AOH :: 1776-VA.TXT|
The Virginia Declaration of Rights
THE VIRGINIA DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
I 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 pos-
terity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of
acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happi-
ness and safety.
II 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.
III 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
IV 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.
V 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
VI 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.
VII 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 be exercised.
VIII 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.
IX That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines
imposed; nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
X 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.
XI 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.
XII That the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of
liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.
XIII 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.
XIV 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
XV That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved
to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temper-
ance, frugality, and virtue and by frequent recurrence to fundamental
XVI 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 for-
bearance, 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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