Ratification of the Constitution by the State of Virginia, June 26, 1788.
Virginia ratified the Constitution in two steps. The first was the declaration of ratification. The second was a
recommendation that a bill of rights be added to the
Constitution, and that a list of amendments also be
added in accordance with Article 5. The
following text is taken from the Library of Congress's Continental Congress
WE the Delegates of the people of Virginia,
duly elected in pursuance of a recommendation from the General Assembly, and
now met in Convention, having fully and freely investigated and discussed the
proceedings of the Federal Convention, and being prepared as well as the most
mature deliberation hath enabled us, to decide thereon, DO in
the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia, declare and make known that
the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the
United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to
their injury or oppression, and that every power not granted thereby remains
with them and at their will: that therefore no right of any denomination, can
be cancelled, abridged, restrained or modified, by the Congress, by the Senate
or House of Representatives acting in any capacity, by the President or any
department or officer of the United States, except in those instances in which
power is given by the Constitution for those purposes: and that among other
essential rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be
cancelled, abridged, restrained or modified by any authority of the United
With these impressions, with a solemn appeal to the searcher of hearts for
the purity of our intentions, and under the conviction, that, whatsoever
imperfections may exist in the Constitution, ought rather to be examined in the
mode prescribed therein, than to bring the Union into danger by a delay, with a
hope of obtaining amendments previous to the ratification:
We the said Delegates, in the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia,
do by these presents assent to, and ratify the Constitution recommended on the
seventeenth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven, by
the Foederal Convention for the Government of the United States; hereby
announcing to all those whom it may concern, that the said Constitution is
binding upon the said People, according to an authentic copy hereto annexed, in
the words following:
A copy of the Constitution was included in the
On motion, Ordered, That the Secretary of this Convention cause to be
engrossed, forthwith, two fair copies of the form of ratification, and of the
proposed Constitution of Government, as recommended by the Foederal Convention
on the seventeenth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and eighty
MR. Wythe reported, from the Committee
appointed, such amendments to the proposed Constitution of Government for the
United States, as were by them deemed necessary to be recommended to the
consideration of the Congress which shall first assemble under the said
Constitution, to be acted upon according to the mode prescribed in the fifth
article thereof; and he read the same in his place, and afterwards delivered
them in at the clerk's table, where the same were again read, and are as
That there be a Declaration or Bill of Rights asserting and securing from
encroachment the essential and unalienable rights of the people in some such
manner as the following:
1st. That there are certain natural rights of which men when they form a
social compact cannot deprive or divest their posterity, among which are the
enjoyment of life, and liberty, with the means of acquiring, possessing and
protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
2d. That all power is naturally vested in, and consequently derived from,
the people; that magistrates therefore are their trustees, and agents, and at
all times amenable to them.
3d. That the Government ought to be instituted for the common benefit,
protection and security of the people; and that the doctrine of non-resistance
against arbitrary power and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive to
the good and happiness of mankind.
4th. That no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive or separate public
emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public
services; which not being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate,
legislator or judge, or any other public office to be hereditary.
5th. That the legislative, executive and judiciary powers of government
should be separate and distinct, and that the members of the two first may be
restrained from oppression by feeling and participating the public burthens,
they should at fixed periods be reduced to a private station, return into the
mass of the people; and the vacancies be supplied by certain and regular
elections, in which all or any part of the former members to be eligible or
ineligible, as the rules of the Constitution of Government, and the laws shall
6th. That elections of Representatives in the legislature ought to be free
and frequent, and all men having sufficient evidence of permanent common
interest with, and attachment to the community, ought to have the right of
suffrage: and no aid, charge, tax or fee can be set, rated, or levied upon the
people without their own consent, or that of their representatives, so elected,
nor can they be bound by any law, to which they have not in like manner
assented for the public good.
7th. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws by any
authority without the consent of the representatives, of the people in the
legislature, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.
8th. That in all capital and criminal prosecutions, a man hath a right to
demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the
accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence and be allowed counsel in his
favor, and to a fair and speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage,
without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty (except in the
government of the land and naval forces) nor can he be compelled to give
evidence against himself.
9th. That no freeman ought to be taken, imprisoned, or disseized of his
freehold, liberties, privileges or franchises, or outlawed or exiled, or in any
manner destroyed or deprived of his life, liberty, or property but by the law
of the land.
10th. That every freeman restrained of his liberty is entitled to a remedy
to enquire into the lawfulness thereof, and to remove the same, if unlawful,
and that such remedy ought not to be denied nor delayed.
11th. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man
and man, the ancient trial by jury is one of the greatest securities to the
rights of the people, and ought to remain sacred and inviolable.
12th. That every freeman ought to find a certain remedy by recourse to the
laws for all injuries and wrongs he may receive in his person, property, or
character. He ought to obtain right and justice freely without sale, completely
and without denial, promptly and without delay, and that all establishments, or
regulations contravening these rights, are oppressive and unjust.
13th. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines
imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
14th. That every freeman has a right to be secure from all unreasonable
searches, and seizures of his person, his papers, and property; all warrants
therefore to search suspected places, or seize any freeman, his papers or
property, without information upon oath (or affirmation of a person religiously
scrupulous of taking an oath) of legal and sufficient cause, are grievous and
oppressive, and all general warrants to search suspected places, or to
apprehend any suspected person without specially naming or describing the place
or person, are dangerous and ought not to be granted.
15th. That the people have a right peaceably to assemble together to consult
for the common good, or to instruct their representatives; and that every
freeman has a right to petition or apply to the Legislature for redress of
16th. That the people have a right to freedom of speech, and of writing and
publishing their sentiments; that the freedom of the press is one of the
greatest bulwarks of liberty, and ought not to be violated.
