Frequent recurrence to fundamental principles: The Virginia Declaration of Rights

16 sections that changed the world

Written by Dr. Milan Parivodić, Lawyer

Published in weekly magazine Nedeljnik no. 453

The 1976 Virginia Declaration of Rights is the mother document of modern democracy.

It was written by George Mason, who was considered “one of the smartest people of his time”, in ten days in the solitude of a hotel room, and the first version had ten sections; then expanded to 16 sections, mostly at the suggestion of James Madison, fourth USA president, writer of The Federalist Papers. The Declaration of the Rights of the Virginia Colony was adopted at the Constituent Assembly of the State of Virginia on June 12, 1776, less than a month before the adoption of the Declaration of Independence – on which it had a decisive influence. The Virginia Declaration is still valid today because it represents the Charter of Rights (Article 1) of the Constitution of the American state of Virginia. The Virginia Declaration, with its depth and beauty of wording, has inspired a number of charters of rights of the constitutions of other states in the United States of America.

More than that – the Virginia Declaration of Rights inspired the most important legal documents of modern civilization. Thomas Jefferson was inspired by it when writing the most famous point of the Declaration of Independence, which was adopted after 22 days – on July 4, 1776: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”.

Thomas Jefferson assisted the Marquis of Lafayette in writing the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1789: “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.”.

When the Constitution of the United States of America was amended in 1791, with the Charter of Rights (the first ten Amendments) Jefferson again made significant use of the wording of the Virginia Declaration: e.g. “Eighth Amendment: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.“.

Finally, it is not difficult to notice that the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) was inspired by ideas and formulations that originated in the Virginia Declaration: e.g. “Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

That is why I believe that the Virginia Declaration is the mother charter on the rights of citizens and the basic principles of the organization of free state power.

The USA Declaration of Independence, the USA Constitution, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and the European Convention on Human Rights (1953) omit the positive duties of living in virtue and helping others, without which – history has taught us – there is no successful human society. These documents impose only the obligation of tolerance, i.e. passive suffering of another. This is another reason why the Virginia Declaration should be studied in the context of grotesque modernity. Is it an obligation of tolerance, i.e. passive suffering of another person is a sufficient minimum for the success of human society, or should the standard be raised to live in virtue and help another person?

Despite all of the above, the Virginia Declaration of Rights is little known even to lawyers around the world. We live in a time that erodes people’s freedom. The greatest enemies of freedom are the despotic omnipotent state, populist policies, technologies that enable totalitarian control over people, and the people themselves who agree to exchange freedom for the comfort of a life without responsibility. Even the United States and the United Kingdom have fallen victim to the harsh electoral manipulations described in the shocking documentary „The Great Hack“ (2019). The democracies of France, Italy and Germany and other Western European countries are faced with great challenges. Not to mention many societies that do not even try to provide an environment of freedom to their citizens. Therefore, let all the citizens of the world “return to the fundamental principles” and think about them well – as required by the Virginia Declaration in Article 15. Below is my translation of the text of the Virginia Declaration.

Virginia Declarations of Rights, June 1776

A Declaration of Rightsis 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.

  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.
  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.
  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 right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.
  4. That no man, or set of men, is entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services; which, nor being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate, legislator, or judge to be hereditary.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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, 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.
  9. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
  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.
  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.
  12. That the freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.
  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.
  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.
  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 to fundamental principles.
  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, love, and charity toward each other.


16 tačaka koje su promenile svet

Piše dr Milan Parivodić, advokat

Objavljeno u magazinu Nedeljnik br. 453


Napisao ju je Džordž Mejson, smatran  „jednim od najpametnijih ljudi svoga vremena”, za deset dana u samoći hotelske sobe, i prva verzija imala je deset članova; a onda je proširena na 16 članova, najviše predlozima Džejmsa Medisona, četvrtog predsednika SAD, pisca Federalističkih spisa. Deklaracija o pravima kolonije Virdžinije usvojena je na ustavotvornoj skupštini države Virdžinije 12. juna 1776, manje od mesec dana pre usvajanja Deklaracije nezavisnosti na koju je imala presudan uticaj. Virdžinijska deklaracija važi i danas jer ona predstavlja Povelju o pravima (Član 1) Ustava američke države Virdžinije. Virdžinijska deklaracija, dubinom i lepotom formulacija, inspirisala je veliki broj povelja o pravima ustava drugih država Sjedinjenih Američkih Država.

Više od toga – Virdžinijska deklaracija o pravima inspirisala je najvažnije pravne dokumente savremene civilizacije. Tomas Džeferson je upravo njome bio inspirisan pri pisanju najpoznatije tačke Deklaracije nezavisnosti, koja je usvojena već nakon 22 dana – 4. jula 1776. godine: „Mi smatramo ove istine očiglednim: da su svi ljudi stvoreni jednaki, da su obdareni od strane njihovog Tvorca određenim neotuđivim pravima, među kojima su život, sloboda i težnja za srećom. U cilju obezbeđivanja ovih prava, vlade su ustanovljene među ljudima, i izvode svoja pravedna ovlašćenja iz saglasnosti onih kojima vladaju.

