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Virginia Declaration of Rights

Screenshot image from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation at http://www.history.org/

By Robert A. Vella

One of the most important documents of the American Revolution is little known by today’s citizenry.  The Virginia Declaration of Rights, written principally by George Mason in May of 1776, greatly influenced later historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.  Studying it would give Americans a renewed appreciation for the common ideals which their nation, and others, was built upon.  Now, in this 21st century era of political and cultural disharmony, it is imperative for Americans to reeducate themselves on the core principles which they should all share and which could provide the basis for social reunification.

The common ideals of America written into the Virginia Declaration of Rights:

People have certain natural individual rights which cannot be taken away by any authority.

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Power is vested in the people, and all representatives of the people are servants for the people.

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Government exists for the common benefit of the people, and is prescribed by the majority of the people.

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No person shall inherit exclusive powers or special privileges outside that of the community.

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The responsibilities of government shall be allocated through an equal separation of powers.

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Elections must be free and fair.

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Government is based on the rule of law, not on rule by arbitrary decree.

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Individual liberty and property must not be deprived without due process in a court of law through an impartial trial by jury.

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Cruel and unusual punishments are forbidden.

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Searches and seizures will not be conducted without legitimate evidence of wrongdoing.

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Freedom of the press is guaranteed.

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A well-regulated militia is the proper defense of a free state, standing armies should be avoided, and civilian control of the military is mandated.

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The people must be served by a uniform government based on justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, virtue, and principle.

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The freedom of religious diversity is resolute.

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