In 1953, the political scientist Clinton Rossiter ranked the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written in May 1776 largely by George Mason, "among the world's most memorable triumphs in applied political theory." Mason's handiwork influenced both the Declaration of Independence, which his young acquaintance Thomas Jefferson produced the following month, and the Bill of Rights, which his even younger acquaintance James Madison shepherded through Congress 14 years later. It was Mason's "genius," writes biographer Jeff Broadwater, "to express in scarcely two pages the ideology of the American Revolution."
Why then is he on the Founding Fathers' bench instead of on the first string? Mr. Broadwater's earnest and even-handed attempt to explain both Mason's genius and his present obscurity raises important questions about intellect and leadership, right thinking and right acting.
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