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Five days of Article V pt. 2 - 'One of our greatest men'; George Mason, the Forgotten Founder

Published in Blog on September 13, 2022 by Jakob Fay

"The fact is unquestionable, that the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution of Virginia, were drawn originally by George Mason, one of our greatest men, and of the first order of greatness," Thomas Jefferson said.

Few men deserve to be called “great.” Even fewer “of the first order of greatness.” But George Mason is well deserving of Jefferson’s highest praise and more. While the historical significance of his legacy may have been all but overlooked, the “forgotten founder’s” contributions to American politics still affect us today.

Born December 11, 1725, Mason dedicated his life to the cause of American liberty and the preservation of individual liberties. Serving in Virginia’s House of Burgesses (the same legislative assembly in which other Founding Fathers, including George Washington and Patrick Henry, began their political careers), he fought against British policies that chipped away at American self-governance. He later united the colonies in a boycott of goods imported from across the pond.

During the Revolutionary War, Mason led Virginia patriots. In a letter, he described the poor plight of the Americans in the war: “Our affairs have been for some time growing from bad to worse…. Our Militia turn out with great Spirit, & have in several late Actions, behaved bravely, but they are badly armed & appointed.”

In addition to leading on the field of battle, Mason also drafted what would become Virginia’s state constitution. In this hugely influential document, Mason enshrined the doctrine of inalienable rights. Other Founders took notice. Mason’s work on Virginia’s state constitution would become a guide for future founding documents, including, most prominently, the U.S. Constitution.

At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Mason advocated for many of the principles he had upheld in Virginia’s constitution. He ultimately refused to sign the new document, believing it failed to adequately protect individual liberties. He championed the idea of a Bill of Rights, without which, he feared America’s new government might become “a corrupt, tyrannical aristocracy.”

Despite his qualms about the efficacy of the nation’s new constitution, Mason still contributed to the new document.

As the Convention was wrapping up, an alarmed Mason pointed out that the drafters had made a grave mistake in leaving Congress with the sole power to amend the Constitution. He strongly encouraged the Convention to give this power to the states and American people as well. Mason’s proposed change was adopted unanimously and the convention of states was born.

Now, 235 years later, we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to George Mason. Our government has indeed rejected Mason’s reverence for inalienable rights from God, but thanks to his brilliance, We the People can fight back against federal tyranny.

As we celebrate Article V Day, these quotes from the Forgotten Founder perfectly encapsulate why we at COS are fighting to fulfill Mason’s vision and call the first ever Convention of States:

“In all our associations; in all our agreements let us never lose sight of this fundamental maxim—that all power was originally lodged in, and consequently is derived from, the people. We should wear it as a breastplate, and buckle it on as our armour.”

“We have received [rights] from our Ancestors and, with God’s Leave, we will transmit them, unimpaired to our Posterity."

To join COS as we make history, sign the Convention of States petition below!

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Almost everyone knows that our federal government is on a dangerous course. The unsustainable debt combined with crushing regulations on states and businesses is a recipe for disaster.

What is less known is that the Founders gave state legislatures the power to act as a final check on abuses of power by Washington, DC. Article V of the U.S. Constitution authorizes the state legislatures to call a convention to proposing needed amendments to the Constitution. This process does not require the consent of the federal government in Washington DC.

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