George Mason

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George Mason
George Mason portrait.jpg
Born George Mason
(1725-12-11)December 11, 1725
Fairfax County, Colony of Virginia, British America
Died October 7, 1792(1792-10-07) (aged 66)
Gunston Hall, Fairfax County, Virginia, U.S.
Cause of death natural causes
Resting place Mason Family Cemetery
Lorton, Virginia[1]
38°40′07″N 77°10′06″W / 38.66862°N 77.16823°W / 38.66862; -77.16823Coordinates: 38°40′07″N 77°10′06″W / 38.66862°N 77.16823°W / 38.66862; -77.16823
Residence Gunston Hall, Fairfax County, Virginia, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Landowner
Religion Anglican, Episcopalian
Spouse(s) Ann Eilbeck
Sarah Brent
Children George Mason V
Ann Eilbeck Mason Johnson
William Mason
William Mason
Thomson Mason
Sarah Eilbeck Mason McCarty
Mary Thomson Mason Cooke
John Mason
Elizabeth Mason Thornton
Thomas Mason
James Mason
Richard Mason
Parent(s) George Mason III
Ann Stevens Thomson

George Mason IV (December 11, 1725 – October 7, 1792) was an American Patriot, statesman and a delegate from Virginia to the U.S. Constitutional Convention. Along with James Madison, he is called the "Father of the United States Bill of Rights."[2][3][4][5] For these reasons he is considered one of the "Founding Fathers" of the United States.[6][7]

Like anti-federalist Patrick Henry, Mason was a leader of those who pressed for the addition of explicit States rights[8] and individual rights to the U.S. Constitution as a balance to the increased federal powers, and did not sign the document in part because it lacked such a statement. His efforts eventually succeeded in convincing the Federalists to add the first 10 amendments of the Constitution. These amendments, collectively known as the Bill of Rights, were based on the earlier Virginia Declaration of Rights, which Mason had drafted in 1776.

On the issue of slavery, Mason walked a fine line. Although a slaveholder himself, he found slavery distasteful for a variety of reasons. He wanted to ban further importation of slaves from Africa and prevent slavery from spreading to more states. However, he did not want the new federal government to attempt to ban slavery where it already existed, because he anticipated that such an act would be difficult and controversial.

Ancestry and early life[edit]

Further information: Mason family

George Mason, sometimes referred to as George Mason IV, was the fourth of that name in his paternal lineage to live in Virginia.[9] His great-grandfather, George Mason I, had had been a Royalist: militarily defeated in the English Civil War, some of them came to America in the 1640s and 1650s.[10] He had been born in Pershore, United Kingdom, in the English county of Worcestershire in 1629.[11] The immigrant George Mason settled in what is now Stafford County, Virginia,[9] having obtained land as a reward for bringing his party to the colony.[12] His son, George Mason II (1660–1726) was the first to move to what in 1742 became Fairfax County, then at the frontier between English and Native American areas.[9] Mason II was hard on the Indians as a captain in the militia, once being deprived of office for his harsh treatment of them.[12] George Mason III (1690–1735). served in the House of Burgesses, and like his father was county lieutenant.[9] George Mason IV's mother, Ann Thomson Mason, was the daughter of a former Attorney General of Virginia who had immigrated from London, and was of a Yorkshire family.[13]

They lived in a colonial Virginia that had few roads, as most commerce was carried on Chesapeake Bay or through the waters of the Potomac, Rappahannock or other rivers. Most settlement took place near the rivers, through which planters could trade with the world. Thus, colonial Virginia initially developed few towns, since estates were largely self-sufficient, and could get what they needed without the need to purchase locally. Even the capital, Williamsburg saw little activity when the legislature was not in session. Local politics was dominated by large landowners like the Masons.[14] The Virginia economy rose and fell with tobacco, the main crop, which was mostly for export to Britain.[15]

Into this world was born George Mason, fourth of that name, on December 11, 1725.[16] He may have been born at his father's plantation on Dogue's Neck (later Mason Neck),[17] but this is uncertain as his parents also lived on their lands across the Potomac in Maryland.[18]

On March 5, 1735, George Mason III died when his boat capsized while crossing the Potomac River. His widow remained to raise their son George (then about 9) and his two younger siblings. She selected lands at Chopawansic Creek (today in Prince William County, Virginia) as her dower house and there lived with her children and administered the lands that her elder son would control upon reaching his 21st birthday. Ann Mason and lawyer John Mercer were co-guardians of the children. In 1736, George began his education with a Mr. Williams hired to teach him for the price of 1,000 pounds (450 kg) of tobacco per annum. George's studies began at his mother's house, but the following year, he was boarded out to a Mrs. Simpson in Maryland, with Williams continuing as teacher through 1739. By 1740, George Mason was again at Chopawansic, under the tutelage of a Dr. Bridges. Mason's biographers have speculated that this was Charles Bridges, who helped develop the schools run in Britain by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, and who came to America in 1731. In addition, Mason and his brother Thomson doubtlessly had the run of Mercer's library, one of the largest in Virginia, and the conversations of Mercer and the book-lovers who gathered around him were likely an education in themselves.[19]

