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respondence, carried on through the greater part of a lifetime, attests his estimation of the sterling traits of character, and the eminent talents of his friend. And this impression is scarcely impaired at the last by the few slighting words Washington suffered himself to write of Mason when his early ally and familiar companion had become his determined political opponent. Richard Henry Lee seems to have had George Mason's entire confidence all through his career, and we cannot fail to perceive how thorough was Lee's appreciation of Mason, with whom he was in complete sympathy apparently on all the great issues of the eventful years in which they labored together, first for independence of Great Britain, and secondly for the preservation of the independence of the State against federal aggression. Jefferson, from first to last, looked upon George Mason as one of the wisest of Virginians, or indeed of his contemporaries, on the theatre of the American Revolution. In his correspondence with Mason, in his “Autobiography,” in his “Anas,” this is fully demonstrated. Jefferson's character of Mason, as sketched in the former's “Autobiography," has been given in an earlier chapter, and need not be repeated here. These two statesmen, George Mason and Thomas Jefferson, bore the relation, more fully perhaps than Jefferson himself perceived, of master and disciple in the school of States-rights, though Jefferson, like Madison, did not at first see with the elder sage's clear vision.

Madison, in the stress and conflict of 1787–88, was not prepared to do his great opponent justice. Both Washington and Madison, as Grigsby says, “ in the heat of the moment wrote about Henry and Mason-the Gamaliels at whose feet he [Washington] sat for twenty years—in a manner that betrayed more passion than judgment.” And he adds: “Great as were the merits of Washington and Madison, and none rejoices in them more than I do, it is simply stating an historical fact in saying that in 1788 neither of them stood in the estimation of the Virginia of that day on the same platform with Patrick Henry and George Mason



as a statesman."Madison's calmer judgment gave afterwards another verdict; and he came not many years later to be considered as an expounder of the States-rights doctrines of which Mason was the early and consistent apostle. St. George Tucker, who knew personally many of George Mason's contemporaries, who had heard Richard Henry Lee speak in public and thought him the “most mellifluous orator " he had ever listened to, who had received the tradition of Thomson Mason that he was “esteemed the first lawyer at the bar," reports from Madison's own lips his estimate of Thomson Mason's great brother. Among such orators as Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee, in a galaxy that contained such a speaker as Innes, of whom Tucker says that he “may be compared to an eagle in the air; you looked up at him with admiration and delight," George Mason, Madison thought, was in a sense pre-eminent: "He possessed the greatest talents for debate of any man he [Madison) had ever seen or heard speak."? Madison, in his old age, in a letter quoted in a previous chapter, written to one of George Mason's grandsons, gives some account of the former as a public man, and adds interesting testimony to his genial, social qualities. He says to his correspondent:

“The biographical tribute you meditate is justly due to the merits of your ancestor, Colonel George Mason. It is to be regretted that, highly distinguished as he was, the memorials of him on record, or perhaps otherwise attainable, are more scanty than many of his contemporaries far inferior to him in intellectual powers and public services. It would afford me much pleasure to be a tributary to your undertaking [a biography of Mason]. But although I had the advantage of being on the list of his personal friends, and in several instances of being associated with him in public life, I can add little for the pages of your work.

The public situation in which I had the best opportunity of being acquainted with the genius, the opinions and the public 1 “ History of the Virginia Federal Convention,” note on p. 114. Kennedy's “Life of William Wirt," vol. i., p. 352.

labors of your grandfather, was that of our co-service in the Convention of 1787, which framed the Constitution of the United States. The objections which led him to withhold his name from it have been explained by himself. But none who differed from him on some points will deny that he sustained throughout the proceedings of the body, the high character of a powerful reasoner, a profound statesman, and a devoted republican.

“My private intercourse with him was chiefly on occasional visits to 'Gunston 'when journeying to and from the North, in which his conversations were always a feast to me. But though in a high degree such, my recollection, after so long an interval, cannot particularize them in a form adapted to biographical use. I hope others of his friends still living, who enjoyed more of his society, will be able to do more justice to the fund of instructive observations and interesting anecdotes for which he was celebrated.”

