George Mason IV, 1725 - 1792
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.
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George Mason quotes:
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- A few years' experience will convince us that those things which at the time they happened we regarded as our greatest misfortunes have proved our greatest blessings. permalink
- All men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that no particular sect or society of Christians ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others. permalink
- As much as I value an union of all the states, I would not admit the southern states into the union, unless they agreed to the discontinuance of this disgraceful trade, because it would bring weakness and not strength to the union. permalink
- As nations can not be rewarded or punished in the next world they must be in this. permalink
- Attend with Diligence and strict Integrity to the Interest of your Correspondents and enter into no Engagements which you have not the almost certain Means of performing. permalink
- Every selfish motive therefore, every family attachment, ought to recommend such a system of policy as would provide no less carefully for the rights and happiness of the lowest than of the highest orders of Citizens. permalink
- Every society, all government, and every kind of civil compact therefore, is or ought to be, calculated for the general good and safety of the community. permalink
- Government is, or ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration. permalink
- Happiness and Prosperity are now within our Reach; but to attain and preserve them must depend upon our own Wisdom and Virtue. permalink
- Happiness and prosperity are now within our reach; but to attain and preserve them must depend upon our own wisdom and virtue.... Frequent interference with private property and contracts, retrospective laws destructive of all public faith, as well as confidence between man and man, and flagrant violations of the Constitution must disgust the best and wisest part of the community, occasion a general depravity of manners, bring the legislature into contempt, and finally produce anarchy and public convulsion. permalink
- I begin to grow heartily tired of the etiquette and nonsense so fashionable in this city. permalink
- I charge [my sons] never to let the motives of private interest or ambition to influence them to betray, nor the terrors of poverty and disgrace, or the fear of danger or of death deter them from asserting the liberty of their country, and endeavoring to transmit to their posterity those sacred rights to which themselves were born permalink
- I retired from public Business from a thorough Conviction that it was not in my Power to do any Good, and very much disgusted with Measures, which appeared to me inconsistent with common Policy and Justice. permalink
- If I can only live to see the American union firmly fixed, and free governments well established in our western world, and can leave to my children but a crust of bread and liberty, I shall die satisfied. permalink
- In all our associations; in all our agreements let us never lose sight of this fundamental maxim, that all power was originally lodged in, and consequently is derived from, the people. permalink
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