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Lift your lamp beside the golden door, Break not the golden rule, avoid well the golden calf, know; not all that glitters is gold, and laissez faire et laissez passer [let do and let pass] but as a shining sentinel, hesitate not to ring the bell, defend the gates, and man the wall

Monday, May 2, 2011

Virginia Declaration of Rights by George Mason 1776

Thomas Jefferson regarded Mason as the "the wisest man of his generation," the Virginia Declaration of Rights was adopted by the Virginia Constitutional Convention on June 12, 1776. Widely copied by the other colonies (by the end of 1776 five colonies had adopted declarations of rights; by 1783 every state had some form of a bill of rights), it became the basis of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution after Mason fought against ratification of the Constitution because it contained no bill of rights. The Declaration of Rights was also used by Thomas Jefferson for the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence. The Marquis de Condorcet called the Virginia Declaration of Rights "the first Bill of Rights to merit the name."

A DECLARATION OF RIGHTS made by the representatives of the good people of Virginia, assembled in full and free convention which rights do pertain to them and their posterity, as the basis and foundation of government .
Equality Independence Freedom and Posterity

Section 1. That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
Power From The People

Section 2. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants and at all times amenable to them.
Right to Reform Alter or Abolish

Section 3. That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration. And that, when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community has an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible[1] right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal[2].

[1] indefeasible: not defeasible;  not to be annulled or made void; not forfeitable.(a)

[2] weal: good, well being, (b), prosperity, happiness, wealth (c). Antonym: woe
Payment or Privileges to Public Servants; Positions not Hereditary

Section 4. That no man, or set of men, is entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments[3] or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services; which, nor being descendible[4], neither ought the offices of magistrate, legislator, or judge to be hereditary.

[3] emoluments: profit, salary, or fees from office or employment; compensation for services: Tips are an emolument in addition to wages. (d) Compensation

[4] descendible: capable of being transmitted by inheritance. (e)
Separation of Powers, Frequent Vacancy and Elections

Section 5. That the legislative and executive powers of the state should be separate and distinct from the judiciary; and that the members of the two first may be restrained from oppression, by feeling and participating the burdens of the people, they should, at fixed periods, be reduced to a private station, return into that body from which they were originally taken, and the vacancies be supplied by frequent, certain, and regular elections, in which all, or any part, of the former members, to be again eligible, or ineligible, as the laws shall direct.
Sufferage to those with Permanent Common Interest, and Restrictions on Law & Taxation

Section 6. That elections of members to serve as representatives of the people, in assembly ought to be free; and that all men, having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to, the community, have the right of suffrage and cannot be taxed or deprived of their property for public uses without their own consent or that of their representatives so elected, nor bound by any law to which they have not, in like manner, assembled for the public good.
Discouragement of the Suspension of Laws

Section 7. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority, without consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights and ought not to be exercised.
Rights of the Accused; Trial by Jury etc

Section 8. That in all capital or criminal prosecutions a man has a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence in his favor, and to a speedy trial by an impartial jury of twelve men of his vicinage[5], without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty; nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself; that no man be deprived of his liberty except by the law of the land or the judgment of his peers.

[5] Vicinage: proximity

Section 9. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Warrant Without Evidence discouraged

Section 10. That general warrants, whereby an officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive and ought not to be granted.
Property Suits resolved by [sacred] Jury Trial

Section 11. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is preferable to any other and ought to be held sacred.
Freedom of Press

Section 12. That the freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.
Militia Good, Standing Army Bad

Section 13. That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.
Singular Uniform Govt. of the State

Section 14. That the people have a right to uniform government; and, therefore, that no government separate from or independent of the government of Virginia ought to be erected or established within the limits thereof.
Necessities to the Preservation of Freedom

Section 15. That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue and by frequent recurrence[6] to fundamental principles.

[6] recurrence: turning back (f)
Freedom of Religion: Duty to God; directed by Reason not Force
Christian forbearance, love, and Charity

Section 16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practise Christian forbearance[7], love, and charity toward each other.

[7] Forbearance: the act of forbearing; a refraining from something, patience, endurance; self-control, tolerance 


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