Del. Ken Plum: Remembering Our Rights

by Del. Ken Plum November 23, 2016 at 10:00 am 11 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

During the week following the national presidential election, I attended two lectures on George Mason, the man. There was no connection between the election and the lecture dates other than coincidence, but for me hearing again the work of George Mason in the formation of our nation was reassuring.

The first lecture featured Professor Jeff Broadwater who discussed his book, “George Mason: Forgotten Founder,” as part of a lecture series sponsored by the Virginia Historical Society, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and the George Mason University Department of History.

Broadwater asserts that although Mason is often omitted today from the small circle of historical figures referred to as the Founding Fathers, his contributions to the basic framework of our government were legion. He wrote the first constitution for Virginia and was an active participant in writing a constitution for the new nation. He included a Declaration of Rights in the Virginia Constitution but went home from Philadelphia without signing the U.S. Constitution because it did not include a statement of the rights of citizens.

His firm opposition to a constitution that did not address rights of citizens led to a promise that such a statement called the Bill of Rights patterned after Mason’s Declaration of Rights would be added, and they became the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

Broadwater argues that “Mason’s recalcitrance was not the act of an isolated dissenter; rather, it emerged from the ideology of the American Revolution. Mason’s concerns about the abuse of political power went to the essence of the American experience.” That experience was the attack on natural rights by a series of acts passed by Parliament. An enumeration of rights in the constitution would protect citizen rights from future abuse by the government as Mason reasoned.

Those rights are the same ones that are being looked at by me and others who are apprehensive about the new administration taking over the federal government. Certainly the rhetoric of the campaign would suggest attitudes at odds with our constitutionally protected freedoms. I have as a result increased my annual giving to the Southern Poverty Law Center (www.splcenter.org) that does a superb job of defending our rights from extremists. I have joined the American Civil Liberties Union for the same reason. Organizations like these will be major watch dogs in protecting our rights in these uneasy times.

The other lecture I attended the same week was at the Fairfax County Annual History Conference whose theme this year was “Fairfax County’s Founding Fathers: The Masons Are Coming.” Of course Fairfax County does not have any hesitation in including its native son among the Founding Fathers. Scott Stroh, executive director of Mason’s home– Gunston Hall — in Fairfax County, put Mason’s contribution in clear focus with his lecture, “George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights and the World Changing Power of One Document.”

One way to deal with the uncertainties of our time is to remember Mason and our rights and to be thankful for him and them.

  • 33°

    He also oppossed the slave trade and if he would have won – no hip hop.

  • Mike M

    Since my previous reasoned response was censored for apparently being incompatible with the political views of the editing staff, here is a direct quote:

    “Forty years ago, when the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually, by totally disusing and neglecting the militia.”

    George Mason 1788

    And they ask me why I voted for Trump? Oh, wait a minute, they don’t ask me that, they just call me uneducated, mean, and racist.

  • RoadApples

    Remembering Our Rights: Work of George Mason
    ” I ask who are the Militia? They consist of the whole people, except for a few public officers.” George Mason Address to the Virginia Ratifying Convention June 4,1788
    ” To disarm the people…was the best and most effectual way to enslave them”
    George Mason Speech of June 14,1788

    • Mike M

      I’ve made a similar comment twice and both times it was censored by the new editors. Ken is clearly cherry picking his history as the editors are cherry picking their commentary.

  • Ming the Merciless

    Those rights are the same ones that are being looked at by me and others
    who are apprehensive about the new administration taking over the
    federal government.

    Yes, we have noticed a sudden resurgence in Democrat interest in “Executive Overreach”, checks and balances, Constitutional government, etc., after eight years of sublime indifference. We told you that you weren’t going to like it when one of the guys you detest got the powers your guy had, but you didn’t listen. Now, you made your bed, time to lie in it.

    • Guest

      Nice hot take, fresh from the oven! The intentional balance of congressional obstructionism and executive overreach was described all the way back by James Madison. Maybe next time, chum.

      • Ming the Merciless

        Missing the point as always. Democrats only care about checking overreach when a Republican is in office. They decry Congressional obstructionism when a Democrat is in office (that’s when “gridlock” is a baaaad thing).

  • Ming the Merciless

    It’s almost like Ken wants to rewrite history and cherry pick his historical facts in order to support his current political agenda or something…

  • Mike M

    Feel better?

  • Guest

    Nice try re: spying, but it’s primarily Republican lawmakers (McConnell, Cotton, etc.) who routinely obstruct NSA reform. Despite those efforts, we managed to take a strong step against citizen surveillance in 2015.

    Remember Trump’s tantrum over Apple Inc. (specifically, for some reason, possibly involving the T-word) because it wouldn’t break encryption to hand over your information? Weakening that technology would definitely leave you at the mercy of state actors. But I suspect you’re merely care trolling. Think of the child^W^Wyour personal information!

    • Mike M

      Oh, man! So, we’re back to a party fight? Not me. I am not a part of any of them. Where do people get the “my party is better than your party” stuff? Put down the kool-aid. Step away from the kool-aid. The best thing about Trump is that he damaged both of them.

      As for the rest of your blurb, I have no idea what you are talking about.


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