June 5, 2020
I’m going to run a little long today but I want to finish up with our abbreviated history of one of the most significant founding fathers, George Mason.
In May of
1776, George Mason wrote, "All men are born
equally free and independent, and have certain inherent natural rights ....
among which are the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring
and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety." His statement became part and
parcel of the Virginia Constitution. It was a mere two months later that
Thomas Jefferson cribbed from Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights while
writing the Declaration of Independence. Many historians have suggested
that Jefferson's version was not an improvement on Mason's.
later, on June 12, 1776, Mason penned Article XVI of the Virginia State
Constitution. It is a remarkable statement, and later became part of the
First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. George Mason
wrote, "That Religion, or the Duty which
we owe our Creator, and the Manner of discharging it, can be directed only by
Reason and Convictions, not by Force or Violence; and therefore all Men are
equally entitled to the free exercise of Religion, according to the Dictates of
Conscience; and that it is the mutual Duty of all to practice Christian
Forbearance, Love, and Charity towards each other."
thereafter, he addressed the General Court of Virginia when the question of the
court's authority arose. He said, "The
laws of nature are the laws of God, whose authority can be superseded by no
power on earth."
involvement in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 brought
him to the floor as one of its most frequent and outspoken delegates. A
man of strong convictions and personal integrity, Mason was adamant in his
belief that the U.S. Constitution must protect the rights and liberties of its
citizens. When the original final draft was presented for ratification
and failed to limit the federal government's power to infringe on religious
liberty and personal rights, he refused to sign the Constitution despite the
pleas of his fellow Virginians, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Even
with Madison's assurance that the Bill of Rights Mason had crafted for the
state of Virginia would be presented at the next Constitutional Convention for
adaptation and inclusion, Mason remained steadfast in his refusal to sign.
the fact that he had inherited an enormous plantation and had more than 300
slaves, George disapproved strongly of the slave trade and wrote his
fellow-delegates that slavery was, "that
slow poison, which is daily contaminating the minds and morals of our
historians have sought to rewrite history and pretend that our founding fathers
fought for "separation of church and state," eschewing and decrying
all mention of Jesus Christ and God Almighty as the basis of our nation's
Constitution. Many of them have ignored folks like George Mason who
authored so many documents, the wording of which was incorporated -- one way or
another -- into the documents that made up America's beginnings. One PC
historian described Mason as "the biggest slave-owner to attend the
Constitutional Convention," ignoring Mason's own public statements on
slavery, and his actions which led (years after his death) to the abolishing of
As I have
already noted, Mason felt that the Constitution -- as originally presented for
ratification -- did not go far enough in protecting individual rights and local
interests. He also expressed his concern that the Presidency was too
powerful, exercising in many cases the same powers that the English kings
exercised. His calls for a Bill of Rights and for an end to the
importation of slaves were rejected. He sought for something in our
Constitution that would ban slavery outright, but too many of his
fellow-slaveholders vehemently opposed such a suggestion.
opposition to the Constitution as framed, and refusal to sign it, ended a
long-time friendship with George Washington and James Madison (and that, quite
possibly, is why we have had so little mention of George Mason's name as being
synonymous with Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, et al.), provoking
occasional attacks (though not from Washington and Madison) on his mental
powers and acuity. One supporter of the Constitution accused him of
having lost his wits in his old age. Never at a loss for words, Mason
quipped, "Sir, when yours fail, nobody
will ever discover it."
not alone in his opposition to the Constitution as framed. Patrick Henry
(of whom we have already written) joined him in a vociferous fight against
ratification, arguing that all three branches of the Federal Government had
been given far too much power. Together, they argued that the
"necessary and proper" and "general welfare" clauses would
give Congress unlimited power over the states.
author Russ Walton writes that "It was this phrase, of George Mason's
which later became incorporated in the Declaration of Independence as ’the laws of nature and nature's God."
to take you behind the scenes in George Mason's authorship of the Bill of
Rights, and the forcefulness with which he fought for religious liberties as a
part of our Constitutional heritage and rights.
1770's, the English Parliament -- in an effort to stem the growing rebellion in
the American Colonies -- passed law after law after law attacking American
liberty. George Mason had already been involved in the affairs of
government, functioning first as a judge, and then as a legislator. The
death of his wife, Ann, in 1773 contributed in no small part to the
intensifying of his activities in shaping and writing legislation since it
provided him a means to set aside his grief.
