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THE patriots, sages and heroes of the American revolution, were composed of men from different countries and of various pursuits. One feeling seems to have pervaded the bosom and influenced the actions of all-the love of LIBERTY. This mainspring to action was confined to no business or profession; all classes who loved their country and hated chains, flew to the rescue. Self-interest, to a greater extent than is usual, lost its potent charms, and thousands upon thousands pledged their lives and fortunes to defend their bleeding country against the merciless attacks and exorbitant demands of an unyielding and uncompromising foe. No class of men better understood the injustice of the mother country towards her infant colonies than those engaged in commerce. Many bold, daring and intelligent spirits left the counting-house for the field or the legislative hall. Among them was FRANCIS LEWIS, who was born at Landaff, in the shire of Glamorgan, in South Wales, in March, 1713. His father was an Episcopal clergyman; his mother was the daughter of the Rev. Dr. Pettingal, of the same religion, who officiated at Caernarvonshire, in North Wales.
Francis was an only child, and left an orphan at the age of five years. A maternal aunt named Llawelling, who resided at Caernarven, became his guardian. She had him early instructed in her native language, the Cymraeg, which he retained through life. He was then sent to Scotland to reside with a relative, where he obtained the ancient and pure Celtic. From there he was transferred to the Westminster school in London, where he made great proficiency and became a good classical scholar. He then entered the counting-house and became familiar with the whole routine of commercial transactions, which prepared him to pursue his business successfully through a long, active, and useful life. When he arrived at the age of twentyone he inherited a small fortune, which he laid out in merchandise, and in the spring of 1735 arrived with it at New York. He found his stock too large for that city, entered into partnership with Edward Annesley, leaving with him a part of the goods, proceeding himself with the residue to Philadelphia. At the end of two years he settled permanently in New York, and married Elizabeth Annesley, the sister of his partner. To these ancestors, we trace the numerous and respectable families now residing in the state of New York of the same
The commercial transactions of Mr. Lewis frequently called him to Europe, the principal ports of which he visited. He also visited the Shetland and Orkney Islands, and was twice shipwrecked on the coast of Ireland.
At the commencement of the French war he was the agent for sup
plying the British army with clothing. At the sanguinary attack and reduction of Oswego by the French troops under General Dieskau, Mr. Lewis was standing by the side of Colonel Mersey, who had command of the fort, when he was killed. He became a prisoner and was held a long time by the Indians, enduring every hardship they could impose short of death. As a small compensation for his sufferings and losses the British government, on his return, granted him five thousand acres of land.
He was among the early and determined opposers to the pretensions of the crown in their mad career of taxation and oppression. He was a distinguished and active member of the colonial congress that assembled at New York in the autumn of 1765, to devise and mature measures to effectuate a redress of injuries and grievances. They prepared a petition to the King and House of Commons, and a memorial to the House of Lords. Their language was respectful, but every line breathed a firm determination no longer to yield to injury and insult. The chrysalis of the revolution was formed at that time. The eruptions of the volcano occasionally subsided, but as the crater again sent forth the lava of insubordination, its volume increased until the whole country became inundated by the terrific flood of war, tinged by the purple current from the veins of thousands.
In 1771, Mr. Lewis visited England and made himself familiar with the feelings and designs of the British ministry. From that time forward he was fully convinced that the infant colonies in America could never enjoy their inalienable rights until they severed the parental ties that bound them to the mother country. On all proper occasions he communicated his views to the friends of liberty, and did much on his return to rouse his fellow citizens to a just sense of impending danger.
When it was determined to convene the Continental Congress at Philadelphia, the minds of his friends were fixed upon Mr. Lewis as a man eminently qualified to represent their interests in that august body. On the 22nd of April, 1775, he was unanimously elected a member by the delegates convened for the purpose, and immediately repaired to the key stone city and entered upon the important duties assigned him. The following year he was continued in that proud station, and affixed his name to the chart of American Independence. His long experience in commercial and other business, united with a clear head, a patriotic heart, a matured and reflecting mind, richly stored with general intelligence, rendered him an influential and useful member of the Continental Congress. As an active and judicious man on business committees, he stood pre-eminent. As a warm and zealous advocate of his country's rights, he stood unrivalled. He was continued a member of the national legislature until he obtained leave of absence in April, 1779, except a short interval in 1777.
