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HIS STATUE AT RICHMOND,
State determined to mark her sense of his distinguished services. And in the oration delivered by the Hon. R. M. T. Hunter, at the unveiling of the Crawford statue of Washington, in Richmond, in 1858, the following reference was made to Mason and others who were to surround
“ The foremost man of Time."
“But Virginia here raises monuments to more than one of her children, and as she bends over that group of her departed sons, she may well shed the mingled tears of pride and grief. Among these she will place Lewis, her bold pioneer, who wrestled with the red man from the waters of the Holston to those of the Great Kanawa, and finally made good the title of her State to the possession of the western wilderness on the bloody field of Point Pleasant, from which he drove the Indian beyond the Ohio. There will be found Nelson, the patriotic Governor of Virginia, whose generous sacrifices and great public services called forth the thanks of Washington at the siege of York. George Mason, too, is to be placed there in the fondness of a mother's pride, he whom history will proclaim one of the apostles of civil liberty, the author of the Bill of Rights of Virginia, the orator and the sage, whose vision was so nearly prophetic, and whose wisdom and patriotism made him a great leader in his day."
Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson were also described in glowing terms, as among those to whom statues were decreed. But before Virginia could carry out the suggestion of her orator of 1858 and fill up her Revolutionary Pantheon with the figures of George Rogers Clark and others, the battle-fields of her second struggle for independence glorified her history, while desolating her soil, and since then her later heroes have rather thrust aside the earlier ones. But in collecting these tributes to George Mason, we come to two Virginia writers who saw, suffered in, and survived the “ Confederate Revolution." John Esten Cooke wrote of George Mason in 1859:
“There was living in Virginia, at the outbreak of the Revolution, in an old mansion called 'Gunston Hall,' situated on the right
bank of the Potomac, not far from ‘Mount Vernon,' one of the most remarkable men, not only of his country and of his epoch, but of all countries and all time. This man, who was not yet fifty years old, had never yet held any public office, but the first statesmen of his time consulted him and looked to him for guidance. He was not a lawyer, but his opinions on government had all the force and dignity of legislative decrees. He was not an agreeable speaker [?] yet when he rose to address an assembly the greatest orators-Lee, Pendleton, Henry, and their co-mates—listened to him with avidity. Confined almost wholly to his plantation by gout, or love of retirement, he nevertheless swayed and moulded public opinion. In the most urgent crises of public affairs the great actors looked, as it were, from the rostrum to the silent figure behind the scenes.
His ancestors had all been honorable and public-spirited ; they had lived and died as worthy old planters, fighting bravely against the Indians, or figuring in the House of Burgesses. They cultivated their acres, and kept up the old style of living in all its profusion-mingling socially with the class which then ruled as titled persons rule at present in England. Thus, George Mason of 'Gunston Hall,' at the time of the Revolution, possessed by birth a position which entitled him to consideration. But this would never have made him what he was —not a tithe of the force which he undoubtedly stood for in his time. It was the man himself, stripped of all adventitious aids, who asserted and maintained the vast intellectual dominion which he certainly wielded over the minds of the first thinkers of that age."
There are frequent allusions to this “remarkable man," as he calls him, in John Esten Cooke's later sketches and delineations of Virginia history; his last article which touches upon George Mason having been written in 1884, twenty-five years after the first strain sung in Mason's praise. General Richard Taylor writing of George Mason, in 1879, says:
“Among the wise and good who in the past century secured the independence of our country and founded its government, George Mason of Virginia holds a place second to none."
i New York Century, 1859.
APPRECIATION OF HIS GENIUS.
And he adds :
“On the soil of Virginia rests the tomb of George Mason, within sound of the Capitol of the Union which he labored to establish, while pointing out and in vain endeavoring to strengthen the weak places in its foundation. A Virginian to the core, his sympathies extended to the uttermost limits of the colonies, and were as deeply stirred by the sufferings of Massachusetts as were those of her own great patriots, the Adamses, Warren, Hancock. Mayhap there lurks some germ of truth in the weird superstition that disembodied spirits keep watch and ward over the restingplaces of their mortal remains. What changes has the spirit of Mason witnessed since his body was returned to earth! As the mighty prophets of Israel, mournfully has he watched the fulfilment of his own predictions. He strove for a Union of consent and love. He has seen one of force and hate. He urged independent States to create a common servant, the Federal Government, as a useful agent. He has seen the creature they called into being rend, like Frankenstein, its creators, disperse their assemblies at the point of the bayonet, deprive their citizens of every legal right.
With a sadness surpassing that of Rachel, he has seen the wealth and cultivation of the South destroyed by unlettered multitudes from the interior of the continent, directed by the fanaticism of the East."
Happily if George Mason's immortal spirit has seen the woes of Virginia and her sister Commonwealths of the Confederacy, it rejoices now in 1891, in their restored prosperity; when the “ New South," affectionately reverent of her recent not less than of her far off past, presses forward in a race for the prizes of the future.
In conclusion, to the award of his contemporaries and personal friends, to the discriminating eulogies of George Mason's genius found in the utterances of Virginians and Southern men of later times, may be added the impartial, well-considered judgments of a number of Northern writers,
1 The North American Review, February, 1879, “A Statesman of the Colonial Era."
two or three of whom are quoted in former chapters. In the last category is found the late venerable historian Bancroft. In several paragraphs, where Virginia has been his theme, he has written in felicitous phrase of her patriot and statesman, George Mason. After noting his talents in debate and oratory, Bancroft adds :
“But his great strength lay in his sincerity, which made him wise and bold, modest and unchanging, while it overawed his hearers. He was severe, but his severity was humane, with no tinge of bitterness, though he had a scorn for everything mean, and cowardly, and low; and he always spoke out his convictions with frank directness. He had been truly loyal ; on renouncing his King, he could stand justified to his own conscience only by the purest and most unselfish attachment to human freedom."
And as General Taylor writes in the article above quoted :
“ To be appreciated by the political student, who desires to understand the principles of free government and the formative history of the Federal Constitution, his work must be sought in the Declaration of Rights, Constitution and revised Code of Virginia, and in the debates of the Federal and Virginia Conventions, as must his affectionate nature in such letters to his children and friends as have been preserved ; and it may be safely asserted that no one can carefully exhaust these sources without doubting whether his own or any age has produced a man superior to George Mason in all the elements of greatness."
1 Bancroft's “ History of the United States,” edition of 1876, vol. v., p. 258.
LETTERS RELATING TO THE COMPACT WITH MARYLAND.
MOUNT VERNON, March 28, 1785. We have the honor to transmit to the General Assembly, the result of the deliberations of the Commissioners of Virginia and Maryland, appointed to settle the navigation and jurisdiction of that part of the Chesapeake Bay within the limits of Virginia, and of the rivers Potomac and Pokomoke.
We flatter ourselves that, in the execution of this important trust, the commissioners have consulted the true interest of both governments, in a compact of such just and mutual principles, that, executed with good faith, will perpetuate harmony, friendship, and good offices between the two States, so essential to the prosperity and happiness of their people. In the conference on the subject of our appointment, several matters occurred to the commissioners, which they conceived very important to the commerce of the two States; and which, with all deference, we take the liberty to communicate.
The commissioners were of opinion, these States ought to have leave from the United States in Congress assembled, to form a compact for the purpose of affording in due time, and in just proportions between the two States, naval protection to such part of Chesapeake Bay and Potomac river which may at any time hereafter be left unprovided for by Congress. The commissioners did not consider themselves authorized to make any compact on this subject, and submit the propriety of the two governments making a joint application to Congress, for their consent to enter into com