A part of our program here at Gunston Hall engages our visitors with an interpretation of the personalities involved in George Mason's life. We do this through living history and a group of volunteers known as the Gunston Hall Historic Interpreters Society (GHHIS). These individuals portray a number of people, including George Mason's family, household, and neighbors during the time that he was in residence at Gunston Hall. With ongoing research into these historical characters, they develop interpretations to support many of our special events and carry off a living history program that runs twice monthly from April through October.
In order to interpret, our living historians often have to get into the mindset, really into the 18th century. Lyn Padgett, President of the GHHIS, has done so in this letter, developing a reaction to events in George Mason's life through the lens of his wife, Sarah Brent Mason.
Gunston Hall May 30, 1787
Dear Sister Graham
Sister, I must beg your indulgence for not having corresponded prior to this time. I fear that I have been quite burdened with preparations for the Colonel’s trip to Philadelphia and my own preparations to visit you and your dear family.
With this missive I shall endeavor to provide you with the latest reportings of Mr. Mason’s current undertaking. I offer my apologies if you have previous knowledge of any of the news that is herewith forwarded.
I am given to understand that at the recommendation of Congress a Grand Convention of all the States be convened in Philadelphia commencing on the 14th day of May. This convention of delegates is to meet for the sole purpose of revising the articles of Confederation and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations as recommended.
The Virginia Assembly elected General George Washington to head the delegation from Virginia. Also elected as the Virginia Delegation were; Governor Edmund Randolph, Doctor James McClurg, Messrs. John Blair, George Wythe, and James Madison, and, as well you may know, my own dear husband.
Colonel Mason departed Gunston Hall the 9th day of May bound for Philadelphia by way of Baltimore City. He travels in the company of his Son John, whom by all of the Colonel’s accounts, is an amiable traveling companion. I received the Mr. Mason’s first missive from Baltimore City assuring me of his safe arrival and kind reception there.
Mr. Mason and Son arrived in the appointed city of the Grand Convention on the evening of the 17th only to find that a good part of the delegates had not yet arrived, only Virginia and Pennsylvania being fully represented. He was most fortunate in being able to secure a private room for lodging Himself and John. I fervently hope that he will be most comfortably settled there and that his recurrent affliction will not discomfort him much.
Earlier this month my husband received a warm letter from Mr. R.H. Lee expressing his accord with regard to General Washington and Mr. Mason being appointed as delegates to the Convention. Mr. Lee conveyed his sincere hopes that their efforts will be of benefit to our Nation. Mr. Lee himself declined to serve as a delegate as he too suffers from the same affliction as my husband.
Most recently, son George has received a letter from his Father in which was related the experiences of some of the delegates in their first attendance of a Catholic service. He relates that while the majority attended services out of curiosity, they found the church music exceeding fine accustomed as they are to the Anglican services that do not include music.
On the 25th day of May a quorum of seven states was secured. The first order of business was to elect our very own General Washington as President of the Grand Convention! Very soon after the election of the President the delegates determined that all their deliberations would be held in secret until the conclusion of their deliberations. I despair that no further news will be forthcoming my way as my husband will no doubt hold to the intent of their decision.
With that I must bid you adieu and commence with haste my preparations to travel to Dumfries. It is my intention to depart Gunston Hall within the week bound for your welcoming embrace and conversation. It is my sincere hope that this finds you and your dear family in fine health and prospering. Please convey my kindest regards to all.
I look forward most eagerly to the time we may soon spend in each other’s company. May it be sooner rather than later.
My dearest Madam your aff sister