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Unformatted text preview: the noble concept that the rights of the
individual must be protected against the power of
government. By placing in Virginia’s ﬁrst constitution
a list of rights that could never be taken away from citizens, Mason sought to ensure a society in which government could not become all-powerful.
As a result of his inﬂuence, the Bill of Rights, which was
based on Mason’s Declaration of Rights, was added to
the U.S. Constitution. The universal signiﬁcance of this
action made the American Revolution much more than
a war for independence from Great Britain: it enshrined
in our most important public document the principle
that a government must always respect the rights of the
Mason, although a slave owner, had deeply conﬂicting
feelings about the institution he called “slow Poison.”
His words were later used to demonstrate that slavery
could not exist in a country that proclaimed its belief in
human rights. In the United States, we have not always
adhered to Mason’s great ideas, but they remain the
measure of the best in our national life. The University Geor...
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