In 1776, many American colonies were frustrated by Great Britain’s tyrannical rule. In response, colonies replaced legislatures approved by the British government with extralegal governing bodies. One of the most notable of these governments was the Virginia Convention, which met in Williamsburg, Virginia. While the Virginia Convention took many revolutionary actions, one of its most important was the establishment of a committee to write a constitution and a bill of rights for the now state of Virginia.
George Mason was the man in charge of this important and historic task. His notes on this project are considered the first draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Before finalization, the document went to the floor of the Virginia Convention where debates and amendments took place. For example, the committee added text prohibiting bills of attainder, meaning that citizens would be granted the right to a fair judicial process. The completed Virginia Declaration of Rights influenced the important American documents that came after it, such as the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.