« ZurückWeiter »
see again. What agony must one feel when all action and power are taken from him; when he has lost the use of the only language in which he could embody the best thoughts and highest aspirations of his being. Yet, though he passed away from the living almost uunoticed and unknowu, his life was not left unrecorded. It is written in his works, by his own hand. The sheets of canvass he painted over, are chapters of biography drawn from the very soul of the artist, and recording the character and tendencies of the entire life and acts of the man. Every moment is the expression of the energies of our inner existence. And each touch of the pencil becomes a written page of history, a fragment of one great confession.
“ And the dog," you ask, “what became of the dog ?" His story is brief. He laid upon the grave of his master all the time, only leaving it once a day to go to the sexton's house for a crust of bread. And when he had eaten it, he would not stay; but hastened back again. At last he did not come; and they found him stretched dead over the grave of his master. They pulled off a little turf and laid him on the very spot which he seemed to have chosen for himself. Some one has scratched in rude letters on the stone beneath the name of RIALTI THE BLIND ARTIST-that of his dog, SYLVIO.
I have sometimes thought there might be a future—even to a dog.
The earth-the sea—the air are full of thee
All universal nature owns thy sway
The Angels thy entrancing spells obey-
The High-Priest of the heart—that, soothing, e'er
To its confessions lend'st a willing ear,
Thou dwellest with the humble, sad, and lone,
And broken-hearted, when Love-hope have flown,
Ilow could I live without thee! unto whom
In melancholy moments could I fly
To breathe one thought-one wish-one hope-one sigh-
My spirit cheer with visions of to-morrow,
That her least works into the mind infuse?
POLITICAL PORTRAITS WITI PEN AND PENCIL.
SELAH B. STRONG.
The present age, says Sir Walter Scott, has discovered an ardent desire for literary anecdote and private history; and he might with propriety have added, that as the age will not otherwise be satisfied, it may as well be informed of what it has a reasonable right to know. For as the reputation of every public man is the property of the public, all are interested in ascertaining, and it is to its common advantage to learn, by what steps individual distinction has been attained.
The great art of life, according to Dr. Johnson, is to improve the golden moment of opportunity and catch the good that is within our reach ; yet experience shows that this is not always done, while many seem properly aware of its importance, and accordingly improve every advantage which is presented to them. Some there are who, in addition to the common circumstances of life, are fortunate enough to be able to deduce their descent from those who, in their day, were conspicuous for intellectual and moral excellence-a fact which, while it may render the worthless more contemptible, cannot but afford the sincerest gratification to such as have, by their own good conduct, profited by the example of those who preceded them, and won the favorable opinion of their cotemporaries; and, surely, the proud standing of one's progenitors, should prove not only a powerful incentive to emulation, but impose, if possible, a more solemn duty to avoid any course that may entail dishonor upon those who shall come after us.
In whatever appertains to ancestral worth, in a country where heraldic honors and titles by hereditary right are unknown, the individual named at the head of this communication may be considered fortunate-his ancestors having ranked among the most worthy emigrants to New Eng. land, as well as to Long Island. In the sketch we are about to give, we desire to avoid any undeserved eulogy; for, however much persons in general are elated with praise, the man of sense and modesty desires nothing more than the esteem of his fellow-men, based upon a life of honor and usefulness.
Selah Brewster Strong was born in Brookhaven, on Long Island, May 1, 1792. His father, Thomas S. Strong, Esq., an extensive agriculturalist, and highly esteemed for his good sense and sterling integrity, was for many years first judge of the county of Suffolk. His grandfather was Selah Strong, Esq., a farmer also, who held the office of first judge of the county several years, and was a State Senator. His wife was the daughter of Col. William Smith, through whom the subject of this sketch is descended, from Chief Justice Smith, (commonly designated as Tangier Smith,) who, in 1687, purchased the beautiful neck in Setauket, called, by the Indians, Minasseroke, of about five hundred acres-Mr. Strong being the present proprietor of this fine homestead and farm of his highly respectable ancestor. It is, moreover, a singular circumstance, in the history of this valuable domain, that the six persons, three of the Smith family and three of the Strong family, who have successively owned it, have all held judicial stations; the first, and the present proprietors, as justices of the Supreme Court, and the other four as first judges of the county of Suffolk.
