Opinion: Commentary: Semiquincentennial Commemoration

Opinion: Commentary: Semiquincentennial Commemoration

2026 is quickly approaching, which is the 250th anniversary of our great nation. This upcoming semiquincentennial celebration could prove to be even bigger and more impactful than the bicentennial was in 1976. As Virginians, we are privileged to not only live in the birthplace of American democracy, as we commemorated last year, but also in the birthplace of our country.

My bill HB 1424 recently passed the House and is working its way through the Senate. Along with its companion bill, SB 407, patroned by Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, these bills seek to establish the Virginia Revolutionary 250 Commission to plan, develop, and perform programs and activities to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution, the Revolutionary War, and the independence of the United States.

This role will include the establishment of exhibitions, arranging public ceremonies, creating a comprehensive marketing and tourism campaign encompassing calendar year 2025-2026, and providing civic, cultural, and historical education and scholarship concerning the ideals of the American Revolution and their contemporary relevance. This commission aims to celebrate the contributions of the Commonwealth of Virginia and its citizens who played a critical role in the Revolutionary War and the founding of the United States.

This commission will be led by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, Gunston Hall, the American Battlefield Trust, and the Virginia Bar Association. An advisory council will be led by a representative from Gunston Hall, composed of nonlegislative citizen members with a knowledge of history or expertise in areas relevant to the work of the Commission, including a representative of the Sons of the Revolution in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a representative of the Virginia Daughters of the American Revolution, and a representative of the National Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association.

Virginia was the most populous colony of the original thirteen in the 1770s, and played an influential role in the Revolutionary War. The colony expressed early dissent against the British government. When the House of Burgesses began to urge resistance to Britain, Governor Dunmore dissolved it. From the dissolution of the House of Burgesses, the General Assembly was created during the First Virginia Convention. The convention approved a boycott of British goods and expressed solidarity with Massachusetts. Additionally, the First Virginia Convention elected delegates to the Continental Congress where Virginian Peyton Randolph was selected as president of the First and Second Continental Congress. Resistance to the Crown strengthened and Patrick Henry introduced resolutions challenging the British government’s authority. These resolutions, the Stamp Act Resolves, addressed taxation without representation and Patrick Henry delivered his famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech in Richmond, Virginia, to encourage passage of these resolutions.

A day after the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Governor Dunmore ordered British marines to remove gunpowder from the Magazine in Williamsburg. The colonists recognized the Gunpowder Incident as the British government taking action to disarm them. Patrick Henry led a militia from Hanover to Williamsburg. However, Peyton Randolph advised against violence and a compromise was found in the form of a payment for the value of the gunpowder. But King George III declared the American colonies in rebellion, and the rest is history!

The Continental Army was created on June 14, 1775. George Washington was unanimously elected as commander-in-chief for his military experience and belief that a Virginian would better unite the colonies. By the following year the Fifth Virginia Convention met on May 6 and declared Virginia a free and independent state on May 15, 1776. The Virginia Convention chose Patrick Henry to be the first governor of the Commonwealth. Governor Patrick Henry was inaugurated on June 29, 1776. Thus, Virginia had a functioning republican constitution even before July 4, 1776.

The 250th anniversary of the Revolutionary War provides an opportunity for all Virginians and Americans to commemorate together the principles of independence, individual liberty, representative government and the attainment of equal rights which unite us all.