The Virginia Declaration of Rights, resulting from a May 15, 1776, resolution of the Virginia Convention instructing its delegation to the Continental Congress “to propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent states,” was a precursor of the United States Declaration of Independence formally adopted on July 4, 1776.
A draft of the Virginia Declaration, whose principal author was George Mason, first appeared in The Virginia Gazette on June 1, 1776. It subsequently was printed in newspapers outside Virginia, including The Pennsylvania Gazette on June 12, coincidentally the same date as a modified version of the declaration was adopted by the Virginia Convention.
It was the June 12, 1776, Pennsylvania Gazette printing of the Virginia Declaration of Rights that was available to Thomas Jefferson and the other delegates selected by Congress to draft the U.S. Declaration of Independence, a task they began in Philadelphia on June 11.
Expressing principles that citizens have the right to “enjoyment of life and liberty … and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety,” and that “all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people,” the Virginia Declaration of Rights directly influenced the composition of the Declaration of Independence and many later statements of basic human rights.