He suffered much in loss of property, which was wantonly destroyed by the conquering foe. Not satisfied with this, the British seized the unprotected wife of Mr. Lewis and placed her in close confinement, without even a bed on which to repose her delicate framewithout a change of clothes, almost without food, and exposed to the
unmanly and disgraceful insults of more than barbarian wretches. In this painful situation she remained for several months, when she was finally exchanged through the exertions of General Washington, under the direction of Congress, for a Mrs. Barrow, the wife of a British paymaster. The consequence of this base imprisonment, was the premature death of Mrs. Lewis.
At the close of the war, Mr. Lewis was reduced from affluence to poverty. He had devoted his talents and property in the cause of liberty, and what was more, the partner of his youth, the mother of his children, had been sacrificed at the shrine of oppression. Notwithstanding these misfortunes, the evening of his life was made comfortable by his enterprising children, and on the 30th day of December, 1803, calm and resigned, he closed his eventful and useful life in the 90th year of his age. He left a well earned fame that will survive, unimpaired, the revolutions of time. His private character was a fair unsullied sheet, as pure and amiable as his public career was useful and illustrious. As a man of business he stood in the foremost rank, and was the first merchant who made a shipment of wheat to Europe. He was indeed a pioneer in the transporting trade. His examples in private and public life are worthy of imitation, and justly deserve our high admiration.
Among the great variety of characters who signed that master piece of composition, the Declaration of Independence, were men of the highest literary attainments, ornamented by the most refined manners, the strictest virtue, and the noblest patriotism. Amidst these stars, the man of whom I now write, shone with peculiar lustre and brightness. He was the son of John Stockton, born in October, 1730, near Princeton, in New Jersey. His great grandfather, of the same name, came from England in 1670, purchased near 7000 acres of land within two miles of Princeton, and, in 1682, effected the first European settlement made in that part of the State. On this estate, the Stockton family continued to reside and prosper, until driven off by the British army under Lord Howe, forming the nucleus to a large circle of the most worthy and valuable citizens.
Under the instruction of the celebrated principal of the West Nottingham Academy in Maryland, Rev. Doctor Samuel Finley, the talents of young Richard budded, blossomed, and unfolded their beauty; to the great satisfaction of his teacher, and admiration of his parents and friends. From early youth, he manifested a comprehensive and powerful mind. From this Seminary, he was transferred to the College at Newark, where he completed his education, and received the merited honours of the first annual commencement at Nassau Hall, in 1748, under its highly talented and pious President, the Rev. Mr.
Burr. At the early age of eighteen, he commenced the study of law under David Ogden, who then stood at the head of his profession in the province. He applied himself closely to his studies for six years, when he was admitted as an Attorney, and two years after, advanced to the grade of Counsellor at Law. He then established himself at his paternal seat, and soon rose to the highest rank, and stood unrivalled at the New Jersey bar. His fame as an advocate and counsellor rose, expanded, and spread; and he was frequently called from his native state, to manage suits of high importance. In 1763, he was honoured with the degree of sergeant at law. In 1766, he closed his professional business, crowned with the fair laurels of his brilliant career, and richly rewarded for his toil and labours. He committed it to his brother-in-law, Alias Boudinot, Esq., who was then on the flood tide of a successful practice.
In June of that year, anxious to further enrich his mind, he embarked for London, and was safely wafted across the Atlantic, to the great European metropolis. His fame had been previously spread through that country, his visit had been anticipated, and he was received by the high dignitaries of Great Britain with the most flattering and marked attention. He was presented at the Court of St. James by one of the cabinet members, and delivered to the King an address from the trustees of the College of New Jersey, expressive of their joy at the repeal of the stamp act.
