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Colony into Commonwealth
Lesson Seven



When Virginia declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776, it was taking a big step. Virginia broke away from its old form of government. The next step was for Virginia to create its own government. The plan for government was contained in a document called a constitution.

George Mason wrote most of the first draft of the constitution for Virginia. The Virginia leaders who were meeting in Williamsburg discussed the draft and changed parts of it. After about three weeks of meetings, they finally agreed on what the constitution should say. The new government of Virginia came into being!


Read "Constitution Basics: 1776." Make a diagram to illustrate the information given about Virginia's new government.


  1. There are three separate branches of government:
    1. the legislature (lawmakers)
    2. the executive (the governor)
    3. the judiciary (judges)

  2. The legislature is made up of two departments: the House of Delegates and the Senate.

  3. The House of Delegates is made up of two representatives from each county. The representatives are elected by white male landowners. They serve for one year.

  4. The Senate is made up of twenty-four members, each from a district in Virginia. Members are elected by white male landowners. They serve for four years.

  5. The Governor is the head of the executive branch. He is elected by the legislature. He serves for one year and may be re-elected twice.

  6. The Governor gets advice from the Council of State. The Council consists of eight members who are elected by the legislature. They serve for three years.

  7. The judiciary is elected by the legislature.


In 1776 only white men who owned land were allowed to vote in Virginia. Who votes today?

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Mason Neck, Virginia 22079
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