Ellie Wood Keith Genealogy

James Murray Mason[1]

Male 1798 - 1871  (72 years)


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  • Name James Murray Mason 
    Born 3 Nov 1798  "Selma", Winchester, VA Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Gender Male 
    Died 28 Apr 1871  "Clarens", Fairfax, VA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Christ Church Demetery, Alexandria Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Person ID I1000252  Ellie Wood Keith
    Last Modified 19 Mar 2017 

    Father General John Mason,   b. 4 Apr 1766,   d. 19 Mar 1849, Alexandria, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 82 years) 
    Mother Anna Maria Murray,   b. 13 Oct 1776,   d. 29 Nov 1857, Clermont Woods, Fairfax, VA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 81 years) 
    Family ID F1000113  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Eliza Margaretta Chew Chew,   b. 18 Nov 1798, Germantown Philadelphia Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 Jul 1874, Clarens, Alexandria, VA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 75 years) 
    Married 12 Jan, 1863 
    Children 
     1. Anna Maria Mason,   b. 31 Jan 1825,   d. 17 Aug 1863  (Age 38 years)
     2. Benjamin Chew Mason,   b. 1826,   d. 1847  (Age 21 years)
     3. Catherine Chew Mason,   b. 24 Mar 1828,   d. 28 Apr 1893  (Age 65 years)
     4. George Mason,   b. 16 Apr 1830,   d. 3 Feb 1895, Galveston, Texas Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 64 years)
     5. Virginia Mason,   b. 12 Dec 1833,   d. 11 Oct 1920  (Age 86 years)
     6. Eliza Ida Oswald Mason,   b. 10 Aug 1836,   d. 16 Dec 1885  (Age 49 years)
     7. John A Mason,   b. 17 Nov 1841,   d. 6 Jun 1925  (Age 83 years)
     8. James Murray Mason, Jr.,   b. 25 Aug 1839, District of Columbia, USA? Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 10 Jan 1923  (Age 83 years)  [putative]
    Last Modified 17 Jun 2017 
    Family ID F1000104  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 

    • Notes for James Murray Mason

      July) Virginia, Fairfax Co., Falls Church Township, Series M593_1645 Part 1, Page 298B/299A, lines 36-40/1-5: James M. Mason (b. 1798 - 71 - in DC - Occ: Farmer - Property Value $9000 + $22000) married to Eliza (b. 1799 - 71 - in PA - Property Value $15000 + $5000). Children listed (born in VA) are: Virginia (dau b. 1834 - 36); and Eliza (dau b. 1837 - 33). Also listed are: Mary Agnes Bingle (b. 1849 - 21 - in Canada - Occ: Domestic Servant); Jane Patterson (b. 1838 - 32 - in Ireland - Occ: Seamstress); Hannah Someby (b. 1835 - 35 - in VA - Occ: Domestic Servant - BLACK); James Davis (b. 1856 - 14 - in VA - Occ: Domestic Servant - BLACK); James Dalglish (b. 1840 - 30 - in Scotland - Occ: Gardner); and Richard Sebastian (b. 1812 - 58 - in VA - Occ: Farm Hand)

