In an Oct. 24, 1787, letter to Thomas Jefferson, James Madison expressed that, “Col. [George] Mason left Philadelphia in an exceeding ill humor indeed. A number of little circumstances arising in part from the impatience which prevailed towards the close of the business, conspired to whet his acrimony. He returned to Virginia with a fixed disposition to prevent the adoption of the plan if possible. He considers the want of a bill of rights as a fatal objection.”
At the Constitutional Convention, in mid-September 1787, committed Anti-Federalists George Mason and Eldridge Gerry failed to persuade any of their fellow delegates to preface the Constitution with a bill of rights.
“It would give great quiet to the people,” urged Mason. He also thought it would be easy to compile a list given the widespread presence of an introductory bill of rights at the state level. A few days later, on Sept. 17, 1787, both Mason and Gerry declined to sign the Constitution, citing the absence of a bill of rights.
Mason’s main objection was that, “There is no Declaration of Rights, and the laws of the general [federal] government being paramount to the laws and constitution of the several States, the Declaration of Rights in the separate States are no security. Nor are the people secured even in the enjoyment of the benefit of common law.”
However, months later, in February 1788, the Massachusetts Compromise was struck, thanks to the efforts of two other prominent Anti-Federalists, Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Thus the influential state of Massachusetts agreed to the ratification of the Constitution with the promise by Madison and the Federalists to support a bill of rights. And unlike the political class of today, they kept their promise.