Democracy Project Sponsors Constitution Day Event

Posted: September 19, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

As part of its Dialogues on Democracy Series, the Democracy Project at George Mason sponsored a discussion Monday to mark Constitution Day, Sept. 17, which is celebrated to commemorate the day in 1787 that all 12 state delegations to the Constitutional Convention approved the document.

Robert Dudley, chair, Public and International Affairs, and Thomas Moncure, university counsel, discussed “Why Did George Mason Refuse to Sign the Constitution?”

Constitution Day event
At an outdoor Constitution Day event, Robert Dudley, chair of the Public and International Affairs Department, far left, and Thomas Moncure, university counsel, discuss Virginia Bill of Rights author George Mason and his dissatisfaction with the Constitution.
Photo by Evan Cantwell

Moncure urged listeners to read the “stirring debates” between Patrick Henry and George Mason on the one side, and Edmund Randolph and James Madison on the other, as the statesmen battled the merits of a bill of rights to the proposed Constitution.

Mason, Moncure argued, really had the upper hand in the debate. And even though the Constitution was approved without the bill of rights that Mason thought was essential, at least “he died knowing that his principles were ratified” when the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution four years later, Moncure said.

Dudley said Mason thought “the government best that governed least,” opposed a national standing army and felt that most control should be left to the individual states. And Mason was a very principled person, Dudley said, ticking off a list of things that Mason knew he might be sacrificing for his principles: a friendship with George Washington dating back to boyhood; a friendship with James Madison; and even a “place in history.”

“He lost on the debate,” said Dudley, “but the issue continued to be a part of American life.”

For more information on the Democracy Project, which is part of the American Democracy Project and is coordinated through the Office of the Provost, click here or call 703-993-8722.

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