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Colony into Commonwealth
Lesson Five



The Virginia Declaration of Rights (VDR) was an important news event. However, people in Virginia did not find out about the VDR for several days or more after it was finished. People outside of Virginia found out even later.

Why is that? First of all, television and radio weren't invented yet. Newspapers only came out weekly. There weren't as many newspapers as we have today.

George Mason completed the VDR in Williamsburg, Virginia on about May 27, 1776. The document was published in the Virginia Gazette on June 1. Other printers saw the piece in the Gazette and published it in their own newspapers in the following weeks. Slowly, the news made its way north from Virginia -- first in the Pennsylvania Evening Post on June 6, then the Newport Mercury of Newport, Rhode Island on June 20, and then the Essex Journal of Essex, Connecticut on July 5. The news appeared in other papers, too.

As far as we can tell, the newspapers simply published the text of the VDR. No news stories were written with details of what had taken place. The text of the VDR was startling enough!

(as a class)

Pretend that you work for a television station located in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1776. Plan a news broadcast on the VDR. Possible participants: anchor man in Williamsburg, reporters in other places, George Mason, George Washington, King George III, citizens on the street.

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