Abbildungen der Seite

the minds of reflecting men, whose influence it was important to obtain and secure.

Mr. Floyd also had command of the militia of his native county, and when the British attempted to land at Gardner's Bay, promptly assembled them, and repelled the invading foe. In 1775 he was again chosen a representative in Congress, and became one of its active and efficient members. He was emphatically a working man, and engaged constantly on important committee duties. During his absence at Philadelphia, the British obtained possession of Long Island, and forced his family to flee for their safety to Connecticut. His property was materially injured by the enemy, and his mansion-house converted into a military barrack, for the accommodation of the invaders of his country. For seven years he was deprived of all resources from his plantation, and was dependant upon his friends for the protection of his family. The year following he was again elected to a seat in the Continental Congress, and had the satisfaction of affixing his name to the declaration of independence, which he had advocated from its incipient stages to the time of its adoption. In 1777 he was elected to the first senate of the state of New York, convened under the new order of things. He immediately became a prominent and leading member, and rendered important services in forming a code of republican laws for the future government of the empire state, carefully guarding the rights of person and property inviolate.

In January, 1779, he again took his seat in the Continental Congress, and entered upon the duties of his station with the utmost vigour and industry. On the 24th of the ensuing August, he resumed his station in the senate of his native state. Much important business was before the legislature, requiring wisdom, energy, and unity of action. To devise some plan of relief from a depreciated currency and a prostrate credit, was an important item. Mr. Floyd was at the head of a joint committee appointed for this purpose, and reported a plan that proved him to be an able financier and a man of deep thought and investigation. It was predicated upon a gradual and just system of taxation, to be carried into effect by responsible and honest agents, with good and sufficient sureties for the payment of all monies collected to the proper officer-the state treasurer. In October of that year, Mr. Floyd, Ezra L'Hommedieu, and John Loss were appointed by the New York legislature delegates to a convention of the eastern states convened for the purpose of devising some system by which supplies of provisions could be more readily obtained and preserved from the grasp of avaricious monopolists.

Immediately after the discharge of the duties assigned him, he again took his seat in Congress. On the third of December he was elected one of the board of admiralty, and on the thirteenth of the same month a member of the treasury board. By incessant application to the various duties that devolved upon him, his health became impaired, and in April following he obtained leave of absence. In June he repaired to the senate of New York, and was immediately appointed upon a joint committee to act upon resolutions of Congress, involving the important relations between the state and general government.

He opposed, unsuccessfully, the plan of making bills of credit a legal tender, but had the pleasure in after life of seeing the principles he then advocated sanctioned and adopted.

In September he was appointed upon a committee of the senate to prepare a reply to the message of the governor. To effect a proper organization of the general government, was the anxious desire of the state legislatures. To confer upon Congress all necessary powers, strictly defined and plain to be understood, was considered the only safe policy to insure future safety. To this important subject the governor had drawn the particular attention of the members. The committee reported several resolutions on this point, which were adopted and forwarded for the consideration of the national legislature. They recommended the enactment of laws that should produce an equal responsibility upon each of the states to bear its pro rata proportion of the burden of the war, in the way and manner that should be devised by the general government. In 1780 he was again returned to Congress. In addition to the usual duties, he was instructed by an act of the legislature, together with the other members from New York, to obtain a settlement of the claims of his native state, and those of New Hampshire, to the territory now comprising the state of Vermont. This was a vexed question that required much industry and wisdom to manage. These were eminently possessed by Mr. Floyd, who, on that occasion, as upon all others, discharged his duties to the entire satisfaction of his constituents. He also, during the same session, introduced a resolution for the cession of the western territories to the United States. He also nominated, on the 10th of August, Robert L. Livingston as secretary of foreign affairs, who was immediately appointed to that important station.

