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Leaders converge on Williamsburg to plan nation's 250th

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Posted at 9:13 AM, Mar 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-18 09:18:02-04

WILLIAMBURG, Va. — On March 11, 1773, Virginia leaders gathered inside Williamsburg’s Raleigh Tavern to consult on the need for each of the colonies to work out a resolution that would later be approved by colonies across the east coast of the modern day United States, paving the way for unified colonies that would later fight for their independence from England.

Exactly 250 years after the passing of that resolution, modern lawmakers met to discuss plans for a new resolution that will celebrate the American story for a semiquincentennial celebration in July 2026, with the goal of recognizing the fullness of American history and experience.

Inside that tavern in 1773, an informal committee of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Francis Lightfoot Lee and Dabney Carr drafted a resolution that created a Committee of Correspondence. Approved on March 12, 1773, it called on all other English colonies to do the same, helping communicate news from their respective regions to unite people against overreach from the British crown. All colonies except for Pennsylvania soon created a committee.

This loosely connected network of correspondence between the colonies played an important role in developing relationships that later led to the meeting of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in the fall of 1774. That congress later drafted the Declaration of Independence in 1776, leading to revolution.

More than 300 representatives from 34 U.S. states and 50 Virginia localities recently gathered back in Colonial Williamsburg for a weekend of exchanging ideas to celebrate the country’s 250th anniversary in three years’ time.

Virginia has taken a leadership spot for the organization of a nationwide celebration, having been in the planning stages for the past two years.

“I strongly feel Virginia is the birthplace of the nation. And I think Williamsburg and Virginia is the proper place to organize that event and bring everyone together,” said state Del. Terry Austin, R-Botetourt, chair of the VA250 Commission. “Standing with other states, we will affirm our commitment to a national commemoration that is multifaceted, invites participation, and celebrates the American story, much of which began here in Virginia.”

Plans are currently calling for a mobile historical exhibit that will go to schools around the state where reenactors will talk with school students about how lifestyles have changed and other historical events in the nation’s timeline. Grants of up to $10,000 will be available for localities across Virginia to build their own localized celebration events.

Austin said the General Assembly had designated $7 million in the budget for the nation’s 250th and that the current budget was around $16 million, including a $1 million pledge from Dominion Energy.

Other states in attendance like Wisconsin and Wyoming, Austin said, were just in their initial phases of preparations and came to Williamsburg to confer on ideas they might want to bring back to their home states.

Reenactors on the steps of the Tavern spoke to the crowd, talking about the history of the initial committee of correspondence and what it meant for the nation at the time. An actor playing Thomas Jefferson said Williamsburg has always been a host of civil political discourse.

Austin said the 250th celebration is meant to be an event that can bring the nation together, in all of its forms and groups.

“I think it can unite the country,” he said. “It could be monumental in people learning the history and bringing people together, everyone in the nation.”

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