17th. That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well
regulated militia composed of the body of the people trained to arms, is the
proper, natural and safe defence of a free state. That standing armies in time
of peace are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as
the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that in all
cases, the military should be under strict subordination to and governed by the
18th. That no soldier in time of peace ought to be quartered in any house
without the consent of the owner, and in time of war in such manner only as the
19th. That any person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms ought to be
exempted upon payment of an equivalent to employ another to bear arms in his
20th. 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 have an equal, natural and unalienable right
to the exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience, and
that no particular sect or society ought to be favored or established by law in
preference to others.
AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION.
1st. That each state in the union shall respectively retain every power,
jurisdiction and right, which is not by this constitution delegated to the
Congress of the United States, or to the departments of the Foederal
2d. That there shall be one representative for every thirty thousand,
according to the enumeration or census mentioned in the Constitution, until the
whole number of representatives amounts to two hundred; after which that number
shall be continued or increased as Congress shall direct, upon the principles
fixed in the Constitution, by apportioning the representatives of each state to
some greater number of people from time to time as population increases.
3d. When Congress shall lay direct taxes or excises, they shall immediately
inform the executive power of each state, of the quota of such state according
to the census herein directed, which is proposed to be thereby raised; and if
the legislature of any state shall pass a law which shall be effectual for
raising such quota at the time required by Congress, the taxes and excises laid
by Congress, shall not be collected in such state.
4th. That the members of the Senate and House of Representatives shall be
ineligible to, and incapable of holding any civil office under the authority of
the United States, during the time for which they shall respectively be
5th. That the journals of the proceedings of the Senate and House of
Representatives shall be published at least once in every year, except such
parts thereof relating to treaties, alliances, or military operations, as in
their judgment require secrecy.
6th. That a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures
of all public money, shall be published at least once in every year.
7th. That no commercial treaty shall be ratified without the concurrence of
two thirds of the whole number of the members of the Senate; and no treaty,
ceding, contracting, or restraining or suspending the territorial rights or
claims of the United States, or any of them, or their, or any of their rights
or claims to fishing in the American seas, or navigating the American rivers,
shall be made, but in cases of the most urgent and extreme necessity, nor shall
any such treaty be ratified without the concurrence of three fourths of the
whole number of the members of both houses respectively.
8th. That no navigation law or law regulating commerce shall be passed
without the consent of two thirds of the members present, in both houses.
9th. That no standing army or regular troops shall be raised, or kept up in
time of peace, without the consent of two thirds of the members present, in
10th. That no soldier shall be inlisted for any longer term than four years,
except in time of war, and then for no longer term than the continuance of the
11th. That each state respectively shall have the power to provide for
organizing, arming and disciplining its own militia, whensoever Congress shall
omit or neglect to provide for the same. That the militia shall not be subject
to martial law, except when in actual service in time of war, invasion or
rebellion, and when not in the actual service of the United States, shall be
subject only to such fines, penalties and punishments as shall be directed or
inflicted by the laws of its own state.
12th. That the exclusive power of legislation given to Congress over the
Foederal Town and its adjacent district, and other places purchased or to be
purchased by Congress of any of the states, shall extend only to such
regulations as respect the police and good government thereof.
13th. That no person shall be capable of being President of the United
States for more than eight years in any term of sixteen years.
14th. That the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one
Supreme Court, and in such Courts of Admiralty as Congress may from time to
time ordain and establish in any of the different states: The judicial power
shall extend to all cases in law and equity arising under treaties made, or
which shall be made under the authority of the United States; to all cases
affecting ambassadors, other foreign ministers and consuls; to all cases of
admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to which the United
States shall be a party; to controversies between two or more States, and
between parties claiming lands under the grants of different States. In all
cases affecting ambassadors, other foreign ministers and consuls, and those in
which a state shall be a party, the Supreme Court shall have original
jurisdiction; in all other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have
appellate jurisdiction, as to matters of law only: except in cases of equity,
and of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, in which the Supreme Court shall
have a appellate jurisdiction both as to law and fact, with such exceptions and
under such regulations as the Congress shall make: But the judicial power of
the United States shall extend to no case where the cause of action shall have
originated before the ratification of this Constitution; except in disputes
between States about their territory; disputes between persons claiming lands
under the grants of different States, and suits for debts due to the United
15th. That in criminal prosecutions, no man shall be restrained in the
exercise of the usual and accustomed right of challenging or excepting to the
16th. That Congress shall not alter, modify, or interfere in the times,
places, or manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, or
either of them, except when the Legislature of any state shall neglect, refuse,
or be disabled by invasion or rebellion to prescribe the same.
17th. That those clauses which declare that Congress shall not exercise
certain powers, be not interpreted in any manner whatsoever, to extend the
powers of Congress; but that they be construed either as making exceptions to
the specified powers where this shall be the case, or otherwise, as inserted
merely for greater caution.
18th. That the laws ascertaining the compensation of Senators and
representatives for their services, be postponed in their operation, until
after the election of representatives immediately succeeding the passing
thereof; that excepted, which shall first be passed on the subject.
19th. That some tribunal other than the Senate be provided for trying
impeachments of Senators.
20th. That the salary of a judge shall not be increased or diminished during
his continuance in office otherwise than by general regulations of salary,
which may take place on a revision of the subject at stated periods of not less
than seven years, to commence from the same such salaries shall be first
ascertained by Congress.
AND the Convention do, in the name and behalf of the people
of this Commonwealth, enjoin it upon their representatives in Congress to exert
all their influence and use all reasonable and legal methods to obtain a
RATIFICATION of the foregoing alterations and provisions in
the manner provided by the fifth article of the said Constitution; and in all
Congressional laws to be passed in the meantime, to conform to the spirit of
these amendments as far as the said Constitution will admit.