The mother of Mr. Strong was a daughter of Joseph Brewster, Esq., of Setauket, and a descendant of the venerable elder, William Brewster, one of the colony, who, arriving in the Mayflower, landed at Plymouth rock in the winter of 1620. He is also descended, on his father's side, from the Rev. Thomas Shepard, first minister of Charlestown, Massachusetts, whose daughter Anna was the wife of Col. Henry Smith, son of the Chief Justice. Mr. Strong's first paternal ancestor, in this country, was Elder John Strong, who emigrated from Taunton, in Somersetshire, England, and arrived in Massachusetts, May 30, 1630. He finally settled in Northampton, where he died in 1699. Mr. Strong commenced his studies, preparatory to entering college, with the Rev. Dr. Herman Daggert, one of the ministers of Brookhaven, and was admitted a member of Yale College in 1807, where he graduated in the autumn of 1811. He obtained a respectable appointment, and was considered the best mathematical scholar in his class.
Although descended from a federal family, he discovered, at this early age, an ardent attachment to the principles of the democratic party. In a political discussion, in his class at college, held before President Dwight, he entered into an elaborate defence of the conduct of that party, and particularly of the course pursued by Mr. Jefferson. The President, who, with all his other estimable qualities, was a high-toned federalist, answered many of his positions with great warmth; and, at length, became so much excited, that one of the class (now Judge Milo L. Bennett, of Vermont,) begged Mr. Strong to desist. He replied, that they were sen. timents in the correctness of which he had great confidence, and he should not hesitate to declare them. The dispute, however, made no alteration in the conduct of the President. He uniformly treated Mr. Strong with great kindness and courtesy, and, when he parted from him, expressed very favorable expectations as to his future career.
Mr. Strong pursued the study of the law with his uncle, George W. Strong, Esq., an eminent counsellor in the city of New York, and was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court, in October, 1814. He immediately opened an office in New-York, and, like many others of the same profession, had, at first, but little to do ; but, by assiduity and strict attention to his business, he soon obtained a lucrative practice. The delicate state of his health at length required him to leave the city, and he removed to his native place in the latter part of the year 1920, where he continued in the practice of his profession, until he was promoted to the bench of the Supreme Court.
He was appointed District Attorney of the county of Suffolk, in the place of the Hon. Silas Wood, by a democratic council of appointment, the sixth of March, 1821, and held the office, with an intermission of four years, until June, 1847, when he resigned it. His attention and ability in discharging the duties of that office may be inferred from the fact, that during the long period in which he held it, there was not a single acquittal by reason of a variance between the charge in the indictment and the proof on the trial, and but one indictment was quashed, which was solely from a question of much doubt and difficulty as to the jurisdiction of the court to try the case. He tried nine persons for murder, six of whom were convicted of that offence ; two for manslaughter, and one was acquitted. One of these cases (the People vs. William Enoch) went to the Court of Errors, and Mr. Strong's argument is inserted at length in the 13th volume of Mr. Wendell's Reports, and which, it is said, had great influence in inducing the court to confirm the conviction.
He was an active member of the democratic party in old Suffolk, but
declined taking office for some years, as it would interfere with the duties of his profession, to which he was aidently devoted.
In 1812 he was elected a member of the twenty-eighth Congress, and did not feel at liberty to decline the office. He was recommended for the station at first by the county convention, where he received thirty-one out of thirty-three votes, on the first ballot. The consideration in which he was held at home, was evinced by the fact, that in his own election district, which seldom gives over fifty majority, and never, except when he was a candidate, over eighty, he received one hundred and seventy-six, out of two hundred and fifteen votes. As he had for a long period been actively engaged in his profession, in which he had been called upon to act against many influential politicians of his own party, it was supposed by some that his majority would be less than those usually given to the democratic candidates, and a high toned whig paper in New-York (the American) alleged that he was the most unpopular man in the district. But such did not turn out to be the case; on the contrary, his respective majorities in his own town, in the county, and in the district, were greater than those ever given to any other candidate in either.
He took his seat in Congress in December, 1843. At the commencement of the session, the democratic members were niuch divided in their preferences for a Presidential candidate. Mr.Calhoun bad many very ardent friends, but a larger majority of all the members preferred Mr. Van Buren. It was of great consequence to the party that the friends of the two candidates should harmonise in the selection of the officers of the House, and on all party questions. For that purpose, a democratic caucus assembled previous to the organization of the house, and appointed a committee, consisting of Governor Gilmer of Virginia, Governor Dunlap of Maine, Mr. Hopkins of Virginia, Mr. Strong, and Mr. Cave Johnson, to prepare and report recommendatory resolutions for the action of the democratic party. They reported a set of rules, which were eventually adopted, and produced the desired unanimity.
