Saturday, November 25, 2006

Pg. 69: "George Mason, Forgotten Founder"

George Mason, Forgotten Founder is the third book by Jeff Broadwater, an associate professor of history at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina.

I asked Jeff to apply the "page 69 test" to George Mason; he reported that the book-browser would not be well served by turning to page 69 to his book:
I'm not sure page 69 works as a good sample of my book. There is a reference on page 69 to a Charles Broadwater. It might give someone the impression the book focuses on one of my relatives, which would be misleading since there are only a couple of other references to him and I don't even know if we are related.
Good thing we have this series. Forget page 69; here is what the author says you should expect from George Mason, Forgotten Founder:
George Mason is an obscure figure to most Americans today, known if at all for lending his name to a burgeoning state university near the nation’s capital. But in eighteenth-century Virginia, he rivaled George Washington and surpassed Thomas Jefferson in his political influence. Before the American Revolution began, Mason made a name for himself as the author of the Fairfax Resolves, a classic statement of the Patriot position in the imperial crisis with Great Britain. Mason’s fame grew during the Revolution. In 1776, he wrote most of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was widely hailed as the first modern bill of rights, and Mason’s language and ideas soon reappeared in the Declaration of Independence and in the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution.

Mason, however, shunned the spotlight. His disliked politics, and he did not hesitate to take controversial positions, including, most notably, his refusal, as a delegate to the Philadelphia convention of 1787, to sign the Constitution. In fact, Mason ended his political career as an unreconstructed Anti-Federalist, convinced that the new national government was destined to become the plaything of the moneyed interests. To later generations, Mason seemed to be on the wrong side of history, and as so often happens to “losers,” he has been all but forgotten.

George Mason, Forgotten Founder tries to make the case for his importance and for his complexity, but above all else, a fear of the almost inevitable abuse of power haunted Mason. That fear, I think, went to the core of the revolutionary experience. He was no aberration, and better understanding his career, I think, helps us better understand the origins of the American republic.
Thanks to Jeff for the input.

George Mason, Forgotten Founder has received a number of excellent reviews and endorsements, including:
“George Mason was irascible, opinionated, and essential to the evolution of American political theory. He inspired Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and Madison’s Bill of Rights. Virginians know him, but most of the rest of the country doesn’t. Jeff Broadwater’s elegant and insightful study will remedy this neglect, and none too soon.”--H. W. Brands, University of Texas at Austin

"It seems to me that George Mason was the most respected founder in his own time who is virtually invisible in our time. This book goes a long way toward closing that gap and providing an answer to why the university that bears his name has chosen well."--Joseph J. Ellis, author of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation
Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post wrote:
Broadwater ... writes clear, unadorned prose and has an admirable ability to explain complex intellectual matters in terms the lay reader can understand.... [T]his is an exemplary biography: sympathetic but dispassionate, thorough but not cluttered, convincing in its interpretations and arguments. It leaves no doubt that Mason deserves to be returned to the esteem and reputation he enjoyed during his lifetime, but in no way is it hagiography.
Click here for Richard Brookhiser's Wall Street Journal review.

Jeff Broadwater's previous books are Eisenhower and the Anti-Communist Crusade and Adlai Stevenson and American Politics: The Odyssey of a Cold War Liberal.

Previous "page 69 tests":
Alicia Steimberg, Andrea Labinger (trans.), The Rainforest
Michael Grunwald, The Swamp
Darrin McMahon, Happiness: A History
Leo Braudy, From Chivalry to Terrorism
David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie
Leah Hager Cohen, Train Go Sorry
Chris Grabenstein, Slay Ride
David Helvarg, Blue Frontier
Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria
Bill Crider, A Mammoth Murder
Robert W. Bennett, Taming the Electoral College
Nicholas Stern et al, Stern Review Report
Kerry Emanuel, Divine Wind
Adam Langer, The Washington Story
Michael Scott Moore, Too Much of Nothing
Frank Schaeffer, Baby Jack
Wyn Cooper, Postcards from the Interior
Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov
Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew
Cass Sunstein, Infotopia
Paul W. Kahn, Out of Eden
Paul Lewis, Cracking Up
Pagan Kennedy, Confessions of a Memory Eater
David Greenberg, Nixon's Shadow
Duane Swierczynski, The Wheelman
George Levine, Darwin Loves You
John Barlow, Intoxicated
Alicia Steimberg, The Rainforest
Alan Wolfe, Does American Democracy Still Work?
John Dickerson, On Her Trail
Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself
Randy Boyagoda, Governor of the Northern Province
John Gittings, The Changing Face of China
Rachel Kadish, Tolstoy Lied
Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations
Tim Brookes, Guitar and other books
Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
William Haywood Henderson, Augusta Locke
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith
Robert Greer, The Fourth Perspective
David Plotz, The Genius Factory
Michael Allen Dymmoch, White Tiger
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy
Tom Lutz, Doing Nothing
Libby Fischer Hellmann, A Shot To Die For
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm
Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan
Elaine Flinn, Deadly Collection
Louise Welsh, The Bullet Trick
Gregg Hurwitz, Last Shot
Martha Powers, Death Angel
N.M. Kelby, Whale Season
Mario Acevedo, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
Simon Blackburn, Lust
Linda L. Richards, Calculated Loss
Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows
Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air
Shari Caudron, Who Are You People?
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale

--Marshal Zeringue