Thursday, September 25, 2014

The “Other” Amendments in the Bill of Rights

By Frank N. Barker
Assistant Education Coordinator

On this day, September 25, in 1787, a joint resolution of the 1st Congress approved 12 amendments to the recently ratified Constitution of the United States. These would become known as the Bill of Rights and many of the ideas and wording were based on George Mason’s 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights.

Did you read that paragraph carefully? Did you notice that Congress approved 12 amendments? Do you remember all 12 or were you pretty sure that there are only 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights?

Image Courtesy of the National Constitution Center
Congress indeed sent 12 amendments out to the states for ratification. Articles 3 through 12 were ratified and on December 15, 1791, became Articles 1 through 10, the Bill of Rights. What about those other two amendments?

The original Article 1 states “After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.”

This article is still pending. Despite the eventual approval by 12 states by 1792, it was still two states short of ratification. No additional states have voted for it since then. Today, with 50 states, this amendment will need ratification by 27 more states to become an amendment. Congress set no time limit to proposed amendments, so though it is not ratified, it still could be.

Article 2 was submitted by Congress to the states for ratification on September 25, 1789. It was approved and became part of the United States Constitution on May 7, 1992. If you are keeping score, that took 202 years, 7 months and 12 days, longer than any other Constitutional amendment. Instead of becoming the Second Amendment, it became the 27th.

This 27th Amendment prohibits any law that increases or decreases the salary of members of Congress from taking effect until the start of the next set of terms of office for Representatives.

It is the most recent amendment to the United States Constitution. It just took a while to get there.

Lloyd, Gordon. "The Bill of Rights | Teaching American History." Teaching American History. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2014. <>.
“The 27th Amendment | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives.” The 27th Amendment. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2014. <>.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

George's Aunt Simpha

By Carole Thomas
Gunston Hall Historic Interpreter Society
Pohick Docent Guild

Information about a woman in the 18th century can be scarce even if she was a member of a family which had a significant impact on the transformation of Virginia from a colony of the mother country, England, to a state in an independent nation. Simpha Rosa Ann Field Mason Dinwiddie Bronaugh was the paternal aunt of George Mason IV. The information available about her provides basic knowledge about her family background, whom she married, how many children she had, but little about her skills and accomplishments.

Simpha was born into the gentry in 1703 in Stafford County, Virginia, to George Mason II (1660-1716) and his wife, Mary Fowke. Simpha’s maternal grandfather, Colonel Gerard Fowke, was an ex-Royalist officer who immigrated to Virginia in 1651 and settled in Westmoreland County. He purchased land in Virginia, became a Burgess in 1663, and moved to Maryland in 1664, where he purchased additional large grants of land. Colonel Fowke died in 1669. Her oldest brother George would become the father of George Mason of Gunston Hall.

Simpha’s paternal grandfather was George Mason I (1629-1686), who was born in Pershore in Worcestershire, England and immigrated to Virginia about 1651. In 1659, he was Sheriff of Stafford County, a member of the House of Burgesses in 1676, and a Colonel of the Militia. He died in 1686.

As a member of the landed gentry, Simpha likely would have been an educated woman for the period in which she lived. During the 18th century, girls were usually educated at home by their governesses or tutoresses. Simpha would also have been schooled in the skills of housewifery by her mother. At a later period in her life, it would appear that Simpha possessed and demonstrated the character traits necessary to successfully take charge of the responsibilities she accepted as a result of life’s challenges. Simpha was widowed twice, both times inheriting the lands, stocks, slaves, servants and livestock for which her husbands’ had been responsible. With each husband, she had children for whose care and education she was also responsible. Perhaps she had family members or friends guiding her in performing these duties, but we do not have any records of such additional involvement.

In 1716, Simpha married John Dinwiddie, the younger brother of Robert Dinwiddie, governor of Virginia from 1751-1758. John was a member of a Scottish family that had established a successful mercantile business in the Virginia tobacco trade. John handled the family’s interests on the Rappahannock River. In 1724 he returned to Scotland, became ill and died. In his will, John specified that Simpha must bring their daughters to Scotland and sell the Virginia estates for the girls’ support. Further, if Simpha was unwilling to leave Virginia, she could remain but was still required to send the girls to his relatives. Simpha refused to leave the land where she was born and would not send her daughters away.

