March 27, 2002


Forgotten founder Mason to be memorialized on National Mall (Matthew Barakat, Associated Press, 3/27/2002)
Mason's greatest contribution, scholars agree, is the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, in which Mason wrote ''that all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent 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.''

Thomas Jefferson borrowed liberally from Mason in writing the Declaration of Independence a few months later.

At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Mason was one of three delegates who refused to sign the pact, fearing that the lack of a Bill of Rights would erode individual liberties. Notes taken by James Madison during the convention indicate Mason said ''he would sooner chop off his right hand than put it to the Constitution.''

Mason's refusal to endorse the Constitution ended his friendship with George Washington, who later referred to Mason as his ''former friend.''

Eventually, Mason's arguments for individual liberties persuaded others to add the Bill of Rights shortly after the Constitution was ratified.

Ultimately I think we'd have to conclude that the Bill of Rights was actually a mistake where pure liberty is concerned. It would probably have been better for the Antifederalists to argue that Congress had only the powers quite specifically delineated to it in the Constitution itself. Posted by Orrin Judd at March 27, 2002 11:42 AM
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