Abbildungen der Seite

which was an unpopular measure. Without lamenting his defeat, effected entirely by intrigue, he removed into the adjoining county of Surrey, and was returned to the same legislature with his competitor; and to render his triumph more complete and the mortification of his opponents more galling, he was elected speaker of the house. Before the year expired his old constituents solicited him to return to his former residence. Old age and infirmity began to admonish him to retire, and he declined a re-election.

In 1788, he was a member of the convention of his state to which the federal constitution was submitted, and was appointed chairman of the first committee-that of privileges and elections. He opposed the document submitted as too indefinite in defining the powers of the general and state governments, and sanctioned it with certain amendments that were returned with it. So strong was the opposition to its adoption by nearly half of the delegates, that they held a private meeting in the night for the purpose of adopting plans of opposition that were calculated to produce the most fatal consequences. Fortunately, the deliberate old patriot, Mr. Harrison, gained admittance and prevailed upon them to submit to the majority of nine and pursue the legal remedy for obtaining amendments. This noble and patriotic act formed the crowning glory of his public career. In 1790 he was nominated chief magistrate, but declined serving, and used his utmost influence for Mr. Randolph and induced his own son to vote against him, who was then a member of the house, by which the governor was elected. Mr. Randolph had become unpopular with a part of the members, who were confident of defeating him could they prevail upon Mr. Harrison to consent to be used as a party man.

During the next year his health declined rapidly, and in April, shortly after his unanimous election to the legislature, he was prostrated by a severe attack of the gout, which terminated his long and useful life, leaving a large family of children to mourn the loss of a kind father, and his country to lament the exit of one of her noblest patriots. He was the father of General Harrison of Ohio, whose name is now before the public as a candidate for the next president of the United States. The private character of this zealous champion of liberty was without reproach. His wit and humour made him a pleasant companion, his intelligence and good sense made him an interesting one. His clear head, good heart, sound judgment and equable moderation, made him an important public servant, exactly suited to the times in which he lived.


GENEALOGY was once an essential part, the first stepping_stone of biography, a kind of titular idol held in great veneration. In countries where the iron sceptre of monarchy is still swayed, where titles of honour create lineal dignity without regard to merit, where blood is analyzed by political chemistry and all the precipitants are rejected but the carbonate of noble pedigree, where royalty descends upon a non compos mentis incumbent with the same facility that it reaches a man of good intellect, genealogy is still measurably the criterion by which to determine the importance and degree of character. As light and intelligence shed their benignant rays upon mankind, the importance attached to this titular deity will be diminished. Where rational liberty reigns triumphant, merit alone creates dignity; the man is measured by his actions, not by the purple fluid that flows through his veins. In our free country genealogy is a matter of curiosity, not of veneration. The son of a coal cracker, or of a cobbler, whose father may have been a foundling, can rise to the highest station within the gift of the people by the force of talent and merit. I am aware that the aristocracy of wealth is a noxious weed that sheds its deleterious influence around us, but not yet sufficiently strong to prevent genius from acquiring a rapid and towering growth. In times of danger and peril its power will be lessened in the same ratio that these increase. It withers and dies when reached by the magic wand of republican patriotism. Then "what is a name, my lord?"

One book error is prevalent in our country which should be corrected. It is predicated upon hereditary notions of blood, and is antirepublican. Some of our latest writers promulgate the idea that the criminal conduct of one member of a family disgraces the whole. In a community purely republican, every individual is judged according to his or her own deeds, and no act in one can criminate or disgrace another who is innocent. The very writers amongst us who thoughtlessly publish this imported sentiment, pursue a different course practically, and treat others agreeably to their merit, without reference to the conduct of their relations. Their practice is better than their theory. But few families in America can trace their ancestors as far back as the Rodneys of Delaware. This name was introduced into England with the Norman queen Maud or Matilda, as early as 1141, and stands among the foremost on the list of military fame acquired during the Norman conquest and at subsequent periods. To those who are conversant with the history of the stormy times of that kingdom, the name of Sir Walter De Rodeney, and others of the same line, is familiar. They we able in council and in war, they figured in the

civil, military and naval departments, and received the highest honours that could be awarded to their rank by kings and queens. They were also remarkable for magnanimity and liberality. Under the auspices of William Penn, a branch of this ancient family, William Rodney, came to Philadelphia and finally settled in Kent, Delaware. He was the son of William Rodney, of England, who married Miss Alice, daughter of Sir Thomas Cæsar, a wealthy merchant. William Rodney, who located at Kent, left one son, Cæsar, who was the father of the subject of this sketch.

CESAR RODNEY was a native of Dover, Kent county, Delaware, and born in 1730. He appears to have received a good education, and at the death of his father inherited an ample fortune in real estate. He was a slender man physically, with an animated countenance, easy and pleasing in his manners and gentlemanly in his intercourse. Owing to a cancer upon his nose, which commenced its ravages upon him at an early age, he became greatly emaciated, and long before his death was emphatically a moving skeleton. The cancer having spread over one side of his face, he was compelled for many years to wear a silk bandage over it. Notwithstanding this affliction he was uniformly sprightly and cheerful. With a strong and penetrating mind, firmness of purpose and decision of character, he united an abundant share of keen wit and good humour, that rendered him an agreeable companion-his vast stock of experimental intelligence and practical knowledge rendered him an instructive one.

With qualities like these Mr. Rodney became a popular public man. His views were liberal and decidedly republican. In 1758 he became the high sheriff of his native county, and discharged the duties of his office with so much ability that he at once gained the confidence and esteem of his constituents. When his term of service expired he was appointed a justice of the peace and judge of the lower courts. In October, 1762, he took his seat in the legislature at Newcastle and became an active and influential member. He was one of the committee that prepared the answer to the message of the governor and was placed on other important committees. At the close of the session he was put in charge of the great seal to be affixed to such laws as had been passed.

