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Draft Virginia Constitution, 1776

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Virginia signed its first constitution, drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1776 upon the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Since that time, there have been frequent amendments and six major revisions to the constitution: 1830, 1851, 1864, 1870, 1902, and 1971. Our current constitution is an amended version of the 1971 constitution. These revisions to the Virginia constitution are representative of the political, social, regional, and racial climate of the times.

As the 1776 constitution was written when the colonies had newly declared their independence, much of the first part of the document mirrors anti-monarchy sentiment expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

The current document also provides a "first glimpse" of what the original framers of the Virginia constitution hoped the new state would become. The constitution outlined procedures for a legislative branch, executive branch, judiciary, voting, a "privy council," and rights. The draft constitution abolishes slavery - language which did not make it into the final version. Readers may want to explore other differences between the draft and final version of the 1776 constitution.

Source: Thomas Jefferson, Draft Constitution of Virginia, 1776 Avalon Project (accessed June 4, 2009).