A Vanishing Virginia Constitution?

The Honorable Stephen R. McCullough *

Virginia’s constitution was first established in 1776, when the rift with the mother country thrust upon Virginia colonists the obligation to establish their own government. A rather modest affair when compared to our modern Virginia Constitution, Virginia’s initial charter of government consisted of two documents: a Declaration of Rights and a constitution proper that set forth the more mechanical aspects of operating a government. Chiefly the handiwork of George Mason, the Declaration of Rights called for, among other protections, the separation of powers, religious liberty, freedom of the press, and protections for persons accused of crimes. One writer notes that this “Declaration of Rights is, indeed, a remarkable production. As an intellectual effort, it possesses exalted merit. It is the quintessence of all the great principles and doctrines of freedom which had been wrought out by the people of England from the earliest times.” Although the Virginia Constitution has evolved significantly over the more than two centuries that followed, some of the provisions in the current constitution remain unchanged from the quill of George Mason.

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*   Judge, Court of Appeals of Virginia. Prior to the author’s appointment to the Court of Appeals of Virginia, he served as State Solicitor General, Office of the Attorney General, Commonwealth of Virginia; J.D., 1997, University of Richmond School of Law; B.A., 1994, University of Virginia.

The views expressed in this article represent strictly the personal views of the author.