– Da kad god ijedan oblik vlade postane rušilački ovim ciljevima, pravo je ljudi da je promene ili ukinu, i da uspostave novu vladu, koja će se temeljiti na takvim načelima, i organizovati svoju vlast na takav način, koji će im izgledati najpodesnijim da utiče na njihovu sigurnost i sreću.”

Tomas Džeferson pomagao je markizu Lafajetu prilikom pisanja Francuske deklaracije o pravima čoveka i građanina iz 1789. godine: „Ljudi se rađaju i ostaju slobodni i jednaki u pravima. Društvene razlike mogu se zasnivati samo na opštem dobru. Cilj svih političkih udruživanja je očuvanje prirodnih i nepovredivih prava čoveka. Ta prava su sloboda, imovina, sigurnost i otpor ugnjetavanju.”

Kada je Ustav Sjedinjenih Američkih Država 1791. godine dopunjen Poveljom o pravima (prvih deset amandmana), Džeferson je opet značajno iskoristio formulacije iz Virdžinijske deklaracije, npr. „Osmi amandman: Neće se tražiti prekomerno jemstvo, niti izrečene prekomerne novčane kazne, niti naložene okrutne i neobične kazne”.

Konačno, nije teško primetiti da je Univerzalna deklaracija o ljudskim pravima Ujedinjenih nacija (1948) inspirisana idejama i formulacijama koje originalno potiču iz Virdžinijske deklaracije, npr. „Član 3. Svako ima pravo na život, slobodu i bezbednost ličnosti.”

Zbog toga smatram da je Virdžinijska deklaracija majka povelja o pravima građana i osnovnim principima ustrojstva slobodne državne vlasti.

Deklaracija nezavisnosti SAD, Ustav SAD, Francuska deklaracija o pravima čoveka i građanina i Evropska konvencija o ljudskim pravima (1953) izostavljaju pozitivne dužnosti života u vrlini i pomoći drugom, bez kojih – istorija nas je naučila – nema uspešnog ljudskog društva. Ova dokumenta nameću jedino obavezu tolerancije, tj. pasivnog trpljenja drugoga. Ovo je još jedan razlog zbog čega Virdžinijsku deklaraciju treba proučavati u kontekstu groteskne savremenosti. Da li je obaveza tolerancije, tj. pasivnog trpljenja drugog čoveka dovoljan minimum za uspeh ljudskog društva, ili standard treba podići na život u vrlini i pomoć drugom čoveku?

Uprkos svemu navedenom, Virdžinijska deklaracija o pravima je malo poznata čak i pravnicima u svetu. Mi živimo u vremenu koje erodira slobodu ljudi. Najveći neprijatelji slobode su despotska svemoćna država, populističke politike, tehnologije koje omogućavaju totalitarni nadzor nad ljudima, i sami ljudi koji pristaju na razmenu slobode za komfor života bez odgovornosti. Čak su Sjedinjene Američke Države i Ujedinjeno Kraljevstvo postali žrtve teških izbornih manipulacija opisanih u šokantnom dokumentarcu „The Great Hack” (2019). Demokratije Francuske, Italije i Nemačke i drugih zapadnoevropskih zemalja suočavaju se sa velikim izazovima. Da ne pominjemo mnoga društva koja i ne nastoje da obezbede ambijent slobode svojim građanima. Zbog toga neka se svi građani sveta „vrate na temeljna načela” i dobro o njima razmisle kako nalaže Virdžinijska deklaracija u članu 15. U nastavku je moj prevod teksta Virdžinijske deklaracije.


Deklaracija o pravima, koju su sačinili predstavnici dobrog naroda Virdžinije okupljeni na celovitoj i slobodnoj skupštini, pravima koja se odnose na njih i njihovo potomstvo, kao osnov i temelj vlasti.