Family tradition confirms this report of George Mason's conversational powers. But alas! no Boswell has preserved for posterity the crumbs of these intellectual feasts. The “ fund of instructive observations," the "interesting anecdotes," have passed into oblivion. Only one story has floated down to us on the stream of time, illustrating George Mason's quick and caustic wit. John Randolph of Roanoke, who greatly admired Mason, alludes to it, though he gives it an odd turn, when he says: “My judgment, I believe, has not deserted me, and when it does, as old George Mason said, I shall be the last person in the world to find it out.": John Esten Cooke narrates the anecdote in a sketch of George Mason, written in 1859, for one of the New York papers, and he repeats it in a later article. In a private letter to the present writer the story is worded as follows:

“The evidence of George Mason's humor, though it would probably be more appropriate to call it wit, I thought I could

* Rives' “Life of Madison,” vol. i., p. 162 (note). The original letter is owned by the Virginia Historical Society.

• Garland's “ Life of John Randolph," vol. ii., p. 155.

3 “ The Virginia Declaration of Independence,” Magazine of American History, May, 1884.



see in his bon mot when a candidate for the legislature. His opponent declared that the people of Stafford [Fairfax?] knew that Colonel Mason's mind was failing, to which he replied, that when his adversary's mind failed 'nobody would ever discover it,' which I think was as biting as anything ever uttered by Talleyrand."

This retort of George Mason's recalls the anecdote related of Sir John Maynard, the eminent lawyer and king's serjeant, who, when eighty-six years old, having been sixty years at the bar, was told by Jeffreys that he had got so old he forgot the law. “ 'T is true, Sir George,” replied Maynard, “I have forgot more law than you ever knew."

George Mason's high estimation of Patrick Henry, as he saw him first in the early years of the Revolution, he has given us through a letter to Martin Cockburn. What Patrick Henry thought of George Mason has been happily preserved for posterity in a paragraph of one of Virginia's chronicles: “When Patrick Henry was a member of the Continental Congress he said the first men in that body were Washington, Richard Henry Lee, and Roger Sherman; and later in life [he declared] Roger Sherman and George Mason [were] the greatest statesmen he ever knew. The sketch of George Mason's character, as given by Edmund Randolph in his manuscript history of Virginia, has been quoted in a former chapter. It is found in connection with the pen portraits of Patrick Henry, of Thomas Jefferson, of Peyton Randolph, of Richard Henry Lee, of Robert Carter Nicholas, Edmund Pendleton, George Washington, Richard Bland, Benjamin Harrison, George Wythe, John Blair, and Thomas Ludwell Lee. These were the Virginia leaders in 1774. A little later Madison is added to the group. This valuable work of Edmund Randolph's was never completed, and but a fragment of it, discovered in Staunton, in 1860, remains. Randolph, it seems, contemplated writing for it, and did actually prepare “parallels between the characters of certain

1 MS. letter of John Esten Cooke, October 28, 1885.
. Howe's “ Historical Collections of Virginia," p. 221.


men, such, for instance, as those between General Washington and Mr. Jefferson, President Madison and General Hamilton, George Mason and John Dickerson, Benjamin Franklin and John Jay, Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee." John Dickerson, the author of the famous “ Farmer's Letters” of 1767, and of able public papers in the Congress of 1774 and of 1775, was yet behindhand in patriotic sentiment in 1776, when he opposed the Declaration of Independence. An undoubted patriot, he was an extremely cautious one, and though his pen had prepared the way for revolution, his step faltered on the threshold of the new Learned, sensitive, pious, benevolent, pure-minded, and eminent, both as a writer and an orator, one sees in him certain points of resemblance to George Mason; though broadly outlined there is apparent a wide contrast in the man John Adams, described in 1774 as “very modest, delicate, timid," and the virile, masterful spirit of the Virginian. And as Federalist and Antifederalist in 1787-88, the opinions of the two were distinctly at variance. John Dickerson, in his letters of “Fabius," supported the Constitution, while George Mason was working in the cause of amendments to the instrument they had jointly had a share in framing. Yet Dickerson, like Madison, saw later the error of his ways.

Leaving George Mason's contemporaries for a succeeding generation, we find Henry Lee, the son of “Light-Horse Harry," Mason's martial antagonist in the Virginia Convention of 1788, repeating, doubtless, the sentiment he had heard from boyhood, when he wrote: “Among the many profound statesmen Virginia has produced, he [George Mason] was perhaps second to none in wisdom and virtue, and by many of the most renowned of his contemporaries was regarded as the wisest of them all.” : At length his

1 “Life of Edmund Randolph," M. D. Conway, p. 378.

General and Governor Fitzhugh Lee, a son of Captain Sidney Smith Lee, younger brother of the great Southern chiestain, Robert Edward Lee and halfbrother of Henry Lee above quoted, is descended through his mother, a daughter of General John Mason, from George Mason, of Gunston.

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