George Mason was, like Washington and Thomas Jefferson, a Virginia Plantation and slave owner and thus, in that one big way, very much inimical to the spirit of our times.
At least as regards perhaps sixty percent of the population….
Like Jefferson he acknowledged the evil of slavery while never formulating, out of self interest, a plan for abolishing it – a great failing of character and a justified shadow on both their reputations.
Though neither man perhaps never saw the irony of detesting what they both saw as enslavement of each other to the English Aristocracy and King, while owning men themselves, their zeal for their own emancipation never faltered and resulted, for better and worse in the creation of these United States.
Mason was the principal author of Declaration of Rights in 1776, and the Constitution of the State of Virginia, a primacy even Jefferson could not forestall.
He was also active in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 though, in the end, he could not put his name to the finished document.
His objections to the Constitution are listed here, but chief among them are:
- Its lack of a Bill of Rights.
- Its lack of a Constitutional Council, to oversee Federal Elections and determine the constitutionality of legislation.
- An over-empowered Senate, which he feared, through it’s approval of executive nominations and treaties, and its being presided over by the Vice President, as capable of collusion with the President to the detriment of the House of Representatives.
- An imbalance created by the requirement of only a simple majority in Congress in the establishment of commercial and navigation law, which he saw as a detriment to the five primarily agrarian states to the benefit of the eight trade and manufacturing ones.
But foremost, for the purposes of this discussion, he objected to the President’s powers to pardon.
Mason wrote of the Presidential Pardon:
“The President of the United States has the unrestrained power of granting pardons for treason, which may be sometimes exercised to screen from punishment those whom he had secretly instigated to commit the crime, and thereby prevent a discovery of his own guilt.”
Whatever his other faults, Mason saw us falling into the predicament we now face with Trump, and objected to the document that allowed such a thing to happen in the strongest possible way – by not putting his imprimatur upon it.