What problem was the law addressing?
- What do the laws tell us about life at Jamestown in 1619?
Have the class share and brainstorm with each group reporting their findings. Ask students to share which laws were the most remarkable to them and why. Ask students if they think that American government is proactive or reactive. Can they think of any examples?
Remaining with their groups, students should research a law either proposed or passed in the same broad category as their 1619 law (eg, the Drinking group might use the 18th amendment). Groups will create a poster for a class gallery walk that addresses the following information:
- What does the legislation say?
- Who sponsored the legislation?
- What was the impetus for the legislation?
- What problem is the legislation addressing?
- What kind of reception did the legislation receive?
- Did the legislation become a law? Is it still a law?
- Posters should also contain an appropriate image or illustration.
Students should use congress.gov to find specific legislation, sponsors, etc. Additional information surrounding the legislation can be found through the Library of Congress Newspaper digitization project: Chronicling America.
NOTE: This project can also be completed on a statewide level. Most state legislatures have a database of legislation that can be searched, and contextual materials can come from many sources.
Conduct a class gallery walk. Have students fill out the Gallery Walk Evaluation Graphic Organizer.
Through a speech, video, essay, or letter, students should address the following question after completing their research and conducting the classroom gallery walk: In these instances, how was legislation impacted by those making the decision? Who was represented? Whose interests weren’t represented?