      !"The Winchester Star" Newspaper article Monday, January 11, 1999; "A Confederate in Her Majesty's Court" by J. Paul Sandefur (transcribed by Larry Weems):
      It's a well-known fact that Winchester changed hands more than any other town during the Civil War.
      What isn't as well known is that one of the principal players of the Confederacy, James Murray Mason - the Virginia senator who authored the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that mandated the return of runaway slaves and outlawed assisting the fugitives in any way - lived in Winchester for 32 years.
      A new biography of Mason, titled "Senator James Murray Mason" Defender of the Old South" details the Winchester resident's life. The first full-length biography of Mason, the book was written by Robert W. Young, a history professor at Carroll Community College in Westminster, Md. According to Young, Mason - grandson of Revolutionary legislator George Mason - moved to Winchester in 1820 to set up his law practice, having recently completed his study of law at the College of William and Mary. "The first few years in Winchester were difficult for a young man away from his family and struggling to establish a fledgling law practice," Young writes.
      He married Eliza Chew of Philadelphia in 1822 and spent the next four years expanding his practice and starting a family. By 1826, the young Mason had established his practice and embarked on a political career. He was elected to represent Frederick County in Virginia House of Delegates.
      In 1829, the Masons purchased Selma, a stone house just west of Winchester, where they lived for 32 years while James Murray Mason rose to national political prominence.
      Young describes Mason as a tall, big-boned man with a receding hairline and bushy eyebrows.
      Mason served in the House of Representatives for two years before being elected to the Senate in 1847. Three years after his election, Mason drafted the Fugitive Slave Act. Part of the Compromise of 1850 between Northern and Southern states that delayed the Civil War for about 10 years, the Fugitive Slave Act no doubt was based on Mason's belief that slavery was a vibrant, positive social system, according to Young.
      Mason did not consider it "expedient or wise...to educate the Negro race at all, bond or free," and thought that freeing the slaves "would end...in their relapsing into utter and brutal barbarism," according to Young.
      In short, Mason believed bondage was the best place for blacks, Young writes "Mason had a paternalistic relationship with the few slaves whom he owned, and he made the mistake of assuming that kindness and generosity were the norm for Southern slave owners."
      Despite these beliefs, Young insists Mason didn't support secession simply to defend the institution of slavery.
      Instead, Young writes that Mason viewed the changing North, with its rapid industrialization and call to free the slaves, as infringing on Virginia's constitutional right to govern its own affairs.
      "Critics may accuse him of seeking to perpetuate a society built upon oppression. But within his own frame of reference, Mason fought for freedom just as much as his 18th century predecessors had," Young writes.
      The Compromise of 1850 sought to ease tensions between North and South, particularly over the issue of slavery.
      But the subject was again thrust into the national spotlight in 1859, when a band of Kansas abolitionists led by John Brown raided the U.S. Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, then part of Virginia.
      Roused from his home by the news of the attack, Mason personally interrogated the sounded Brown at Harpers Ferry.
      According to Young, Mason pressed Brown to name the insurrection's financial backers, convinced Northerners had assisted the Kansas abolitionist.
      When Brown refused to identify anyone, Mason asked Brown how he justified killing innocent people.
      "I think, my friend, you are guilty of a great wrong against God and humanity," Young quotes Brown as saying.
      Following the incident, Mason chaired the Senate committee that investigated the uprising.
      Thought it spent six months bringing witnesses before the Senate in an attempt to implicate others in the plot, the committee ended its probe with an anticlimactic report.
      The report concluded Brown "did not even trust those closest to him with his plans," and therefore could not have been acting under the guidance of others.
      Despite Mason's hopes, the hearings did not expose the grand Northern conspiracy that he suspected, a conclusion that frustrated the Virginian.
      Although the excitement of the attack died down, the issue that prompted it did not, and just seven months after the committee submitted its report, South Carolina seceded from the Union.
      Six other states followed South Carolina's lead during the next couple of weeks.
      By the end of January 1861, the division of the Union was no longer speculation.
      At least rhetorically, Mason supported efforts to reconcile the Union and the severed Southern states, though Young asserts Mason and Virginia were only biding their time before joining their Southern neighbors.
      However, with President Abraham Lincoln's deployment of 75,000 federal troops in April of 1861 to counter the Confederate assault on the U. S. garrison at Fort Sumter in Charleston, S. C., Mason could no longer ride the fence on the issue, according to Young.
      In Mason's words, "a war which could conquer a peace only in oceans of blood" was now unavoidable.
      What happened next is what history remembers Mason for most.
      Mason is most famous for his role in the Trent Affair, a naval incident that sparked international outrage and nearly ignited a war between the United States and Great Britain in 1861.
      Mason and Louisiana Sen. John Slidell had been hand picked in the fall of 1861 by Confederate President Jefferson Davis to become European ambassadors for the Confederacy.
