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 posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and 
liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, 
and pursuing and obtaining happiness 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 public weal.

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 
shall direct. 

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 thereof.

XV    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.

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 forbearance, love, and charity 
towards each other.


Adopted unanimously June 12, 1776
Virginia Convention of Delegates
drafted by Mr. George Mason

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