Comparing the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights

Virginia Declaration of Rights is among the core documents in American history. It was drafted in May 1776 by George Mason and later amended by the Virginia Convention and Thomas Ludwell Lee. The Virginia Declaration of Rights was a call for American independence from their colonizers; Britain. A month after its publication, it was heavily cited in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson. The uniquely powerful document was later used in 1789 by James Madison in formulating the Bill of Rights and in drawing the French Declaration of the Rights of Man by Marquis de Lafayette.

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Therefore, the Virginia Declaration of Rights acts as a foundation through which America gained its independence and developed part of its constitution. This paper compares the Virginia Declaration of Rights with the two other documents it was used to create; the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, to determine their level of similarities. The assessment demonstrated that the two documents are highly similar with Declaration of Independence drawing it opening and its principles from Virginia Declaration of Right, and the Bill of Rights having several almost similar bills with Virginia Declaration of Rights.

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The Declaration of Independence was developed a month after the publication of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. In its development, Thomas Jefferson borrowed its introduction from the Virginia document. The borrowed phrases ended up being regarded as the basic principles of the document. The borrowed principles include that all men are created equal, and unalienable rights are given to all by the creator including the right to liberty, life, and pursuit of happiness.  Jefferson also borrowed the principle on the government’s purpose to protect the rights of people, the limitation of government power by people who offer it power, and the right to revolution when the government fails to do its job. The five principles in the Declaration of Independence have been directly borrowed from the firth three sections of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Another similarity is that the two documents seem to have the same focus or purpose. Their main focus was to demonstrate people’s inherent right to abolish or reform inadequate government; the British government that was ruling America then.

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Unlike the other two, the Bill of Rights was created to establish the U.S. government. However, with the feeling that unlimited government may overstep its boundaries, just like the British colony, the Bill of Rights borrowed a number of its rights from the Virginia Declaration of Rights. For instance, the first amendment that directs on of freedom of speech, press, and worship in the Bill of Rights was borrowed from section 12 and Section 16 of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Also, the Fourth Amendment guiding on property protection is borrowed from Section 10 of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. The 8th Amendment guiding on excessive bail is borrowed from Section 9, while the 6th Amendment guiding on right speedy and public trial is borrowed from Section 8. Another major similarity is that the writers of the two documents shared a motive, which was ensuring that no government oversteps its boundary against people’s rights. The two documents focused on protecting people’s rights against an authoritarian government, though at different times, with Bills of Rights targeting the present and the future.

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The Virginia Declaration of Rights is a powerful document since it managed to fuel the development of the two most important documents in American history. Through it, Jefferson was able to draft the Declaration of Independence that convinced the British to free Americans and allow them to establish their government. Also through it, the Americans were able to establish a government that respects people’s rights. George Mason’s perception of right governance became the basis in which Americans were freed from their colonizers, and that Americans were freed from autocratic governance in the future. The two documents borrowed most of their principles from the Virginia Declaration of Rights.

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