It won't be a $1 bill but, come May 7, Virginia's "other George" will have first-class billing. That is the day the U.S. Postal Service issues a new 18-cent stamp honoring George Mason, author of the Virginia Constitution and the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which served as precursors of the Declaration of Indepedence and the U.S. Bill of Rights.
The new stamp, with a profile of Mason softly sketched in blue, finally may do what many claimed has been owed this retiring yet deligent patriot for more than two centuries: an honored spot in American history.
The push to issue a stamp honoring Mason began with the Commemorative Stamp Committee of the George Mason chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.
"One of the incredible facts of history is that millions of Americans never heard of George Mason," wrote Jack Minnick, a committee member, in a letter dated more than a year ago to the postmaster general. "The proposes stamp or stamps are the least we can do to honor the real father of our Constitution and Bill of Rights during our constitutional bicentennial years."
The U.S. stamp selection committee which meets four times a year, reviewed Minnick's documentation, and agreed to make the Mason stamp the second in the Great American series and to designate Mason's home -- Gunston Hall near Lorton -- the site of the first-day issue.
In announcing the new stamp, the Postal Service described Mason as a "leader of Virginia patriots on the eve of the American revolution."
"With the declartion of right," the announcement continued, . . . Mason became the first to articulate the doctorine of inalienable rights that became the foundation of the Declaration of Indepedence, subsequently drafted by Thomas Jefferson."
Ironically, it was probably Mason's steadfast defense of civil liberties and his decision to shun most political offices that led to his shadowed place in American history.
Although he served in the Virginia General Assembly from 1776 to 1780 and again from 1786 to 1788, he previously had declined to serve as a delegate to the Continental Congress, and later as one of the first U.S. senators from Virginia.
However, at the age of 60, Mason agreed to be a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, where he urged delegates to include a bill of rights and fought against fellow southerners on the issue of slavery. When the delegates refused to include a bill of rights or to end slavery, and Mason refused to sign the constitution.
Although Mason's hopes to end the slave trade, which he described as "disgraceful to mankind," were never realized in his lifetime, his strong support for a bill of rights came to fruition in 1791, a year before his death in 1792.
First-day issue ceremonies for the new George Mason stamp begin at 11 a.m. next Thursday at Gunston Hall, just off Rte. 1 south of Mount Vernon. The ceremonies are open to the public.
There are several rules for obtaining first day cancellations:
For collectors who wish the postal service to affix the stamps: Send a self-addressed envelope for each cancellation you want to: Mason Stamp, Postmaster, Lorton, Va. 22079. You must enclose a check or money order (DO NOT SEND CASH) to cover the cost of each 18-cent stamp.
For collectors buying their own Mason stamp: Send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: First Day Cancellations, Postmaster, Lorton, Va. 22079.
All collectors should insert a filler, the thickness of a post card, in each first-day cover, and all orders must be postmarked no later than June 22.
The George Mason stamp will be available at regular post offices May 8.