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lords and a king, not a declaration of the rights of charges bis sons, on a father's blessing, to be true man, and the fundamental principles on which allo freedom and their country. He was indeed and government should rest. "It was not so much in truth, one of the fathers of this nation. There. their intention to secure the liberties of the peo.fore, let every son of free America, as he enters ple at large, as to establish the privileges of a few upon the busy scenes of life, hear and solemnly be. individuals. A great tyrant on the one side, and seech Heaven to fortify him in the faithfiil observ. a set of petty tyrants on the other, seem to have nice of this sacred charge of one of the most wos. divided the kingdom; and the great body of the thy fathers of this country. people, disregarded and oppressed on all hands, were beholden for any privileges bestowed upon
DECLARATION OF RIGHTS. them, to the jealousy of their masters; who, by li. Copy of the first draught by George Mason.) miting the authority of each other over their de. A declaration of rights made by the representa. pendents, produced a reciprocal dimunition of their tives of the good people of Virginia, #ssembled power.”
in full and free convention; which rights do per. The articles drawn up by the Spanish junta, in
txin to them and their posterity, as the basis and
foundation of government. the year 1522, under the guidance of the celebrat. ed Padilla, are much more distinct and popular in 1. That all inen are created equally free and in. their provisions than those of the English magna dependent, and bave certain inherent natural rights, charta. But, although it is admitted, that the prin of which, they cannot, by any compac, deprive, or ciples of liberty were ably defended, and better divest tbeir posterity: (a) among which are the enjoy. understood, at that time in Spain, than they were ment of life and liberty, with the means of acquir. for more than a century after, in England, the ing and possessing property, a d pursuing and ob. power of Charles 5th proved to be irresistable, the taining happpiness and safety. peuple failed in their attempt to bridle his prero. 2. That all power is by God and nature vested in gative, and their liberties were finally crushed. and conseqiiently derived from the people; that
The famous English bill of rights, sanctioned by magistraies are their trustees and servants, and at William and Mary on their ascending the throne, all times amenable to tbem. ard which, under the name of the petition of rights, 3. That government is, or ought to be, insiituted appears to bave been projected many years before for the common benefii, protection and security of by that profound lawyer, sir Edward Coke, like the people, nation, or community. Of all the va. magna charta, and the articles of the Spanish jun- rious modes and forms of government, that is best, ta, is a contract with nobility and royalty, a coin which is capable of producing the greatest degree promise with despotism, in which the voice of the of happiness ard safety, and 18 most effectually se. people is heard in a tone of disturbed supplication cured against the danger of mal-administration; and and prayer. But in this declaration of Mason's, tbai whenever any government shall be found in. man seems to stand erect in all the majesty of his adequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority Dature-to assert the inalienable rights and equali of the community bath an indubitable, unalienable, ty with which he has been endowed by his Creator, and indefeasible right, to reform, alter, or abolish and to declare the fundamental principles by which lit, in such manner as shall be judged most conduall rulers should be controuled, and on which all scive to the public weal. governments should rest. The contrast is striking,
4. That no man, or set of men, are entitled to es. the difference prodigious. And when I read, at the clusive or separate emoluments or privileges from foot of this curious original, the assertion of its au the community, but in consideration of publiceerthor, that “This Declaration of Rights was the first in vices; which not being descendible, neither ought America;” I see a manly mind indulging its feel ihe offices of magistrate, legislaior, or judge, to ings under a consciousness of having done an ac
be hereditary. so permanently and extensively useful. And what feeling can be so exquisitely delightful? what pride
5. That the legislative and executive powers of more truly virtuous and noble?
the state should be separate and distinct from the
Ljudicial; and that the members of the two first may The principles of liberty filled and warmed the be restrained from oppression, by feeling and parbosom of this venerable patriot in that last hour, icipating the burthens of the people, they should, which is an awful, and an honest one to us all; iu fixed periods, be reduced to a private station, his last will, be spe:ks in his dying hoar, andand return unto that body from which they were
originally taken, and the vacancies be supplied by frugality and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to frequent, certain and regular elections. (A) - fundamental principles.
6. That elections of members, to serve as re. 16. That religion, or the duty which we owe te presentatives of the people in the legislature, ought our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can to be free, and that all men having sufficient evi. be directed only by reason and conviction, not by dence of permanent common interest with, and at- force or violence, and, therefore that all men should tachment to the community, have the right of suff. enjoy the fullest toleration in the exercise of religion, rage; and cannot be taxed, or deprived of their according to the dictates of conscience, unpunished property for public uses, without their own con. and unrestrained by the magistrate; unless under color sent, or that of their representatives so elected, nor of religion, any man disturb the peace, the happiness, bound by any law to which they have not, in like or the safety of society: And that it is the mutual manner, assented for the common good.
duty of all to practise Christian forbearance, love,
and charity towards each other. 7. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority, without consent of the representatives of the people, is inju.
