George Mason (1725-1792)

Author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights and
Framer of the U.S. Constitution

 

1725 Born in Fairfax County, Virginia
1749 Co-founder of the City of Alexandria, Virginia
1759-75 Member of the House of Burgesses, Williamsburg, Virginia
1775 Member of the Virginia Committee of Safety
1775-76 Member of the Virginia Convention
1776-88 Member of the Virginia legislature
1787 Delegate to the Constitutional Convention
1787 Framer of the Constitution of the United States
1788 Member of the Virginia Ratification Convention
1792 Died on 7th October at Gunston Hall, Virginia

 

Gunston Hall’s Brochure states that George Mason “argued long and hard for a federal constitution, yet when it was written, he refused to sign it.” Does this not portray him as lacking integrity?

It is unfortunate that the writers of Gunston Hall’s Brochure did not complete the true account of the founding father’s refusal to sign the Constitution, thus imparting to students a false impression of this great statesman. He was, as he himself stated, “ready to put his pen to it,” until the anti-slavery clause was removed by Congress. This was done due to the fact that some of the southern States in the Union would otherwise not have signed it. Mason’s speech delivered to Congress, was recorded by James Madison, as follows:

“This infernal traffic originated in the avarice of British merchants. The British government constantly checked the attempts of Virginia to put a stop to it. The present question concerns not the importing States alone, but the whole Union…Slavery discourages arts and manufactures. The poor despise labor when performed by slaves. They prevent the emigration of whites, who really enrich and strengthen a country. They produce the most pernicious effect on manners. Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of Heaven on a country. As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins by national calamities. He (George Mason) lamented that some of our eastern brethren had, from a lust of gain, embarked in this nefarious traffic…He held it essential in every point of view, that the General Government should have power to prevent the increase of slavery.”1

Shortly before his death, he told Thomas Jefferson that,

The Constitution as agreed to for a fortnight before the Convention rose was such a one as he would have set his hand and heart to…With respect to the importation of slaves, it was left to Congress. This disturbed the two southernmost States, who knew that Congress would immediately suppress the importation of slaves…2

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Bibliography:

1

Encyclopedia Americana. (Vol. 18). New York: Americana Corporation, 1940, p. 380.

2

Ibid.

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