History & Culture

Founder’s Wisdom – George Mason

mason

“Wisdom” is overused, underappreciated, best kept in a bottom drawer – for special people. On rare occasions, pulling that drawer is timely. As our nation confronts an assault on elements of the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments – all insisted upon by George Mason – let’s pull that drawer.

Mason, sometimes called the “forgotten founder,” paid a dear price for wisdom and the courage to say what he did. While history recalls the courage of Founders, many drew on Mason.

In fact, without Mason, epic figures in American history – to whom monuments properly stand – might be mere shadows, less than they became. You will, at this point, wonder how such an unusual statement can be made. Here is the answer.

Before Thomas Jefferson wrote the “Declaration of Independence,” Mason wrote Virginia’s “Declaration of Rights,” from which Jefferson drew. Their mutual friend, James Madison, passed to Jefferson updates on Mason’s work in early 1776.

Mason, a student of John Locke, shocked himself with a realization: No government will stay accountable unless God-given individual rights are preserved. Governments are only legitimate when people with those rights say so, giving their consent. Natural law trumps man’s laws.

Thus, Mason wrote in his “Virginia Declaration of Rights” 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,” which Jefferson transposed: “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.”

Laying the groundwork for our “Declaration of Independence” was just the start. At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, Mason worked tirelessly to shape three separate, coequal branches. He then proposed a Bill of Rights – without which he argued; a federal government could grow all-powerful. He was defeated; the idea is seen as unnecessary. Mason was so distressed by this omission to the Constitution; he refused to sign.

Courage? Yes, that cost him his lifetime friendship with George Washington, who felt he should have signed. Mason stood his ground. He held that states should not ratify without an express guarantee of individual rights against the federal government.

Courage? Yes, he even went one better. He felt the new Constitution should ban slavery. He saw only one way to interpret God’s gift of fundamental rights, consistent with natural law, which was that they flowed from Providence to all men, regardless of skin color. He lost again.

Sometimes, the mark of a leader is not a monument but the staying power in his ideas. While Washington felt betrayed by Mason’s insistence on express rights, his friend Madison – got it.

Mason continued to block ratification in a variety of states without a Bill of Rights. He was a true believer in the future, sacrificed his political ambitions to protect us against tyranny. In 1789, Madison introduced ten amendments to the Constitution, drawn from Mason’s “Objections” at the 1787 Constitutional Convention. They became our Bill of Rights the year before Mason died and remain with us today – a bulwark against federal excesses,

So Mason sacrificed future public service and friendships to assure – with persuasive intensity – those ten rights. We have them today because of Mason – so long as we defend them.

Oh, and what are those rights? In short, the First Amendment gives us free speech, exercise of religion, assembly, press, and the right to petition for grievances.

The second gives us the right to keep and bear arms, which Mason wrote was personal, not belonging to a militia.

While the Third involved not quartering British troops, the Fourth assured we were secure in our homes, no unreasonable searches and seizures; the Fifth gave us due process, assurances against being held unfairly or tried twice.

Sixth gave us fair, speedy, impartial trials, fair defense, right to confront our accusers, the Seventh jury trials, Eighth assured no excess fines or cruelty, Ninth assured rights were retained by The People, and Tenth assured rights not delegated stayed with the States and People.

Today – and this is where Mason’s shines. These rights are all, to some degree, under attack. Think about assaults on free speech, worship, assembly, grievance, an untrammeled right to bear arms, be free of unreasonable searches, enjoy due process, equal protection, no excess fines or punishments – and gradual overreach by a federal government into state and individual rights.

In short, Mason was ahead of his time – a principled leader. Thankfully, he put up a stink until we got our Bill of Rights.

His wisdom shaped arguments, called for courage. His courage cost him, but it matches that of other Founders.

That is why, as fundamental rights come under fire, we must know and defend history, not erase it. We must go back to what shaped Mason’s thinking, made him stand out – pariah at the Constitutional Convention, ready to sacrifice for principle, man of wisdom. We use the word seldom, but pulling it from the drawer, it fits George Mason.

