Birthday: December 11, 1725
Died At Age: 66
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: George Mason IV
Born in: Fairfax County, Virginia
Famous as: Patriot, U.S. Statesman
Spouse/Ex-: Ann Eilbeck, Sarah Brent
father: George Mason III
mother: Ann Stevens Thomson
siblings: Thomson Mason
children: Ann Eilbeck Mason Johnson, Elizabeth Mason Thornton, George Mason V, James Mason, John Mason, Mary Thomson Mason Cooke, Richard Mason, Sarah Eilbeck Mason McCarty, Thomas Mason, Thomson Mason, William Mason
Died on: October 7, 1792
place of death: Gunston Hall
U.S. State: Virginia
Who was George Mason?
George Mason was an American statesman. He was the son of George Mason III, a wealthy plantation owner, and Ann Thomson Mason. His father drowned in the Potomac River when he was ten. He grew up with his uncle John Mercer. He inherited a major portion of his father’s land. He was a neighbour of George Washington. He started his political career as justice of the Fairfax County court. He lost the County election for House of Burgesses. He lobbied for settlement to the west of the Appalachians, and acted as a supply agent for troops commanded by George Washington. He was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses, and was also a trustee of the city of Alexandria, Virginia. He is importantly remembered for the drafting of the Fairfax Resolves that challenged Parliament’s authority over the colonies, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and the Virginia Constitution. He held a large number of slaves, but while agreeing that it was morally wrong, he did not want to abolish slavery completely. He was against the import of slaves, and the spreading of slavery to other states. He declined to sign the proposed Constitution as it did not include these two clauses. He was invited to become one of Virginia’s senators, but refused choosing to retire to his mansion.
Childhood & Early Life
George Mason was born on December 11, 1725 to George and Ann Thomson Mason. When he was 10, his father drowned in the Potomac, and his mother was left to raise George and his two siblings.
He went to live with his uncle John Mercer. His uncle’s 1,500 volume library cultivated a habit of reading in him. He studied under tutors, and attended a private academy in Maryland.
At 21, he inherited approximately 20,000 acres spread across several counties in Virginia and Maryland. He was a neighbour of George Washington. He took interest in public affairs from an early age.
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Career & Later Life
George Mason was a justice of the Fairfax County court. He contested, but lost the County election for House of Burgesses in 1748. The following year, he became a partner in the Ohio Company.
The Ohio Company speculated in land, and lobbied for settlement to the west of the Appalachians. The British revoked the company’s rights, He wrote “Extracts from the Virginia Charters, with Some Remarks upon Them”.
The impact of “Extracts from the Virginia Charters” is evident in the 1783 peace treaty with Great Britain, which fixed the Anglo-American boundary at the Great Lakes instead of the Ohio River.
Mason acted as a supply agent for troops who were commanded by George Washington when war broke out on the frontier. It earned him the rank of colonel.
In 1759, he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses, and represented Fairfax County. He was also a trustee of the city of Alexandria, Virginia.
He served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1776 to 1780. Six years later he was elected again, but could not serve due to ill health.
He attended the Mount Vernon Conference in 1785 called by the states of Virginia and Maryland for the use of water from the Potomac River. It indirectly led to federal Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
In 1787, he attended the Federal Convention as part of a Virginia delegation that included George Washington and James Madison in Philadelphia for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation.
He was one of the largest slaveholders. Though he did concede that slavery was morally wrong, he did not want to abolish slavery at one go, and was against it spreading to other states.
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He refused to sign the proposed Constitution owing to the absence of a “declaration of rights”. It cost him his friendship with Washington and a name as the founding fathers of the US constitution.
Mason participated in the Richmond convention in 1788. The convention was called for a ratification of the US Constitution. The Constitution was approved by a vote of 89 to 79.
He advocated for religious freedom, and won passage of the legislation repealing Virginia's laws that punished heresy and required church attendance in 1776. He persuaded the Virginia assembly to abolish the parish tax.
He was invited to become one of Virginia’s senators in the First US Senate, but declined and instead chose to retire to his home, where he remained until his death.
In 1774, Mason drafted the Fairfax Resolves that challenged Parliament’s authority over the colonies. He called for a boycott of British goods, and proposed a continental congress to coordinate American resistance to British policy.
He was a delegate at the Fifth Virginia Convention in Williamsburg in 1776. He drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and the Virginia Constitution, both of which were adopted after alterations.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1750, he married Anne Eilbeck, the daughter of William Eilbeck, a wealthy planter in Charles County, Maryland. They had five sons and four daughters in 23 years of marriage.
Mason was devastated by the death of his wife, Ann Eilbeck Mason, in 1773 at the age of 39 from complications following the birth of twins, who died in infancy.
He remained a widower until 1780 when he married Sarah Brent, the fifty-year-old daughter of George Brent, a family friend. He did not have any children by her.
This wealthy plantation owner and statesman built his elegant mansion, Gunston Hall, on Dogue's Neck, Virginia, which was completed in 1759, with the interiors designed by noted architect William Buckland.