  1. Da su svi ljudi prirodno jednako slobodni i nezavisni i imaju određena urođena prava, koja, kada uđu u stanje društva, ne mogu nikakvim sporazumom, oduzeti ili odreći svom potomstvu; naime, uživanje u životu i slobodi, sa sredstvima za sticanje i posedovanje imovine, i sleđenja i dostizanja sreće i sigurnosti.
  2. Da sva vlast pripada ljudima i shodno tome se izvodi od ljudi; a da su zvaničnici njihovi poverenici i sluge koji im se moraju povinovati u svim vremenima.
  3. Da vlast jeste, i treba da bude, uspostavljena radi opšte koristi, radi zaštite i sigurnosti ljudi, nacije ili zajednice; te da od svih različitih oblika i formi vlasti, najbolja je ona koja je sposobna proizvesti najveći stepen sreće i sigurnosti i koja je najefikasnije zaštićena od opasnosti zloupravljanja. I da, kada se za bilo koju vladu ispostavi da je neodgovarajuća ili suprotna ovim ciljevima, većina zajednice ima neupitno, neotuđivo i neoporecivo pravo da je reformiše, izmeni ili smeni, na način koji će smatrati najpodesnijim za javnu dobrobit. OD SVIH RAZLIČITIH OBLIKA I FORMI VLASTI, NAJBOLJA JE ONA KOJA JE SPOSOBNA PROIZVESTI NAJVEĆI STEPEN SREĆE I SIGURNOSTI
  4. Da nijedan čovek, niti grupa ljudi, nema pravo na izuzetne ili posebne zarade ili privilegije od zajednice, osim naknade za javnu službu; koja niti je naslediva, niti treba službe zvaničnika, zakonodavaca ili sudija da budu nasledne.
  5. Da zakonodavna i izvršna vlast u državi treba da budu razdvojene i različite od sudske; i da pripadnici prve dve vlasti treba da budu sprečeni da ugnjetavaju, time što će osećati i učestvovati u teškoćama ljudi; oni treba, u utvrđenim intervalima vremena, da budu svedeni na nivo privatnosti i vraćeni u onu sredinu iz koje su prvobitno izvađeni, a upražnjeni položaji da budu popunjeni čestim, izvesnim i redovnim izborima, na kojima će svi ili neki deo bivših pripadnika, ponovo imati, ili nemati, pravo da budu birani, kako to već urede zakoni.
  6. Da izbori poslanika koji služe kao predstavnici ljudi u skupštini treba da budu slobodni; i da svi ljudi koji imaju dovoljno dokaza da imaju trajni zajednički interes sa zajednicom i povezani su sa zajednicom imaju pravo glasa, i ne mogu biti oporezivani niti lišeni imovine za javne potrebe bez vlastitog pristanka ili pristanka njihovih izabranih predstavnika, niti obvezani bilo kojim zakonom oko koga se nisu na sličan način okupili radi javnog dobra.
  7. Da svaka vlast da se obustavi primena zakona, ili da se sprovode zakoni zasnovana na bilo kom ovlašćenju, kada je bez pristanka predstavnika ljudi povređuje njihova prava i ne treba da se sprovodi.
  8. Da u svim kapitalnim ili kaznenim gonjenjima čovek ima pravo da zahteva razlog i prirodu njegove optužbe, da bude suočen sa onima koji ga optužuju i svedocima, da se poziva na dokaze u svoju korist, i na brzo suđenje od nepristrasne porote od dvanaest ljudi iz njegovog kraja, bez čije jednoglasne saglasnosti on ne može biti proglašen krivim; niti se sme prisiliti da iznosi dokaze protiv sebe; da niko ne bude lišen svoje slobode osim po zakonu zemlje ili na osnovu presude donete od strane njemu ravnih.
  9. Da se ne zahteva prekomerno jemstvo, niti nameću previsoke novčane kazne, niti nanose okrutne i neobične kazne.
  10. Da su uopšteni nalozi, kojima bi se službeniku ili glasniku naredilo da pretražuje sumnjiva mesta bez dokaza o počinjenom delu, ili da uhvati bilo koju osobu ili osobe koje nisu imenovane, ili čije delo nije zasebno opisano i potkrepljeno dokazima, surovi i ugnjetavajući i ne treba ih izdavati.
  11. Da je u sporovima povodom imovine, i suđenjima između čoveka i čoveka, drevno suđenje porotom bolje od bilo kog drugog i treba ga smatrati svetim.
  12. Da je sloboda štampe jedan od velikih bedema slobode, i da ne sme nikada biti ograničena osim od despotskih vlada.
  13. Da je dobro ustrojena milicija, sastavljena od ljudi iz naroda, obučenih oružju, ispravna, prirodna i bezbedna zaštita slobodne države; da stajaće vojske, u vreme mira, treba izbegavati kao opasne za slobodu; i da vojska u svim situacijama treba da bude strogo potčinjena i pod upravom civilne vlasti.
  14. Da ljudi imaju pravo na jedinstvenu vladu; i, shodno tome, da nijedna vlada, odvojena ili nezavisna od vlade Virdžinije, ne bude uspostavljena ili ustanovljena u njenim granicama.
  15. Da se ni slobodarska vlada, niti blagoslovi slobode, ne mogu sačuvati ijednom narodu, osim uz čvrstu privrženost pravdi, umerenosti, suzdržanosti, štedljivosti, i vrline, te čestom vraćanju osnovnim načelima.
  16. Da vera, ili dužnost koju mi dugujemo našem Stvaraocu, i način na koji je ispovedamo, mogu biti upravljani samo razumom i uverenjem, a ne silom ili nasiljem; i zbog toga svi ljudi imaju podjednako pravo na slobodno ispovedanje vere, po diktatu savesti; i da jeste uzajamna dužnost svih da upražnjavaju hrišćansku suzdržanost, ljubav i dobročinstvo jedni prema drugima.

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