CHAPTER 14 | Document 42

George Mason, Virginia Ratifying Convention

16 June 1788Papers 3:1084--85

Mr. George Mason, still thought that there ought to be some express declaration in the constitution, asserting that rights not given to the general government, were retained by the states. He apprehended that unless this was done, many valuable and important rights would be concluded to be given up by implication. All governments were drawn from the people, though many were perverted to their oppression. The government of Virginia, he remarked, was drawn from the people; yet there were certain great and important rights, which the people by their bill of rights declared to be paramount to the power of the legislature. He asked, why should it not be so in this constitution? Was it because we were more substantially represented in it, than in the state government? If in the state government, where the people were substantially and fully represented, it was necessary that the great rights of human nature should be secure from the enc[r]oachments of the legislature; he asked, if it was not more necessary in this government, where they were but inadequately represented? He declared, that artful sophistry and evasions could not satisfy him. He could see no clear distinction between rights relinquished by a positive grant, and lost by implication. Unless there were a bill of rights, implication might swallow up all our rights.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 14, Document 42
The University of Chicago Press

The Papers of George Mason, 1725--1792. Edited by Robert A. Rutland. 3 vols. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1970.

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