One would think that there isn’t much new to write about on the history of the American Revolution and the men who thought it, but that’s not really the case.
There have been plenty of biographies over the years of Founders such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, but there are many men who played important roles in the early years of the Republic whose lives and contributions to American freedom have not received the coverage they deserve. Happily, Jeff Broadwater’s George Mason, Forgotten Founder does an excellent job of filling in that gap when it comes to one of Virginia’s greatest citizens.
Throughout the book, Broadwater shows us how this planter who, despite not having any formal legal training, contributed mightily to the debates in the final years before that fateful July day in Philadelphia over the scope of British authority and the nature of American’s rights. Specifically, Mason was closely involved in crafting the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which later served as the inspiration for both the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. He also shows us the extent of Mason’s contributions to the 1787 Constitutional Convention — second only to James Madison if you measure influence by the number of times he spoke — and how his later opposition to the ratification of the Constitution helped to convince Madison and others that a Bill of Rights was, in fact, necessary. Through it all, we get a portrait of a man who contributed greatly to the formation of the United States and the development of individual rights throughout the world.
Outside of the University that is named for him, it sometimes seems as though George Mason’s contributions to this formation of the United States, and the protection of American liberty, have been forgotten over the years. Broadwater does a great job of reminding us why he deserves a place in the great American pantheon, and his study is something that anyone who is interested in how our nation was created would enjoy.