For an 18th century woman to willfully defy the stipulations of her husband’s will as Simpha did required determination and courage. She must have considered what repercussions she and her daughters might have experienced because of her decision to challenge the law. Fortunately for Simpha and the girls, news of a second will reached Virginia in December of 1726. It would appear that this will did not have the stipulation of returning the girls to family in Scotland. However, when the two girls were old enough they went to England for their education, after which they returned to Virginia.

In December 1727, Simpha married Jeremiah Bronaugh, Jr. of King George County, Virginia, and kept the children from her first marriage with her. Jeremiah was a Justice of the Fairfax County Court (1741-1749) and a vestryman of Pohick Church, Truro Parish, Lorton, Virginia. He became a close friend of George Mason III. In 1731, George Mason III leased the plantation known as Newtown to his sister Simpha and her husband Jeremiah. Newtown had been the home of Mason’s father, George Mason II, and was located to the northwest of the current Gunston Hall mansion. Jeremiah and Simpha had five children.

From what we do know of gentry women’s duties during the 18th century, we can postulate that Simpha’s duties and skills were similar. She would have been responsible for the management of the household and involved in plantation activities. Even though indentured servants and slaves would have done the actual work, her responsibility was to see that everything was performed in a manner that would provide suitable hospitality to guests as well as family members. Simpha would have acted as the hostess when visitors came to the plantation, therefore, she needed to have the social skills necessary to make them feel comfortable. She would have arranged for the provision of clothing for the household staff, the slaves working on the plantation and her family members. Some clothing was imported from Europe, and some was made on the plantation. She would have overseen the spinning, weaving and dyeing of cloth. The provision and preparation of food for family members and guests was also supervised by the lady of the house. After the deaths of John and Jeremiah, Simpha would have been in frequent communication with the overseers of the various plantations and farms that were left to her and her children. It appears that her skills would have been those of a manager, diplomat, administrator, supervisor and procurer of supplies.

Jeremiah died in 1749; Simpha later moved into Gunston Hall where she died on November 22, 1761 at the age of 58. Although Jeremiah’s tombstone is at the Pohick Church cemetery, it is probable that both of them are buried at the Family Burying Place at Newtown.

Bronaugh 1670s – 1970s, A Tricentennial Genealogy with Biographical Notes (Revised March, 1982), Researched and Compiled by Robert Brett Bronaugh
Copeland, Pamela C. and MacMaster, Richard K., The Five George Masons, Patriots and Planters of Virginia and Maryland, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1975.
Conversation with Lacey Villiva, Education Manager, Gunston Hall, July 10, 2014.
Dave Shonyo, Staff Archaeologist, “Lost Mason Burying Ground Has Been Found,” Gunston Hall Blog, June 27, 2013.
Minutes of the Vestry, Truro Parish, Virginia, 1732-1785, Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD, 1995.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

William Grayson, One of Virginia’s First Senators

By Frank N. Barker
Assistant Education Coordinator

The August 29, 2014, edition of the Washington Post contained an article about the restoration of the tomb of William Grayson, who was born and was buried in 1790 at Belle Air plantation, in what is now Woodbridge, VA.

The article states that Grayson was the only U.S. Senator from Prince William County and died after only one year in office. What the article doesn’t mention is that George Mason of Gunston Hall was appointed to succeed him.

Senator William Grayson was described 
as one of the most handsome of the 
founding fathers. He was six feet tall 
and weighed 250 pounds. Photo from
 Biographical Directory of the United 
States Congress.
William Grayson was born in 1736 to Benjamin Grayson, an immigrant from Dumfries, Scotland, and Susannah Monroe, first cousin twice removed to James Monroe. Before he was 30, Grayson had become a very successful lawyer in Dumfries, Virginia. Part of his social circle and legal clients included neighbors from Fairfax County, George Washington and George Mason. According to one writer, he was “a member of the old Pohick Church as well as their chosen attorney.”

