George Mason


One of the principal opponents of the Constitution, Mason (1725–1792) is a forgotten Founding Father. His opposition, based on concerns that the Constitution infringed on the liberties of the people, overshadowed his enormous contribution to the Bill of Rights. We supplement his work with the writings of Robert Yates (1738–1801), an insightful Anti-Federalist, who warned us of the dangers of a tyrannical judiciary.

Virginia Declaration of Rights

An extraordinary document, Mason's Declaration was the inspiration for the first ten amendments to our Constitution. Its final clause affirms the role of reason in religion and the rights of conscience.

Objections to This Constitution of Government

Among his many objections to the Constitution, Mason singled out its absence of a bill of rights. But he was also concerned about the excessive power granted to the judiciary, and numerous other perceived defects.

Anti-Federalist Nos. 11 and 15 (Robert Yates)

The federal judiciary will hold a position of unprecedented authority under the proposed Constitution (#11). The power of impeachment will not be effective in restraining any attempted abuse of judicial power (#15).

Anti-Federalist No. 12 (Robert Yates)

The Supreme Court will be free to interpret the Constitution independently of its actual words and according to its "spirit," as this spirit is expressed in the general philosophical aims announced in the Preamble.