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Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J.; Leffler, Richard; Schoenleber, Charles H.; Carlson, Marybeth (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Virginia (1)
8 (1988)

Introduction,   pp. xxiii-xxxix

Page xxiv

dence. The convention convened on 6 May and unanimously resolved
on 15 May to instruct its delegates to Congress to propose indepen-
dence, and that Congress form foreign alliances and a confederation
of the colonies. It also resolved unanimously "that a Committee ought
to prepare a Declaration of Rights and such a plan of government as
will be most likely to maintain peace and order in this colony and
secure substantial and equal liberty to the people." Convention Pres-
ident Edmund Pendleton appointed twenty-eight men to this commit
tee which was eventually expanded to thirty-six, Included on this com-
mittee, in the order of their appointment, were Meriwether Smith,
Patrick Henry, Edmund Randolph, William Cabell, Jr,, Joseph Jones,
John Blair, Cuthbert Bullitt, John Banister, Sr., Mann Page, Jr., James
Madison, and George Mason. Mason took the lead in the committee,
and within a few days he proposed a draft of the Declaration of Rights,
which the committee revised and presented to the convention on 27
May, The convention debated and amended the revised draft, and on
12 June unanimously adopted the Declaration of Rights.
On 24 June the committee reported a draft constitution, also largely
the work of George Mason. The convention amended the draft con-
siderably and added a preface that congressman Thomas Jefferson
included in his draft constitution that he forwarded from Philadelphia.
The convention debated the draft constitution from 26 to 28 June
and unanimously ratified it on the 29th. The new form of government
went into operation immediately as the convention chose Patrick Henry
governor and appointed a Council of State. The convention also or-
dered that an ordinance be prepared to divide Virginia into senatorial
The Declaration of Rights codified the fundamental principles of
government and the rights of a free people as they had developed in
Great Britain and America. It also went beyond precedent in some
provisions, as when it espoused the principle of separation of powers,
prohibited general warrants, and guaranteed the freedom of the press.
The Declaration omitted some important rights: the freedom of speech
and assembly, the right of the writ of habeas corpus, and the right to
legal counsel. Even so, it was an encompassing expression of the rights
of freemen as they were understood in the late eighteenth century.
The Virginia constitution created a government divided into "leg-
islative,, executive, and judiciary" departments. The bicameral legisla-
ture, called the General Assembly, consisted of the House of Delegates
and the Senate., Each county elected two delegates to the House, and
the city of Williamsburg and the borough of Norfolk elected one each.
The Senate consisted of one senator from each of twenty-four sena-
torial districts, elected for a four-year term. One-fourth of the senators

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