On May 6, 1776, the Virginia Convention held a meeting in Williamsburg. On May 15, they passed a resolution calling for Virginia delegates at Continental Congress to move for independence. During the convention, a committee for drafting a bill of rights and Virginia’s constitution was formed. The project was led by George Mason, and was the person who wrote the first draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Generally, this is a manuscript which declares the intrinsic human rights, including the right to stand up against inadequate government.
Drafting of the Document
The first draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights was done on May 20, 1776 by George Mason. Mason was assisted by James Madison on religious freedom section. The original document is found in the Mason Papers at the Library of Congress. The first draft was later on revised by Thomas Ludwell, along with the convention so as to incorporate a section on the right to uniform government. This draft is known as the committee Draft and was adopted on May 27, 1776. It was also published in the Pennsylvania Evening Post on 6th June 1776. The final draft was unanimously adopted by the Virginia Convention of Delegates on June 12, 1776.
Contents of the Adopted Draft
The adopted draft has 16 articles. Articles 1 to 3, deal with the issue of civil rights and the relationship between the governed and the government; while article 4 emphasizes on the parity of all citizens. Articles 5 and 6 of this draft advocate the principles of free election and separation of powers. Article 7 to 16 recommend limitations on powers of the government stating that the government must not have the power to implement or suspend laws without approval of the people’s representatives.
The Virginia Declaration of Rights greatly influenced several later documents. Some of the influenced documents include the U.S. Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the document of the U.S. Bill of Rights of 1789.