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Virginia Studies 6 (VS6) Notes

VS6a George Washington & James Madison

When the war ended, the colonies began to work together to build a new nation with a new form of government. In 1787, each new state sent its greatest statesmen to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the Constitutional Convention. These statesmen were going to write a new plan of government for the new nation. This new plan would be called the United States Constitution.

Two of Virginia’s greatest statesmen were James Madison and George Washington. Their actions and ideas helped to form the new constitutional government for our nation.

James Madison, a Virginian, was one of the statesmen present at the Constitutional Convention. He believed in the importance of having a constitution. His skills at compromise helped the delegates reach agreement on many issues during the difficult process of writing the new government. He also kept detailed notes during the Convention and thanks to those records, we know much about what was said and done during this exciting time in our country’s history. His hard work and great ideas during the Convention earned him the title “Father of the Constitution.”

George Washington was another Virginian present at the Convention. He was chosen to oversee the work of these brilliant statesmen. The Convention ran through the hot summer of 1787. When it ended in September, a new government had been created. Under this new government, the citizens were given the right to elect the people they wanted to lead them. There would be no kings ruling the United States. In 1788, George Washington was elected as the first President. His courage, patriotism, and leadership during and after the war made him the first choice of the people. They knew he would provide the strong leadership needed to help the young country survive and grow. He would also serve as a model of leadership for future presidents. Because of his many contributions, he is called the “Father of Our Country.”

VS6b Virginia Declaration of Rights & Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

The United States Constitution set up a government where the people were given the power to make laws and elect those who would represent them. They were also given certain freedoms. These freedoms were located in a section of the U.S. Constitution known as the Bill of Rights. Many of the ideas found in the Bill of Rights originated from two earlier Virginia documents: the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

The Virginian Declaration of Rights was written by George Mason in 1776. This document stated that all Virginians had many rights that could not be taken away. Freedom of religion and freedom of the press were two of the rights listed in this paper.

Another Virginia document was also used in the writing of the United States Constitution. This document, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, was written by Thomas Jefferson. It stated that all people should be free to worship as they please. This meant that no one could be punished or have their rights taken away because of their religious beliefs.

The ideas expressed in the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom provided important rights and served as models for the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States of America.

VS6c Westward Migration

After the American Revolution, large numbers of Virginians began to head west. They wanted to find better farmland and new opportunities.

Life following the Revolutionary War changed in many ways for Virginians, especially in the area of farming. After years of growing tobacco, the soil of eastern Virginia was worn out. Many farmers began looking to the Deep South and West for better land to farm.

Thousands of Virginians began to leave their homes and move west, taking their traditions, ideas, and cultures with them. These pioneer settlers included men, women, and children. They traveled by foot or with the help of horses, mules, or oxen. Very few of these Virginian pioneers had covered wagons.

Some of the first people to move west were the trailblazers and explorers. These were men who marked the trail so that others could follow later. Daniel Boone was one of these brave men. He led a group of axmen who cut a trail through the wilderness at Cumberland Gap. Settlers used this route as they crossed the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia headed west.