“This declaration of rights was the first in Ame.
rica; it received few alterations or additions in rious to their rights, and ought not to be exer
the Virginia convention, (some of them not for the cised.
better,) and was afterwards closely imitated by the 8. That in all capital or criminal prosecutions, a other United States." min hath a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the ac.
The foregoing was copied verbatim from the cusers and witnesses, to call for evidence in his fa. original, in the hand writing of the author, col. vor, and to a speedy; trial by an impartial jury of George Mason, of Virginia, left in the possession his vioinage, without whose unanimous consent he of his son, gen. John Mason, of Georgetown. In cannot be found guilty, nor can he be compelled order to facilitate the comparison of it with that to give evidence against himself; and that no man which was adopted by the convention, and is still be deprived of his liberty, except by the law of in force, it has been thought proper to number the the land, or the judgment of his peers.
articles as in the adopted declaration, omitting the 9. That excessive bail ought not to be required, 10th and 14th which were inserted entire by the nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual convention; and to place those words in italics punishments inflicted.
which were either expunged or altered, and to put 10. (This article was inserted by the conven.
a caret where others were added. tion.)
“Virginia, Gunston-Hall, Oct. 2d, 1778. 11 That in controversies respecting property, My dear sir.-It gave me great pleasure, upon and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial receipt of your favor of the 23d of April, (by Mr. by jury is preferable to any other, and ought to be Digges) to hear that you are alive and well, in a held sacred.
country, where you can spend your time agreeably; 112. That the freedom of the press is one of the not having heard a word from you, or of you, for great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be re- two years before. I am much obliged, by the friends strained but by despotic governments.
ly concern you take in my domestic affairs, and 13. That a well regulated militia, composed of your kind enquiry after my family: great alterathe body of the people trained to arms, is the
tions have bappened in it. About four years ago
proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state; that
I had the misfortune to lose my wife; to you, who standing armies in time of peace, should be avoid. knew her, and the happy manner in which we lived, ed, as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases,
I will not attempt to describe my feelings: I was the military should be under strict subordination scarce able to bear the first shock, a depression of to, and governed by the civil power.
spirits, a settled melancholy followed, from which 14. (This article also was inserted by the con- to spend the remainder of my days in privacy and
I never expect, or desire to recover. I determined vention.)
retirement with my children, from whose society 15. That no free government, or the blessing of alone, I could expect comfort. Some of them, are liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a now grown up to men and women; and I have the firin, adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, satisfaction to see them free from vices, good.na.
tured, obliging and dutiful: they all still live with Pennsylvania; the first having three branches of me, and remain single, except my second daughter, legislature, and the last only one; all the other who is lately married to my neighborson. states have two: this difference has given general My eldest daughter (who is blessed with her mo- disgust, and it is probable an alteration will soon ther's amiable disposition) is mistress of my fami. take place, to assimilate these to the constitutions ly, and manages my little domestic matters, with of the other states. We bave laid our new go. a degree of prudence far above her years. My vernment upon a broad foundation, and have eneldest son engaged early in the American cause, deavored to provide the most effectual securities and was chosen ensign of the first independent com- for the essential rights of human nature, both in pany formed in Virginia, or indeed on the conti. civil and religious liberty; the people become every nen!; it was coma aanded by the present general day more and more attached to it; and I trust that Washington as captain, and consisted entirely of neither the power of Great Britain, nor the power gentlemen. In the year 1775, he was appointed a of hell will be able to prevail against it. captain of foot, in one of the first minute-regiments
There never was an idler or a falser notion, than raised here; but was soon obliged to quit the ser. that which the British ministry have imposed upon vice, by a violent rheumatic disorder; which has the nation, that this great revolution has been the followed him ever since, and, I believe will force work of a faction, of a junto of ambitious men him to try the climate of France or Italy. My against the sense of the people of America. On otber sons have not yet finished their education: as the contrary, nothing bas been done without the soon as they do, if the war continues, they seem approbation of the people, who have indeed outstrongly inclined to take an active part.