During the American Revolution, Grayson served as an aide-de-camp to his neighbor and former legal client George Washington. As a colonel in the Continental Army, Grayson later commanded an infantry regiment at the Battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. After his regiment was incorporated into another, Col. Grayson became a member of the Congressional Board of War

After the war, Grayson returned to his law practice and served Virginia in the House of Delegates from 1784 to 1785, then was a member of the Confederation Congress from 1785 to 1787. He was elected as a delegate to the Virginia Ratifying Convention of June 1788 during which, along with Patrick Henry and George Mason, he opposed the adoption of the new Constitution. He felt the Constitution favored the northern states and that a bill of rights was needed.

Despite the objections of these Anti-Federalists, the Constitution was ratified. In November, the Virginia Legislature elected the first U.S. Senators from the Old Dominion. William Grayson, Richard Henry Lee, and James Madison were the three candidates. Through the political dealings of Patrick Henry, including warning the House of Delegates that Madison was untrustworthy and would be certain to betray the Anti-Federalists should he be elected, Grayson and Lee were selected.

Grayson and Lee thus became Virginia’s first Senators. They traveled to the capital in New York City where they were the only Anti-Federalists serving in the Senate. Grayson served throughout the first session until adjournment in September 1789. Before he could return for the next session in the spring of 1790, he died, probably from complications of the gout which had afflicted him for years. He was buried at the plantation where he was born, which had been inherited by his older brother, Rev. Spence Grayson.

Upon Sen. Grayson’s death, Governor Beverly Randolph offered the Senate seat to George Mason. In his letter of March 25, 1790, to Col. Mason, Randolph wrote: “The very important subjects now before congress so interesting to America in general and more especially to your native State call for the counsels of the wisest of her citizens.”

Mason received the letter two days later and immediately responded to turn down the appointment citing his “present State of Health…I have been confined by a severe Fit of the Gout, ever since the Second Week in January….I have little Hopes of being able to go abroad, for a considerable Time to come.”

He went on to write, “…even if I was now in New York it wou’d not be in my Power to render our Country any essential Service, and I can’t reconcile myself to the Idea of receiving the Publick’s Money for Nothing.” He said he was “sensible” of the honor of the appointment and thanked the Governor and his council for their favorable opinion “of which I shall ever retain the most grateful Remembrance.

Grayson’s Senate seat was then given to John Walker, another former colonel and aide-de-camp to Gen. Washington. He served until November of 1790, when the Senate elected James Monroe to the post. He served until March 1794 when President Washington appointed him Minister of France.

Monroe was then succeeded in the Senate by a Mason. Two years after George Mason’s death, his nephew Stevens Thomson Mason was elected. He was twice reelected to the office, and died in Philadelphia in 1803 during his third term.

Lawson, Terry. "Prince William County, VAGenealogy Research, Resources, and Records." Prince William Co VA Genealogy: Belle Aire Plantation. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2014.
Nehring, Marilyn, et al. "William Grayson." William Grayson. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2014.
Rutland, Robert Allen, ed. The Papers of George Mason 1787-1792. Vol. III. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina, 1970. Print.
Ward, Harry M. For Virginia and for Independence: Twenty-Eight Revolutionary War Soldiers from the Old Dominion. McFarland & Co. North Carolina. 2011. Google Books. Web. 09 Sept. 2014.
Zauzmer, Julie. "In 224 Years, Va. Tomb Has Seen War, Hippies. And Now Public-private Partnership." The Washington Post, Aug. 29, 2014. Web. 09 Sept. 2014.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Avoiding Salmon Bricks, Crumbly Mortar and Pernicious Cockroaches

By Frank N. Barker
Assistant Education Coordinator

George Mason has a reputation as a planter, a patriot, a protector of rights, father, and Founding Father. But reading his collected letters, one can find that he was expert on all sorts of sundry matters from medical cures for flux, to the best method to make cyder, to what a militiaman should carry into battle. The renaissance men get all the press, but the 18th century men were amazing polymaths as well. In a July1763 letter to his neighbor Alexander Henderson in Colchester, George Mason lived up to his last name as he advised his friend on masonry affairs. Apparently Henderson was making preparations for building a house and Mason, having recently completed Gunston Hall, was happy to share his expertise.