Mr. Strong was appointed a member of the committee of claims. As such, the petition of the heirs of Robert Fulton was referred to him. Mr. Fulton died in 1814, in embarrassed circumstances. The little property which he left was soon squandered by his son, and the second husband of Mrs. Fulton, leaving their three daughters entirely destitute. They bad presented their petition at several different sessions, stating that the country was largely indebted to him (independeutly of the benefits resulting from his splendid discoveries,) for services rendered and losses sustained in the public service, and praying for some remuneration. Their petitions, presented previous to the twenty-eighth Congress, although warmly supported by some of the ablest and best members of both houses, had all failed. Mr. Strong gave the subject a thorough examination, and became satisfied that the claim was founded in justice, and should be allowed. He presented to the house an elaborate report in favor of the heirs, and introduced with it, a bill allowing them $76,300.
It was objected, and the objection warmly urged upon him while examining the case, that to allow the claim would be establishing a bad precedent, which might occasion in its results an immense expenditure of money. He answered, that he had no apprehension on that subject, that the claim appeared to him to be well founded—that if it rested solely on the ground that his discoveries produced eminently beneficial results to the country, he should still sustain it. That there had been but one Fulton ; but if there had been an hundred more, whose services had been equally beneficial to the country, we could well afford to pay them all.
The bill passed the Senate precisely in the shape, and for the amount raported by Mr. Strong, and without any additional report made to that body, but it was not reached in the general orders of the House during the twenty-eighth Congress; and thus Mr. Strong lost the opportunity which he much desired, of sustaining his report on the floor of the House.
The same bill and for the same amount however passed both houses, by a majority of upwards of two thirds, at the next Congress ; and thus, this act of national justice to an eminent public benefactor, was at length accomplished, and Mr. Strong had the satisfaction of contributing essentially to the result.
When the subject of the annexation of Texas was first brought before the House, there was much diversity of sentiment amongst its friends. The differences were so great, and were accompanied by so much warmth, that it was apprehended by many, and amongst others by General Jackson, that the measure would fail altogether. For the purpose of harmonising the opinions of the democratic members, a committee of seven was appointed at a caucus. Mr. Strong was placed at the head of this committee, which consisted of himself, Mr. Tibbats, of Kentucky; Mr. Belser, of Alabama ; Mr. Cobb, of Georgia; Mr. Owen, of Indiana; Mr. Stanrod, of Virginia; and Mr. King, of New-York. Many of the members thought that Texas might be annexed as a territory; whilst others, and among them General Dromgoole of Virginia, General McKay of North Carolina, Mr. Tibbats and Mr. Strong, believed that the action of Congress was confined by the Constitution to the admission ofthat Republic as a state. They could not conscientiously vote for any other proposition. Many, too, thought that we should take the public lands and pay the debts of Texas. Mr. Strong thought otherwise. He knew, he said, that the debts were heavy, but he knew nothing about the extent or value of her public lands, and he thought it would be unjust to the other states, and particularly to those largely indebted, to incur the possibility of paying more than we should receive. On his mentioning the subject to Mr. Calhoun, he advised that we should take the lands, and pay the debts, otherwise, said he,“ depend upon it you will make a bad bar. gain." Mr. Strong finally reported, from the committee, a resolution in favor of the state plan, and also submitted a proposition that Texas should retain her lands and pay her own debts. He advocated both warmly in the caucus, and both were adopted, the first almost unanimously and the last by a large a majority. He then became confident that the project would succeed. He also supported the other leading democratic measures, brought before the twenty-eighth Congress, and did so with an earnestness and zeal, which showed that his conduct was the result of conviction and not of party discipline.
Mr. Hammett, a distinguished representative from Mississippi, said publicly in the Hall of the House, towards the close of the last session of this Congress, “ when I am requested to designate a true and consistent democrat from the North, I unhesitatingly name Mr. Strong.”
He boarded in the same house with Senator Wright during the long sessions of 1843-4, and enjoyed the confidence of that eminent man, so far that when he subsequently became Governor of the State of New-York, he nominated Mr. Strong for the office of Circuit Judge, for the second Judicial District, just then vacant by the resignation of that pure and excellent man, the Hon.Charles H. Ruggles. This nomination was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on the same day, March 27, 1846. It was declined in consequence of a pressure of professional and private business at the time.
He was elected a Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New