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INV-22395 LITTLETON Q. WASHINGTON Pamphlet, Constitution of Virginia, ca. 1851, signed at top in ink, L. Q. Washington, with pencil beneath (in another hand), Mr. Washington Asst. Secty of State 1850-1851. 33 pp., 5⅝ x 8⅝ in. 1850-01-01

After Virginia adopted the Declaration of Independence, George Mason and James Madison began drafting a state Constitution. For James Madison, helping draft his state’s Constitution would serve as a dress rehearsal for his future task of writing the U.S. Constitution. Virginia adopted its first constitution in 1776, and a major revision in 1830 loosened suffrage requirements. As more residents populated the western counties, they were underrepresented in the legislature because of continuing property requirements for voting.

The most significant changes in the 1851 Constitution included the extension of the suffrage to all white males of voting age, the creation of the office of lieutenant governor, and the election rather than appointment of judges. Because of these changes, this version has been called the Reform Constitution.

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