The American Revolution was an unusually cerebral revolution.
Its heroes included philosophers as well as soldiers. Its political leaders combined sophisticated political thought with political action in a way not seen in this country since. Their ideas — and their stubborn determination to make those ideas the just click for source of effective government — still resonate around George Will Essay Madison world.
Few of these men have had a more lasting impact than George Mason, the retiring Fairfax County planter who served a mentor to George Washington and influenced a generation of Virginia revolutionaries.
In the spring of Mason represented Fairfax County in the Virginia Convention, which had taken the place of the colonial House of Burgesses and was preparing a constitution for the new commonwealth. Assigned to a committee to draft a bill of rights, he grumbled about parliamentary procedures and "useless" committee men and wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights more or less on his own.
It became, and remains, one of the most influential and widely-imitated assertions of natural and civil rights. Aristocrats, cautious go-slow men, and closet Tories blanched at the opening words, certain that Mason was inviting a slave insurrection.
The "monsters," Mason's ally Thomas Ludwell Lee wrote, "kept us at bay on the first line. George Will Essay Madison Declaration went on to assert that the power of government "is derived from the People," who retain "an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible Right" to "reform, alter or abolish" any government at will. Mason also outlined the most basic civil rights, including the rights to a speedy trial by jury, and against self-incrimination, unlawful seizure of property, and unjustified imprisonment.
Each provision was subjected to debate.
Patrick Henry convinced the convention to drop Mason's ban on ex post facto laws. A quiet young delegate from Orange County -- twenty-five year old James Madison -- unsuccessfully urged the convention to broaden the article on religious toleration.
The Declaration that emerged from this debate has been described as one of "the world's most memorable triumphs in applied political theory. Mason's Declaration of Rights sounds much like the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson, in fact, may have derived the famous assertion of the inalienable rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" from Mason's formulation.
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But there are subtle and important differences between the two documents, as there were between Mason and Jefferson as political thinkers. Mason tells us that people have the right to the "means of. For neither man was pursuit synonymous with mere seeking.
George Mason, The Thoughtful twenty-five year old James Madison Between and he was Assistant Editor of The Papers of George Washington. Mr. Free Essay: James Madison took every measure possible to with assistance from General George Washington and James Madison. Essay on James Madison. Admissions and Aid. Apply Now. As Virginia’s largest public research university, George Mason University is here to provide you not only a path to your degree. George Washington This Essay George Washington and other 63,+ term papers, in our situation will serve to establish a Precedent," he wrote James Madison.
Even today one pursues a fleeing criminal or a course of study. In the 18th century pursuit implied even more strongly a correct path toward a goal. So when Mason and Jefferson tell us that people have a right to pursue happiness, they do not mean that people have a right to seek happiness however they like.
They mean for us to pursue happiness by cultivating virtue. Nor was happiness as vague a goal as it now seems. Happiness did not mean pleasure, though 18th-century thinkers held that happiness ought to be pleasant. For thinkers like Mason, a person achieved happiness when his condition fit his character, talents and abilities.
Mason believed that people have a fundamental right to the "means" to reach this happy condition.
But what did Mason mean by "means"? Means is now George Will Essay Madison as a synonym for assets; we describe a poor person as having limited means. In the modern idiom, Mason seems to be asserting that a person has a right to the assets he needs to obtain happiness.
The Virginia Declaration can thus be read as a prescription mandating a whole range of public entitlements. But this is go here misreading of Mason.
In the early modern world, means usually meant methods. Remember the classic Machiavellian formula: Mason's "means" include the whole range of legal protections that allow a free society to flourish. And they include, mostly explicitly, the "means of acquiring and possessing property," which Jefferson left out of the Declaration but which Mason understood was one of the most fundamental rights of all.
Mason's Declaration differs George Will Essay Madison Jefferson's in another important respect. Jefferson asserts the inalienable rights of mankind, but does not mention our responsibilities. Mason makes it clear that our natural rights have corollary responsibilities. Of these characteristics, Mason regarded virtue — by which he meant a willingness to subordinate private desires for the good of the community — as paramount.
The key to the difference between Mason and Jefferson lies in their different visions of republican society. Jefferson's drew his inspiration from the liberal tradition associated with John Locke and the social thought of the Scottish Enlightenment, which stressed the moral common sense of the individual. Mason's vision drew more inspiration from the republicanism of Ancient Rome — an austere, often martial spirit that idealized voluntary attachment to the good of the state.
Mason's revolutionary idealism substituted civic responsibility for obedience to kings and lords as the basis for an ordered society. More than two hundred years later, his challenge remains vital to freedom: Can our republic survive our selfishness?
Mason served in the Virginia House of Delegates through much of the Revolutionary War, but finally withdrew from office in and refused to be lured out again untilwhen he agreed to go to Philadelphia to attend the Federal Convention. Mason was George Will Essay Madison of the most active framers of the Constitution, but at the last moment he refused to sign the document because it contained no bill of rights.
Madison and other delegates assured him that a bill of rights was entirely unnecessary — that the Constitution delegated only specified powers to the federal government, and thus possessed no power to encroach on personal liberty. He placed liberty before the Union, and he knew that the federal government would wield enough power to deprive Americans of their natural and civil rights.
Virginia ratified the Constitution over Mason's objections by a majority of one vote.
But Mason's objections to the Constitution were published all over the nation, and excited widespread demand for a bill of rights. When the First Congress convened in New York inCongressman James Madison — converted at last to Mason's point of view — introduced a series of amendments to the Constitution that formed the Bill of Rights.
It was the crowning achievement of Mason's public life. Condorcet and the other European admirers of the George Will Essay Madison Revolution praised the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, but few of them knew his name. Unlike his counterparts - Washington, Jefferson, and Madison among them — Mason does not seem to have devoted much attention to his historical memory.
He was content to leave us his accomplishments. And although George Mason preferred not to leave his Fairfax County plantation, his influence has been felt around the world for more than years, by millions of people. Mason's ideals are invoked wherever oppressed people assert their inalienable rights. Mason's legacy lives wherever people raise their voices to insist on the fundamental truth that all people "are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights.
He was a member of the faculty at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and the University of Virginia. Warren also wrote A Covenanted People: Equally Free In the spring of Mason represented Fairfax County in the Virginia Convention, which had taken the place of the colonial House of Burgesses and was preparing a constitution for the new commonwealth. Mason also outlined the most basic civil rights, including the rights to George Will Essay Madison speedy trial by jury, and against self-incrimination, unlawful seizure of property, and unjustified imprisonment, Each provision was subjected to debate.
Rights and Responsibilities Mason's Declaration differs from Jefferson's article source another important respect. The Bill of Rights Mason served in the Virginia House of Delegates through much of the Revolutionary War, but finally withdrew from office in and refused to be lured out again untilwhen he agreed to go to Philadelphia to attend the Federal Convention.
Mason Remembered Condorcet and the other European admirers of the American Revolution praised the author George Will Essay Madison the Virginia Declaration of Rights, but few of them knew his name.