A Student of History

November 5, 2006

Review of New Founder Biography

Filed under: New books — John Maass @ 1:15 pm

George Mason, Forgotten Founder 

Jonathan Yardley’s review of a new biography of George Mason appears here, in the WP book section of Nov. 5th. 

Image of George Mason

Historians of the colonial and revolutionary periods know him well, but the general public does not. Though in his time Mason was esteemed as highly as his fellow Virginians Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, he never held elective office higher than a seat in his state’s legislature. And though he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and played an important part in writing that essential document, he ultimately (albeit unsuccessfully) urged that Virginia refuse to endorse it. He believed that, absent a bill of rights, the proposed Constitution did not sufficiently safeguard minority rights, and he feared that the central, federal government it sought to establish would be too powerful and offer too much temptation to corruption. Though it was widely understood at the time that this position was based on principle rather than mere crankiness, it denied him admission to the pantheon of Founding Fathers (though in fact he was one) and ushered him into comparative oblivion.

Mason’s home, by the way, is Gunston Hall, a restored plantation house now open to the public just south of Mt. Vernon, off Rt. 1.

central passage

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