George Mason

George Mason, (1725-1792) Principle Author of Constitution

What Founding Father was considered the most profound thinker in Virginia and probably made the largest contribution to the composition of the United States Constitution at the Convention in Philadelphia, but refused to sign it or support its ratification? He considered family more important than anything else in the world, raised his nine children who survived to adulthood, as a widower, and never remarried. He eschewed the limelight, refused preferment and resisted election to high office. A major university in Northern Virginia is named after him. He was a neighbor of George Washington–George Mason IV of Gunston Hall.

George lost his father in a boating accident at the age of nine in 1734, and was instructed by tutors for the next nine years, as well as spending time in his brilliant lawyer-uncle Uncle John Mercer’s presence, and in his huge library. As his father before him, Mason was appointed to the county court, helping adjudicate criminal, civil, and tax cases. He also served as a vestryman at the local Truro Anglican Church. To hold that position Mason had to affirm the 39 Articles of the Church of England, a Reformed Protestant confession. In 1750 he married Ann Eilbeck of Maryland, also from a wealthy family, with whom he produced twelve children. George helped design his house, Gunston Hall and the landscape gardens that surrounded it. Like neighbor and fellow-land speculator George Washington, Mason expanded his holdings in land and diversified his crops. His seeming idyllic life did not remain unperturbed.