George Mason IV, 1725 - 1792

portrait of George Mason


Born: 11 December 1725, Fairfax County, Colony of Virginia
Died: 7 November 1792, Gunston Hall, Fairfax County, Virginia

George Mason IV was born on his family's plantation in Fairfax County, Virginia Colony on this day in 1725. The first George Mason was a Cavalier MP under Charles I, when Cromwell defeated the Royalist forces in 1651 he high tailed it for the colonies and started accumulating real estate. George Mason III died in a ferryboat accident when this George Mason was ten, young George lived with an uncle with a library of 1500 volumes where he educated himself. At 21 he inherited his fathers holdings, including over 20,000 acres in Virginia and Maryland and the slaves needed to work them. When he sat in the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia years later, he was the largest slave holder present, and among the most interested in ending the slave trade although not the manumission of current slaves. He wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which Thomas Jefferson adapted for the Declaration of Independence. He reluctantly took George Washington's seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses and when time came to create the Constitution he was Virginia's delegate to that assembly, where he was one of the five most frequent speakers. Mason insisted on having a statement of rights in the constitution and he wanted to at least start doing away with slavery, when the other delegates failed to address these issues he refused to sign the final document and campaigned against ratification. The campaign bore fruit, the populace was aroused and in the first Congress James Madison introduced what we now know as the Bill of Rights, largely paraphrased from Mason's original. On the other hand, it cost him his friendship with Washington and is probably why we rarely hear him mentioned among the Founding Fathers, although he was certainly among the most important of them.

Biography from Wikipedia and Gunston Hall

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