Abbildungen der Seite

trays the character of this devoted patriot and deserves a place in this memoir.

The illustrious general THOMAS NELSON, is no more! He paid the last debt to nature on Sunday, the fourth of the present month, at his estate in Hanover. He who undertakes barely to recite the exalted virtues which adorned the life of this great and good man, will unavoidably pronounce a panegyric upon human nature. As a man, a citizen, a legislator and a patriot, he exhibited a conduct untarnished and undebased by sordid or selfish interests, and strongly marked with the genuine characteristics of true religion, sound benevolence and liberal policy. Entertaining the most ardent love for civil and religious liberty, he was among the first of that glorious band of patriots whose exertions dashed and defeated the machinations of British tyranny and gave to United America freedom and independent empire. At a most important crisis during the late'struggle for American liberty, when this state appeared to be designated as the theatre of action for the contending armies, he was selected by the unanimous suffrage of the legislature to command the virtuous yeomanry of his country. In this honourable employment he remained until the end of the war. As a soldier, he was indefatigably active and coolly intrepid. Resolute and undejected in misfortunes, he towered above distress and struggled with the manifold difficulties to which his situation exposed him with constancy and courage. In the memorable year of 1781, when the whole force of the southern British army was directed to the immediate subjugation of this state, he was called to the helm of government. This was a juncture which indeed "tried men's souls." He did not avail himself of this opportunity to retire in the rear of danger, but, on the contrary, took the field at the head of his countrymen, and, at the hazard of his life, his fame and individual fortune, by his decision and magnanimity, he saved not only his country, but all America from disgrace, if not from total ruin. Of this truly patriotic and heroic conduct, the renowned commander-in-chief, with all the gallant officers of the combined armies employed at the siege of York, will bear ample testimony. This part of his conduct even contemporary jealousy, envy and malignity were forced to approve―and this, more impartial posterity, if it can believe, will almost adore. If, after contemplating the splendid and heroic parts of his character, we shall inquire for the milder virtues of humanity and seek for the man, we shall find the refined, beneficent and social qualities of private life, through all its forms and combinations, so happily modified and united in him, that in the words of the darling poet of nature, it may be said,

"His life was gentle, and the elements

So mixed in him, that nature might stand up
And say to all the world-THIS IS A MAN."


MANY men, like apes, are mere imitative beings in their manner of action. They forsake the path designed for them by their Creator, and strive to assimilate their mechanical movements to some noble personage of a higher order by nature than themselves, and thus ape their way through the world. I refer particularly to public speakers. Some young men of respectable native talent and good acquirements, when they mount the rostrum, instead of acting perfectly natural, endeavour to imitate some orator of notoriety, and thereby render themselves ridiculous. Originality is the beauty of forensic or any other kind of eloquence. Like a piece of marble under the hands of the statuary, a more systematic form may be imparted by art, but its original composition, like that, is most beautiful unpainted. Originality must form the base, or the superstructure can never be truly beautiful. No human ingenuity can remould the work of nature and retain the strength of the grand original. We should imitate the virtues and wisdom of great and good men-our manner should be peculiarly our own-and still further-our language and style of writing should be original to render it forcible and interesting. Affectation in any thing. is disgusting to sensible men, and a discerning man readily detects a counterfeit.

A fine picture of originality and pleasing eccentricity was exhibited by JAMES SMITH, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was a native of Ireland and came to this country with his father when quite young. The precise time of his birth is not known. According to the only record known of his age-the inscription on his tomb, he was born in 1713. His father was a respectable farmer and settled on the west side of the Susquehanna river nearly opposite to Columbia. James was educated under Dr. Allison. He acquired a good classical education, and retained a peculiar taste for authors of antiquity through life. He was very partial to mathematics, and became an expert surveyor. After finishing his course under Dr. Allison he commenced the study of law in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, some say with Thomas Cookson, but more probably with his elder brother who was then practising at that town. When admitted to the bar he located himself on the frontiers of civilization near the present site of Shippensburg, in Cumberland county, blending the practice of law and surveying. In that section of the country the two professions were then very properly and profitably united. Large tracts of valuable land were held under hasty and inaccurate surveys, and many others were only located by mere chamber calculations upon paper. Litigation was the natural consequence, and no

