Abbildungen der Seite

“ If any further lights on the subject could be needed, a very strong one is reflected in the answers to the resolutions, by the States which protested against them. The main objection of these, beyond a few general complaints of the inflammatory tendency of the resolutions, was directed against the assumed authority of a State Legislature to declare a law of the United States unconstitutional, which they pronounced an unwarrantable interference with the exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the United States. Had the resolutions been regarded as avowing and maintaining a right, in an individual State, to arrest, by force, the execution of a law of the United States, it must be presumed that it would have been a conspicuous object of their denunciation.

“ With cordial salutations,


During the latter part of his life, Mr. Madison was associated with Mr. Jefferson in the institution of the University of Virginia, and after his decease was placed at its head with the title of Rector. He was also the president of an agricultural society in the county of his residence, and in that capacity delivered an “ address, which the practical farmer and the classical scholar may read with equal profit and delight.”

“ In the midst of these occupations the declining days of the philosopher, the statesman and the patriot were passed, until the 21st day of June, 1836, the anniversary of the day on which the ratification of the convention of Virginia, in 1788, had affixed the seal of JAMES MADISON as the father of the Constitution of the United States, when his earthly part sunk without a struggle into the grave, and a spirit bright as the seraphim that surround the throne of Omnipotence ascended to the bosom of his God”



[ocr errors]

The early years of the life of James Monroe, fifth President of the United States, were passed at the place of his nativity, on the banks of the Potomac, in the county of Westmoreland, in what was, at that period, called the colony of Virginia. It is somewhat remarkable that this state, where the traveller thinks that he beholds the feudal splendor of a former age, and is entertained with a magnificent hospitality, to be found in no other part of the union, and where, in the language of the British Spy,

here and there a stately aristocratic palace strikes the view, while all around, for many miles, no other buildings are to be seen but the little smoky huts and log cabins of poor, laborious, ignorant tenants," should have produced four of the chief magistrates of this republic, Old Virginia, besides the crown of her glory, Washington-her Jefferson, her Madison, and her Monroe-enrols upon her archives the name of another illustrious and venerable patriarch of freedom, which is a consecrated word upon the lips of every lover of his country. Who would not write with me, on the scroll which American liberty displays to the world, under the name of General Washington, that of his biographer ? Venerated by all men, of all parties, is the present Chief Justice, John Marshall.

James Monroe was born in September, 1759. His ancestors had for many years resided in the province in which he was born, and one of them was among the first patentees of that province. That this ancestor possessed some of those noble and generous qualities of the heart which distinguished his descendant, will be apparent from the following anecdote. At some warmly contested election, when Madison and Monroe were opposing candidates, the friends of both parties used the most strenuous exertions to bring every voter to the polls. When, by reasons of poverty, old age, or bodily infirmities, any voters were unable to be present, they were sent for and brought in carts and wagons, to the place o^ the election. The friends of Mr. Madison had succeeded in transporing irom a considerable distance a very aged man. He was set down at the building in which the votes were to be cast, and soon began to hear some conversation about the candidates. The name of James Monroe at last struck his ear, and he inquired of the speaker if the man whom he had mentioned was the son of that Monroe who lived and died in the province many years before. Upon being informed that James was a grandson of that indiridual, the old man instantly exclaimed, “ Then I will vote for James Monroe. His grandfather befriended me when I first came into the country, fed me, and clothed me, and I lived in his house. I do not know James Madison. I will vote for James Monroe !" So Mr. Monroe received the old man's suffrage, though Mr. Madison's supporters had borne the trouble and expense of a long journey. The same noble spirit of benevolence, which prompted the grandfather to receive within his door a helpless stranger, may be traced in the actions of his illustrious descendant, who pledged the whole of his property for the credit of the nation, and was untiring in his efforts to reward revolutionary patriots. Mr. Monroe was, at seventeen years

age, in the


of completing his classical education at the College of William and Mary, when the colonial delegates assembled at Philadelphia, to deliberate upon the unjust and manifold oppressions of Great Britain, declared the separation of the colonies, and promulgated the declaration of Independence. Had he been born ten years before, it is highly probable, that, instead of reading about the rise and fall of the Grecian republics, he would have been one of the signers of that cele ated instrument. His youth precluded him from taking any part in the controversies, which had agitated the country from the first promulgation of the stamp act. Indeed, his birth may be said to have been simultaneous with the faint dawn of American freedom; for he was only in his fifth year, when, upon the publication of that odious paper, the fires of resistance flashed, like beacons, from mountain to mountain. The British government continued to add new fuel to the flame, till on the fourth of July, 1776, the conflagration became universal.

Upon the first formation of the American army, young Monroe-at that period eighteen years of age-left his college, and, repairing to General Washington's headquarters at New-York, enrolled himself in the army as a cadet in the regiment commanded by Colonel Mercer. He joined the army when every thing looked hopeless and gloomy. The number of deserters increased from day to day. The invading armies came pouring in ; and the tories, a numerous class, now entirely extinct among us, not only favored the cause of the mother country, but disheartened the new recruits, who were sufficiently terrified at the prospect of contending with an enemy whom they had been taught to deem invincible. The besiegers continued to receive new accessions, while the besieged were almost reduced to the necessity of a dissolution. To such brave spirits as James Monroe, who went right onward undismayed through difficulty and danger, the United States owe their political emancipation. The young cadet joined the ranks, and espoused the cause of his injured country, with a firm determination to live or die with her strife for liberty. The fortitude of such a determination will be appreciated by those who reflect that our country, like the infant Hercules, was to strangle the serpents, or perish in the attempt.

