mulberry black messenger bag It time to give George Mason his due
Ronald G. Shafer
On Dec. 15 America will celebrate the ratification of the Bill of Rights. It’s also a good time to remember the man behind this bedrock of our individual liberties.
That would be Virginia’s George Mason, the Rodney Dangerfield of America’s Founding Fathers. Like the late comedian, Mason doesn’t get enough respect because his contributions have been overshadowed by those of more famous Founders. The document declared that all men by nature are “free and independent, and have certain inherent rights,” including “the enjoyment of life and liberty.” Sound familiar? Thomas Jefferson adapted much of the wording when writing his more famous Declaration of Independence
James Madison, who had dismissed Mason’s arguments at the Constitutional Convention, eventually changed his mind. As a member of the first Congress, in 1789 Madison wrote the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, which together form the Bill of Rights. Madison’s amendments were taken largely from Mason’s earlier writings,
which had called for freedom of religion, freedom of the press and maintaining a “well regulated militia” trained with arms.
Mason, who had predicted the amendments would be “milk and water propositions,” expressed “much satisfaction” with the final results. Under the Constitution, the amendments had to be ratified by three fourths of the 14 states. The Bill of Rights became the law of the land on Dec. 15, 1791, when Virginia appropriately became the 11th state to ratify. After seeing his dream come true, Mason died the next year at the age of 66.
In the history books Madison got most of the credit for creating the Bill of Rights. Mason became a forgotten Founding Father with little recognition save for George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. As Americans celebrate our cherished Bill of Rights this month,
it’s time that old George Mason got the respect that he rightly deserves.