Primary Sources | »

Virginia Constitution, 1864


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 1864 constitution was written during the midst of the Civil War. When the majority of the state voted to secede from the Union, a group of dissenters set up an alternate, pro-Union government. Two of the most significant changes in the 1864 constitution were the abolition of  slavery and the establishment of West Virginia as an independent state, However, these changes did not take effect until after the Civil War ended.

The 1864 constitution took effect during the midst of wartime, and without a popular vote. The changes were an attempt to answer some of the pressing social and political challenges in Virginia during the Civil War. Readers may want to consider whether how these issues affected both the content and the legality of the 1864 constitution.

Source: Constitution of Virginia, 1864 in Francis Newton Thorpe, The Federal and State constitutions, colonial charters, and other organic laws of the states, territories and colonies now or heretofore forming the United States of America (Govt. Print. Off., 1909): 3852-3871.

How to Cite This Source
Virginia General Assembly, "Virginia Constitution, 1864," in Virginia Civics, Item #520, (accessed February 26, 2022).
Associated Files