witnesses told the truth more accurately than the compass of Mr. Smith and the demonstration of his protractor. Possessed of a penetrating mind, he looked into future prospects and secured much valuable land and had full employment in his professional business. He soon found himself on the flood tide of prosperity. Not willing to sail alone, he took for his mate, Miss Eleanor Armor, of Newcastle, who superintended his cabin stores with great skill and prudence. In every thing he was purely original. With a strong mind, an open and honest heart, a benevolent and manly disposition, he united great conviviality and amusing drollery, yet so discreet as not to offend the most modest ear. He delighted in seeing the contortions of the risible muscles, which were uniformly in motion in all proper circles when James Smith was present. Whenever he came in contact with a pedant he would propound some ridiculous question with the utmost gravity, such as the following, "Don't you remember that terrible bloody battle which Alexander the Great fought with the Russians near the straits of Babelmandel? I think you will find the account in Thucydides or Herodotus."

His memory was retentive and stored with numerous anecdotes, which he used in court either to annoy his opponent and help his case, or in company to amuse his friends. No one could tell a story with more effect than Mr. Smith. His manner was original and beyond imitation. With all his wit and humour, he held religion in the greatest reverence, and was a communicant of the church. No one that knew him dare utter a word against it in his presence, knowing that the lash of the keenest ridicule would at once be applied by him. Such a mixture of qualities are rarely blended in one man. From the deep toned logic and the profoundest thought up to the eccentric ridiculous, all balanced by the happy equilibrium of discretion, his mind ranged with the rapidity of lightning, using each at the most appropriate time and place. His manner, his style, and his every thing, from the most trivial circumstance to the momentous concerns of the nation in which he participated, were purely original.

Of the affairs of his country Mr. Smith was not an idle spectator. No man delights in liberty and independence more than an Irishman, and no nation is more sensitive of its rights than sweet Ireland." When British oppression showed its hydra head to the colonists, although advanced in age, James Smith took a terrible dislike to the beast and was for making fight unless it withdrew its visible deformity forthwith. His heart beat high for his adopted country, and he at once came boldly forward in its defence. At that time he was a resident of York and extensively engaged in iron works as well as in professional business, having become a very distinguished lawyer. He had never consented to fill public stations, and nothing but the purest patriotism and the importance of the threatened crisis, could have induced him to enter the public arena. In the language of Josiah Quincy, he had become convinced that "We must be grossly ignorant of the importance and value of the prize for which we contend-we must be equally ignorant of the power of those who have combined against us -we must be blind to that malice, inveteracy and insatiable revenge,

which actuate our enemies, public and private, abroad and in our bosoms, to hope that we shall end this controversy without the sharpest-sharpest conflicts; to flatter ourselves that popular resolves, popular harangues, popular acclamations and popular vapour will vanquish our foes. Let us consider the issue-let us look to the end.” Mr. Smith was a man that looked at both the beginning and the end. He was a man who examined closely causes, effects, and results. He also understood human nature and knew well the disposition of the colonists. He was convinced the bone and sinew of the land would never yield to the tyranny of mother Britain without a "sharp conflict." For that conflict he was prepared.

The first step taken in Pennsylvania relative to the existing oppressions, was the assembling of a convention of delegates from each county, in order to ascertain the feelings of the people generally relative to the course proposed by the patriots of New England, where the revolutionary storm had already commenced its precursory droppings. Of this convention Mr. Smith was a delegate, and was one of the committee that prepared the instructions to the members of the next general assembly of the province, recommending, among other things, the appointment of delegates to the general Congress to be convened at Philadelphia, with instructions from which the following is an extract, sufficient to inform the reader of the grievances most particularly complained of at that early period.

