Draft Constitution for Virginia
A Bill for new-modelling the form of Government and for
establishing the Fundamental principles thereof in future.
Whereas George Guelf king of Great Britain and Ireland and Elector of
Hanover, heretofore entrusted with the exercise of the kingly office in
this government hath endeavored to pervert the same into a detestable and
- by putting his negative on laws the most wholesome & necessary
for ye public good;
- by denying to his governors permission to pass laws of immediate
and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operations for his
assent, and, when so suspended, neglecting to attend to them for many
- by refusing to pass certain other laws, unless the person to be
benefited by them would relinquish the inestimable right of
representation in the legislature
- by dissolving legislative assemblies repeatedly and continually for
opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people;
- when dissolved, by refusing to call others for a long space of
time, thereby leaving the political system without any legislative head;
by endeavoring to prevent the population of our country, & for
that purpose obstructing the laws for the naturalization of foreigners &
raising the condition lacking appropriations of lands;
by keeping among us, in times of peace, standing armies and
ships of war;
lacking to render the military independent of &
superior to the civil power;
- by combining with others to subject us to a foreign jurisdiction,
giving his assent to their pretended acts of legislation.
- for quartering large bodies of troops among us;
- for cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;
- for imposing taxes on us without our consent;
- for depriving us of the benefits of trial by jury;
- for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences;
- for suspending our own legislatures & declaring themselves
invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever;
- by plundering our seas, ravaging our coasts, burning our towns and
destroying the lives of our people;
- by inciting insurrections of our fellow subjects with the
allurements of forfeiture & confiscation;
- by prompting our negroes to rise in arms among us; those very
negroes whom *he hath from time to time* by an inhuman use of his
negative he hath refused permission to exclude by law;
- by endeavoring to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the
merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an
undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, & conditions of
by transporting at this time a large army of foreign mercenaries
to complete the works of death, desolation & tyranny already
begun with circumstances of cruelty & perfidy so unworthy
the head of a civilized nation;
- by answering our repeated petitions for redress with a repetition
- and finally by abandoning the helm of government and declaring us
out of his allegiance & protection;
- by which several acts of misrule the said George Guelf has
forfeited the kingly office and has rendered it necessary for the
preservation of the people that he should be immediately deposed from
the same, and divested of all its privileges, powers, &
And forasmuch as the public liberty may be more certainly secured by
abolishing an office which all experience hath shewn to be inveterately
inimical thereto *or which* and it will thereupon become further necessary
to re-establish such ancient principles as are friendly to the rights of
the people and to declare certain others which may co-operate with and
fortify the same in future.
Be it therefore enacted by the authority of the people that the said,
George Guelf be, and he hereby is deposed from the kingly office within
this government and absolutely divested of all it's rights, powers, and
prerogatives: and that he and his descendants and all persons acting by or
through him, and all other persons whatsoever shall be and forever remain
incapable of the same: and that the said office shall henceforth cease and
never more either in name or substance be re-established within this
And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that the following
fundamental laws and principles of government shall henceforth be
The Legislative, Executive and Judiciary offices shall be kept forever
separate; no person exercising the one shall be capable of appointment to
the others, or to either of them.
Legislation shall be exercised by two separate houses, to wit a house of
Representatives, and a house of Senators, which shall be called the
General Assembly of Virginia.
Ho. of Representatives
The sd house of Representatives shall be composed of persons chosen by
the people annually on the [1st day of October] and shall meet in General
assembly on the [1st day of November] following and so from time to time
on their own adjournments, or at any time when summoned by the
Administrator and shall continue sitting so long as they shall think the
publick service requires.
Vacancies in the said house by death or disqualification shall be filled
by the electors under a warrant from the Speaker of the said house.
All male persons of full age and sane mind having a freehold estate in
[one fourth of an acre] of land in any town, or in  acres of land in
the country, and all elected persons resident in the colony who shall have
paid scot and lot to government the last [two years] shall have right to
give their vote in the election of their respective representatives. And
every person so qualified to elect shall be capable of being elected,
provided he shall have given no bribe either directly or indirectly to any
elector, and shall take an oath of fidelity to the state and of duty in
his office, before he enters on the exercise thereof. During his
continuance in the said office he shall hold no public pension nor post of
profit, either himself, or by another for his use.
The number of Representatives for each county or borough shall be so
proportioned to the numbers of it's qualified electors that the whole
number of representatives shall not exceed  nor be less than [125.]
for the present there shall be one representative for every [ ] qualified
electors in each county or borough: but whenever this or any future
proportion shall be likely to exceed or fall short of the limits
beforementioned, it shall be again adjusted by the house of
The house of Representatives when met shall be free to act according to
their own judgment and conscience.