Mercer was a brilliant man of strong opinions, who expressed his views in ways that sometimes gave offense; the guardian's characteristics would appear in his ward.[17] Mason family account books show that Ann Mason made purchases on her son's behalf appropriate to his age, for example razors and a beaver hat in 1742, in addition to schoolbooks. George Mason attained his majority in 1746, and continued to reside at Chopawansic with his siblings and mother.[20]

Virginia landed gentleman[edit]

Public figure[edit]

The obligations and offices that came with being one of the largest local landowners descended on Mason as they had on his father and grandfather. In 1747, he was named to the Fairfax County Court; election as a vestryman for Truro Parish and a place among the officers of the county militia soon followed. In 1748, he sought a seat in the House of Burgesses; the process was controlled by more senior members of the court and he was not then successful; he would win in 1758.[21]

The county court not only heard civil and criminal cases, but decided matters such as local taxes. Membership fell to most major landowners. Mason was a member for much of the rest of his life, though he was excluded because of nonattendance from 1752 to 1764, and resigned in 1789 when continued service meant swearing to uphold a constitution he could not support.[22] Even while a member, he often did not attend. Joseph Horrell, in a journal article on Mason's court service, noted that he was often in poor health, and lived the furthest of any of the major estateholders from the Fairfax County courthouse, whether at its original site near today's Tyson's Corner or later on in newly-founded Alexandria. Robert Rutland, editor of Mason's papers, considered that court service a major influence on Mason's later thinking and writing, but Horrell denied it, "if the Fairfax court provided a course for Mason's early training, he chiefly distinguished himself by skipping classes."[23]

Alexandria was one of the towns founded or given corporate status in the mid-18th century that Mason had interests in; he purchased three of the original lots along King and Royal Streets and became a municipal trustee in 1754. He also served as a trustee of Dumfries, in Prince William County, and had business interests there and in Georgetown, on the Maryland side of the Potomac (today in the District of Columbia).[24]

Squire of Gunston Hall[edit]

Gunston Hall postage stamp, 1958 issue
Further information: Gunston Hall

On April 4, 1750, Mason married Ann Eibeck, only child of William and Sarah Eibeck of Charles County, Maryland. The Masons and Eibecks had adjacent lands in Maryland, and had joined together in real estate transactions; by his death in 1764, William Eilbeck was one of the wealthiest men in Charles County. At the time of his marriage, Mason was living at Dogue's Neck, though in which residence there is uncertain.[25] George and Ann Mason would have nine children who survived to adulthood. Ann Mason died in 1773; their marriage, judging by surviving accounts, was a happy one.[26]

George Mason began to build his home, Gunston Hall, likely beginning in 1755. The exterior, typical of local buildings of that time, was likely based on architectural books sent to America for the use of the local builder, possibly William Waite or James Wren, who constructed Gunston Hall. George Mason had sent his brother Thomson to London to train as a barrister; Thomson in 1755 signed journeyman carpenter William Buckland as an indentured servant to design the interior of the new house. Buckland sought opportunities not available to him in Britain, where he would have to work for years before guild rules allowed him to set up his own business.[27]

Buckland and William Bernard Sears, another indentured servant, are believed to have created the ornate woodwork and interior carving. Gunston's interior design combines elements of rococo, chinoiserie, and Gothic styles, an unusual contrast to the tendency for simple decoration in Virginia at this time.[28] Although chinoiserie was popular in Britain Gunston Hall is the only house known to have had this decoration in colonial America.[29]

Although Mason set the general plan of interior construction, Buckland apparently had full discretion as to the details. The first floor of Gunston Hall contains a main hall and four other rooms, all elaborately carved by Buckland.[30] The brick exterior is in Georgian style. Mason was proud of the gardens which surround the house, and took delight in an optical illusion that made it appear, from the center of the porch, that there were only four cherry trees, but when one stepped to the side, a large number of trees came into view. There were outbuildings, including slave quarters, a schoolhouse, and kitchens, and beyond them four large plantations, forests, and the shops and other facilities that made Gunston Hall mostly self-sufficient.[30] Mason avoided overdependence on tobacco as a source of income by leasing much of his land holdings,[31] and diversified his crops to grow wheat as Virginia's economy sank because of tobacco overproduction in the 1760s and 1770s; the colony became a major exporter to the British West Indies.[32] Mason was a pioneer in the Virginia wine industry, subscribing along with other Virginians such as Thomas Jefferson to Philip Mazzei's scheme for growing wine grapes in America.[33]

