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Wed Dec 11, 2019, 10:48 AM

Happy 294th Birthday, George Mason. Founding Founder, He Conceived the Bill of Rights.

Same as 2018: Happy 293rd Birthday, George Mason. Founding Founder, He Conceived the Bill of Rights.

and 2017:

Happy 292nd Birthday, George Mason. Founding Founder, He Conceived the Bill of Rights.

and 2016:

Happy 291st Birthday, George Mason. Founding Founder, He Conceived the Bill of Rights.



George Mason

George Mason (sometimes referred to as George Mason IV) (December 11, 1725 – October 7, 1792) was a Virginia planter, politician, and a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, one of three men who refused to sign. His writings, including substantial portions of the Fairfax Resolves of 1774, the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776, and his Objections to this Constitution of Government (1787) in opposition to ratification of the constitution, have been a significant influence on political thought and events. The Virginia Declaration of Rights served as a basis for the United States Bill of Rights, of which he has been deemed the father.



I'm not sure why that says his birth year is 1726. I thought it might be that Gregorian calendar - Julian calendar thing, but that would account for only 11 days. I'll see what I can find.

Adoption of the Gregorian calendar in Protestant countries

Through enactment of the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750, Britain and the British Empire (including the eastern part of what is now the United States) adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, by which time it was necessary to correct by 11 days. Wednesday, 2 September 1752, was followed by Thursday, 14 September 1752. Claims that rioters demanded "Give us our eleven days" grew out of a misinterpretation of a painting by William Hogarth. After 1753, the British tax year in Britain continued to operate on the Julian calendar and began on 5 April, which was the "Old Style" new tax year of 25 March. A 12th skipped Julian leap day in 1800 changed its start to 6 April. It was not changed when a 13th Julian leap day was skipped in 1900, so the tax year in the United Kingdom still begins on 6 April.



What this country needs is a good 18-cent Mason:



George Mason: Forgotten Founder, He Conceived the Bill of Rights

This wise Virginian was a friend to four future presidents, yet he refused to sign the Constitution

By Stephan A. Schwartz
Smithsonian Magazine
@SmithsonianMag

April 30, 2000

The air was cool and fresh on that Monday morning in September 1787 as the delegates to the Constitutional Convention gathered at the State House (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia to sign the new Constitution. Only three present refused to add their names. One of them was the Virginian George Mason. Because the Constitution created a federal government he felt might be too powerful, and because it did not end the slave trade and did not contain a bill of rights, he withheld his support from the document he had played so large a role in crafting.

In 1776, Mason, then 51, had been appointed to a committee charged with drafting a "Declaration of Rights" for Virginia. From the writings of English Enlightenment philosopher John Locke (1632-1704), Mason had come to a then-radical insight: that a republic had to begin with the formal, legally binding commitment that individuals had inalienable rights that were superior to any government.

One other committee member did play a significant role: Mason's young friend James Madison, who kept his (and Mason's) friend Thomas Jefferson apprised of Mason's progress in drafting the declaration. Mason's work began, "That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights...namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety." Jefferson's U.S. Declaration of Independence included the immortal words of what may be the most famous political statement in history: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

In 1787, toward the end of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Mason proposed that a bill of rights preface the Constitution, but his proposal was defeated. When he refused to sign the new Constitution, his decision baffled some and alienated others, including his old friend, George Washington. Mason's stand nonetheless had its effect. At the first session of the first Congress, Madison introduced a Bill of Rights that paralleled Mason's Declaration of Rights of 1776.

Here is 2018's letter to the editor of the Alexandria Gazette Packet about George Mason from Alexandrian Eleanor Latane Tabb:

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: In Recognition Of Mason

Alexandrian George Mason is among the most important of our Founding Fathers, but few people – even in our city and at his home, Gunston Hall, celebrate his Dec. 11, 1752, birthday because they do not know and therefore honor his contributions to our federal republic – nor do most celebrate Bill of Rights Day, Dec. 15 (1791), although it is by far the best known section of the Constitution. Mason’s insistence on its inclusion cost him Washington’s friendship and his rightful place in our history books written by the general’s Federalist partisans. Mason also provided Jefferson with the most famous claims in our Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson used the thesis of his mentor Mason, whom he deemed the most intelligent man of his day, when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. He had copies of Mason’s first and final drafts of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, adopted by the General Assembly on June 12, 1776, and admirably edited its language to some of the most stirring words ever written. Mason’s lines, “That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent natural Rights … among which are the Enjoyment of Life and Liberty, with the Means of acquiring and possessing Property, and pursuing and obtaining Happiness and Safety” became in Jefferson’s words “…. all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Inspired by the English Enlightenment philosopher John Locke (1632-1704), Mason had the then radical insight: a republic needed a legally binding commitment that individuals have inalienable rights superior to any government. Also, it is necessary for those rights to be written so they would be clear to both government officials and the people. Therefore, he created the first written statement of those individual rights which he believed must be included to restrain all levels of government.

Mason also wrote Virginia’s (and the colonies’) first Constitution, which included a Bill of Rights, and was used until the 1970s. That constitution was a model for our national Constitution.

Mason was the first delegate at the Constitutional Convention to urge including a Bill of Rights with our Constitution; indeed, he thought it should begin with a statement of rights. His proposal was voted down unanimously (Washington vigorously opposed it), but when the states ratified the Constitution, almost all required a Bill of Rights be added. Mason was one of three delegates present for the entire Constitutional Convention to vote against its adoption. His 16 objections listed its failure to end slavery and include a Bill of Rights. In the Virginia General Assembly’s ratification debate, Mason, Edmund Randolph and Patrick Henry argued vigorously against adopting the Constitution; if five men had voted the other way, it would have failed. Washington was furious at Mason’s failure to support his higher priority: creation of a strong national government — with the Bill of Rights to come later if it were necessary, which he doubted.

Fortunately for us, Mason’s argument prevailed.

Ellen Latane Tabb

Alexandria

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