      Slidell was to travel to Paris to represent Confederate interests to Napoleon III.
      At the same time, Mason was sent to London to urge the British government to formally recognize the Confederacy as a legitimate government, a key element to the South's hopes for success.
      Davis no doubt picked Mason in part because of Mason's service as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1851 to 1861.
      On their voyage to Europe, the ambassadors were taken from a British mail steamer, the Trent, by a U. S. naval vessel off the coast of Havana. The U. S. vessel was enforcing a Union blockade of Southern ports.
      Upon learning the identity of the Confederate ambassadors, U. S. Navy Captain Charles Wilkes arrested the two Southerners, despite Mason's claim that they were under the protection of the flag of a neutral country.
      Wilkes brought his prisoners to Boston, where they were imprisoned on Nov. 24, 1861, much to the delight of the Northerners, who saw their arrest as a stunning blow to the Southern independence.
      Hoping for British retaliation, Davis lodged an official protest of his diplomats arrest, claiming the act not only violated Confederate rights but also affronted British authority because the men were seized from a British vessel.
      London responded by demanding the immediate release of Mason and Slidell.
      The British government also deployed an additional 8,000 soldiers to Canada to reinforce her majesty's troops in North America should diplomacy fail.
      Faced with the unwanted prospect of war with Britain, Lincoln bowed to British pressure and released Mason and Slidell, who were placed on another steamer bound for Europe, according to Young.
      The move was initially viewed as a diplomatic victory for the South. But Young asserts that Davis did not capitalize on swelling support for the Southern cause among British citizens.
      Young characterizes Davis' foreign policy as passive, and the fuss over the crisis died down quicker than it had risen, leaving the South without any advantage.
      "The Confederacy could have stood up as the independent nation it claimed to be," Young states.
      Instead, it's leaders emerged from the incident empty-handed.
      Following the Trent Affair, Mason spent the next four years trying unsuccessfully to persuade British officials to formally recognize the Confederate government.
      A consummate diplomat, Mason spent a great deal of his time in the company of London's high society, where he was quite well received and where his cause had support, despite Britain's insistence on neutrality.
      However, while Mason worked his delicate social magic on the lords and ladies of England, his wife and children remained at Selma for the first part of the war.
      Life in Winchester became quite difficult.
      According to a diary kept during the war by his Winchester neighbor, Cornelia McDonald, families accustomed to stocked smokehouses and root cellars were suddenly forced to scrounge for any food they could find.
      Eliza Mason and her daughters were forced to abandon Selma in March 1862 when Northern troops prepared to capture Winchester. They retreated to Richmond, the capital city of the Confederacy.
      Union troops occupied Selma that month, demolishing it "little by little over the nest ten months. The federal soldiers began by chipping off pieces of it to send north as sourvenirs," Young writes.
      By January 1863, the roof had been removed and the walls were pulled down and burned for firewood. Stones from the house were used to build Union fortifications, according to Young.
      When news of the demolition reached London, Mason vowed never to return to Winchester.
      A year after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox in 1865, Mason joined his family in Canada, where they lived as expatriates until 1869.
      Mason returned to Virginia in 1869 to find a suitable home in which to relocate his family to his beloved state.
      According to his daughter, Virginia Mason, the 71-year-old Southern gentleman left Canada in the early summer of 1869, making his way south to Virginia.
      He visited many friends along the way, which raised his spirits, according to his daughter.
      During his trip, he purchased a house in Fairfax Co., where he could bring his family and live out his days in comfort.
      But a bitter note resonated throughout his travel.
      While in Virginia, Mason returned to Winchester, where they havoc of war inflicted on his hometown grieved him greatly.
      Many of the homes he once visited and friends he knew before the war were gone.
      "When he returned to Canada his family were shocked...by the change wrought in him during the few weeks of his absence," his daughter wrote. "He came back an old man."
      During the next several months, Mason's health declined, as if the burden of the struggle he thought would free his beloved state came crashing down upon him.
      Young writes that Mason never recovered from the sorrow he felt at seeing Winchester so changed from how he remembered it.
      Mason died on April 28, 1871, "six years after the South's military defeat completed the destruction of the world he spent his life defending."

      (Editor's Note: The property on which Mason's house stood was sold after the war.
      According to Garland R. Quarles, the new Selma, located at 514 Amherst St., was built on the same property in the early 1870's by Judge Edmund Pendleton, who had purchased the property from Robert Steel in 1872.
      Selma is now a private residence owned by the Charles H. and Lucile W. Dick family, who are not connected to the Mason family.)

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  • Sources 
    1. [S1] Gunston Hall.org, http://www.gunstonhall.org/library/masonweb/p6.htm#i256 (Reliability: 3).

    2. [S1] Gunston Hall.org, http://www.gunstonhall.org/library/masonweb/p6.htm#i256.