As his forebears had, Mason sought to expand his land and wealth. He greatly expanded the boundaries of Gunston Hall estate, so that it occupied all of Dogue's Neck, which became known as Mason's Neck.[34] One project that Mason was involved in for most of his adult life was the Ohio Company, in which he invested in 1749 and became treasurer in 1752—an office he held forty years until his death in 1792. The Ohio Company had secured a royal grant for 200,000 acres (81,000 ha) to be surveyed near the forks of the Ohio River (today the site of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). War, revolution, and competing claims from Pennsylvania all operated to defeat the Ohio Company's plans. Despite the company's failure, Mason acquired considerable Western lands independently of it. His defense against the Pennsylvania claims, Selections from the Virginia Charters (1772), originally intended to promote the Ohio Company's claims, was widely applauded as a defense of the rights of Americans against royal decrees. Involvement with the Ohio Company also brought Mason into contact with many other prominent Virginians, including his Fairfax County neighbor, George Washington.[35]

Mason and Washington were neighbors, and friends for many years until they finally broke over their differences regarding the federal Constitution. Peter R. Henriques, in his journal article on their relationship, suggested that Mason cultivated the friendship more than Washington did, as Mason sent many more letters and gifts, and stayed more often at Washington's plantation, though the last can be explained in part by Mount Vernon lay on the road from Gunston Hall to Alexandria. Henriques suggested that as Mason was older, intellectually superior, and the owner of a flourishing plantation as Washington struggled to establish Mount Vernon, it would not have been in the future president's character to be close to Mason. Washington had a deep respect for Mason's intellectual abilities, several times asking for his advice, and writing in 1777 when learning that Mason had taken charge of an issue before the General Assembly, "I know of no person better qualified ... than Colonel Mason, and shall be very happy to hear he has taken it in hand".[36]

Despite his involvement in western real estate schemes, Mason saw that land was being cleared and planted with tobacco faster than the market for it could expand, meaning that prices for it would drop even as more and more capital was tied up in land and slaves. Thus, although a major slaveholder, he opposed the slave system in Virginia. He believed that slave importation, together with the natural population increase, would result in a huge future slave population in Virginia; a system of leased lands, though not as profitable as slave labor, would have "little Trouble & Risque [risk]".[37] Nevertheless, as his biographers Pamela C. Copeland and Richard K. MacMaster pointed out, "like many another Virginian of his generation, Mason's experience with slave labor made him hate slavery, but his heavy investment in slave property made it difficult for him to divest himself of a system that he despised."[38]

Political thinker (1758–1775)[edit]

Little is known of Mason's political views prior to the 1760s, when he came to oppose British colonial policies.[39] In 1758, Mason successfully ran for the House of Burgesses when George William Fairfax, holder of one of Fairfax County's two seats, chose not to seek re-election. Also elected were Thomson Mason (for Stafford County), George Washington (for Frederick County where he was stationed as commander of Virginia's militia as the French and Indian War continued) and Richard Henry Lee, who would work closely with Mason through their careers.[40]

When the house assembled, George Mason was initially appointed to a committee concerned with raising additional militia during that time of war. In 1759, he was appointed to the powerful Committee on Privileges and Elections. He was also placed during the latter year on the Committee of Propositions and Grievances, which mostly dealt with local matters. Mason dealt with a number of local matters, presenting a petition of Fairfax County planters against being assessed for a tobacco wharf at Alexandria, funds they felt should be raised through wharfage fees. He also played a major role as the Burgesses deliberated how to divide Prince William County as settlement expanded; in March 1759, Fauquier County was created by legislative act. In this, Mason opposed the interest of the family of Thomas, Lord Fairfax, who wanted Fairfax and other existing counties expanded instead, which may have contributed to Mason's decision not to seek re-election in 1761.[41] Mason biographer Jeff Broadwater noted that Mason's committee assignments reflected the esteem his colleagues held him in, or at least the potential they saw. Broadwater did not find it surprising that Mason did not seek re-election, as he did not attend the sessions between 1759 and 1761.[42]

Although the British were victorious over the French in the war, King George III's government felt that the North American colonies were not paying their way, since little direct tax revenue from the colonies was received. The Sugar Act of 1764 had its greatest effect in New England and did not cause widespread objection. The Stamp Act the following year affected all 13 colonies, as it required revenue stamps to be used on papers required in trade and in the law. When word of passage of the Stamp Act reached Williamsburg, the House of Burgesses passed the Virginia Resolves, asserting that Virginians had the same rights as if they resided in Britain, and that they could only be taxed by themselves or their elected representatives. The Resolves were mostly written by a fiery-spoken new member for Louisa County, Patrick Henry.[43]