A brick made at Gunston Hall.
Mason on Bricks
I wou’d advise you to have your Cellars quite up to the Water-Table laid wth. Sound Bricks; Salmon Bricks* are very apt to moulder in a Cellar when there is any Dampness, wh. few are without: it is usual with workmen to stowaway their bad Bricks in the Cellars, not because they will last better there than in the other parts of the Building, but because they are more out of Sight. Salmon Bricks may do very well for Inside-work above the Water-table, & in the Breasts & bulky parts of Chimney.

Mason on Mortar
When I built my House I was at some pains to measure all the Lime & Sand as my Mortar was made up, & always had two Beds, one for outside-Work 2/3ds. Lime & 1/3d. Sand, the other equal parts of Lime & Sand for Inside-work—it is easily measured in any old Tub or Barrel, & there is no other way to be sure of having your mortar good without Waste, & the different parts of yr. Building equally strong.

The sturdy brickwork at Gunston Hall, showing the flemish bond and the water table

Mason on Sand
If you have any good pit-sand, out of your Cellars or Well, it will make your mortar much tougher & stronger than it will be wth. other sand , & in that Case the proportion of Lime may be something less. Next to pit sand the River Shoar Sand on fresh Water is best, & the Sand in the Roads worst of all; as being very foul & full of Dust.

Mason on Pest Control
I wou’d by no means put any Clay or Loam in any of the Mortar; in the first place the Mortar is not near so strong, & besides from its being of a more soft & crumbly Nature, it is very appt to nourish & harbor those pernicious little Vermin the Cockroaches, who can’t so easily penetrate into the strong harsh Mortar made wth. Lime & Sand only; & this I assure you is no slight Consideration; for I have seen some brick Houses so infested wth. these Devils that a Man had better lived in a Barne than in one of them.

Mason on Hair 
I send you all the Hair I have except a little I kept in Case we shou’d have any small Job to do. Melford tells me there is 18 Bushels of it. [Presumably horsehair, destined for use in reinforcing the plaster used on interior walls. Eighteen bushels seems like a paltry amount, as in a 1787 letter to George Mason, Junior, the elder Mason advises him to obtain “about 150 Bushells; but you had better get a good deal more, as there will be 50, or 60 Bushels wanted for yr. Brother Thomson.”]

Alexander Henderson was born in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1756, he immigrated to Virginia and settled in Colchester, Virginia, becoming a neighbor and eventually friend of George Mason.

Bricks in an 18th century slave quarter at Boone's Plantation, SC.
Henderson served in the Virginia militia during the American Revolution. He represented Fairfax County in the Virginia House of Delegates 1783–1784 and Prince William County 1789–1790. With George Mason, he was a delegate to the Mount Vernon Conference in 1785 which led to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He also served as a vestryman at Pohick Church and a magistrate of Fairfax and Prince William Counties.

In 1787, Henderson moved to Dumfries, Virginia, where his home still stands, presumably because he followed George Mason’s advice on bricks and mortar. In Dumfries, Henderson opened a store with additional outlets eventually opening in Colchester, Occoquan, and Alexandria. This led to Alexander Henderson becoming known at the “father of the American chain store.”

Besides giving birth to the chain store concept, Henderson was the father of Archibald Henderson, the longest-serving Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, who served from 1820 to 1859.

In his will, George Mason appoints Alexander Henderson as one of the five “good friends” directed to help divide his estate after his death. The other members of that committee were “the Revd. Mr. James Scott, the Revd. Mr. Lee Massey, Mr. John West Junr. [and] Colo. George Washington.” 

salmon brick* A soft, imperfectly fired brick having a reddish-orange color.

Rutland, Robert A., ed. The Papers of George Mason 1725-1792. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina, 1970. 
"Salmon Brick.", n.d. Web. 25 July 2014.