"We desire of you therefore-that the deputies you appoint may be instructed by you strenuously to exert themselves at the ensuing Congress to obtain a renunciation on the part of Great Britain of all the powers under the statute of the 35th of Henry the Eighth, ch. 2ndof all powers of internal legislation-of imposing taxes or duties internal or external and of regulating trade, except with respect to any new articles of commerce which the colonies may hereafter raise, as silk, wine, &c., reserving a right to carry them from one colony to another -a repeal of all statutes for quartering troops in the colonies or subjecting them to any expense on account of such troops—of all statutes imposing duties to be paid in the colonies, that were passed at the accession of his present majesty, or before this time, which ever period shall be judged most advisable-of the statutes giving the courts of admiralty in the colonies greater power than the courts of admiralty have in England-of the statutes of the 5th of George the Second, ch. 22nd, and of the 23d of George the Second, ch. 29th-of the statute for shutting up the port of Boston-and of every other statute particularly affecting the province of Massachusetts bay, passed in the last session of parliament. If all the terms above mentioned cannot be obtained, it is our opinion that the measures adopted by the Congress for our relief, should never be relinquished or intermitted, until those relating to the troops-internal legislation-imposition of taxes or duties hereafter-the 35th of Henry the Eighth, ch. 2nd, the extension of admiralty courts-the port of Boston and the province of Massachusetts bay are obtained. Every modification, or qualification of these points, in our judgment should be inadmissible."

By the statute of the 35th of Henry the Eighth, ch. 2nd, a citizen

of America was liable to be arrested and carried to England to be tried, when accused of high crimes. By the 5th of George the Second, ch. 23d, the colonists were prohibited from exporting hats, and hatters were even limited as to the number of apprentices they should keep to learn this trade; in order, as the statute declares, "that hatting may be better encouraged in Great Britain." The other acts referred to infringements of sundry local arrangements of the colonies equally obnoxious with the above; and when the final list of grievances was completed at a subsequent time, many statutes under George the Third were complained of as violating the constitution of England and the charters predicated upon it, which had grown sacred by long and acknowledged usage, by learned and legal construction, and by numerous declaratory acts of the British parliament, passed when sitting under the mantle of reason, equity, justice and sound policy.

By these instructions, directly from the people, we can judge of the feeling that pervaded the great mass of the yeomanry at that time; and by referring to the instructions given to the delegates appointed by the assembly of the province to Congress, it will be seen that royal influence still pervaded that body, as they contain scarcely a definite feature or point similar to those from the primary convention of the people. *

So fully convinced was Mr. Smith of the issue between the colonies and mother Britain, that on his return home he immediately raised a company of volunteers, and was elected its captain by acclamation. This was the pioneer company of Pennsylvania, raised for the purpose of resisting tyranny. This company was organized about nine months before the bloody affair at Lexington; showing deep penetration and sagacious foresight in its original. He introduced thorough discipline in the corps, and imparted to its members the same holy fire of patriotism that was illuminating his own soul. Around this military nucleus accumulating force continued to increase, until it formed a regiment. Mr. Smith accepted the honorary title of its colonel, but imposed the actual commanding duties upon a younger man. He had given a momentum to the ball, and was gratified to see it rolling onward towards the temple of liberty with an increased impetus.

Mr. Smith was a member of the next convention that convened in January, 1775, at Philadelphia. He was among the foremost to oppose force to force, and peril life for freedom. He was then called an ultra whig, and considered as treating the government of his majesty with disrespect. His patriotism had carried him six months in advance of most of the leading men, and no one could outstrip him in zeal for the cause of equal rights. His course was onward-right onward to action. For this the time soon arrived. During the year 1775 he took a conspicuous part in public measures, and in the spring of the ensuing year was appointed upon a committee, with Dr. Rush and Colonel Bayard, to organize a camp of four thousand five hundred troops, to be raised in Pennsylvania. No man was better calculated to render efficient aid in this important business. The committee

* See them at large in the biography of George Ross.

« ZurückWeiter »