All legitimate governments must govern from consent – which starts with respect for the People and their rights. Mason put his finger on it, and we benefit. As the old French warrior Lafayette once reflected: The American Revolution “one can regard as the beginning of a new social order for the entire world … the era of declarations of rights.” Wisdom – Mason had it. We do because he did. He defended it fervently – and we must now again.

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DJames
2 months ago

Mr. Charles, Good history lesson..but what good is history if we do not learn from it ?
Where are the leaders with Gonads that this country needs ?

Curmudgeon Underthebridge
2 months ago

Well, as much as I agree with all the founder’s intent and thoughtful plans for us, I now find myself struggling with the acceptance of certain groups. This is likely almost a mirror condition of how they may struggle with people like me. For example, hard core left wing Democrats. I will give them many of the things they CLAIM to be enthusiastic about: Caring for others, especially those in need. Trying to save our planet from excessive pollution. Helping those with things that may be considered obscure preferences related to: sex, gender, drugs, ways of policing us all, fair justice system rules, etc. might all be fine in theory, maybe with little or no ultimate objections regarding the overall intent. Disagreements about cause versus effect related to guns and self protection might be worthy of some long and complex debates. How the economy performs well and how it endangers our future seems worth some long, hard study of history and math / not just opinions. How big any county, state or Federal government agency or program may get is certainly worth some serious thought / especially regarding what the people want, not what those currently in power want. However, it now seems as if nearly all civility and objectivity has evaporated over time, and we can no longer debate and get people in power who are willing to play fair, and to honestly try to solve the people’s issues. Now, the entire category of our country called “The Government” has merged into a mud ball fight, using resources not even IN government to help their specific cause. Consequently, one side or the other is often having governmental agendas imposed upon them, usually against their votes and their will. There is also no sign of legitimate compromise.
So, even though our founders predicted this eventual state, they did not explain or provide for us how to FIX it. They only gave us the plan to prevent it from becoming this bad. We cannot blame our founders for having warned us this may happen, we can only praise them for predicting it would and now, it DID. Maybe they provided the cure, the anecdote for the state we’re in now, but I’m not aware of it. People keep saying it’s critical we dust off this old body of knowledge and immerse ourselves in it, but there is always going to be that “other side” who will not, and/or who will simply disagree and often just change the subject entirely. And so, I would point to the references that may not have been stated in a strong enough way originally: Our rights come from God. Maybe that’s the way out of this madness. Maybe we can research how God gave us rights we’re forgetting about and how God may help us use those rights to get the Government we THOUGHT worked for us, back in order again.

Rrtired Filosfr
2 months ago

The current crop of Socialists are operating only from misinformed knowledge. Misinformed knowledge can only cause “leaders” to make misinformed decisions. None of them have any wisdom because none of them know how to use logic. If any of them knew how to use logic, then they might realize that their positions are fallacious.

DJames
2 months ago

Socialists don’t give a crap about logic ! Their focus is subjugation of the populace. Keeping their foot on the neck of Americans. The longer they persist in their evil ways the harder it becomes for us to reverse their tyranny.

Carl Stuebner RN
2 months ago

Now is the time to teach this in every school in this country! Get involved by running for school boards, city council’s any office to push the the left out in the cold! Force them back into the deep recesses and dungeons they came from, making this still the greatest country of all time!

Chuck Connolly
2 months ago

Article V is Thanks to George Mason also. Gives the States the right to call a Convention of States. Many (15) States have already approved a Convention of Stares thru their Legislators. Go to COSAction.com

Jim Jolly
2 months ago

Mason was a dedicated smart man and now Biden, Harris, Pelosi and Schumer to state only a few are working to overturn what the Constitution and Bill of Rights demand. I guess they want to be RULERS instead of elected officials. The way they are going about it has to be Treasones but not enough people will stand up and prevent it.

DJames
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim Jolly

Jim, Rulers ?..More like Dictators !
Be advised without mass protest by Patriots America is lost.

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