During his stay, he rendered material services to this college, among which, was his influence inducing Doctor Witherspoon to accept of its presidential chair, to which he had been elected, and which he had declined; thus adding another to the list of high minded and talented patriots, who nobly conceived, boldly prosecuted, and gloriously consummated the emancipation of the colonies.
During his visit, he communicated freely with the statesmen of England who were friendly to their brethren in America, and confirmed them more strongly in their opinions of the impolitic course pursued by the ministry towards the colonies.
In February following he visited Edinburgh, where he received the most flattering attentions from those in power, being complimented by a public dinner and the freedom of the city. On this occasion, he delivered an eloquent and appropriate speech, fully sustaining his reported fame, fully answering their fondest and highest anticipations. His company was courted by the most scientific gentlemen of that seat of learning, and he was made a welcome and honoured guest at the tables of every nobleman upon whom he could call.
During his stay in the United Kingdom, he visited Dublin, where he received the hearty Irish welcome so characteristic of that warm hearted nation, and every attention that could render his reception flattering and agreeable. The oppressed situation of that unfortunate nation, convinced him more strongly of the tyranny of the British ministry, and the fate that awaited his native country, by yielding to their imperious and humiliating demands. This visit prepared him for future action.
Mr. Stockton was astonished to find so few in England who under
stood the situation or character of the colonists in America; and the English were equally astonished to find so great a man from the western wilderness. Misapprehension often produces the most fatal consequences, both to individuals and nations. The comprehensive mind of this discerning philanthropist readily predicted the result of this ignorance, and he accordingly embraced every opportunity for dispelling this dark mist that hung over the land of his ancestors. With many, he succeeded in opening their eyes to the true and relative situation of the two countries; but when the powers that stand at the helm of a nation are wading in corruption, breathing the atmosphere of tyranny, charged with sordid avarice, thirsting for an extension of power, delighting in slavery and oppression, they dethrone reason, bid defiance to justice, trample law under their feet, and, if possible, would dethrone the great Jehovah to accomplish their designs. Thus infatuated were the British ministry when they turned a deaf ear to the petitions and remonstrances of the American colonists, and the wise counsels of the ablest statesmen that then illuminated their parliament.
Having been more than a year absent from "sweet home," Mr. Stockton began to make arrangements for his return. His mind had become greatly enriched and embellished by the numerous advantages of his varied intercourse with men of science and eminence. He had listened to the forensic eloquence and powerful arguments of Blackstone, and the other celebrated pleaders at Westminster Hall. He had treasured in his capacious mind, the clear and erudite decisions of the learned and profound judges, who then graced the judicial bench. He had witnessed the enrapturing powers of Chatham, and the logical genius of Burke. He had become familiar with the highly polished and fascinating manners of Chesterfield, and had seen Garrick in the zenith of his glory. Thus richly laden, he spread his sails to the gentle breeze, and, in twenty-six days, he was wafted to the shores of his native land, where he arrived in September, 1767. He was received with demonstrations of the liveliest joy by his fellow citizens, and of the kindest affection by his immediate friends and connections.
Two years after he was elevated to a seat in the supreme judiciary and executive council, in consequence of the high opinion entertained of his talents by the King.
In 1774 he was appointed a judge of the supreme court, being associated with his old friend and preceptor, David Ogden. During this time he greatly improved and embellished his plantation, and was surrounded by all the comforts and enjoyments this world can give. But how uncertain are the joys of this mundane sphere. The revolutionary storm was gathering. The dark clouds were rolling on the winds of fury. An awful crisis had arrived. He was a favourite of the crown. The flames of revenge were concentrating like the raging fire on a prairie, and it became necessary for him to choose whom he would serve. The influence he wielded made the decision one of high importance to his king and his country. In view of the prospect as presented to human eyes, all that is based on self, urged him to maintain allegiance to the mother country. But he knew that