George Mason: The Forgotten Founding Father
The United States is a country founded by many brilliant minds, individuals who contributed to building a nation that would stand the test of time. Among the many Founding Fathers, one name that has often been overlooked in the chronicles of American history is that of George Mason. Despite his significant contributions to the foundation of the country, Mason is often referred to as the forgotten Founding Father. In this article, we will delve into the life, accomplishments, and legacy of George Mason.
Early Life and Education
George Mason was born on December 11, 1725, in Fairfax County, Virginia. His father, a wealthy planter, died when Mason was just ten years old, leaving him with the responsibility of his family’s estate. Mason’s mother ensured that he received a well-rounded education, including preparing him for his legal career, which would eventually be his passion and calling.
Legal Career & Accomplishments
Mason’s legal career started with his appointment as justice of the peace in 1750, a position he held for 28 years. He established himself as a lawyer of consequence, representing the interests of many wealthy Virginia planters. In 1774, he wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which served as a prototype for the United States Bill of Rights. Mason was also a vocal critic of England’s colonial rule and was instrumental in drafting Virginia’s constitution in 1776.
George Mason at the Constitutional Convention
George Mason was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, where he played a significant role in shaping the final outcome of the convention. He was one of three delegates to refuse to sign the Constitution, citing a lack of adequate protection of individual liberties. Mason believed passionately that the Constitution should contain explicit provisions to limit the power of the federal government and safeguard individual rights.
Influencing the Bill of Rights
Mason believed that the Constitution as written gave too much power to the central government. He opposed the idea that the federal government would draft its own rules to satisfy its interests while ignoring the will of the individuals. Mason was a vocal proponent of the inclusion of a bill of rights in the Constitution, which would explicitly state the rights of the individual that the government could not infringe upon. While Mason did not sign the Constitution, he is considered a major influence on the Bill of Rights, which contains the explicit protections of individual rights that he advocated for so passionately.
George Mason was a critical figure in the American Revolution and the story of the founding of the United States. He was a man of strong principle and unwavering convictions and fought tirelessly to protect the individual rights of all Americans. However, despite his enormous contributions to the foundation of the country, George Mason remains relatively unknown to many Americans today. However, this is slowly changing with the recognition of Mason’s role in drafting the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Constitution. Several monuments have also been erected in his memory, including one at his estate in Virginia.
As we reflect on the history of the United States, it’s crucial that we remember the contributions of the many lesser-known figures who played significant roles in the country’s foundation. George Mason was one of those figures and his contributions are significant. His passion for protecting individual freedoms and limiting the power of the federal government set the stage for the Bill of Rights, protections still enjoyed by Americans today. Therefore, it is high time to give Mason’s work the respect and admiration it deserves.
A delegate from Virginia to the United States Constitutional Convention, George Mason (along with James Madison) is commonly referred to as the “Father of the Bill of Rights”. Unlike Madison, however, George Mason never wavered on his political stances.
Mason was a staunch proponent for the inclusion of individual liberties into the United States Constitution. The patriot from Virginia believed that the Federal Government should be limited in power, and states in congruency with the country’s well-being should have the ability to govern themselves. Mason’s influence can be traced back to 1776, when he first served at the Virginia Convention in Williamsburg.
Mason, a die-hard advocate for individual freedoms, authored the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776. George Mason firmly believed that the success of a nation depended on the happiness and individuality of its people. A substantial member of the Anti-Federalist movement, Mason felt as though the components that make up the government are more important than the government itself. This individualist sentiment was captured in Mason’s creation of his State’s Constitution.
The Virginia Declaration of Rights was the first document in American History to concretely outline a series of individual rights as they pertained to the greater good of the government. The Virginia Declaration of Rights was the most influential State doctrine and the precursor for the first 10 Amendments to the United States Constitution.
In 1786, Mason was appointed to represent Virginia as a delegate to the Federal Convention in Philadelphia. The purpose of the meeting was to revise the Articles of Confederation and find an appropriate balancing of powers between the individual, the states, and the Federal Government. While at the meetings, Mason grew frustrated and uncommonly reserved. He refused to sign the ratification of The amended Constitution due to the absence of individual rights.
Many historians have claimed that Mason’s refusal to compromise with the ratification process cost him close friendships with George Washington and other proponents of an empowered centralized government. As a result of his unwavering stance, Mason’s popularity and historical recognition severely waned. Following the meetings, Mason and his fellow supporters moved back to Virginia where the Anti-Federalist Party continued to preach the necessity of a Bill of Rights.
The stance taken by the Anti-Federalist Party was a fervent one; they believed that the newly founded country was ironically and shamefully steering a course of government reminiscent of the authoritative British Parliament. Mason felt that a strong central government would abuse its power and eventually lose sight of the country’s needs and vision. In response to the Anti-Federalist Party’s inertia, the Constitution was again up for revision in 1791.
Primarily influenced by George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights, the United States Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15th, 1791. James Madison, the author of the first 10 Amendments, was originally a member of the Federalist Party and proponent of a strong federal government. Whether Madison authored the Bill of Rights due to a change in personal belief or because he needed Mason’s support and the subsequent Virginia vote is still questioned to this day. What is known, however, is that without Mason’s unyielding efforts, the inclusion of individual rights in the U.S. Constitution would have been in serious limbo and perhaps never solidified.