run their leaders; so that no capital measure bath In the summer of '75, I was, much against my in- been' adopted, until they called loudly for it: to clination, drag'd out of my retirement, by the peo any one who knows mankind, there needs no ple of my county and sent a delegate to the gene-greater proof than the cordial manner in whicb ral convention at Richmond; where I was appoint- they have co-operated, and the patience and per. ed a member of the first committee of safety; and severance with which they have struggled under have since, at different times, been chosen a mem- their sufferings; which have been greater than you, ber of the privy.council, and of the American con- at a distance can conceive, or I describe. Equally gress; but have constantly declined acting in any false is the assertion that independence was origiother public character than that of an independent nally designed here: things have gone such lengths, representative of the people, in the house of dele- that it is a matter of moon-shine to us, whether ingates; where I still remain, from a consciousness dependence was at first intended, or not, and there. of being able to do my country more service there, fore we may now be believed. The truth is, we than in any other department, and have ever since have been forced into it, as the only means of selfdevoted most of my time to public business; to preservation, to guard our country and posterity the no small neglect and injury of my private from the greatest of all evils, such another infernal fortune: but if I can only live to see the American government (if it deserves the name of govern. union firmly fixed, and free goveraments well es- ment) as the provinces groaned under, in the latter tablisbed in our western world, and can leave to ages of the Roman commonwealth. To talk of my children but a crust of bread and liberty, 1 replacing us in the situation of 1783, as we first shall die satisfied; and say, with the psalmist, “Lord asked, is to the last degree absurd, and impossible: now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.”- they obstinately refused it, while it was in their To show you that I have not been an idle spectator power, and now, that it is out of their power, they of this great contest, and to amuse you with the offer it. Can they raise our cities out of their ash. sentiments of an old friend upon an important sub. es? Can they replace, in ease and afluence; the ject, I enclose you a copy of the first draught of the thousands of families whom they have ruined? Can declaration of rights, just as it was drawn and pre. they restore the husband to the widow, the child sented by me, to the Virginia convention, where it to the parent, or the father to the orphan? In a received few alterations; some of them I think not word, can they reanimate the dead?--Our country for the better: this was the first thing of the kind upon has been made a scene of desolation and blood the continent, and has been closely imitated by all enormities and cruelties have been committed here, the states. There is a remarkable sameness in all which not only disgrace the British name, but dis. the forms of government throughout the American bonor the human kind, we can never again trust a ygion, except in the states of South Carolina and people who have thus used us; human nature re.
volis ai the idea!-The die is cast-the Rubicon jspects brighten, and appearances are strongly in passed and a reconciliation with Great Britain, our favor. The British ministry must and will ac. upon the terms of returning to her government, is knowledge us independent states." impossible.
An extract from the copy of a letter from col. George No man was more warmly attached to the Hano.
Mason to his son Mr. George Mason, then in ver family and the whig interest of England, than France, dated 1781, the original of which was put I was, and few men had stronger prejudices in fa- into the hands of the Count de Vergennes by Dr. vor of that form of governinent under which I was Franklin born and bred, or a greater aversion to changing it;
“Our affairs have been, for some time, growing it was ever my opinion that no good man would from bad to worse. The enemy's fleet commands wish to try so dangerous an experiment upon any our rivers, and puts it in their power to remove speculative notions whatsoever, without an abso.
their troops, from place to place, when and where lute necessity.
they please without opposition; so that we no sooner The ancient poets, in their elegant manner of ex- collect a force sufficient to counteract them in one pression, have made a kind of being of necessity, part of the country, but they shift to another, and tell us that the Gods themselves are obliged ravaging, plundering, and destroying every thing to yield to her.
before them. Our militia turn out with great spirit, When I was first a member of the convention, 1 and have, in several late actions, behaved bravely; exerted myself to prevent a confiscation of the but they are badly armed and appointed. General and altho' I was for putting the country imme. Green with about 1200 regular troops and some diately into a state of defence, and preparing for militia, is in South Carolina; where he has taken the worst; yet as long as we had any well founded all the enemy's posts, except Charleston. The bopes of reconciliation, I opposed to the utmost of enemy's capital object, at this time, seems to be my power, all violent measures, and such as might Virginia. General Philips died lately in Petersshut the door to it: but when reconciliation became burg; upon which the command of the British a lost hope, when unconditional submission, or ef. troops then devolved upon Arnold. But lord Corn. fectual resistance were the only alternatives left wallis, quitting North Carolina, has since joined us, when the last dutiful and humble petition from Arnold, with about 1200 infantry and 300 cavalry, congress received no other answer than declaring us and taken the chief command of their army rebels, and out of the king's protection, I, from that Virginia, now consisting of about 5000 men. They moment, looked forward to a revolution and inde. have crossed James river, and by the latest acpendence, as the only means of salvation; and will counts were at Westover; their light horse baving risque the last penny of my fortune, and the last advanced as far as Hanover court house. They drop of my blood upon the issue: for to imagine that have burnt Page’s warehouses, where the greatest we could resist the efforts of Great Britain, still part of the York River tobacco was collected; they
had before burned most of the tobacco upon James professing ourselves ber subjects, or support a defensive war against a powerful nation, without the
river, and have plundered great part of the adjacent
country: reins of government in the bands of America (wbat.