Mason slowly moved from being a peripheral figure towards the center of Virginia politics, but his published response to the Stamp Act, which he opposed, is most notable for his inclusion of his anti-slavery views. George Washington or George William Fairfax, the burgesses for Fairfax County, may have asked Mason's advice as to what steps to take in the crisis.[44] Mason drafted an act to allow for one of the most common court action, replevin, to take place without the use of stamped paper, and sent it to George Washington, by then one of Fairfax County's burgesses, for passage through the General Assembly. This action contributed to a boycott of the stamps. With the courts and trade paralyzed, the British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act in 1766, but continued to assert the right to tax the colonies.[43]

Following the repeal, a committee of London merchants issued a public letter to Americans, warning them not to declare victory. Mason published a response in June 1766, satirizing the British position, "We have, with infinite Difficulty & Fatigue got you excused this one Time; do what your Papa and Mamma bid, & hasten to return your most grateful Acknowledgements for condescending to let you keep what is your own."[45] The Townshend Acts of 1767 were Britain's next attempt to tax the colonies, placing duties on substances including lead and glass, and provoking calls for a boycott of British goods from the northern colonies. Virginia, more dependent on goods imported from Britain, was less enthusiastic, and, as Virginia planters tended to receive goods at their river landings, a boycott would be difficult to enforce. In April 1769, Washington sent a copy of a Philadelphia resolution to Mason, asking his advice on what action Virginia should take. It is unknown who adapted that text for use in Virginia (Broadwater concluded it was Mason) but Mason sent Washington a corrected draft on April 23, 1769. Washington took it to Williamsburg, but the governor, Lord Botetourt, dissolved the assembly because of the radical resolutions that were passing it. The Burgesses adjourned to a nearby tavern, and there passed a non-importation agreement based on Mason's.[46]

Although the resolution was not as strong as Mason had liked—he wanted Virginia to threaten to cut off tobacco—Mason worked in the following years for non-importation. The repeal of most of the Townshend duties (excepting that on tea) made his task even more difficult. In March 1773, his wife Ann died of illness contracted after another pregnancy. Mason was the sole parent to nine children, and his commitments made him even more reluctant to accept political office that would take him from Gunston Hall.[47]

In May 1774, Mason was in Williamsburg on real estate business. Word had just arrived of the passage of the Intolerable Acts, as Americans dubbed the legislative response to the Boston Tea Party, and a group of lawmakers including Lee, Henry, and Thomas Jefferson asked Mason to join them in formulating a course of action. The Burgesses passed a resolution for a day of fasting and prayer to obtain divine intervention against "destruction of our Civil Rights", but the governor, Lord Dunmore, dissolved the legislature rather than accept it. Mason may have helped write the resolution, and likely joined the members after the dissolution when they met at the Raleigh Tavern.[48][49]

New elections had to be held for burgess and for delegate to the convention called by the rump of the dissolved House of Burgesses, and Fairfax County's elections were set for July 5, 1774. Washington planned to run for one seat, and tried to get Mason or Bryan Fairfax to seek the other, but both men declined. Although the poll was postponed to the 14th due to poor weather, Washington met that day with other local leaders (including, likely, Mason) in Alexandria and appointed a committee to draft a set of resolutions, which Washington hoped would "define our Constitutional Rights".[50] The resulting Fairfax Resolves were largely drafted by Mason. He met with the newly-elected Washington on July 17 at Mount Vernon, and stayed the night; the two men rode together to Alexandria the following day. The 24 propositions that made up the Resolves protested loyalty to the British Crown, but denied the right of Parliament to legislate for colonies that had been settled at private expense and which had received charters from the monarch. If Americans did not receive redress by November 1, exports, including that of tobacco, would be cut off. The freeholders of Fairfax County approved the Resolves, appointing Mason and Washington to a special committee in the emergency. According to early Virginia historian Hugh Grigsby, at Alexandria, Mason "made his first great movement on the theatre of the Revolution".[51]

Virginia Declaration of Rights and state constitution (1776)[edit]

Mason served at the Virginia Convention in Williamsburg in 1776. During this time he created drafts of the first declaration of rights and state constitution in the Colonies. Both were adopted after committee alterations; the Virginia Declaration of Rights was adopted June 12, 1776, and the Virginia Constitution was adopted June 29, 1776.

Article 1 of the Virginia Declaration of Rights—a statement later made internationally famous by the first paragraph of the U.S. Declaration of Independence—says:

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.

