Little Guide to Big Ideas: George Mason

SFL Staff

It’s important to learn from intellectual giants like Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard, but there are many unsung heroes that are also worth exploring. In this educational series, we hope to introduce students to such individuals. While not all of the figures profiled here explicitly identified as libertarian, they made great contributions to the cause of liberty that are worth acknowledging.

“When the same man, or set of men, holds the sword and the purse, there is an end of liberty.”GeorgeMason

Who: George Mason (1725-1792) was an American statesman and a delegate from Virginia to the U.S. Constitutional Convention.

Why he matters: Throughout his life, George Mason was politically active and is considered one of the founding fathers of the United States. He mainly advocated for individual rights; in fact, he didn’t sign the U.S. Constitution because it lacked explicit individual rights. Through a lot of effort and persuasion, he convinced the Federalists to add the ten amendments to the Constitution. These amendments are known as the Bill of Rights and they were based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason himself. Although he owned slaves whom he did not manumit, he wanted to abolish slavery because he thought it was immoral. He shared his thoughts on slavery with others and because of this, he is considered an abolitionist by historians.

All his life he fought for liberty, natural rights and independence. Even in his last personal message to his sons he stated: “I recommend it to my sons, from my experience in life, to prefer the happiness and independence of a private station, to the troubles and vexation of public business” but added that if they should engage in public affairs, nothing should “deter them from asserting the liberty of their country, and endeavoring to transmit to their posterity those sacred rights to which themselves were born.”

If you only read one thing: Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776)

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