In addition to serving in the senate of his own state, more or less every year, he continued an active member of Congress until 1783, when he joined in the general joy of triumphant victory and heartcheering peace, and was once more permitted to return and take possession of the ruins of his once flourishing plantation, amidst the congratulation of his numerous friends, all animated by the resplendent glories of LIBERTY. In order that he might repair his private fortune, he declined the urgent request of his constituents to consent to a reelection to Congress. He however continued to serve in the senate of his native state until 1788, when he was returned a member of the

first Congress under the federal constitution. Worn out in the service of his country, he retired at the end of his term from the public arena, and once more entered upon the enjoyments of domestic bliss.

Being possessed of a large tract of valuable land upon the banks of the Mohawk river, then a dense wilderness, he commenced gradual improvements upon it, and in 1803 took up his final residence there. His friends often urged him to again become a member of the national legislature, but he declined entering upon any laborious public duties, except serving the district to which he removed one term in the state senate, and also of serving as a member of the convention of 1801, to revise the constitution of New York. He was four times a member of the electoral college of his state for the election of president and

vice-president, and in 1800 he travelled two hundred miles to give his vote for his old companion and friend, Thomas Jefferson, in the dreary month of December.

He continued to improve his new plantation until he saw the wilderness blossom as the rose, and his mansion surrounded by happy neighbours, all basking in the clear sunshine of that freedom he had been instrumental in acquiring. Envy was a stranger to his philanthropic and patriotic bosom; he rejoiced in the happiness of the whole human family; he delighted in the prosperity of all around him.

In all things he was a practical man, free from pomp and vanity, and systematic in all his proceedings. When his purposes were formed, he prosecuted them with an unyielding energy that was seldom arrested or thwarted. He was possessed of a clear head, a strong mind, a good heart, a vigorous and sound judgment, matured by long experience and a close observation of men and things. He spoke but little in public assemblies, and rarely entered into debate. Happy would it be for our country if we had more men like William Floyd at the present day, instead of so many who talk more than they work. Long speeches hang like an incubus over our legislatures, and those who feel disposed, are prevented by them from doing the business of the people promptly.

In all the private relations of life William Floyd presented a model as worthy of imitation as that of his public career. He was warm in his friendships, and most scrupulously honest in all his transactions. His feelings and morals were of a refined cast, and the most rigid integrity marked his every action. He thought and acted for himself, and left others to do the same. He marked out his path of duty from the reflections of his own mind, and pursued it steadily and fearlessly. For more than fifty years he enjoyed the full fruition of popular favours, and only one year before his death was elected a member of the electoral college. His physical powers were remarkable until a short time before his last illness. He was a man of middle size, well formed, and of easy deportment. He was dignified in his general appearance, and affable in his manners. For the last two years of his life his health was partially impaired, and on the 1st of August, 1821, he was seized with general debility, and on the fourth day he folded his arms calmly, closed his eyes peacefully, and met the cold embrace of death with the fortitude of a sage, a patriot, and a christian. Although general Floyd did not possess the Ciceronian eloquence of an Adams, a Jefferson, or a Henry, he was one of the most useful men of his day and generation. His examples and his labours shed a lustre over his character, as rich and as enduring as the fame of those who shone conspicuously in the forum. He was an important link in the golden chain of liberty, and was so esteemed by all his associates in Congress. The working man was then properly appreciated. The most powerful orators of that eventful era were concise and laconic. Long speeches were as uncommon as they are now pernicious and unnecessary. The business of our nation was performed promptly, expeditiously, effectually, and economically. Let us imitate the examples of the patriots of the times that tried their souls, and preserve,


in its native purity, the rich boon of liberty they have transmitted to Let us emulate the virtues of general WILLIAM FLOYD, and we shall be highly esteemed in life, deeply mourned in death, and our names will survive, on the tablet of enduring fame, through the revolutions of time.

+0 ཁ་ས་--


A COMMON error that has gained credence among mankind, consists in a belief that to obtain a sufficient share of knowledge to enable a man to appear advantageously upon the theatre of public action, he must spend his youthful days within the walls of some celebrated seminary of learning. In the view of many, it is necessary for a young man to commence his career under the high floating banner of a collegiate diploma in order to ensure future fame.

