Item description for George Mason, Constitutionalist by Helen Hill Miller...
An excellent biography of the primary designer of the U. S. Constitution published in 1938.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.52" Width: 6.66" Height: 0.85" Weight: 1.37 lbs.
Publisher Simon Publications
ISBN 1931313458 ISBN13 9781931313452
Availability 88 units. Availability accurate as of Oct 23, 2016 02:26.
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America's greatest forgotten hero Feb 7, 2002
When Thomas Jefferson, no less, describes someone as 'a man of the first order of wisdom ... of expansive mind, profound judgment, [and] cogent in argument,' you know you have someone worth paying attention to. And when that man's influence is still being felt today -- not just in his native country but around the world -- it makes the neglect into which he has fallen all the more shameful.
The man Jefferson described so admiringly was George Mason of Virginia (1725-1792). Almost without exception, his contemporaries in America's real 'greatest generation' considered Mason one of their leading lights. Helen Hill Miller's excellent biography -- first published in the 1930s, reissued in 1966, and reprinted again in 2001 -- makes it clear why their assessment is correct.
One reason he is so little remembered today is that he consistently shunned the limelight, and usually refused public office. He wasn't a spellbinding orator like Henry, a natural leader like Washington, a 'character' like Franklin, or a renaissance man like Jefferson. What he was, was a man with a keen insight and penetrating mind, who had thought deeply about government, society, and how the two interact. This leads Miller to give Mason the apt label, 'constitutionalist.'
Mason was the author of the Fairfax Resolves and the Virginia Declaration of Rights -- a document that not only anticipated and inspired the Declaration of Independence, but also the Bill of Rights and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen -- and he was central to the crafting of the post-Revolutionary constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 'the first American constitution to be prepared with a view to the establishment of a permanently independent state' [p. viii]. Later, his writings framed the Northwest Ordinance, possibly the most significant act taken under the Articles of Confederation. He was a key participant in the Mount Vernon Convention, which led directly to the Annapolis Convention of 1786 and, in turn, to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
One of Virginia's delegates to the Constitutional Convention, Mason was a key participant in debates. Ultimately, however, he could not sign the document he helped create. In the Virginia Ratification Convention (one of the most fascinating moments in American history, in my opinion), he led the fight against the Old Dominion's adoption of the Constitution.
Mason's key reasons for opposing the Constitution included its lack of a bill of rights and its continuance of the slave trade. Miller does an excellent job showing us the workings of Mason's mind on these questions.
Mason's passion for anonymity -- which led him to refuse the offer of one of Virginia's two seats in the U.S. Senate -- was one of the defining characteristics of his life. In his will, he advised his sons 'to prefer the happiness and independence [of] a private station to the troubles and vexations of Public Business.' Two centuries after his death, however, Mason deserves not anonymity but celebration. He is one of the truly great figures in American history ... not just for his passionate love of liberty, but also for the concrete ways he worked to make sure that liberty would be enjoyed by later generations. Helen Hill Miller's excellent biography is a centerpiece in the effort to win Mason the thanks he deserves.