Constitutional Convention and Ratification[edit]

Mason was appointed in 1786 as a delegate to a convention to revise the Articles of Confederation. He served from May to September 1787 and was one of the five most frequent speakers at the convention. Wary of investing too much power in the executive branch in the proposed new Constitution because it might lead to corruption or monarchy, Mason advocated a three-person presidency, with co-presidents chosen by region.[52] In addition, he was a strong proponent of a bicameral legislature and argued for election of United States Senators by state legislatures.[53]

Though he was a slave owner himself, Mason advocated against slavery during the convention, arguing unsuccessfully in favor of gradual emancipation and compensation to slave owners.[54]

An important consideration for Mason was that the new Constitution should include a Bill of Rights in order to protect against possible federal overreach.[55] He suggested the addition of one modeled on previous state declarations, but it was defeated in a vote of the delegates.[56]

Mason also argued that the proposed United States House of Representatives did not have powers to make it truly representative of the people, and that the proposed United States Senate had too much power. In addition, he objected to the powers of the proposed federal judiciary, arguing that they would usurp the authority of the state governments.

Mason refused to sign the final version of the Constitution and returned to Virginia as an outspoken opponent of ratification.[57]

As a delegate to Virginia's ratification convention, he helped lead the anti-federalist faction,[58] opposing approval of the Constitution unless it included a Bill of Rights. Despite his efforts, Virginia ratified the Constitution in 1788.[55]

Mason eventually carried his point on individual rights with the 1791 approval of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, which were based primarily on Mason's 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights.[59] He also carried his point about the federal judiciary with the 1795 passage of the Eleventh Amendment, which limited the powers of the federal court system.

Letter from Mason to George Washington congratulating him on victory at Boston, April 1776


Mason was one of the largest slaveholders in Fairfax County (possibly second only to George Washington) and had thirty-six slaves at the time of his death. Like some of his contemporary slave owners (e.g. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington), Mason conceded that the institution was morally objectionable, once calling it a "slow Poison" that "is daily contaminating the Minds & Morals of our People."[60] Mason favored the abolition of the slave trade, but he did not advocate the immediate abolition of slavery. Like Jefferson, in his last will, he named slaves whom he did not manumit.[61]

Two of Mason's stated reasons for opposing the U.S. Constitution were that the draft Constitution did not specifically protect the right of states to let slavery continue where it already existed, and that the draft Constitution did not allow Congress to immediately stop the importation of slaves.[60][62] Mason's immediate concern was to prevent more slaves from being imported, and to prevent slavery from spreading into more states.[63] He was not eager to ban slavery where it already existed: "It is far from being a desirable property. But it will involve us in great difficulties and infelicity to be now deprived of them."[63] Mason ostensibly balanced his anti-slavery argument that importation should stop, with a pro-slavery argument that the draft Constitution should protect slavery from being taxed out of existence; however, the latter argument had already been incorporated into the Constitution according to James Madison.[64]

Because of his efforts to stop the spread of slavery, and his recognition of the undesirability of slavery, some historians have said that Mason should be categorized as an abolitionist.[65]:294, note 39 Other historians have disagreed.[65]

Personal life[edit]

At the age of twenty four, Mason married sixteen-year-old Ann Eilbeck, from a plantation in Charles County, Maryland, on April 4, 1750.[66] They lived in a house on his property in Dogue's Neck, Virginia, for the first few years. Mason's wife died on March 9, 1773. He later remarried on April 11, 1780, but did not have any children with his new wife, Sarah Brent.

Mason suffered from gout for a large part of his life, and in accordance with current medical treatment, relied upon bloodletting. He died of natural causes at his home, Gunston Hall, on October 7, 1792. He left a personal message for his sons in his will: "I recommend it to my sons, from my experience in life, to prefer the happiness and independence of a private station, to the troubles and vexation of public business" but added that if they should engage in public affairs, nothing should "deter them from asserting the liberty of their country, and endeavouring to transmit to their posterity those sacred rights to which themselves were born." Mason was buried at the Mason Family Cemetery in Lorton, Virginia.[67]

Gunston Hall[edit]

Main article: Gunston Hall
Gunston Hall in May 2006, seen from the front

Mason completed construction in 1759 of Gunston Hall, a plantation house on the Potomac River. Gunston Hall is a Georgian mansion in Mason Neck, Virginia.[68][69] It was located at the center of a 5,500 acre (22 km²) plantation.[70] Gunston Hall was built from 1755 to 1759.[71][72] The home and grounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is now a museum owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia and open to the public.[73]

After Mason's death, the house continued to be used as a residence for many years.[74]


Mason and his wife had twelve children, nine of whom survived to adulthood. Mason's first child, George Mason V of Lexington,[75] was born on April 30, 1753. He married Elizabeth Mary Ann Barnes Hooe (Betsy) on April 22, 1784, and after having six children, died on December 5, 1796. The next Mason offspring was Ann Eilbeck Mason, fondly known as Nancy. Born on January 13, 1755, she married Rinaldo Johnson on February 4, 1789 and had three children before dying in 1814. The third child was named William Mason, but he did not live over a year and died in 1757. The fourth child, born on October 22, 1757, was also named William Mason, and he married Ann Stuart on July 11, 1793. They had five children together, and he died in 1818. The fifth child was a son they named Thomson Mason. He was born on March 4, 1759 and died on March 11, 1820. Thomson married Sarah McCarty Chichester of Newington in 1784; they had eight children.

