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Introduction to the Virginia Constitution

(1776)

State Convention at Richmond, VA

Engraving. The State Convention at Richmond, VA., In Session. From Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. 15 February 1868, p. 345.

Online Exhibitions, accessed March 29, 2021, https://www.virginiamemory.com/online-exhibitions/items/show/602

Engraving. The State Convention at Richmond, VA., In Session.

Virginia has had a state constitution since 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed. George Mason and James Madison were two of the main writers for the Virginia Constitution, both of whom would later go to Philadelphia to help write the United States Constitution, and would bring their ideas from the Virginia Constitution to help draft the highest document in our nation’s history. Since being drafted in 1776 there have been five major draft changes to the Virginia Constitution: 1830, 1851, 1864, 1870, and 1902. In 1969 there was a special assembly in Richmond which amended the Virginia Constitution that was ratified in 1971 and serves as our current constitution.

Constitutional Convention

Painting, Virginia [Constitutional] Convention of 1829- 1830 by George Catlin.

Virginia Museum of History & Culture (1957.39). http://www.virginiahistory.org/

Painting, Virginia [Constitutional] Convention of 1829- 1830 by George Catlin.

There are currently twenty-two articles in the Virginia state constitution. The first Article contains the Bill of Rights. The second article details franchise and officers, which are voting rights and privileges, qualifications to hold public office, and districting. Articles three through six detail separation of powers and the creation of three branches of government: legislative, executive, and judiciary. Article seven details the local governments. Articles eight and nine detail education and corporations respectively. Article ten details taxes and finance laws. Article eleven is conservation. Article twelve outlines protocol for future changes to the state constitution.

For the full text of the Virginia Constitution, see the Virginia state website here: https://law.lis.virginia.gov/constitution


The above engraving (top right) from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper depicts the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868 in Richmond. The 1870 Constitution expanded voting to men of all races and established a public school system in Virginia.