1774, he drew up the Halifax Resolves, outlining the colonists legal and
constitutional grounds for their objections to the Boston Port Act, his
fellow-Virginians began to really see him as someone whose legal mind and
rational thought processes could serve Virginia's needs for its own
involved in the Constitutional debates surrounding America's Declaration of
Independence, Mason's arguments put him in the right place at the right time
when Virginia began to consider its own status. He was an active
participant in the Virginia House of Burgesses, arguing for Virginia's
liberties as a self-governing entity. As I noted in our previous Coffee
Break, George Mason was also a very loud voice at the Constitutional
Conventions in calling for a Bill of Rights.
no great imagination to understand why George Mason disliked politics, but he
considered that his first obligation as a legislator -- and one whose opinion
was valued among his fellow founders -- was to protect individual
liberties. He believed that this was the principal role of
government. Though his primary labors were among the Federalists, Mason
was at heart an anti-Federalist who believed that Federal Government should be
severely restricted in its powers; and that individual states should have the
greater say in their affairs.
the Virginia Committee of Correspondence joining in a cooperative effort with
other colonies to oppose the British Parliament's actions through
"non-importation agreements" (in reality a boycott of British
goods). He was a principal author of the rules for the boycotts in
Virginia. When King George and his Parliament refused to back down,
George Mason joined fellow-Virginian George Washington in writing the Fairfax
Resolves: a document which condemned Parliament's actions as illegal and a
violation of American liberty, and gave Virginians a reason to resist British
interference in their lives.
On May 20, 1776, after it had become obvious that America would separate from Great Britain, Mason began six days of writing, working on a new constitution that would guarantee the rights of individuals. James Madison (who was also a delegate to the Virginia Convention) had named Mason the "master builder" (i.e., the primary author) of the Virginia Constitution and the Virginia Declaration of Rights. George Mason took his task seriously.
next six days, Mason wrote as follows:
”A Declaration of Rights, made by the Representatives of the
good People of Virginia, assembled in full Convention; and recommended to
Posterity as the Basis and Foundation of Government.
That all Men are born equally free and independent, and have
certain inherent natural Rights, of which they can not by any Compact, deprive
or divest their Posterity; among which are the Enjoyment of Life and Liberty,
with the Means of acquiring and possessing Property, and pursuing and obtaining
Happiness and Safety.
That Power is, by God and Nature, vested in, and consequently
derived from the People; that Magistrates are their Trustees and Servants, and
at all times amenable to them.
That Government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common
Benefit 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 mal-administration. And that whenever any Government
shall be found inadequate, or contrary to these Purposes, a Majority of the
Community had an indubitable, inalienable and indefeasible Right to reform,
alter or abolish it, in such Manner as shall be judged most conducive to the
That no Man, or Set of Men are entitled to exclusive or separate
Emoluments or Privileges from the Community, but in Consideration of public
Services; which not being descendible, or hereditary, the Idea of a Man born a
Magistrate, a Legislator, or a Judge is unnatural and absurd.
That the legislative and executive Powers of the State should be
separate and distinct from the judicative; and that the Members of the two
first may be restrained from Oppression, by feeling and participating the
Burthens they may lay upon the People; they should, at fixed Periods be reduced
to a private Station, and returned, by frequent, certain and regular Elections,
into that Body from which they were taken.
That no part of a Man's Property can be taken from him, or
applied to public uses, without the Consent of himself, or his legal
Representatives; nor are the People bound by any Laws, but such as they have in
like Manner assented to for their common Good.
That in all capital or criminal Prosecutions, a Man hath a right
to demand the Cause and Nature of his Accusation, to be confronted with the
Accusers or Witnesses, to call for Evidence in his favour, and to a speedy
Tryal by a Jury of his Vicinage; without whose unanimous Consent, he can not be
found guilty; nor can he be compelled to give Evidence against himself. And
that no Man, except in times of actual Invasion or Insurrection, can be
imprisoned upon Suspicion of Crimes against the State, unsupported by Legal
That no free Government, or the Blessings of Liberty can be
preserved to any People, but by a firm adherence to Justice, Moderation,
Temperance, Frugality, and Virtue and by frequent Recurrence to fundamental
That as Religion, or the Duty which we owe to our divine and
omnipotent Creator, and the Manner of discharging it, can be governed only by
Reason and Conviction, not by Force or Violence; and therefore that all Men
should enjoy the fullest Toleration in the Exercise of Religion, according to
the Dictates of Conscience, unpunished and unrestrained by the Magistrate,
unless, under Col- our of Religion, any Man disturb the Peace, the Happiness,
or Safety of Society, or of Individuals. And that it is the mutual Duty of all,
to practice Christian Forbearance, Love and Charity towards Each other.