Mason's sixth child, christened Sarah Eilbeck Mason but fondly known as Sally, was born on December 11, 1760 and married in 1778. She had ten children with her husband Daniel McCarty, Jr. before dying on September 11, 1823. The seventh of the Mason children was another girl, Mary Thomson Mason. She was born on January 24, 1764, and married John Travers Cooke on November 18, 1784, with whom she had ten children before dying in 1806. John Mason was Mason's eighth child, being born on April 4, 1766. He married Anna Marie Murray on February 14, 1796, had ten children, and died on March 19, 1849. The ninth child was a daughter named Elizabeth Mason. She was born on April 19, 1768 and died sometime between 1792 and June 1797. She married William Thornton in 1789 and they had two children. The tenth child, Thomas Mason, was born on May 1, 1770 and died on September 18, 1800. He married Sarah Barnes Hooe on April 22, 1793 and the two had four children together.

Mason's last two children were James and Richard Mason; twins who were born in December, 1772 but died six weeks later.


Bas-relief of George Mason in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives

Gunston Hall, located in Mason Neck, Virginia, is now a museum and tourist attraction. The George Mason Memorial in West Potomac Park, Washington, D.C., near the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, was dedicated on April 9, 2002. The George Mason Memorial Bridge, one of five that make up the 14th Street Bridge, connects Washington, D.C., to Virginia. George Mason Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia, George Mason High School in Falls Church, and George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, are named in his honor, as are Mason County, Kentucky, Mason County, West Virginia and Mason County, Illinois.

Mason was honored by the United States Postal Service with an 18¢ Great Americans series postage stamp. A bas-relief of Mason appears in the Chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives as one of 23 honoring great lawmakers; his image is located above and to the right of the Speaker's chair.[76] The Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter, presents an annual award named for Mason to a person who has made significant, lasting contribution to the practice of journalism in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

