George Mason, Thomas Paine

and their influence on the U.S. Constitution

Who was George Mason?

George Mason was a delegate to the Virginia Legislature from 1775 to 1781. He is most famously noted with his contributions to Virginia's government, drafting both the Virginia Declaration of Rights and Virginia's State Constitution.

Who was Thomas Paine?

Thomas Paine was an English-born writer and philosopher. His most recognized work is the influential pamphlet Common Sense, which was published in 1776, and pressed the American colonies for independence from Britain.

In order to understand their influence on the Constitution, it is first important to understand their influence on this guy:

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Some call him Thomas Jefferson...

But you might better know him as the man who penned the Declaration of Independence. How did he accomplish such a feat, you might ask? Well, I can assure you it wasn't without a little help...

Here, read this letter to Thomas Paine written by none other than Thomas Jefferson:

Dear Sir,

I received with great pleasure the present of your pamphlets, as well for the thing itself as that it was a testimony of your recollection. Would you believe it possible that in this country there should be high and important characters who need your lessons in republicanism, and who do not heed them? It is but too true that we have a sect preaching up and pouting after an English constitution of king, lords, and commons, and whose heads are itching for crowns, coronets and mitres. But our people, my good friend, are firm and unanimous in their principles of republicanism and there is no better proof of it than that they love what you write and read it with delight. The printers season every newspaper with extracts from your last, as they did before from your first part of the Rights of Man. They have both served here to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to prove that tho' the latter appears on the surface, it is on the surface only. The bulk below is sound and pure. Go on then in doing with your pen what in other times was done with the sword: shew that reformation is more practicable by operating on the mind than on the body of man, and be assured that it has not a more sincere votary nor you a more ardent well-wisher than yours and the others, and so of the rest,

Thomas Jefferson

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Thomas Paine's Common Sense influenced more than merely the American people, but Thomas Jefferson as well. Many speculate that Common Sense was one of the greatest influences on Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence. It certainly stirred the public into action.

And what about George Mason?

Thomas Jefferson considered George Mason to be one of “the wisest men of his generation.” At age 33, Thomas Jefferson used George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights for much of the wording in the opening to the Declaration of Independence. This Declaration of Independence was none other than the document that the Continental Congress signed on July 4, 1776 to declare independence from Great Britain, forming the new country of the United States of America, and thus its Constitution.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the Virginia Declaration of Rights:

Sound familiar? That's because it is.

Thomas Jefferson used Virginia's Declaration of Right as a jumping point for the Declaration of Independence itself. As a result, America became an independent nation, and created a Constitution, which drew ideas from the Declaration of Independence, which drew ideas from Virginia's Declaration of Rights, which was written by George Mason in only six weeks. Crazy, right?

In so few words, Thomas Paine and George Mason greatly influenced Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, which was the basis for our very own Constitution.