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George Mason

Reluctant Statesman

Robert A. Rutland

Publication Year: 1980

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.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Cover

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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-15

Contents

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pp. 16-7

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Foreword

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pp. vii-x

THAT the name of George Mason should be acclaimed throughout the Republic whose birth pangs he shared, and indeed throughout the free...

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Introduction

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pp. xi-xviii

THE Potomac River south of Washington alters its slow, southeasterly course to form a giant horseshoe whose open end looks toward Baltimore...

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1. Heir to a Personal Dominion

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pp. 3-12

MENTION the Northern Neck to a present-day Virginian and there will arise in his mind the image of a long, flat finger of land still predominantly...

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2. A Proper Home

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pp. 13-29

MASON could have built a larger house, but he planned Gunston Hall exactly as he was learning to approach most human endeavors— with moderation...

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3. "The Necessity of the Times"

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pp. 30-43

HISTORICAL "ifs" are guesswork, therefore useful only when they set off a fact more clearly by focusing on its opposite. If there had been no Stamp...

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4. Crisis at Williamsburg

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pp. 44-63

As he rode south, Mason reflected on his two sorrowful years as a widower, and on the ominous prospect facing the Colony. The same month Ann died, March, 1773, the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg...

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5. Victory—and New Conflict

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pp. 64-80

IN December of 1770 Mason declared that Americans regarded independence as "the wildest chimera that ever disturbed a madman's brain...

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6. Constitution and Compromise

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pp. 81-91

BY the spring of 1787 the political apparatus of the young United States government was operating at a level of dismal inefficiency. Disabled from the start by the lack of taxing and regulatory authority...

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7. The Antifederalist Crusade

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pp. 92-102

THE distressing outcome of four sultry months in Philadelphia, amplified by the accident and bloodletting in Maryland, was the climax of an adventure...

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8. Retreat to Gunston Hall

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pp. 103-110

THE discord at the ratifying convention left its scars. Colonel Mason now spoke of Edmund Randolph as "young A-- d," comparing his former associate with the detested Benedict Arnold. Washington himself...

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The Virginia Declaration of Rights

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pp. 111-114

A DECLARATION of RIGHTS made by the representatives of the good people of Virginia, assembled in f u l l and free Convention; which rights do pertain to them, and their posterity, as the basis and foundation of government...

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A Note on the Sources

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pp. 115-116

Scattered letters from George Mason's pen now rest in collections from Boston to Richmond, but the main body is gathered in the Mason papers...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 117-118

This book benefited immeasurably from the editorial hand of James R. Short of Colonial Williamsburg, who gave the manuscript a final polish...

Index

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pp. 119-123


E-ISBN-13: 9780807153420
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807106969

Page Count: 144
Publication Year: 1980