George Mason of Gunston Hall was a scholarly craftsman of government during America’s crucial formative years. His Virginia Declaration of Rights provided a sense of purpose and direction to the rebellious colonies, and his vigorous insistence on the protection of personal liberties in the Constitution is reflected in the document’s first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights. Fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson said of Mason that he “was of the first order of greatness.”
Few Americans who have served their country, however, have met with as little recognition. Essentially a private person who cared nothing for political prestige, Mason had been overshadowed by the other founders of the Republic—although most of them had turned to him for advice and direction. In a concise, cogently written biography, a distinguished historian restores the “reluctant statesman” to his proper place in the pantheon of America’s greatest citizens.
Robert A. Rutland is Research Professor of History at the University of Tulsa. His books include The Democrats; Birth of the Bill of Rights; The Ordeal of the Constitution; James Madison: Founding Father; and The Presidency of James Madison. He was the editor of The Papers of George Masonand the editor-in-chief of The Papers of James Madison.
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