A 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 .
Section 1. 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.
Section 2. 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
Section 3. 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, when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary
to these purposes, a majority of the community has an indubitable, inalienable, and
indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most
conducive to the public weal.
Section 4. That no man, or set of men, is entitled to exclusive or
separate emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public
services; which, nor being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate,
legislator, or judge to be hereditary.
Section 5. 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 the burdens 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.
Section 6. 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, assembled for the public good.
Section 7. 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.
Section 8. That in all capital or criminal prosecutions a man has 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 twelve men 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 judgment of his peers.
Section 9. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive
fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Section 10. That general warrants, whereby an 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.
Section 11. 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
Section 12. That the freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks
of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.
Section 13. 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 governed by, the civil
Section 14. 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.
Section 15. 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.
Section 16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator,
and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only 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 practise Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.