Al Benson, Jr.
George Mason, as well as Patrick Henry, had a little more jaundiced view of the proposed Constitution than did Madison, Hamilton, and company. Mason wrote to Thomas Jefferson in May of 1788 saying:
"Upon the most mature Consideration I was capable of, and from Motives of sincere Patriotism, I was under the Necessity of refusing my signature, as one of the Virginia Delegates; and drew up some general Objections; which I intended to offer, by Way of Protest; but was discouraged from doing so...Delaware--Pennsylvania--Jersey--Connecticut--Georgia, and Maryland have ratified the new Government (for surely it is not a Confederation) without Amendments..."
Mason wanted amendments to offset the potential for tyranny he saw in the document before it was ratified. Even Jefferson disagreed with this and wanted to ratify it first and then add amendments as needed. Looking over Mason's comments, I had to wonder who it was that "discouraged" him from presenting his list of objections, and his comment about the new government--"for surely it is not a Confederation" is really revelatory. Most of us have been told that it was a confederation of sorts, and that's why so many have bought into it over the years. Now George Mason, who was on the scene and can therefore be considered a primary source, has told us it wasn't what we've been told it was. No wonder Gary North titled his book about the Constitutional Convention Conspiracy In Philadelphia. The American public has been sold a gigantic snow job as to what the Constitution was and is for 200 years now and thanks to our government school mis-educations we've still not figured it out--nor are we likely to do so in my lifetime.
Jon Bruning and James Best wrote an informative article about George Mason and his refusal to partake of the Constitutional Convention madness. They observed: "In the end, George Mason did not believe the Constitution established a wise and just government. He was one of only three delegates present in the final days of the convention who didn't sign the document. The other two refused to sign due to their personalities. Elbridge Gerry was mercurial and cantankerous by nature, and Edmond Randolph was afraid to be associated with something that might fail. George Mason, on the other hand, refused to sign based on his principles...George Mason's primary objection to the Constitution was the absence of a bill of rights. He not only refused to sign the document at the convention, he hotly fought against it during Virginia ratification, despite promises by James Madison and others to add a bill of rights in the first congress. Although he believed a bill of rights was mandatory, he had additional objections to the Constitution. Among his other concerns, he believed the convention was giving the executive branch (president) too much power." Gee, what would Mr. Obama (or whatever his real name is) and his "czars" have to say about the president having too much power? They don't think he has nearly enough. They think he should have it all. All you have to do is look at today's insane national situation and you can well understand why George Mason was worried!
One thing George Mason argued for was a "three-person executive." He felt a one-person presidency was bordering on the concept of a British monarchy which the colonists had just fought a war of independence against.
As an aside, the other two non-signers at the convention were different cases. Gerry eventually bounced all over the political spectrum, from ardent Federalist to Jeffersonian Republican. It didn't take too much to turn Edmond Randolph. All George Washington had to do was promise him the position of Attorney General and almost overnight he suddenly became an ardent supporter of the Constitution he had formerly refused to sign. I guess at that point, it looked more like a winner to him than it did earlier. Some folks just always want to be identified with the winner--right or wrong.
George Mason eventually did write down some of his objections to the Constitution, which are listed on http://gothinkblog.com and they are worthy of our consideration.
Mr. Mason wrote:
"There is no Declaration of Rights, and the laws of the general Government being paramount to the Laws & Constitutions of the several States, the Declarations of Rights in the separate States are no security. Nor are the People secured even in the Enjoyment of the Benefits of the common law."
"In the House of Representatives, there is not the Substance, but the Shadow only of Representation; which can never produce proper information in the Legislature, or inspire Confidence in the People; the Laws, therefore, will be generally made by men little concerned in, and unacquainted with their Effects and Consequences."
You have to admit, that's pretty much where we are today. How many laws do we have on the books in our day that have turned honest citizens into criminals by the mere stroke of the legislative pen? More than you probably want to know about.
Mr. Mason also took a shot at the judiciary--not that they didn't, and don't, have it coming. He said:
"The Judiciary of the United States is so constructed & extended, as to destroy the Judiciaries of the several States; thereby rendering Law as tedious, intricate, and expensive, & Justice as unattainable, by a great part of the Community, as in England, and enabling the Rich to oppress and ruin the Poor."
Sound familiar? In this country, under the present system, you get as much justice as you can afford.
There was much more that Mason wrote down, but it's difficult to cover all of it. However, what I have tried to cover shows you that Mason had a pretty fair idea of where the country was headed under the present Constitution. He did make a comment at the end of his dissertation that was almost prescient. He noted:
"This Government will set out a moderate Aristocracy; it is at present impossible to foresee whether it will, in the operation, produce a Monarchy, or a corrupt, tyrannical Aristocracy; it will most probably vibrate some years between the two, and then terminate in the one or the other."
Actually, you might say we have been on the verge of a dictatorship ever since "King Lincoln" a dictatorship ruled by a behind-the-scenes oligarchy.
There were originally seventy four people selected to attend the convention that was to reform the Articles of Confederation. Only fifty five of them managed to get there, and some of those left early--some because of illness or other personal reasons--but some left in protest over what they saw going on. From Maryland, Luther Martin and John Mercer left in protest. From New York, Robert Yates and John Lansing left in protest. From Virginia Patrick Henry "smelled a rat" and flat out refused to go.
As we go back and reflect on George Mason's comments it becomes more and more clear that the national (not confederated) government was going to be the one that ended up riding roughshod over the states. In everything the national government was "supreme" and the states subservient, the 9th and 10th Amendments notwithstanding. They took away our States Rights in the summer of 1787. Now we need to get them back.
To be continued.
Also see the other parts of this series by Al Benson, Jr.:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 |
Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14
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What is States' Rights by Mike Crane
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Al Benson, Jr. is a veteran columnist and activist. He is publisher of the Copperhead Chronicle newsletter which features commentary and analyses of history, culture, education, and faith. Mr. Benson, is author of the Homeschool History Series," a collection of booklets that discuss ignored facts about the War to Prevent Southern Independence. Additionally, he and Walter D. Kennedy are co-authors of Red Republicans and Lincoln's Marxists: Marxism in the Civil War. Mr. Benson's columns can be read at: AlBensonJr.Com, Mr. Benson's Blog, and FireEater.Org