George Mason: Virginia Declaration of Rights

(1776)

The basis of the Bill of Rights (1791), an addendum to the U.S. Constitution, the Virginia Declaration of Rights was written by the colony's George Mason in 1776. Disturbed by various attempts by the British parliament to govern the behavior of the American colonists, Mason drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights. This document asserts the colonists' basic rights to life, liberty, and property. The document essentially justifies the colonists' quest for independence. Once the Virginia Declaration of Rights was approved, copies of the document made their way to all of the colonies and to the Continental Congress itself. Other colonial governments quickly followed Virginia's example, drafting similar versions of the document. In writing the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson relied heavily on Mason's work. Many of Mason's ideas expressed in the Virginia Declaration of Rights found their way into the later U.S. Bill of Rights and France's Declaration of the...

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Patrick Henry before the Virginia House of Burgesses (Library of Congress)

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