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Virginia Constitution, 1870

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Virginia signed its first constitution 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.

The 1870 version of the Virginia Constitution marked the state's formal reintegration into the Union after the Civil War. Some changes to the constitution were directly affected by the Civil War and Reconstruction. For example, the constitution prohibited slavery, and provided the right to inherit property to the children of slaves who had not been allowed to legally marry.

The constitution also established free public schools for the first time in Virginia's history. Their purpose, according to the constitution, was "to prevent children growing up in ignorance, or becoming vagrants."

Source: Constitution of Virginia, 1872 Constitution Finder (accessed June 4, 2009).