Mar 312006

First, what makes the NCAA basketball tourney so great? It gives small schools a chance to beat the big guys. George Mason University was this year’s Cinderella, knocking off a series of “superior” teams on its way to the Final Four. Now, thanks to the team’s success, many are eager to know more about the school — specifically, who was George Mason and why does he have a university named after him?

Let’s be honest — before March Madness began, few people had even heard of ol’ George. Sad, considering he was one of America’s greatest founding fathers. Not to turn this into an 8th-grade civics lecture, but George Mason was quite a guy. Commonly referred to as the Father of the Bill of Rights, he wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which served as the model for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution.

This article by John J. Miller explains that while Mason was a slave-holder, he opposed slavery, calling it a “slow poison, which is daily contaminating the minds and morals of our people.” Miller goes on to state Mason was an outspoken critic of the original Constitution and suggested his home state of Virginia withhold ratifying the document until it included a Bill of Rights.

Ironically, this ruffling of feathers may have cost Mason his friendship with George Washington as well as future fame as an elite founding father. But he who laughs last, laughs hardest. Mason’s school went to the Final Four while George Washington University fell in the second round.

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