The Senate shall consist of not less than  nor more than 
members who shall be appointed by the house of Representatives. One third
of them shall be removed out of office by lot at the end of the first
[three] years and their places be supplied by a new appointment; one other
third shall be removed by lot in like manner at the end of the second
[three] years and their places be supplied by a new appointment; after
which one third shall be removed annually at the end of every [three]
years according to seniority. When once removed, they shall be forever
incapable of being re-appointed to that house. Their qualifications shall
be an oath of fidelity to the state, and of duty in their office, the
being  years of age at the least, and the having given no bribe
directly or indirectly to obtain their appointment. While in the
senatorial office they shall be incapable of holding any public pension or
post of profit either themselves, or by others for their use.
The judges of the General court and of the High court of Chancery shall
have session and deliberative voice, but not suffrage in the house of
The Senate and the house of representatives shall each of them have
power to originate and amend bills; save only that bills for levying money
*bills* shall be originated and amended by the representatives only: the
assent of both houses shall be requisite to pass a law.
The General assembly shall have no power to pass any law inflicting
death for any crime, excepting murder, & *such* those offences in the
military service for which they shall think punishment by death absolutely
necessary: and all capital punishments in other cases are hereby
abolished. Nor shall they have power to prescribe torture in any case
whatever: nor shall there be power anywhere to pardon crimes or to remit
fines or punishments: nor shall any law for levying money be in force
longer than [ten years] from the time of its commencement.
[Two thirds] of the members of either house shall be a Quorum to proceed
The executive powers shall be exercised in manner following.
One person to be called the [Administrator] shall be annually appointed
by the house of Representatives on the second day of their first session,
who after having acted [one] year shall be incapable of being again
appointed to that office until he shall have been out of the same [three]
Under him shall be appointed by the same house and at the same time, a
Deputy-Administrator to assist his principal in the discharge of his
office, and to succeed, in case of his death before the year shall have
expired, to the whole powers thereof during the residue of the year.
The administrator shall possess the power formerly held by the king:
save only that, he shall be bound by acts of legislature tho' not
- he shall have no negative on the bills of the Legislature;
- he shall be liable to action, tho' not to personal restraint for
private duties or wrongs;
- he shall not possess the prerogatives;
- of dissolving, proroguing or adjourning either house of Assembly;
- of declaring war or concluding peace;
- of issuing letters of marque or reprisal;
- of raising or introducing armed forces, building armed vessels,
forts or strongholds;
- of coining monies or regulating their values;
- of regulating weights and measures;
- of erecting courts, offices, boroughs, corporations, fairs,
markets, ports, beacons, lighthouses, seamarks.
- of laying embargoes, or prohibiting the exportation of any
commodity for a longer space than  days.
- of retaining or recalling a member of the state but by legal
process pro delicto vel contractu.
- of making denizens.
- *of pardoning crimes, or remitting fines or punishments.*
- of creating dignities or granting rights of precedence.
but these powers shall be exercised by the legislature alone, and
excepting also those powers which by these fundamentals are given to
others, or abolished.
A Privy council shall be annually appointed by the house of
representatives whose duties it shall be to give advice to the
Administrator when called on by him. With them the Deputy Administrator
shall have session and suffrage.
Delegates to represent this colony in the American Congress shall be
appointed when necessary by the house of Representatives. After serving
[one] year in that office they shall not be capable of being re-appointed
to the same during an interval of [one] year.
A Treasurer shall be appointed by the house of Representatives who shall
issue no money but by authority of both houses.
An Attorney general shall be appointed by the house of Representatives
High Sheriffs, &c.
High Sheriffs and Coroners of counties shall be annually elected by
those qualified to vote for representatives: and no person who shall have
served as high sheriff [one] year shall be capable of being re-elected to
the said office in the same county till he shall have been out of office
All other Officers civil and military shall be appointed by the
Administrator; but such appointment shall be subject to the negative of
the Privy council, saving however to the Legislature a power of
transferring to any other persons the appointment of such officers or any
The Judiciary powers shall be exercised
- First, by County courts and other inferior jurisdictions:
- Secondly, by a General court & a High court of Chancery:
- Thirdly, by a Court of Appeals.
County Courts, &c.
The judges of the county courts and other inferior jurisdictions shall
be appointed by the Administrator, subject to the negative of the privy
council. They shall not be fewer than [five] in number. Their
jurisdictions shall be defined from time to time by the legislature: and
they shall be removable for misbehavior by the court of Appeals.
Genl. Court and High Ct. of Chancery
The Judges of the General court and of the High court of Chancery shall
be appointed by the Administrator and Privy council. If kept united they
shall be  in number, if separate, there shall be  for the General
court &  for the High court of Chancery. The appointment shall be
made from the faculty of the law, and of such persons of that faculty as
shall have actually exercised the same at the bar of some court or courts
of record within this colony for [seven] years. They shall hold their
commissions during good behavior, for breach of which they shall be
removable by the court of Appeals. Their jurisdiction shall be defined
from time to time by the Legislature.
Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals shall consist of not less than  nor more than
 members, to be appointed by the house of Representatives: they shall
hold their offices during good behavior, for breach of which they shall be
removable by an act of the legislature only. Their jurisdiction shall be
to determine finally all causes removed before them from the General Court
or High Court of Chancery, or of the county courts or other inferior
jurisdictions for misbehavior: [to try impeachments against high offenders
lodged before them by the house of representatives for such crimes as
shall hereafter be precisely defined by the Legislature, and for the
punishment of which, the said legislature shall have previously prescribed
certain and determinate pains.] In this court the judges of the General
court and High court of Chancery shall have session and deliberative
voice, but no suffrage.
All facts in causes whether of Chancery, Common, Ecclesiastical, or
Marine law, shall be tried by a jury upon evidence given viva voce, in
open court: but where witnesses are out of the colony or unable to attend
through sickness or other invincible necessity, their deposition may be
submitted to the credit of the jury.
All Fines or Amercements shall be assessed, & Terms of imprisonment
for Contempts & Misdemeanors shall be fixed by the verdict of a Jury.
All Process Original & Judicial shall run in the name of the court
from which it issues.
Two thirds of the members of the General court, High court of Chancery,
or Court of Appeals shall be a Quorum to proceed to business.
RIGHTS, PRIVATE AND PUBLIC.
Unappropriated or Forfeited lands shall be appropriated by the
Administrator with the consent of the Privy council.
Every person of full age neither owning nor having owned  acres of
land, shall be entitled to an appropriation of  acres or to so much as
shall make up what he owns or has owned  acres in full and absolute
dominion. And no other person shall be capable of taking an appropriation.
Lands heretofore holden of the crown in fee simple, and those hereafter
to be appropriated shall be holden in full and absolute dominion, of no
No lands shall be appropriated until purchased of the Indian native
proprietors; nor shall any purchases be made of them but on behalf of the
public, by authority of acts of the General assembly to be passed for
every purchase specially.
The territories contained within the charters erecting the colonies of
Maryland, Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina, are hereby ceeded,
released, & forever confirmed to the people of those colonies
respectively, with all the rights of property, jurisdiction and government
and all other rights whatsoever which might at any time heretofore have
been claimed by this colony. The Western and Northern extent of this
country shall in all other respects stand as fixed by the charter of until
by act of the Legislature one or more territories shall be laid off
Westward of the Alleghaney mountains for new colonies, which colonies
shall be established on the same fundamental laws contained in this
instrument, and shall be free and independent of this colony and of all
Descents shall go according to the laws Gavelkind, save only that
females shall have equal rights with males.
No person hereafter coming into this county shall be held within the
same in slavery under any pretext whatever.
All persons who by their own oath or affirmation, or by other testimony
shall give satisfactory proof to any court of record in this colony that
they propose to reside in the same  years at the least and who shall
subscribe the fundamental laws, shall be considered as residents and
entitled to all the rights of persons natural born.
All persons shall have full and free liberty of religious opinion; nor
shall any be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious institution.
No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms [within his own lands].
There shall be no standing army but in time of actual war.
Printing presses shall be free, except so far as by commission of
private injury cause may be given of private action.
All Forfeitures heretofore going to the king, shall go the state; save
only such as the legislature may hereafter abolish.
The royal claim to Wrecks, waifs, strays, treasure-trove, royal mines,
royal fish, royal birds, are declared to have been usurpations on common
No Salaries or Perquisites shall be given to any officer but by some
future act of the legislature. No salaries shall be given to the
Administrator, members of the legislative houses, judges of the court of
Appeals, judges of the County courts, or other inferior jurisdictions,
Privy counsellors, or Delegates to the American Congress: but the
reasonable expences of the Administrator, members of the house of
representatives, judges of the court of Appeals, Privy counsellors, &
Delegates for subsistence while acting in the duties of their office, may
be borne by the public, if the legislature shall so direct.
No person shall be capable of acting in any office Civil, Military [or
Ecclesiastical] *The Qualifications of all not otherwise directed, shall
be an oath of fidelity to state and the having given no bribe to obtain
their office* who shall have given any bribe to obtain such office, or who
shall not previously take an oath of fidelity to the state.
None of these fundamental laws and principles of government shall be
repealed or altered, but by the personal consent of the people on summons
to meet in their respective counties on one and the same day by an act of
Legislature to be passed for every special occasion: and if in such county
meetings the people of two thirds of the counties shall give their
suffrage for any particular alteration or repeal referred to them by the
said act, the same shall be accordingly repealed or altered, and such
repeal or alteration shall take it's place among these fundamentals and
stand on the same footing with them, in lieu of the article repealed or
The laws heretofore in force in this colony shall remain in force,
except so far as they are altered by the foregoing fundamental laws, or so
far as they may be hereafter altered by acts of the Legislature.
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