His great-great grandson Dr. William Beverley Mason built Gunston Hall at Biltmore Forest, North Carolina in 1923.[77]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mason Family Cemetery at Find a Grave
  2. ^ "The New United States of America Adopted the Bill of Rights: December 15, 1791". The Library of Congress. Retrieved 2007-12-06. 
  3. ^ Heymsfeld, Carla R.; Lewis, Joan W. (1991). "George Mason, father of the Bill of Rights". Alexandria, Va.: Patriotic Education Inc. ISBN 0-912530-16-2. 
  4. ^ Spratt, Tammy. "Father" of Our Country vs. "Father" of the Bill of Rights". The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Retrieved 2007-12-06. 
  5. ^ "Bill of Rights Day – December 15th". Bill of Rights Defense Committee. Retrieved 2007-12-06. 
  6. ^ Yardley, Jonathan (November 5, 2006). "A founding father insisted that the Constitution wasn't worth ratifying without a bill of rights". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-12-06. 
  7. ^ Henderson, Denise; Henderson, Frederic W. (March 15, 1993). "How The Founding Fathers Fought For An End To Slavery". The American Almanac. Retrieved 2007-12-06. 
  8. ^ Gutzman, Kevin (2007). The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution. Washington: Regnery Publishing, Inc. pp. 35, 23. ISBN 1-59698-505-4. 
  9. ^ a b c d Pikcunas, p. 20.
  10. ^ Miller, p. 3.
  11. ^ Copeland & MacMaster, p. 1.
  12. ^ a b Miller, p. 4.
  13. ^ Copeland & MacMaster, pp. 54–55.
  14. ^ Miller, pp. 3–7.
  15. ^ Miller, pp. 11–12.
  16. ^ Broadwater, pp. 1–3.
  17. ^ a b Tarter, Brent. "Mason, George". American National Biography. Retrieved September 26, 2015. 
  18. ^ Copeland & MacMaster, p. 65.
  19. ^ Copeland & MacMaster, pp. 65–67.
  20. ^ Copeland & MacMaster, pp. 84–85.
  21. ^ Horrell, pp. 33–34.
  22. ^ Horrell, pp. 35, 52–53.
  23. ^ Horrell, pp. 33–35.
  24. ^ Miller, pp. 33–34.
  25. ^ Copeland & MacMaster, p. 93.
  26. ^ Broadwater, pp. 4–5.
  27. ^ Copeland & MacMaster, pp. 97–98.
  28. ^ "Architecturally Speaking". House Tour. Gunston Hall Plantation. Archived from the original on June 30, 2006. Retrieved August 23, 2006. 
  29. ^ "Parlor". House Tour. Gunston Hall Plantation official website. Archived from the original on July 13, 2006. Retrieved August 23, 2006. 
  30. ^ a b Tompkins, pp. 181–183.
  31. ^ Copeland & MacMaster, pp. 106–107.
  32. ^ Copeland & MacMaster, p. 105.
  33. ^ Copeland & MacMaster, pp. 103–104.
  34. ^ Riely, p. 8.
  35. ^ Bailey, pp. 409–413, 417.
  36. ^ Henriques, pp. 185–189.
  37. ^ Copeland & MacMaster, pp. 162–163.
  38. ^ Copeland & MacMaster, p. 162.
  39. ^ Broadwater, pp. 36–37.
  40. ^ Miller, pp. 68–69.
  41. ^ Copeland & MacMaster, pp. 108–109.
  42. ^ Broadwater, p. 18.
  43. ^ a b Miller, pp. 88–94.
  44. ^ Broadwater, pp. 29–31.
  45. ^ Broadwater, p. 39.
  46. ^ Broadwater, pp. 48–51.
  47. ^ Miller, pp. 99–100.
  48. ^ Broadwater, p. 58.
  49. ^ Miller, pp. 101–102.
  50. ^ Broadwater, p. 65.
  51. ^ Broadwater, pp. 65–67.
  52. ^ Broadwater, Jeff (2006). George Mason, Forgotten Founder. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 176–177. ISBN 978-0-8078-3053-6. 
  53. ^ Madison, James. Notes on the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Avalon Project. ( June 7, 21, 25).
  54. ^ Madison, James. Notes on the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Avalon Project. ( July 11, 12).
  55. ^ a b Beeman, Richard (2009). Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution. Random House.
  56. ^ Beeman, Richard (2009). Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution. Random House. ( p. 341).
  57. ^ Borden, Morton, ed. (1965). The Anti federalist Papers. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press. pp. ix. 
  58. ^ Beeman, Richard (2009). Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution. Random House. ( p. 396).
  59. ^ Virginia Declaration of Rights. Library of Congress. Accessed July 12, 2013.
  60. ^ a b "George Mason's Views on Slavery"
  61. ^ The Papers of George Mason 147–60 (Robert A. Rutland ed. 1970).
  62. ^ This issue is further discussed in Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers (Knopf, 2000).
  63. ^ a b Kaminski, John. Necessary Evil?: Slavery and the Debate Over the Constitution, pages 59 and 186 (Rowman & Littlefield 1995). Mason said: "The Western people are already calling out for slaves for their new lands; and will fill that country with slaves, if they can be got through South Carolina and Georgia....[T]he General Government should have the power to prevent the increase of slavery."
  64. ^ See "Debate in Virginia Ratifying Convention", The Founders’ Constitution (transcript from 1788-06-15). Mason said, "There is no clause in this Constitution to secure it; for they may lay such a tax as will amount to manumission." Madison responded: "From the mode of representation and taxation, Congress cannot lay such a tax on slaves as will amount to manumission....The census in the Constitution was intended to introduce equality in the burdens to be laid on the community."
  65. ^ a b Broadwater, Jeff (2006). George Mason: Forgotten Founder. Chapel Hill, NC: Fred W. Morrison Fund for Southern Studies of the University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-3053-6. 
  66. ^ Rowland, Kate Mason (1892). The Life of George Mason, 1725–1792. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 0-548-13895-8. 
  67. ^ George Mason IV at Find a Grave
  68. ^ "House and Grounds". Gunston Hall Plantation official website. Retrieved 2009-09-06. 
  69. ^ "Visiting Gunston Hall". Gunston Hall Plantation official website. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
  70. ^ "Gunston Hall Museum Shop". Gunston Hall Plantation official website. Retrieved 2013-02-22. 
  71. ^ Beckerdite, Luke; et al. (1994). "Architect-Designed Furniture in Eighteenth-Century Virginia: The Work of William Buckland and William Bernard Sears". American Furniture 1994. Chipstone. Retrieved 2006-08-31. 
  72. ^ "George Mason Chronology". Gunston Hall Plantation official website. 1997. Retrieved 2006-08-31. [dead link]
  73. ^ "Gunston Hall Plantation official website". Retrieved 2006-08-23.  Also hosted on
  74. ^ "Gunston Hall's Archeology Program". House and Grounds. Gunston Hall Plantation official website. p. 2. Archived from the original on 2006-07-14. Retrieved 2006-08-31. 
  75. ^ "Hollin Hall". George Mason's Plantations and Landholdings. Gunston Hall Plantation official website. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  76. ^ "Relief Portraits of Lawgivers". Architect of the Capitol, Government of the United States of America. Accessed June 17, 2011.
  77. ^ Davyd Foard Hood (May 1991). "Gunston Hall" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places – Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2014-08-01. 


