Throughout American history, many individuals have made reforms to the government. However, significant actions done by George Mason and James Madison still impact society today with the Bill of Rights and the implementation of a ‘check and balance’ government system. George Mason and James Madison were both influential figures in the creation of the United States’ government structure with their oppositions to prejudiced governments.
George Mason, a figure in American History who strongly advocated for individual freedoms and rights, strongly opposed the unjust actions committed by the British Parliament. The British government had been passing Acts against the will of the colonists, and Mason was upset by these actions.
“that the several Acts of Parliaments for raising a Revenue upon the people of America without their consent, the creating new and dangerous Jurisdictions here, the taking away our Trials by Jurys, the ordering Persons upon criminal Accusations, to be tried in another Country than that in which the Fact is charged to have been committed.”
Mason writes in his 1774 Fairfax County resolves about certain unmerited acts that Parliament performed. Mason refers to taxing without consent; enacting new jurisdictions and taking away fair trials, and the freedom of being tried in the country where the crime was committed. Since Mason supported individualist freedoms, he thought that this treatment from Parliament towards the colonies was unfair. Mason believed in a government that did not behave like Parliament did – rather one that let the people have most of the power.
While Mason believed in a government that was largely based on the people and their rights, Madison’s ideal government was one with less power for the states. He preferred a national government with a strong central body, which left less power for the States. Madison thought that the States should have less power because he was worried about other’s actions. In his Federalist No. 10, Madison expresses his concern about factions corrupting the government’s actions. “These must be chiefly, if not wholly, effects of the unsteadiness and injustice with which a factious spirit has tainted our public demonstrations.” Madison also says that democracies that are comprised of a smaller number of citizens are more susceptible to become corrupt because of their citizens.
“Hence it is that such democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”
Madison says this because he believed that all people act according to their own local situations. According to Madison, people act in the name of their own selfish reasons, instead of considering the broader greater good. Thus, states should not be trusted to be the strongest part of the government, and factions should not be trusted with the majority of the power, either.