That in all controversies respecting Property, and in Suits
between Man and Man, the ancient Tryal by Jury is preferable to any other, and
ought to be held sacred.”
original document containing the above proposed parts of the bill of rights was
entirely written in George Mason's hand. That document today is in the
Mason papers in the Library of Congress. As proposed by Mason, the entire
Bill of Rights was debated, amended and ratified, passing unanimously on June
"The genius of Mason's Declaration," as
Thomas Jefferson said of his own Declaration of Independence, "was
not in the originality of principle of sentiment... [Rather,] it was intended
to be an expression of the American mind"with
its brilliant "harmonizing sentiments of the day."
into Jefferson's remarks is the perfect squelch for the liberal, revisionist
argument of today that the founders never intended for America to become a
Christian nation. If the true sentiment of our founding fathers was, as
George Mason wrote, "the mutual Duty of all, to practice Christian
Forbearance, Love and Charity towards Each other,"then
indeed they expected that America would function under the headship of the Lord
Jesus Christ without denominational preference or effort to establish one the
doctrines of one [Christian] sect over another.
C. Rives characterized Mason's Declaration as "a
condensed, logical and luminous summary of the great principle of freedom
inherited by us from our British ancestors; the extracted essence of the Magna
Charta, the Petition of Rights, the Acts of the Long Parliament, and the
doctrines of the Revolution of 1688 as expounded by Locke, - distilled and
concentrated through the alembic of his own powerful and discriminating mind.
There is nothing more remarkable in the political annals of America than this
paper. It has stood the rude test of every vicissitude."
Mason's Article X of Virginia's Bill of Rights was modified and amended
slightly after much debate. The final draft read like this:
That Religion, or the duty which we owe to our CREATOR, and the
manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by
force or violence; and therefore, that all men should enjoy the fullest
toleration in the exercise of religion, according to the dictates of
conscience, unpunished and unrestrained by the magistrate, unless, under colour
of religion, any man disturb the peace, the happiness, or safety of society.
And that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love
and charity towards each other.
As I noted
previously, George Mason's labors became the backbone of our nation's
Constitutional Bill of Rights, articulated in Amendments I through X.
Mason's Article X became Amendment I to the U.S. Constitution, revised to read:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and
to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
know the history of that Amendment to the Constitution. And now you know
the fraud that has been -- and is being -- perpetrated on America today in the
guise of "separation of church and state." No such phrase
exists in our Constitution, and history shows us that our founding fathers
NEVER meant for such a concept to be interpreted from the statements of rights
and liberties drafted.
Mason went to be with the Lord less than a year after his Bill of Rights was
ratified as a part of the Constitution on December 15, 1791. He died at
his Gunston Hall Plantation home October 7, 1792.
Last Will and Testament, Mason wrote, "My
soul, I resign into the hands of my Almighty Creator, whose tender mercies are
over all His works, who hateth nothing that He hath made, and to the Justice
and Wisdom of whose dispensation I willing and cheerfully submit, humbly hoping
from His unbounded mercy and benevolence, through the merits of my blessed
Savior, a remission of my sins."
almost ridiculous and redundant to make the statement that few of our founders
have had more of lasting impact on the history and future of this nation than
George Mason. Each of our founding fathers played an integral role in
establishing America as a Christian nation. Yet Mason, like his friend
Patrick Henry, fought with every breath of his existence for our religious
liberties and rights as Christians, determined to the death to see that America
would not follow in the footsteps of other nations as an unGodly country,
corrupted by the greed for personal power and self-aggrandizement, and
religions that rejected Jesus Christ as Lord.
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Blessings on you!
Regner A. Capener
RIVER WORSHIP CENTER
Temple, Texas 76502
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