Bush visits Jamestown on 400th anniversary

JAMESTOWN, Virginia (Reuters) - President George W. Bush toured Jamestown on Sunday to mark the 400th anniversary of the English settlement, saying the United States must continue to stand by countries struggling for freedom.

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“As we celebrate the 400th anniversary of Jamestown to honour the beginnings of our democracy, it is a chance to renew our commitment to help others around the world realise the great blessings of liberty,” Bush said.

Bush and his wife Laura toured an archaeological site at Historic Jamestowne where 400 years ago settlers from England landed along the James River after sailing across the Atlantic in 1607 and established the first permanent English settlement in America.

Excavators pulled out a sword hilt, which is the metal cover that protects the hand, dating from 1590-1600 while Bush was visiting the site and showed it to the president. He joked about the timing of the find.

“It just so happened we wandered up, and they found some artefacts,” Bush said later in a speech at a celebration of the anniversary.

But Michael Lavin, senior conservator at the archaeology site, said it was coincidence and that four sword hilts had been discovered in the dig while the Queen was visiting, and two of those were freed from the ground the day of Bush’s tour.

The Queen visited Jamestown earlier this month to mark the anniversary of the settlement, which was named after King James

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“America is proud to promote the expansion of democracy, and we must continue to stand with all those struggling to claim their freedom,” Bush said.

“The advance of freedom is the great story of our time, and new chapters are being written every day,” he said, naming Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq.

“From our own history, we know the path to democracy is long, and it’s hard. There are many challenges, and there are setbacks along the way,” Bush said.

At the end of his speech, Bush placed a letter, a 2007 gold American eagle coin and mementoes from the queen’s recent visit, such as the arrival ceremony program, into a time capsule that will be opened in 50 years, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.