Inside the Capitol

Thursday, May 17, 2007

400th for Santa Fe Won't Be As Big As Jamestown


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- Jamestown's 400th anniversary was a magnificent affair. President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney both attended, along with England's Queen Elizabeth.

      Will Santa Fe's 400th anniversary in 2010 be anywhere as grand? Sadly, no. There are many reasons, some good, some bad and some that should be embarrassing to our public officials.

      First, the good reasons. Jamestown was settled by the English, whose descendants managed to chase off the Spanish and French, who also had designs on our continent. The winners got to write history.

      Jamestown introduced representative government to the New World. It wasn't planned that way. Originally, it was based on the Old World's class system.

   Its leaders were gentlemen from the upper classes of English society. Some were working stiffs who gambled that life in the New World would be better than their current miserable existence. The rest were taken from slums and jails.

   But the system didn't work for this colony. John Smith, one of the working stiffs, recognized the problem and led a mini-mutiny against the upper class. He became the famous Capt. John Smith, leader of the group. They discovered that a system of representative government improved management of business affairs and attracted immigrants to join the colony.

   After near extinction, the colony began to flourish and those seeds of representative government grew into the Virginia General Assembly, the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. It's no accident that four of our first five U.S.  presidents were Virginians.

   Another good reason Jamestown is so prominent in the nation's mind is that it also introduced free enterprise. It happened as soon as it became evident that the settlement wasn't doing enough to sustain itself.

   Everyone was starving. Capt. Smith laid down the law that "He that will not worke shall not eate." The upper class had to go to work.

   But Jamestown also had its dark side. John Smith suffered a severe injury and had to return to England. With his negotiating skills lost, relations with nearby Indians eroded. A decision was made that they must be exterminated.

   It didn't work. The Indians managed to starve them to the point they ate all their animals and may have resorted to eating their own dead. As they were preparing to leave, a ship with reinforcements arrived and the settlement was able to regenerate.

   The original purpose of the enterprise had been to find gold. When that didn't work, it was discovered that tobacco would. The colony couldn't produce enough to satisfy the cravings in Europe. So the first slaves were brought in, leading to a division that still exists.

   A big celebration can be expected in 2020 at Plymouth, Massachusetts, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims. It may be the biggest of all because the quest for religious freedom so captures the nation's imagination.

   Santa Fe's 400th won't receive nearly as much national attention. It wasn't settled by the English. Most Americans don't seem to know we're here. Our state doesn't have the big industries that backed the Jamestown observance and will do the same in Massachusetts.

   And our public officials don't seem to have the enthusiasm of those in Jamestown. Apparently, it is the state of Virginia that heads the Jamestown effort every 50 years. In 1957, it was a huge celebration, with the president and Queen Elizabeth in attendance.

   Santa Fe could be celebrating its 400th this year. Documents have been found indicating 1607 was the first settlement. Sources on the Web appear to now be recognizing that as Santa Fe's founding date. But there was no interest, except among the hospitality community to move the date.

   Under the able leadership of Santa Fean Maurice Bonal, a local committee is drawing up plans. A visit from Spanish royalty is a possibility because they have attend other events in our state.

   But unless Gov. Bill Richardson is president in 2010, the possibility of getting our top government official here likely is dim.

MON, 5-21-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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