Academic level – Undergraduate 3-4
Type of paper – Discussion essay
Topic Title – Rights in US Documents
You will compare the Virginia Declaration of Rights with the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights and write a 2-page essay discussing the similarities between them.
The required paper length does not include the title page or bibliography.
You should discuss at least two similarities the Virginia Declaration of Rights shares with the Declaration of Independence, and at least two similarities the Virginia Declaration of Rights shares with the Bill of Rights.
Discussion Essay Sample
In the late 1700s, a transformative era arose, elevating the significance of freedom and individual rights to the forefront of historical consciousness. Three immensely significant documents were authored during that period, each leaving a profound imprint on history. These documents encompassed the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. These extraordinary texts unite to establish the foundation of democracy, forging a bedrock upon which we acknowledge inherent rights, emphasize government accountability, and safeguard personal freedoms.
The concept of rights is eloquently elucidated within the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. In 1776, George Mason penned the Virginia Declaration of Rights, articulating the resolute belief that every individual possesses inherent freedoms and autonomy, including rights to life, liberty, property ownership, and the pursuit of happiness and safety. Correspondingly, within the same pivotal year, Thomas Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence, asserting the equality of all individuals and affirming their entitlement to rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, bestowed by a higher authority. Both seminal texts forcefully underscore that governments are not the grantors of individual rights but rather the entrusted guardians charged with preserving and protecting these inherent rights.
Another noteworthy parallel between these two manuscripts lies in the recognition that should a government neglect its duty to safeguard the inherent rights of its populace, and the citizens possess an innate entitlement to alter or potentially abolish it. The Virginia Declaration of Rights expressly asserts that if a government proves ineffective or contravenes these principles, the majority of the populace possesses a clear prerogative to enact change or even abolish said government. Likewise, the Declaration of Independence proclaims that if a government undermines these principles, the people retain the right to institute change or dissolution and establish a new governmental framework. Both extraordinary declarations unequivocally emphasize the principle of popular sovereignty, emphasizing that governments derive their authority from the consent of the governed and are subject to overthrow if they transgress the sacred boundaries of individual rights.
In paralleled conviction, the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Bill of Rights zealously prioritize the protection of individual liberties. The former vehemently upholds the principles of uninhibited living, secure existence, property ownership, and pursuit of happiness. The latter, constituting the foundational decalogue of amendments to the United States Constitution, meticulously enumerates specific safeguards, including the liberties of expression and religion and the entitlement to bear arms (Mason, n.d.). Both venerable texts passionately embrace the profound belief in circumscribing government authority and diligently safeguarding individual liberties, erecting formidable barriers against the encroachment of abuse or tyranny.
Furthermore, an equally noteworthy confluence emerges in acknowledging the entitlement to an equitable trial and the due legal course. The Virginia Declaration of Rights eloquently asserts, “In disputes concerning property and in legal disputes between individuals, the time-honored trial by jury surpasses all other methods and should be regarded as inviolable” (Mason, n.d.). This profound sentiment echoes within the confines of the Sixth and Seventh Amendments within the Bill of Rights, ensuring the privilege of a prompt and open criminal trial by an unbiased jury and the entitlement to a jury trial in civil cases. These shared principles emphatically ensure that individuals ensnared in the throes of criminal accusations or embroiled in legal disputes are entitled to be heard by their peers, thus upholding the holy principles of justice and equity.
In conclusion, the trinity formed by the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights converges to establish the essential foundation of American democracy. These steadfast documents serve as the cornerstone for unwaveringly building the structure of inherent rights, governmental responsibility, and individual freedoms. United by their focus on inherent rights, the ability to change unjust governments, and the strong protection of fundamental liberties through fair trials and due process, they have permanently shaped the US into a nation that fervently champions liberty, equality, and justice for all.
Mason, G. (n.d.). The Virginia Declaration of Rights. Zeugmaweb. https://zeugmaweb.net/histdocs/virg-rights.html
National Archives and Records Administration. (2023). Declaration of Independence: A transcription. https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript