The Virginia Declaration of Rights
- That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights,
of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or
divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of
acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
- That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates
are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.
- That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and
security of the people, nation or community; of all the various modes and forms of
government that is best, which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness
and safety and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration; and
that, whenever any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a
majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to
reform, alter or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the
- That no man, or set of men, are entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges
from the community, but in consideration of public services; which, not being descendible,
neither ought the offices of magistrate, legislator, or judge be hereditary.
- That the legislative and executive powers of the state should be separate and distinct
from the judicative; and, that the members of the two first may be restrained from
oppression by feeling and participating the burthens of the people, they should, at fixed
periods, be reduced to a private station, return into that body from which they were
originally taken, and the vacancies be supplied by frequent, certain, and regular
elections in which all, or any part of the former members, to be again eligible, or
ineligible, as the laws shall direct.
- That elections of members to serve as representatives of the people in assembly ought to
be free; and that all men, having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with,
and attachment to, the community have the right of suffrage and cannot be taxed or
deprived of their property for public uses without their own consent or that of their
representatives so elected, nor bound by any law to which they have not, in like manner,
assented, for the public good.
- That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority without
consent of the representatives of the people is injurious to their rights and ought not to
- That in all capital or criminal prosecutions a man hath a right to demand the cause and
nature of his accusation to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for
evidence in his favor, and to a speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage, without
whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty, nor can he be compelled to give
evidence against himself; that no man be deprived of his liberty except by the law of the
land or the judgement of his peers.
- That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed; nor cruel and
unusual punishments inflicted.
- That general warrants, whereby any officer or messenger may be commanded to search
suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons
not named, or whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are
grievous and oppressive and ought not to be granted.
- That in controversies respecting property and in suits between man and man, the ancient
trial by jury is preferable to any other and ought to be held sacred.
- That the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and can never be
restrained but by despotic governments.
- That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the
proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace,
should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases, the military should be
under strict subordination to, and be governed by, the civil power.
- That the people have a right to uniform government; and therefore, that no government
separate from, or independent of, the government of Virginia, ought to be erected or
established within the limits thereof.
- That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but
by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue and by
frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.
- That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it,
can be directed by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore, all men
are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of
conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love,
and charity towards each other.
Adopted unanimously June 12, 1776
Virginia Convention of Delegates
drafted by Mr. George Mason
Prepared by Gerald Murphy (The Cleveland Free-Net - aa300)
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