by Locker Room contributor
You’ll have a chance early next month to learn about George Mason’s role in our nation’s founding. Barton College associate professor Jeff Broadwater will deliver a lecture in Raleigh connected with the N.C. History Project.
In preparation, I’m reading Broadwater’s recent George Mason: Forgotten Founder (UNC Press, 2006). For a guy who refused to sign the Constitution and actively worked against its ratification, he played a major role in putting the document together:
Mason left his fingerprints on issues great and small. He pushed successfully for payment of members of Congress by the national government, reducing their economic dependence on the states. He led the fight for citizenship requirements for senators and representatives. Although he was not fully satisfied with the final results, the constitutional provisions requiring revenue measures to begin in the House and allowing Congress to prohibit the slave trade after 1808 resulted in part from Mason’s efforts. Likewise, Mason wanted tighter restrictions on the eligibility of lawmakers to accept positions in the executive branch, and he helped defeat efforts … to leave the practice unregulated. He helped place the Great Compromise before the convention even if he could not persuade Virginia to support it. He provided critical support to the cause of a popularly elected House and formidable opposition to the proposal for a congressional veto over all state laws. His influence is also seen in the Constitution’s relatively liberal suffrage requirements, in the role given to the House in resolving Electoral College stalemates, and in the procedures for overriding a presidential veto. When the convention was floundering over how many states would be required to ratify the Constitution before it could take effect, Mason spoke up for nine, and the delegates quickly agreed. … And who knows when, or if, a bill of rights would have eventually been added to the Constitution if Mason had not raised the issue?
I’m not even going to get into Mason’s influence over Jefferson’s draft Declaration of Independence.