When the rights of the colonies were threatened by assumptions of power on the part of the mother country, not warranted by the British constitution and in violation of chartered privileges, Mr. Rodney was among the first who took a bold stand in favour of liberty. In conjunction with Messrs. M'Kean and Kollock he was appointed a delegate to the Congress that convened at New York in 1765, to remonstrate against the stamp act and other threatened innovations upon the privileges of the colonies, that had been long enjoyed and were guarantied by the social compact between the king and his "dutiful and most loyal subjects in America."

After the stamp act was repealed Mr. Rodney was appointed on the committee with Messrs. McKean and Read to prepare an address to the king expressive of the joy produced throughout the colony by this event. It resembles those prepared by the other colonies and will

give the reader an idea of the feelings of loyalty that pervaded the colonies at that time. The following extract is deemed sufficient for the present purpose.

"We cannot help glorying in being the subjects of a king that has made the preservation of the civil and religious rights of his people and the established constitution the foundation and constant rule of government, and the safety, ease and prosperity of his people his chiefest care of a king, whose mild and equal administration is sensibly felt and enjoyed in the remotest part of his dominions. The clouds which lately hung over America are dissipated. Our complaints have been heard and our grievances redressed-trade and commerce again flourish. Our hearts are animated with the warmest wishes for the prosperity of the mother country, for which our affection is unbounded, and your faithful subjects here are transported with joy and gratitude. Such are the blessings we may justly expect will ever attend the measures of your majesty, pursuing steadily the united and true interests of all your people throughout your wide extended empire, assisted with the advice and support of a British parliament and a virtuous and wise ministry. We most humbly beseech your majesty graciously to accept the strongest assurances that having the justest sense of the many favours we have received from your royal benevolence during the course of your majesty's reign, and how much of our present happiness is owing to your paternal love and care for your people, we will at all times most cheerfully contribute to your majesty's service, to the utmost of our abilities, when your royal requisitions, as heretofore, shall be made known: that your majesty will always find such returns of duty and gratitude from us as the best of kings may expect from the most loyal subjects, and that we will demonstrate to all the world that the support of your majesty's government and the honour and interests of the British nation are our chief care and concern, desiring nothing more than the continuance of our wise and excellent constitution in the same happy, firm and envied situation in which it was delivered down to us from our ancestors and your majesty's predecessors."

With feelings like these pervading the colonies, the reader must readily conclude that nothing but the most cruel oppressions could have driven the American people to a revolution. Connect this address with the fact of a final separation from Great Britain, and the imagination is at once supplied with reasons for the declaration of independence, strong as holy writ-more especially as both documents emanated from the same statesmen.

Mr. Rodney continued an active member of the legislature for several years and took a deep interest in all public measures. He introduced an amendment to a bill relative to slaves, prohibiting the importation of negroes into the colony. So ably did he support his amendment that it was lost by a majority of only two votes.

"Whom the gods will destroy they first make mad."

So with the British ministry-they were madly bent on reducing the American colonies to unconditional subjection, and after a short interval again commenced a system of oppression upon a broader and

bolder scale. Once more the people appealed to their king-but appealed in vain. Mr. Rodney was upon the committee that prepared the second address to his majesty just before the commencement of the revolution. The following extract will show the reader the views of the colonists and the grievances complained of.

"The sense of our deplorable condition will, we hope, plead with your majesty in our behalf for the freedom we take in dutifully remonstrating against the proceedings of a British parliament, confessedly the wisest and greatest assembly upon earth. But if our fellow subjects of Great Britain, who derive no authority from us, who cannot, in our humble opinion, represent us, and to whom we will not yield in loyalty and affection to your majesty, can, at their will and pleasure, of right give and grant away our property; if they can enforce an implicit obedience to every order or act of theirs for that purpose, and deprive all or any of the assemblies on this continent of the power of legislation for differing with them in opinion in matters which intimately affect their rights and interests, and every thing that is dear and valuable to Englishmen, we cannot imagine a case more miserable-we cannot think that we shall have even the shadow of liberty left. We conceive it to be an inherent right in your majesty's subjects, derived to them from God and nature, handed down from their ancestors, confirmed by your royal predecessors and the constitution, in person or by their representatives, to give and grant to their sovereign those things which their own labours and their own cares have acquired and saved, and in such proportions and at such times as the national honour and interest may require. Your majesty's faithful subjects of this government have enjoyed this inestimable privilege, uninterrupted, from its first existence till of late. They have at all times cheerfully contributed to the utmost of their abilities for your majesty's service as often as your royal requisitions were made known, and they cannot now, but with the greatest uneasiness and distress of mind, part with the power of demonstrating their loyalty and affection to their beloved king."

Addresses similar to this were laid at the foot of the throne from all the colonies and from the Congress of 1774. The struggle between filial affection and a submission to wrongs, was of the most agonizing kind. This, united with the known weakness of the colonies, renders the American revolution a striking lesson to those in power, admonishing them not to draw the cords of authority too closely, and gives encouragement to freemen to resist every encroachment upon their liberty.

In 1769, Mr. Rodney was chosen speaker of the assembly of Delaware, and filled the chair for several years with honour and dignity. As the specks of war began to dim the fair face of freedom he became one of the most active opposers of British tyranny. He was a member of the Congress that convened at Philadelphia in 1774, and received the approbation of his constituents for his firm and patriotic course. The ensuing year he was again a member of the national assembly of sages, and took an active part in its duties, deliberations and discussions. In his own province he had much to do. The royal

« ZurückWeiter »