George Mason and Slavery

George Mason was one of the largest slave owners in Fairfax, Virginia, second only to George Washington.  Ironically he was the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights which claims: “That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent natural rights . . . among which are the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”  In his writings and speeches George Mason opposed slavery calling it the “slow poison” which corrupts the “minds and morals” of the masters and their children turning them into “petty tyrants.”  Yet he did not emancipate any of his slaves, not even in his will.  With most of his wealth attributed to his land and slaves, Mason may have felt personally unable to escape the institution if he was to continue supporting his family and provide a secure inheritance for them.

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