The Marquis de la Fayette is about ever our pretended friends in Great Britain may
twenty miles below Fredericksburg with about Bay of it) is too childish and futile an idea to enter
1200 regulars and 3000 militia, waiting the arrival into the head of any man of sense. I am not sin
of general Wayne, with about 1500 regular troops gular in my opinions; these are the sentiments
of the Pennsylvania line. of more than nine tenths of the best men in Ame. “We have had various accounts of the sailing of rica.
a French feet, with a body of land forces, for Ame. God has been pleased to bless our endeavors, in rica; should they really arrive it would quickly & just cause, with remarkable success. To us change the face of our affairs, and infuse fresh upon the spot, who have seen step by step the pro- spirits and confidence; but it has been so long gress of this great contest, who know the defence. espected in vain, that little credit is now given to less state of America in the beginning, and the reports concerning it. numberless difficulties we have had to struggle “You know, from your own acquaintance in this with, taking a retrospective view of what is passed, part of Virginia, that the bulk of the people here we seem to have been treading upon enchanted are staunch wbigs; strongly attached to the Ameriground. The case is now altered. American pros.' can cause, and well affected to the French alliance;
yet they grow uneasy and restless, and begin to, and two crops uninspected; so that if a peace bapthink, that our allies are spinning out the war, in pens, it will find me plentyful handed in the artiorder to weaken America, as well as Great Britain, cle of tobacco, which will then be very valuable. and thereby leave us at the end of it, as dependent The money it has cost you to relieve the distresses as possible upon themselves.
of your unfortunate countrymen was worthily ex. “However unjust this opinion may be, it is natural pended, and you will receive retribution, with large enough for planters and farmers, burthened with interest, in Heaven-but in order to shorten the heavy taxes, and frequently dragged from their time of credit and also to entitle myself to some families upon military duty on the continual alarms proportion of the merit, I shall insist upon replac. occasioned by the superiority of the British fleet. ing to you every shilling of it here; I hope you will They see their property daily exposed to destruc. therefore keep an exact account of it.. tion, they see with what facility the British troops
I beg you will freely communicate to me the are removed from one part of the continent to ano.
situation of your affairs; and if there should be a ther, and with what infinite charge and fatigue necessity of making you remiti ances, I will endeavor our's are, too late, obliged to follow; and they see
to do it at all events, though it must be by selling too, very plainly, that a strong French fleet would some of the produce of my estate at an under value. have prevented all this.
I am no'v pretty far advanced in life, and all my
views are centered in the happiness and welfare "If our allies had a superior fleet here, I should of my children-you will therefore find from me have no doubt of a favorable issue to the war; but, every indulgence which you have a right to exwithout it, I fear we are deceiving both them and
pect from an affectionate parent. ourselves, in expecting we shall be able to keep
I have been for some time in retirement and shall our people much longer firm, in so unequal an opposition to Great Britain.
not probably return again to public life; my anxiety
for my country, in these times of danger, makes “France surely intends the separation of these
me sometimes dabble a little in politics, and keep states, forever, from Great Britain. . It is highly up a correspondence with some men upon the her interest to accomplish this; but, by drawing public stage. You know I am not apt to form opiout the thread too fine and long, it may unex. nions lightly and without due examination. And pectely break in her hands.
I can venture to say that the French court and "God bless you, my dear child; and grant that nation, may confide in the honor and good faith of we may again meet, in your native country, as America; we reflect with gratitude on the importfreemen;- otherwise, that we may never see each ant aide France has given us; but she must not, other more, is the prayer of
and I hope will not, attempt to lead us into a Your affectionate father,
war of ambition or conquest, or trail us around G MASON." the mysterious circle of European politics. We
bave little news worth communicating-nothing Ertract of a letter from col. George Mason to his of consequence has happened here this campaign; Son, then in France, dated Jan. 8th 1783.
the enemy having generally kept close within "As to the money you have spent in Europe, their lines, and the American army not strong provided you can satify me that has not been spent enough to force them. We have a long time exin extravagance, dissipation or idle parade, I don't (pected the evacuation of Charlestown; the enemy regard it. It is true, I have a large family to provide having dismantled their out-works and embarked for; and that I am determined from motives of their heavy artillery and some of their troops.morality and duty to do justice to them all; it is However, by the last accounts (in December) they certain also that I have not lost less than £10,000 bad still a garrison there. By late accounts from sterling by the war, in the depreciation of paper Kentucky, we are informed that general Clarke money and the loss of the profits of my estate; but with 1200 volunteers, had crosed the Ohio river think this a cheap purchase of liberty and indepen. and destroyed six of the Shawnese towns, destroydence. I thank God, I have been able, by adopting ing also about 2,000 barrels of their corn and bringprinciples of strict economy and frugaliiy, to keeping off furs and other plunder to the value of my principal, I mean my country estate, unimpaired £3,000, which was sold and the money divided and I have suffered little by the depredations of among his men; this will probably drive these the enemy. I have at this time, two years rents savages near the Lakes or the Mississippi. Upon (you know mine are all tobacco rents) in arrear Clark's return ihe Chickasaws sent deputies to