By Mark Whatford
In his draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights (VDR), Mason wrote that "all men are born equally free and independant [sic], and have certain inherent natural rights,...among which are the Enjoyment of Life and Liberty, with the Means of acquiring and possessing Property, and pursueing [sic] and obtaining Happiness and Safety." This was a call for American independence from
This uniquely influential document was also used by James Madison in drawing up the Bill of Rights (1789) and the Marquis de Lafayette in drafting the French Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789).
|A Manuscript draft of the Declaration of rights, this section discusses the|
importance of freedom of the press. Courtsey of the Library of Congress.
Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
This implemented the first of these Virginia Convention resolutions and precipitated the appointment of the committee to draw up the Declaration of Independence; the second proposal was carried out by the framing of
As passed, the Virginia Declaration was largely the work of George Mason; the committee and the Convention members [among them being Thomas Ludwell Lee, Patrick Henry & Edmund Pendleton] made some verbal changes and added Sections 10 and 14. This declaration served as a model for bills of rights in several other state constitutions.
An early draft of the VDR was published in the Virginia Gazette June 1, 1776, and later in several
|Alexander Purdie, a publisher of the Virginia Gazette, added a postscript to |
the June 14 edition of the newspaper which included the ratification
date of June 12, 1776. Courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg.
John Adams added some clarification of the VDRs influence on the Declaration of Independence in his Diary on June 23, 1779 when he revealed that the Virginia Declaration of Rights "made by Mr. Mason" had been published in
Ray Raphael, author of the book Founding Myths, said of the VDR:
“In fact, during the Revolutionary Era, George Mason’s draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights was copied or imitated far more often than the Declaration of
… Notes from the Constitutional Convention make only two references to the Declaration, while essays in The Federalist Papers contain but one. When Patrick Henry addressed the Virginia Convention during the ratification debate, he asked rhetorically, “What, sir, is the genius of democracy?” He then proceeded to read from the Virginia Declaration of Rights, not the Declaration of Independence.” Independence
George Mason was an enigma. He pursued his objectives relentlessly -- but in silence, whenever he could. He had a passion for anonymity. He let others take credit for his greatest achievements. He let
Jefferson use the first three paragraphs of his Virginia Declaration of Rights to make a preamble to the Declaration of Independence, without ever commenting on it. He let Franklin hold himself out to the world as the "legislator of ," without protesting, although John Adams certainly did. He prepared the proposed Amendments copied by servile hands in the America Virginia, , and Rhode Island Ratifying Conventions and which eventually became the Federal Bill of Rights, yet he let Patrick Henry present them to the Virginia Convention, without revealing the author. New York, North Carolina
R. Carter Pitman Papers (Memorandum)
Raphael, Ray, Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past. The New Press:
, 2004. New York
Declaration of Rights, 1776. Virginia