Founder George Mason on the Arrogance of Government

Lee Cary

On June 6, 1766, George Mason (1725-1792) expressed a budding colonial attitude that would, a decade later, give rise to the American Revolution.

Mason wrote the first draft of Virginia Declaration of Rights, adopted June 12, 1776. Section 1 read:

"That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety."

Later, Thomas Jefferson amended Mason's language for inclusion into the Declaration of Independence.

Ten years earlier, Mason wrote a letter "To the Committee of Merchants in London" wherein he vented his spleen in response to the British Parliament arrogance's in first enacting, and then revoking, the Stamp Act of 1765.

The Epithets of Parent & Child have been so long applied to Great Britain & her Colonys [sic} that Individuals have adopted them, and we rarely see anything, from your Side of the Water, free from the authoritative Style of a Master to a School-Boy.

[Writing from his characterization of the British perspective] 'We have, with infinite Difficulty & Fatigue got you excused this one Time; pray be a good boy for the future; do what your Papa and Mamma bid you, & hasten to return them your most grateful Acknowledgements for condescending to let you keep what is your own; and then all your Acquaintance will love you, & praise you, & give you pretty things, and if you shou'd, at any Time hereafter, happen to transgress, your Friends will all beg for you, and be Security for your good Behavior; but if you are a naughty Boy, & turn obstinate, & don't mind what your Papa & Mamma say to you, but presume to think their Commands (let them be what they will) unjust or unreasonable, or even seem to ascribe their present Indulgence to any other Motive than Excess of Moderation & Tenderness, and pretend to judge for yourselves, when you are not arrived at the Years of Discretion, or capable of distinguishing between Good & Evil; then every-body will hate you, & say you are a graceless & undutiful Child...'[Mason continued in that vein throughout a very long paragraph.]

Then, later, he wrote:

If we [Colonists] are ever so unfortunate to be made Slaves; which God avert! What Matter is it to us whether our chains are forged in London, or at Constantinople? Whether the Oppression comes from a British Parliament, or a Turkish Divan? (The Papers of George Mason 1725-1792, Vol. 1, pp. 65-73, The North Carolina Press)

If George Mason were here to witness an ever intrusive and arrogant U.S. Federal Government, might he have written this? What matter is it to us whether our chains are forged in Beijing, or in Washington D.C.? Whether the oppression comes from the Chinese Communist Party or the U.S. Federal Government? 

On June 6, 1766, George Mason (1725-1792) expressed a budding colonial attitude that would, a decade later, give rise to the American Revolution.

Mason wrote the first draft of Virginia Declaration of Rights, adopted June 12, 1776. Section 1 read:

"That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety."

Later, Thomas Jefferson amended Mason's language for inclusion into the Declaration of Independence.

Ten years earlier, Mason wrote a letter "To the Committee of Merchants in London" wherein he vented his spleen in response to the British Parliament arrogance's in first enacting, and then revoking, the Stamp Act of 1765.

The Epithets of Parent & Child have been so long applied to Great Britain & her Colonys [sic} that Individuals have adopted them, and we rarely see anything, from your Side of the Water, free from the authoritative Style of a Master to a School-Boy.

[Writing from his characterization of the British perspective] 'We have, with infinite Difficulty & Fatigue got you excused this one Time; pray be a good boy for the future; do what your Papa and Mamma bid you, & hasten to return them your most grateful Acknowledgements for condescending to let you keep what is your own; and then all your Acquaintance will love you, & praise you, & give you pretty things, and if you shou'd, at any Time hereafter, happen to transgress, your Friends will all beg for you, and be Security for your good Behavior; but if you are a naughty Boy, & turn obstinate, & don't mind what your Papa & Mamma say to you, but presume to think their Commands (let them be what they will) unjust or unreasonable, or even seem to ascribe their present Indulgence to any other Motive than Excess of Moderation & Tenderness, and pretend to judge for yourselves, when you are not arrived at the Years of Discretion, or capable of distinguishing between Good & Evil; then every-body will hate you, & say you are a graceless & undutiful Child...'[Mason continued in that vein throughout a very long paragraph.]

Then, later, he wrote:

If we [Colonists] are ever so unfortunate to be made Slaves; which God avert! What Matter is it to us whether our chains are forged in London, or at Constantinople? Whether the Oppression comes from a British Parliament, or a Turkish Divan? (The Papers of George Mason 1725-1792, Vol. 1, pp. 65-73, The North Carolina Press)

If George Mason were here to witness an ever intrusive and arrogant U.S. Federal Government, might he have written this? What matter is it to us whether our chains are forged in Beijing, or in Washington D.C.? Whether the oppression comes from the Chinese Communist Party or the U.S. Federal Government?