Happy birthday to George Mason Number 4, who was born on this day in 1725 and who grew up, as we all know, to draft Virginia’s first state constitution and an accompanying Declaration of Rights. When it came to the U.S. Constitution, however, he proclaimed that he “would sooner chop off his right hand” than support it as initially proposed. That’s because it didn’t include a provision ending the foreign slave trade. “Although Mason owned dozens of slaves himself, he had repeatedly condemned the institution,” our entry notes. He never did sign the final draft.
IMAGES: Portrait of George Mason by Dominic W. Boudet, after John Hesselius, 1811 (Gunston Hall); page 1 of a transcript of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, made by an unknown hand and dated 1776 (Library of Virginia); interior of Gunston Hall, in Fairfax County, built by George Mason in the 1750s (Gunston Hall)