About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "George Mason: The Founding Father Who Gave Us the Bill of Rights"

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
August 16, 2019

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us, whether you are in here in this room or participating through Facebook or YouTube.

Before we hear from William Hyland, Jr., about George Mason, I’d like to tell you about two programs coming up here next month.

On Tuesday, September 10, at noon, Sidney Blumenthal will tell us about the recently released volume three of his biography of Abraham Lincoln, All the Powers of Earth: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, 1856–1863.

And on Monday, September 16, at 7 p.m., Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch will tell us about his new book, A Republic, If You Can Keep It, in which he explores the essential aspects of our Constitution and the importance of civic education, civil discourse, and mutual respect.

Check our website, Archives.gov, or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Check out their website—archivesfoundation.org—to learn more about them and join online.

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Upstairs in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, two murals commemorate two founding documents of our nation: the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. In the mural depicting the Constitution, the central group of figures represents those who played key roles in the creation of the document. Along with George Washington, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin is George Mason, one of the five most frequent speakers at the Constitutional Convention.

But at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in September 1787, Mason did not sign the document. His primary objection—the lack of a declaration of individual rights—led to the creation of the third Charter in the Rotunda: the Bill of Rights.

Today we look forward to hearing more about George Mason’s critical role in the formation of our nation from his biographer William Hyland.

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William G. Hyland Jr., a native of Virginia, is the author of four widely praised historical biographies, including In Defense of Thomas Jefferson, which was nominated for the Virginia Literary Award. He has also written Long Journey with Mr. Jefferson, a biography of famed Jeffersonian historian Dumas Malone (Potomac Books, 2013), and Martha Jefferson: An Intimate Life with Thomas Jefferson (2015).

Mr. Hyland is a litigation attorney with the national law firm of Vernis & Bowling, with nearly 30 years of high-profile trial experience. Mr. Hyland is also an adjunct professor of law at Stetson University College of Law. His professional lectures have included speeches at the National Archives and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. He is a member of the Virginia and New York Historical Societies and serves on the Board of Directors of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome William Hyland, Jr.