  • Bailey, Kenneth P. (October 1943). "George Mason, Westerner". The William and Mary Quarterly 23 (4): 409–417. JSTOR 1923192. (subscription required)
  • Broadwater, Jeff (2006). George Mason, Forgotten Founder (Kindle). University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-3053-6. 
  • Copeland, Pamela C.; MacMaster, Richard K. (1975). The Five George Masons: Patriots and Planters of Virginia and Maryland. University Press of Virginia. ISBN 0-8139-0550-8. 
  • Henriques, Peter R. (April 1989). An Uneven Friendship: The Relationship between George Washington and George Mason. The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 97 (2). pp. 185–204. JSTOR 4249070. (subscription required)
  • Horrell, Joseph (1989). "George Mason and the Fairfax Court". In Senese, Donald J. George Mason and the Legacy of Constitutional Liberty. Fairfax County History Commission. pp. 15–31. ISBN 0-9623905-1-8. 
  • Miller, Helen Hill (1975). George Mason, Gentleman Revolutionary. The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-1250-1. 
  • Pikcunas, Diane D. (1989). "George Mason: The Preparation for Leadership". In Senese, Donald J. George Mason and the Legacy of Constitutional Liberty. Fairfax County History Commission. pp. 15–31. ISBN 0-9623905-1-8. 
  • Riely, Henry C. (January 1934). "George Mason". The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 42 (1): 1–17. JSTOR 4244557. (subscription required)
  • Tompkins, William F. (September 1947). "George Mason and Gunston Hall". The Georgia Historical Quarterly 31 (3): 181–190. JSTOR 40577068. (subscription required)

Further reading[edit]

  • Bailyn, Bernard, ed. (1993). The Debate on the Constitution: Federalist and Anti federalist Speeches, Articles, and Letters During the Struggle over Ratification, 2 vols. Library of America. 
  • Curtis, Barbara Jocelyn (1938). George Mason, Statesman, Rebel, Public Servant. 
  • Hawkes, Robert T., Jr. (1996). "An Uncommon American Hero: George Mason and The Bill Of Rights". Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Magazine 1 (46): 5328–38. 
  • Henriques, Peter R. (1989). "An Uneven Friendship: The Relationship Between George Washington and George Mason". Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 2 (97): 185–204. 
  • Jensen, Merrill; et al., eds. (1976). The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution of the United States, 20 vols. Madison, WI: State Historical Society of Wisconsin. 
  • Ketcham, Ralph, ed. (1986). The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates. Penguin. ISBN 0-451-52884-0. 
  • Lee, Emery G. (1997). "Representation, Virtue, and Political Jealousy in the Brutus-Publius Dialogue". The Journal of Politics (Cambridge University Press) 59 (4): 1073–95. doi:10.2307/2998593. JSTOR 2998593. 
  • Leffler, Richard (1987). "The Case of George Mason's Objections to the Constitution". Manuscripts 4 (39): 285–92. 
  • MacDonald, Robert (2008). "Mason, George (1725–1792)". In Hamowy, Ronald. The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE; Cato Institute. p. 321. ISBN 978-1-4129-6580-4. LCCN 2008009151. OCLC 750831024. 
  • Meltzer, Milton (1990). The Bill Of Rights: How We Got It and What It Means. New York: Thomas Crowell. ISBN 0-690-04805-X. 
  • Miller, Helen Hill (July 2001) [1938]. George Mason, Constitutionalist. Safety Harbor, FL: Simon Publications. ISBN 1-931313-45-8. 
  • Pole, J. R., ed. (1987). The American Constitution – For and Against: The Federalist And Anti-Federalist Papers. New York: Hill and Wang. ISBN 0-8090-2466-7. 
  • Rutland, Robert A. (September 1980). George Mason: Reluctant Statesman. ISBN 0-8071-0696-8. 
  • Rutland, Robert A.; et al., eds. (1970). The papers of George Mason, 3 vols. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 
  • Storing, Herbert, ed. (1985). The Anti-Federalist. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-77565-8. 
  • Storing, Herbert; Dry, Murray, eds. (1981). The Complete Anti-Federalist 7 vol. University of Chicago Press. 

External links[edit]