Population: 8,185,866 (2012 est.)
Nicknames: Old Dominion, Mother of Presidents, Mother of States
Motto: Sic semper tyrannis
Slogan: Virginia is for lovers
State bird: Cardinal
State flower/tree: Dogwood
The Commonwealth of Virginia is located in the South Atlantic region of the United States. It was the tenth state to be admitted to the Union on June 25, 1788. Home to approximately eight million residents, Virginia is the twelfth most populous state in the United States. The capital is Richmond, and its most populous city is Virginia Beach.
The narrative history of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and that of the United States, often begins with the founding of Jamestown in 1607, near what is now modern day Williamsburg, Virginia. Jamestown became the first permanent English settlement in the New World, and the Virginia General Assembly, established on July 30, 1619, is now recognized as the oldest legislative body in the western hemisphere. When Virginia became a royal colony in 1624, the robust tobacco trade that had been developing in Virginia helped establish the American colonies as a powerful economic force. During the American Revolution, Virginia witnessed the final surrender of British forces at Yorktown, and later became known as the birthplace of many revolution-era figures and future American presidents, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. To date, eight United States presidents have been born in Virginia, more than in any other state.
The modern government of Virginia is nearly identical in structure to the federal government, and is divided into three branches, these being the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches. The Virginia General Assembly is comprised of the 100-member House of Delegates and the 40-member Senate. A governor and lieutenant governor are elected every four years. Governors cannot be elected to or serve consecutive terms. Virginia’s judicial system consists of the Supreme Court of Virginia and the Court of Appeals of Virginia, the Circuit Courts, and the lower General District Courts and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts. Virginia has 13 electoral votes in presidential elections, and possesses 11 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Virginia’s relatively small size equates to approximately 42,700 square miles, ranking it the thirty-fifth largest state. The Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay are Virginia’s two most distinct geographical features, and the two help determine the state’s climate and support the state’s diverse plants and wildlife. Virginia is divided into five distinct regions from east to west, these being the Tidewater, Piedmont, Blue Ridge Mountains, Ridge and Valley, and Cumberland Plateau.
Virginia’s economy is highly diverse, and maintains income from local and federal government, military, farming and business. The Commonwealth is also home to several high-ranking public and private colleges and universities, including the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Virginia Commonwealth University and others.
Created in 1776, and bearing the motto “Sic semper tyrannis,” or “Thus always to tyrants,” the seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia references its declaration of independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Pictured on the seal is Virtus, the genius of the Commonwealth, resting on a spear in her right hand. Under her left foot lies the prostrate form of Tyranny, with his fallen crown nearby and a broken chain in his left hand. The flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia appropriates the state seal and places it on a deep blue background. The flag was first used in 1861, and both the seal and the flag were made official by the Virginia legislature in 1930.
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