The Forgotten Founder

George Mason’s name is not as familiar as Thomas Jefferson or James Madison, but his words were very influential during the Revolution and are familiar to most Americans today.
Who was George Mason?

Mason was a statesman from Virginia who later served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He became infamous among his contemporaries when he refused to sign the Constitution and lobbied against ratification in Virginia.

Among his reasons for rejecting the Constitution was his belief that the Constitution gave too much power to a central government and the fact that there was no Bill of Rights. He also objected to the Constitution as it did nothing to rid the new nation of slavery, although Mason was a plantation owner and held slaves himself.

His refusal to endorse the Constitution cost him many friends in the United States, including George Washington, and some would say that it also cost him his proper place in American history.

In 1791, one of Mason’s objections was rectified with the ratification of the Bill of Rights, which included many of the rights listed in the Virginia Declaration of Rights, including freedom of religion and the press, the right to a speedy trial and to face one’s accusers, prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments, and an emoluments clause

Virginia Declaration of Rights
Even before the Declaration of Independence, many of the colonies drafted their own documents declaring themselves free from British rule. On June 12, 1776, Virginia adopted the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Some of those rights became part of America’s Founding Documents and contains some of the same ideals as the Declaration of Independence.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights
“That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”

Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”