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George Mason Letter to George Washington

  • Letter of George Mason to George Washington, October 7, 1787
  • Letter of George Mason to George Washington, October 7, 1787
George Mason enclosed a copy of his objections to the proposed U.S. Constitution in this letter to George Washington on October 7, 1787.
Related documents:
  • United States Constitution
    United States Constitution, September 17, 1787
  • Mason's Objections
    George Mason's Objections, September 1787
  • James Madison Letter to George Washington
    Letter of James Madison to George Washington, October 18, 1787
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Letter of George Mason to George Washington, October 7, 1787

While George Mason was on his way back to Virginia from Philadelphia, where he had refused to sign the proposed Constitution and where he had written his long list of defects that required amendment before it could be made acceptable, his carriage overturned and he was seriously injured. The pain and inconvenience of his injury added to his deep disappointment about the Constitution. Shortly after he returned home, he wrote to his old friend and collaborator George Washington, reporting the latest agricultural news, giving a brief account of his accident, and sending a copy of his objections to the Constitution. Mason, in effect, insisted that his objections be made part of the agenda of the Virginia ratifying convention in order gauge public opinion on what he regarded as capital defects in the Constitution. Mason also seriously considered during that autumn and winter asking that a new convention be called to rewrite the Constitution. His insistence on sharply criticizing the work of the convention and his insinuations that unworthy purposes motivated supporters of the Constitution so angered Washington that it ended their long friendship.

For Educators

Questions

1. Where was George Mason when he wrote this letter? To where did he address it?

2. Who does Mason blame for failing to address his objections?

3. What does Mason threaten in this letter?

Further Discussion

1. What is the tone of Mason's letter? Does the tone change during of the course of the letter?

2. Read Mason's Objections to the proposed United States Constitution. Do you think his description of the objections in this letter to Washington was accurate? Why or why not?

Links

Library of Congress Bibliographic Information-Mason's Letter to Washington

Suggested Reading

Broadwater, Jeff. George Mason: Forgotten Founder. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

Henriques, Peter R. "An Uneven Friendship: The Relationship between George Washington and George Mason." Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 97, no. 2 (April 1989): 185–204.

Tarter, Brent. "George Mason and the Conservation of Liberty." Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 99, no. 3 (July 1991): 279–304.

Dear Sir Gunston Hall Octor 7th 1787.
Upon examining my Fields in this Neck, I think they will not produce more than about one third of my usual Crops; at my other plantations they are something better, & may turn out about two thirds of the usual Crop. I think I shall be obliged to buy two hundred Barrells of Corn at least; and have lately written to a Gentlemen in Maryland (who owes me a Sum of Money) to know if he can supply me with that Quantity; I have not received his Answer, and have no great Dependence from that Quarter.
When on the Convention, Dr Williamson & Colo. Davie shewed me several Letters from North Carolina, mentioning the great Crops of Corn there, and that some of the principal Crop-Masters were then offering to contract for their Corn at a Dollar per* Barrel; it was this gave me the Idea of supplying myself from thence; as soon as I get down to Richmond, I intend to write to Dr Williamson (who lives in Edenton) to know, with certainty, upon what Terms a Quantity can be engaged, to be delivered in all March, for ready Money; & as soon as I recieve his Answer, will advise you thereof. If I can be of any Service to You in making such a Contract as You approve, it will give me a great deal of pleasure.
I got very much hurt in my Neck & Head, by the unlucky Accident on the Road; it is now wearing off; tho' at times still uneasy to me.
I take the Liberty to enclose You my Objections to the new Constitution of Government; which a little Moderation & Temper, in the latter End of the Convention, might have removed. I am however most decidedly of Opinion, that it ought to be submitted to a Convention chosen by the people, for that special purpose; and shou'd any Attempt be made to prevent the calling such a Convention here, such a Measure shall have every Opposition in my power to give it.
You will readily observe, that my Objections are not numerous (the greater part of the inclosed paper containing reasonings upon the probable Effects of the exceptionable parts) tho' in my mind, some of them are capital ones.
Mrs Mason, & the Family, here join in their Compliments to your Lady and Family, with dear Sir  Your affecte & obdt Sert
G. MASON

His Exellency
 General Washington
  Mount Vernon


*Mason used an abbreviation for the word per called a "tailed p." This ornamented letter p is usually used for "pr" constructions such as "pra," "pro," "pre," or "per," "par," and "por."