The Birth of the Bill of Rights, 1776-1791

By Robert Allen Rutland | Go to book overview

Appendix A
THE VIRGINIA DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
(Adopted June 12, 1776) 1A DECLARATION of RIGHTS made by the representatives of the good people of Virginia, assembled in full and free Convention; which rights do pertain to them, and their posterity, as the basis and foundation of government.
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 mal-administration; 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 publick weal.
That no man, or set of men, are entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of publick services; which, not being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate, legislator, or judge, to be hereditary.
That the legislative and executive powers of the state should be separate and distinct from the judiciary; and, that the members of the two first may be restrained from oppression, by feeling and participating
____________________
1
Ordinances Passed at General Convention . . . of Virginia, . . . in the City at Williamsburg, on Monday the 6th of May, Anno Dom: 1776 ( Williamsburg, [ 1776]), 100-03.

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