George Mason

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Every society, all government, and every kind of civil compact therefore, is or ought to be, calculated for the general good and safety of the community.

George Mason (1725-12-111792-10-07) was a United States patriot, statesman and delegate from Virginia to the U.S. Constitutional Convention. He has been called the "Father of the Bill of Rights."

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  • Our All is at Stake, and the little Conveniencys and Comforts of Life, when set in Competition with our Liberty, ought to be rejected not with Reluctance but with Pleasure.
    • Letter to George Washington (April 5, 1769)
  • We owe to our Mother-Country the Duty of Subjects but will not pay her the Submission of Slaves.
    • Letter to a member of the Brent family (December 6, 1770)
  • This cold weather has set all the young Folks to providing Bedfellows. I have signed two or three Licences every Day [as a Fairfax Justice of the Peace] since I have been at Home. I wish I knew where to get a good one myself; for I find cold Sheets extreamly disagreeable.
    • Letter to his cousin, James Mercer (February 5, 1780)
  • I quitted my Seat in the House of Delegates, from a Conviction that I was no longer able to do any essential Service.
    • Letter to Edmund Randolph (October 19, 1782)
  • I have been for some time in Retirement, and shall not probably return again to public Life; yet my Anxiety for my Country, in these Times of Danger, makes me sometimes dabble a little in Politicks, and keep up a Correspondence with some Men upon the public Stage.
    • Letter to his son, George Mason V. (January 8, 1783)
  • I am now pretty far advanced in life, and all my views are center'd in the Happiness and well-fare of my children; you will therefore find from me every Indulgence which you have a right to expect from an affectionate Parent.
    • Letter to George Mason, V. (January 8, 1783)
  • I thank God, I have been able, by adopting Principles of strict Economy and Frugality, to keep my principal, I mean my Country-Estate, unimpaired.
    • Letter to George Mason, V. (January 8, 1783)
  • Happiness and Prosperity are now within our Reach; but to attain and preserve them must depend upon our own Wisdom and Virtue.
    • Letter to William Cabell (May 6, 1783)
  • I retired from public Business from a thorough Conviction that it was not in my Power to do any Good, and very much disgusted with Measures, which appeared to me inconsistent with common Policy and Justice.
    • Letter to Arthur Campbell (May 7, 1783)
  • I most sincerely condole with you for the loss of your dear little girl, but it is our duty to submit with all the resignation human nature is capable of to the dispensation of Divine Providence which bestows upon us our blessings, and consequently has a right to take them away.
    • Letter to his daughter, Sarah Mason McCarty (February 10, 1785)
  • Your dear baby has died innocent and blameless, and has been called away by an all wise and merciful Creator, most probably from a life to misery and misfortune, and most certainly to one of happiness and bliss.
    • Letter to Sarah Mason McCarty (February 10, 1785)
  • I begin to grow heartily tired of the etiquette and nonsense so fashionable in this city.
    • Letter to George Mason, V. (May 27, 1787)
  • Attend with Diligence and strict Integrity to the Interest of your Correspondents and enter into no Engagements which you have not the almost certain Means of performing.
    • Letter to his son, John Mason (June 12, 1788)

Extracts from the Virginia Charters (July, 1773)

  • Taught to regard a part of our own Species in the most abject and contemptible Degree below us, we lose that Idea of the dignity of Man which the Hand of Nature had implanted in us, for great and useful purposes.
  • Habituated from our Infancy to trample upon the Rights of Human Nature, every generous, every liberal Sentiment, if not extinguished, is enfeebled in our Minds.

Remarks on Annual Elections for the Fairfax Independent Company (April 1775)

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  • Every society, all government, and every kind of civil compact therefore, is or ought to be, calculated for the general good and safety of the community.
  • 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 came equals into this world, and equals shall we go out of it.
  • All men are by nature born equally free and independent.

Virginia Declaration of Rights (12 June 1776)

  • That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot by any compact deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
    • Article 1
  • Government is, or ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration.
    • Article 3
  • The freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.
    • Article 12

Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787

  • Every selfish motive therefore, every family attachment, ought to recommend such a system of policy as would provide no less carefully for the rights and happiness of the lowest than of the highest orders of Citizens.
    • May 31
  • Whatever power may be necessary for the National Government a certain portion must necessarily be left in the States. It is impossible for one power to pervade the extreme parts of the U.S. so as to carry equal justice to them.
    • June 7
  • Slavery discourages arts and manufactures.
    • August 22
  • The poor despise labor when performed by slaves.
    • August 22
  • As nations can not be rewarded or punished in the next world they must be in this.
    • August 22

Virginia Ratifying Convention of 1788

  • No man has a greater regard for the military gentlemen than I have. I admire their intrepidity, perseverance, and valour. But when once a standing army is established, in any country, the people lose their liberty. When against a regular and disciplined army, yeomanry are the only defence—yeomanry, unskillful & unarmed, what chance is there for preserving freedom? Give me leave to recur to the page of history, to warn you of your present danger. Recollect the history of most nations of the world. What havock, desolation, and destruction, have been perpetrated by standing armies? An instance within the memory of some of this house, -will shew us how our militia may be destroyed. Forty years ago, when the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great-Britain, the British parliament was advised by an artful man, [Sir William Keith] who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people. That it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them. But that they should not do it openly; but to weaken them and let them sink gradually, by totally difusing and neglecting the militia. [Here MR. MASON quoted sundry passages to this effect.] This was a most iniquitous project. Why should we not provide against the danger of having our militia, our real and natural strength, destroyed?
    • June 14
  • Mr. Chairman—A worthy member has asked, who are the militia, if they be not the people, of this country, and if we are not to be protected from the fate of the Germans, Prussians, &c. by our representation? I ask who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers. But I cannot say who will be the militia of the future day. If that paper on the table gets no alteration, the militia of the future day may not consist of all classes, high and low, and rich and poor; but may be confined to the lower and middle classes of the people, granting exclusion to the higher classes of the people. If we should ever see that day, the most ignominious punishments and heavy fines may be expected. Under the present government all ranks of people are subject to militia duty.
    • June 16
  • The augmentation of slaves weakens the states; and such a trade is diabolical in itself, and disgraceful to mankind.
    • June 17
  • As much as I value an union of all the states, I would not admit the southern states into the union, unless they agreed to the discontinuance of this disgraceful trade, because it would bring weakness and not strength to the union.
    • June 17

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  • A few years' experience will convince us that those things which at the time they happened we regarded as our greatest misfortunes have proved our greatest blessings.
  • The question then will be, whether a consolidated government can preserve the freedom and secure the rights of the people.
    • In debates during Virginia's Convention on Ratification of the Constitution in Richmond, Virginia (June 16, 1788).

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