The Constitutional History
In contrast with the U.S. Constitution, which has been amended only 27 times since it was drafted in 1787, the Virginia Constitution has been the subject of periodic revision since its adoption by the Convention of 1776. Additional conventions were held in 1829–30, 1850–51, 1861, 1864, 1867–68, and 1901–02; limited conventions were called in 1945 and 1956; and significant changes were brought about in 1928 and 1971 on the recommendation of revision commissions. On a number of these occasions, Virginia constitution makers have engaged in significant debates about fundamental constitutional questions, whether in regard to the rights and liberties to which citizens are entitled, the extent of popular participation in governance, or the means of structuring governmental institutions. In fact, few states have had more opportunities to engage in constitutional revision and to debate fundamental principles and institutions of governance.
Although conventions were called in Virginia on several occasions prior to 1776—delegates had convened on August 1, 1774; March 20, 1775; July 17, 1775; and December 1, 1775—the convention that assembled in Williamsburg on May 6, 1776, was the first to contemplate independence and then to set about drafting a declaration of rights and form of government.' On May 15, 1776, the convention approved a resolution instructing the state's delegates to the Continental Congress to “declare the United Colonies free and independent states absolved from all allegiance to or dependence upon the crown or parliament of Great Britain.”2 The delegates then approved a second resolution directing ““t”hat a Committee ought to prepare a Declaration of Rights and such a plan of government as will be most