That a refined classical education is a desirable and high accomplishment, I admit; that it is indispensably necessary, and always renders a man more useful, I deny. The man who has been incarcerated from his childhood up to his majority within the limited circumference of his school-room and boarding-house, although he may have mastered all the sciences of the books, cannot have acquired that knowledge of men and things necessary to prepare him for action in private or public life. Polite literature is one thing, useful knowledge, fit for every day use, is another, and of vital importance. By proper application a man may obtain both, and that without entering college. The field is open to all, especially under a republican form of government. Franklin and Sherman, both humble mechanics, became finished scholars and profound philosophers without the aid of collegiate professors. I do not design to deteriorate the usefulness of high seminaries of learning, but to stimulate those who have native talent and cannot enjoy their advantages, to imitate the examples of those who have risen to high stations of honour and distinction by the force of their own exertions, unaided by these dazzling lights.

Among the self taught men of our country the name of WILLIAM WHIPPLE stands conspicuous. He was the eldest son of William Whipple, and born at Kittery, Maine, in 1730. He was educated in a common English school, where he was taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and navigation. These branches he mastered at an early age, and was then entered as a cabin boy on board of a merchant vessel, which was in accordance with the wishes of his father and his own inclination. Before he arrived at the age of twenty-one years, he rose to the station of captain and made several successful voyages to Europe. Some writers have attempted to cast a stigma upon his character at that era of his life, because, in a few instances, he participated in the slave trade. If they will learn the general feeling that

pervaded the minds of a large proportion of the civilized community at that time upon this subject, their anathemas will vanish in thin air. The trade was then sanctioned by the king of Great Britain, under whose government captain Whipple acted, and, according to the English law, the king can do no harm. The correctness of the principle was not then disputed or agitated generally, and the trade was ingrafted in the commercial policy of the mother country. That Captain Whipple became convinced upon reflection of the unjustness and barbarity of the traffic, fully appears from his subsequent acts. At the commencement of the revolution he manumitted the only slave he owned, who adhered to his old master during the war, and fought bravely for our liberties. If every man is to be condemned for the errors of youth, whose riper years are crowned with virtue, the list of fame will be robbed of many bright constellations.

In 1759, captain Whipple relinquished his oceanic pursuits, and commenced the mercantile business in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He also married Miss Catharine Moffat, and entered upon a new scene of life. During his numerous voyages he had become celebrated as a skilful navigator and a judicious commanding officer. He had carefully treasured a large fund of useful knowledge by close observation, attentive reading, and by mingling, when in port, with none but intelligent and good company. He had listened, both in England and America, to the unwarranted pretensions of the former, and the increasing complaints of the latter. He had made himself familiar with the chartered rights of his own country, and with the usurpations of the crown over his fellow citizens. He was prepared to take a bold stand in favour of freedom. He took a conspicuous part in public meetings, and was chosen one of the committee of safety. He rose rapidly in public estimation, and the former cabin boy became a leading patriot. In January, 1775, he represented Portsmouth in the Provincial Congress, convened at Exeter, for the purpose of choosing delegates for the Continental Congress. On the 6th of January of the following year he was chosen a member of the provincial council of New Hampshire, and on the 23d of the same month, a delegate to the national legislature at Philadelphia, of which he continued a distinguished, active, and useful member, until the middle of September, 1779. He was present at the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, and affixed his name to that sacred and bold instrument with the same fearless calmness with which he would have signed a bill of lading.

He was emphatically a working man, and from his extensive knowledge of business, rendered himself highly useful on committees. As a member of the marine and commercial committees, his practical knowledge gave him a superiority over his colleagues. He was also appointed one of the superintendents of the commissary and quartermaster department, and did much towards correcting abuses and checking peculation. He was untiring in his industry, ardent in his zeal, philosophic in his views, pure in his purposes, and strong in his patriotism. When he finally retired from Congress to serve his country in another and more perilous sphere, he carried with him the esteem

« ZurückWeiter »