Monday, July 2, 2018

The George Mason Memorial

George Mason is one of the more interesting and contradictory of our Founding Fathers. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention who contributed many clauses to it, but he refused to sign it and even lobbied against it. He was an abolitionist, yet the only person in Virginia at the time who had more slaves than he did was George Washington. So, why do we honor him with a memorial in the shadows of other greats like Lincoln, Roosevelt and Jefferson? Because he was right and he was ahead of his time.

As the writer of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Mason felt that a similar set of declarations was needed for the new United States Constitution. Mason also sought, at the very least, a clause within the Constitution to provide for an end to the slave trade within the United States either via outright abolition or a gradual phasing out. There were also some minor economic issues that Mason wanted to work in favor of the states rather than the Federal Government that didn't pan out.

After the ratification of the Constitution, it was soon realized that a declaration of rights was indeed needed. The resulting Bill of Rights borrows quite a bit from the Virginia Declaration of Rights. And, after tip-toeing around the issue of slavery for several decades, slavery was eventually abolished. So, George Mason was proven right. However, the damage had been done. His friendships suffered in the aftermath of his anti-ratification efforts and his legacy was lost to history. The George Mason Memorial seeks to give back a little of what he lost and honor a man whose ideas were ahead of his time.

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