Mr. Monroe shared all the defeats and privations which attended the footsteps of the army of Washington, through the disastrous battles of Flat Bush, Haerlem Heights, and White Plains. He was present at the succeeding evacuation of New-York and Long Island, at the surrender of Fort Washington, and the retreat through the Jerseys; “ till,” in the eloquent language of his great eulogist, “on the day devoted to celebrate the birth of the Savior of mankind, of the same year on which independence was proclaimed, Washington, with the houseless heads and unshod feet of three thousand new and undisciplined levies, stood on the western bank of the Delaware, to contend in arms with the British lion, and to baffle the skill and energy of the chosen champions of Britain, with ten times the number of his shivering and emaciate host; the stream of the Delaware forming the only barrier between the proud array of thirty thousand veteran Britons and the scanty remnant of his dissolving bands." Mr. Monroe, after having participated in the adversities of the gallant defenders of their country, now rejoiced with them in their great and un anticipated success. At the battle of Trenton he led the vanguard, and, in the act of charging upon the enemy, he received a wound in his left shoulder. This wound, the scar of which remained till his death, was inflicted in the same battle where the life-blood of many a noble soldier streamed. The commander of his regiment, Colonel Mercer, fell. Haselet, and Porter, and Neal, and Fleming, and Shippen, were also, upon that memorable day, martyrs to the holy cause of freedom.

As a reward for his bravery, Mr. Monroe was promoted a captain of infantry; and, having recovered from his wound, he rejoined the army. He, however, receded from the line of promotion, by becoming an officer in the staff of Lord Sterling. During the campaigns of 1777 and 1778, in the actions of Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth, he continued aid-de-camp; but, becoming desirous to regain his position in the army, he exerted himself to collect a regiment for the Virginia line. This scheme, which was recommended by General Washington to the legislature of Virginia, by whom Captain Monroe was commissioned to act, failed, owing to the exhausted condition of the state. Upon this failure, he entered the office of Mr. Jefferson, at that period Governor, and pursued, with considerable ardor, the study of the common law. He did not, however, entirely lay aside the knapsack for the green bag ; but, in the invasions of the enemy, served as a volunteer, during the two years of his legal pursuits. After the fall of Charleston, in 1780, he was appointed by Governor Jefferson a military commissioner, to examine into the condition of the southern army under De Kalb, as well as the situation of the states, and to determine, from the result of his observation, the probability of rescuing them from the enemy. Upon his return, the Governor and Executive Council were well pleased with his execution of such an important trust

The time at length arrived, when, having endured the burden and heat of the day as a soldier, he was to enter upon a different field of action, as the supporter of a system of laws, in a government which he had fought and bled to establish. In 1782, he was elected from King George county a member of the legislature of Virginia, and by that body he was elevated to a seat in the Executive Council. He was thus honored with the confidence of his fellow-citizens at twenty-three years of age; and, having at this early period, displayed some of that ability and aptitude for legislation, which were afterwards employed with unremitting energy for the public good, he was, in the succeeding year, chosen a member of the Congress of the United States, on the ninth of June, 1783. On the thirteenth of December, he took his seat in the continental Congress, assembled at Annapolis, and on that day saw the illustrious leader of the victorious revolutionary army resign his commission into the hands of those bold patriots by whom it had been conferred. From this year, 1783, to 1786, Mr. Monroe was a useful member of the confederate Congress. During this period, he had frequent opportunities of observing the utter inefficiency of the articles of confederation; and introduced a series of resolutions, to give Congress the power of regulating trade, and of laying an impost duty of five per cent. He was chairman of the committee who reported on these resolutions; and in this report, certain alterations in the existing form of government were so strongly urged, that it was soon debated whether there should not be some formal revision. The result was the partial convention of delegates at Annapolis, and finally the celebrated Federal Convention, and the formation and adoption of that Constitution, under which the country has so long enjoyed prosperity and happiness. Mr. Monroe also proposed a plan for the just disposition of the public lands.

In 1784, there arose a controversy between the states of Massachusetts and New-York, upon some question of boundary and jurisdiction. It was one of the few powers of the confederated Congress, to constitute a Court of Commissioners to determine all such disputes, to be chosen, however, by the parties to the controversy. The agents of the two states, in December, agreed upon nine persons, among whom was James Monroe. This choice of so young a man indicates the high esteem in which he was generally held. In March, 1825, he signified to Congress his acceptance of the appointment. But in a year from that time, owing to the resignation of some of the members of the court, the necessity of appointing others, and the difficulties and delays in hearing from all the Judges, the controversy was not yet decided. On the fifteenth of May, Mr. Monroe declined his appointment, stating, in his letter to Congress, "some circumstances will put out of my power to act as a Judge for the decision of the controversy between Massachusetts and New-York, and therefore I present my resignation to Congress.” What these circumstances were, may be easily conjectured from what had transpired since the election of the Judges.

Spain had always pursued towards the United States a system of mean and narrow policy, in regard to the navigation of the waters of the Mississippi. She finally sent a sort of diplomatic agent to negotiate with our government, who had received instruction absolutely to resist our right to sail through the mouth of that important river. The Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jay, was told by Congress, to confer with the Spanish Encargardo, but to enter into no negotiation until its terms should first be approved by Congress. The Secretary, not being able to effect any arrangement, recommended, in a personal address, some compromis with Spain, by proposing a treaty, in which, if she would give comn.ercial advantages equivalent to our yielding the right to navigate the Mississippi, we should forbear to exercise that right for twenty or thirty years, to which the duration of the treaty should be limited. Many and angry were the debates upon this proposition. The seven northern states were warmly in favor of it, and the five southern states (Delaware not being represented) as warmly opposed.

It is to be feared that, with this useless discussion, commenced those sectional prejudices and animosities, which have, from time to time, produced harsh discord in the national harmony, and may, by and by, shatter

« ZurückWeiter »