The Virginia General Assembly is planning to vote on a new joint resolution, SJ226, to commemorate the 240th anniversary of George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights in 2016.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, in order to dedicate a year to, commemorate, or memorialize a person through something that is not legislation, the Va. General Assembly passes resolutions.
Because both the senator and delegate representing Gunston Hall decided to work together toward the passage of SJ226, it will be passed as a joint resolution and must be brought up in both chambers of the assembly, the House of Delegates and the Senate.
Senator Linda Puller and Delegate David Albo are working with the Colonial Dames and curators at Gunston Hall, George Mason’s home, to bring the initiative to fruition. The resolution came before the Senate Rules committee on Jan. 27 and was reported to the Senate floor with no contest.
“[The National Society of] the Colonial Dames of America, who are the caretakers of Gunston Hall, along with the Commonwealth, and the staff of Gunston Hall asked Sen. Puller and Del. Albo to patron the resolution and they were happy to do so,” said Carrie Ann Alford, legislative aide to Senator Linda Puller.
This event is especially important for Mason students as it gives students and Virginians alike a chance to commemorate the founding father.
“I encourage everyone to begin a personal process of discovery by reading this amazing and impactful expression of rights, freedoms and democracy,” said Scott Stroh, Executive Director at Gunston Hall. “Think about what it says and what it means. Think about what influenced its creation and what it in turn influenced.”
The Virginia Declaration of Rights was written and adopted by the Fifth Virginia Convention on June 12, 1776. It was written almost entirely by Mason and Thomas Ludwell Lee, Sr.
Inspired by the writings of John Locke, the VA Declaration of Rights states the inherent rights of men, such as equal freedom, life, liberty, property, happiness and safety. The significance of this document can be seen in its influence on the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution and even the French Declarations of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
The Colonial Dames have been working with Gunston Hall since 1932 when the last private owners of the mansion gifted the property to the Commonwealth. To celebrate Mason’s legacy today and in 2016, Stroh suggests that students visit the museum to have a glimpse into how his daily life influenced his work.
“Please feel free to share your thoughts with us and finally, think about George Mason, the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights; renew your acquaintance with this amazing individual, and re-connect to our collective past, our shared present, and our anticipated future by visiting Gunston Hall,” Stroh said.
Photo credit: Fourth Estate archives
The original article listed the caretakers of Gunston Hall as The Colonial Dames of America, the correct name is The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America. This story has been updated to reflect the change.