Contrary to what many may believe after the past weekend, George Mason did not write “Cinderella.” The university in Fairfax, Va., that bears his name has gone on a surprising run of upset victories to reach the Final Four of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. So who was George Mason? Quite simply, he’s one of our heroes.
In a 1992 essay in The Freeman, Garry Williams wrote: “Mason is relatively unknown among the Founders, but his intellect was renowned as one of the finest in the Colonies. In fact, Thomas Jefferson called Mason ‘the wisest man of his generation.’ . . . James Madison praised Mason as ‘a powerful reasoner, a profound statesman, and a devoted republican.’ ”
Mason was a champion of individual rights, and he protested ratification of the U.S. Constitution because it did not contain language guaranteeing such provisions. He is at times referred to as “the father of the Bill of Rights,” as his writings — specifically the Virginia Declaration of Rights — were the blueprint used by Madison to draw the document adopted in 1791.
Mason was a true libertarian, serving as a champion of personal liberty, private property rights and free markets. Willie E. Nelms, also writing in The Freeman, opined:
“In many ways, Mason represented the spirit of the Enlightenment. Self-educated, he believed in the rule of reason; he thought life, liberty, and private property to be vital to human rights. In economics, he saw the importance of free exchange. He believed it was necessary for men to develop their own enterprises and to bear the consequences of their own economic successes and mistakes.”
What does all of this have to do with a college basketball team? Not much, we admit. But the Patriots’ rise to prominence has given us pause to honor one of our nation’s lesser known patriots.