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A Declaration of Rights, Made by the Representatives of the Good People of Vir

ginia, Assembled in Full and Free Convention, which Rights do Pertain to Them and Their Posterity as the Basis and Foundation of Government.

1. That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have cer2 tain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they 3 cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity-namely: the enjoy4 ment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, 5 and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

2. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; 2 that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable 3 to them.

3. That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, 2 protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the va3 rious modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of pro4 ducing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually 5 secured against the danger of maladministration; and that, when any gov6 ernment shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority 7 of the community hath an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to 8 reform, alter, or abolish it in such manner as shall be judged most conducive . 9 to the public weal.

4. That no man, or set of men, are entitled to exclusive or separate 2 emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public 3 services, which, not being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate, 4 legislator, or judge to be hereditary

5. That the legislative, executive, and judicial departments of the State 2 should be separate and distinct; and that the members thereof may be re3 strained from oppression, by feeling and participating the burthens of the 4 people, they should, at fixed periods, be reduced to a private station, return 5 into that body from which they were originally taken, and the vacancies be

6 supplied by regular elections, in which all or any part of the former mem7 bers shall be again eligible, or ineligible, as the laws may direct.

6. That all elections ought to be free, and that all men, having sufficient 2 evidence of permanent common interests with, and attachments to, the com3 munity, have the right of suffrage, and cannot be taxed, or deprived of, or 4 damaged in, their property for public uses without their own consent, or that 5 of their representatives so elected, nor bound by any law to which they have 6 not, in like manner, assented, for the public good.

7. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any 2 authority, without consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious 3 to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.

8. That in all capital or criminal prosecutions a man hath a right to de2 mand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the 3 accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence in his favor, and to a speedy trial 4 by an impartial jury of his vicinage, without whose unanimous consent he 5 cannot be found guilty; nor can he be compelled to give evidence against him6 self; that no man be deprived of his life or liberty except by the law of the 7 land, or the judgment of his peers; nor shall any man be twice put in 8 jeopardy for the same offence, except that an appeal may be allowed to the 9 Commonwealth in all cases for the violation of a law relating to the State 10 revenue. 11 In any criminal case, upon a plea of guilty, tendered in person by the 12 accused, and with the consent of the attorney for the Commonwealth, entered 13 of record, the court shall, and in a prosecution for an offence not punishable 14 by death or confinement in the penitentiary, upon a plea of not guilty, with 15 consent of the accused, tendered in person, and the attorney for the Com16 monwealth, entered of record, the court, in its discretion, may hear and deter17 mine the case without the intervention of a jury. 18 The General Assembly may, by law, provide for the trial of offences not pun19 ishable by death or confinement in the penitentiary by a justice of the peace 20 without a jury; but in all such cases the right of the accused to an appeal 21 and trial by jury in the appellate court shall be preserved. And the general 22 assembly may also provide, by law, for juries consisting of less than twelve, 23 but not less than five men, for the trial of offences not punishable by death 24 or confinement in the penitentiary, and may classify such cases and prescribe 25 the number of jurors for each class of cases.

9. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, 2 nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

10. That general warrants, whereby an officer or messenger may be com2 manded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or 3 to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offence is not particularly 4 described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive, and ought 5 not to be granted.

11. No person shall be deprived of his property without due process of law. 2 In controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, a 3 trial by jury is preferable to any other, and ought to be held sacred; but the 4 General Assembly may, by law, in such cases, prescribe any number less than 5 twelve, but not less than seven, to constitute a jury for the trial of all civil 6 cases not now triable before a justice of the peace, and any number not less

7 than five for the trial of civil cases now triable by a justice of the peace, 8 whether such cases are brought into the courts by original process or by 9 appeal or removal from a justice.

12. That the freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, 2 and can never be restrained but by despotic governments, and any citizen may 3 speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for 4 the abuse of that liberty.

13. That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, 2 trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free State; that 3 standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; 4 and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, 5 and governed by, the civil power.

14. That the people have a right to uniform government, and, therefore, 2 that no government separate from, or independent of, the government of Vir3 ginia, ought to be erected or established within the limits thereof.

15. That no free government, or the blessing of liberty, can be preserved to 2 any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, fru3 gality, and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the man2 ner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by 3 force or violence; and, therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exer4 cise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the 5 mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity to6 wards each other.

17. That neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as lawful im2 prisonment may constitute such, shall exist within this State.

18. The rights enumerated in this bill of rights shall not be construed to 2 limit other rights of the people not therein expressed.



1. The Constitution of the United States, and the laws made in pursuance 2 thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of 3 the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land.



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1. The legislative, executive, and judiciary departments shall be separate 2 and distinct, so that neither exercise the powers properly belonging to either 3 of the others; nor shall any person exercise the power of more than one of 4 them at the same time, except as hereinafter provided.

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