Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

in New York, he returned to his native State, and fixed his residence at Cambridge, a few miles from Boston. In 1787, Mr. Gerry was chosen a delegate to the Convention which assembled at Philadelphia, to revise the articles of confederation. To him there appeared strong objections to the Federal Constitution, and he declined affixing his signature to the instrument. But when that Constitution had gone into effect, and he was chosen a representative to Congress, he cheerfully united in its support, since it had received the sanction of the country.

In 1797, Mr. Gerry was appointed to accompany General Pinckney and Mr. Marshall on a special mission to France. On their arrival in Paris, the tools of the government made the extraordinary demand of a large sum of money, as the condition of any negociation. This being refused, the ridiculous attempt was made by the Directory, to excite their fears for themselves and their country. In the spring of 1798, two of the envoys, Messrs. Pinckney and Marshall, were ordered to quit the territories of France, while Mr. Gerry was invited to remain, and resume the negociation which had been suspended. He accepted the invitation to remain, but resolutely refused to resume the negociation. His object in remaining was to prevent an immediate rupture with France, which, it was feared, would result from his departure. His continuance seems to have eventuated in the good of his country. “ He finally saved the peace of the nation,” said the late President Adams, " for he alone discovered and furnished the evidence that X. Y. and Z. were employed by Talleyrand; and he alone brought home the direct, formal, and official assurances upon which the subsequent commission proceeded, and peace was made.”

Mr. Gerry returned to America in 1798, and in 1805 was elected by the republican party, Governor of Massachusetts. In the following year he retired, but in 1810 was again chosen Chief Magistrate of that commonwealth, which office he held for the two succeeding years. In 1812, he was elected Vice-President of the United States, into which office he was inaugurated on the 4th of March, 1813. While attending to his duties at Washington, he was suddenly summoned from the scene of his earthly labors. A beautiful monument, erected at the national expense, bears the following inscription :

THE TOMB OF
ELBRIDGE GERRY,
Vice-President of the United States,
wbo died suddenly, in this city, on his way to the
Capitol, as President of the Senate,
November 23d, 1814.

Aged 70.

BUTTON GWINNETT.

BUTTON GWINNETT was born in England, about the year 1732, and on coming of age became a merchant in the city of Bristol. Some time after his marriage in his native country, he removed to Charleston, South Carolina, and having continued there two years, he purchased a large tract of land in Georgia, where he became extensively engaged in agricultural pursuits.

Mr. Gwinnett had long taken a deep interest in the welfare of the colonies ; but he despaired of a successful resistance to Great Britain. His sentiments on this point, however, underwent a great change, and he became a warm advocate for opposing the unjust exactions of the mother country. In 1776, he was elected a representative of the province of Georgia, in Congress. He accordingly repaired to Philadelphia, and took his seat in the National Council, to which he was re-elected the ensuing year. He was afterwards a member of the Convention held at Savannah, to frame a Constitution for the State, and is said to have furnished the outlines of the Constitution, which was finally adopted. On the death of the President of the Provincial Council, Mr. Gwinnett was elected to the vacant station. In this situation he seems to have indulged in an unbecoming hostility towards an old political rival, Colonel M’Intosh ; adopting several expedients to mortify his adversary, and never divesting himself of his embittered hatred towards him. expedition which he had projected against East Florida, Mr. Gwinnett designed to command the continental troops and militia of Georgia himself, thereby excluding Colonel M'Intosh from the command even of his own brigade.

Just at this period, it became necessary to convene the Legislature. In consequence of his official duties, Mr. Gwinnett was prevented from proceeding on the expedition. He therefore appointed to the command a subordinate officer of M'Intosh's brigade. The expedition failed entirely, and contributed to defeat the election of Mr. Gwinnett as Governor of the State. This failure blasted his hopes, and brought his political career to a close. M'Intosh was foolish enough to exult in the mortification of his adversary. The consequence was, that Mr. Gwinnett presented him a challenge. They fought at the distance of only twelve feet. Both were severely wounded. The wound of Mr. Gwinnett proved fatal. He expired on the 27th of May, 1777, in the forty-fifth year of his age,-a melancholy instance of the misery produced by harboring in the heart the absorbing passion of rancorous envy.

In person Mr. Gwinnett was tall, and of a noble appearance. In is temper he was irritable; but in his manners, courteous, graceful, and dolite.

In an LYMAN HALL.

LYMAN HALL was born in Connecticut, about the year 1731. After receiving a collegiate education, and acquiring a competent knowledge of medicine, he removed to Georgia, where he established himself in his profession, in Sunbury, in the district of Medway. On the commencement of the struggle with Great Britain, he accepted of a situation in the parish of St. John, which was a frontier settlement, and exposed to incursions of the Creek Indians, and of the royalists of Florida. The parish of St. John, at an early period, entered with spirit into the opposition to the mother country, while the rest of Georgia, generally, main. tained different sentiments. So widely opposite were the feelings of this patriotic parish to those of the other inhabitants of the province, that an almost total alienation took place between them.

In 1774, the liberal party held a general meeting, at Savannah, where Dr. Hall appeared as a representative of the parish of St. John. The measures adopted, however, fell far short of his wishes, and those of his constituents." At a subsequent meeting, it was agreed to petition the King for a redress of grievances.

The parish of St. John, dissatisfied with the half-way measures of the Savannah Convention, endeavored to negociate an alliance with the committee of correspondence in Charleston, South Carolina. But this being impracticable, the inhabitants of St. John resolved to cut off all commercial intercourse with Savannah and the surrounding parishes. Having taken this independent stand, they next made an unanimous choice of Dr. Hall as their representative to Congress. In the following May, Dr. Hall appeared in the Hall of Congress, and by that body was unanimously admitted to a seat: but as he did not represent the whole of Georgia, it was resolved to reserve the question, as to his right to vote, for further deliberation. Fortunately, however, on the 15th of July, Georgia acceded to the general confederacy, and proceeded to the appointment of five delegates to Congress, three of whom attended at the adjourned meeting of that body in 1775.

Among these delegates, Dr. Hall was one. He was annually reelected until 1780, when he retired from the National Legislature. On the possession of Georgia by the British, his property was confiscated, and he obliged to leave the State. He returned in 1782, and the follow. ing year was elected to the Chief Magistracy of Georgia. After holding this office for some time, he retired from public life, and died at his resi dence, in Burke county, about the sixtieth year of his age.

JOHN HAll C0C К.

John Hancock was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, in the year 1737. Both his father and grandfather were clergymen. Having lost the former relative while yet a child, he was adopted by a paternal uncle, Thomas Hancock, “the most opulent merchant in Boston, and the most enterprising man in New England.” A professorship had been founded in Harvard College by his liberality, and to the library of that institulion he was a principal benefactor.

Under the patronage of his uncle, the nephew received a liberal education in the above university, where he was graduated in 1754. On leaving college, he was employed as a clerk in the counting-house of his uncle, where he continued till 1760, when he visited England for the purpose of extending his information and correspondence. He returned to America in 1764; shortly after which, his uncle died, leaving him the direction of his enormous business, and a fortune the largest in the province. Hancock became neither haughty nor profligate by this sudden accession of wealth. He was kind and liberal to the numerous persons dependent upon him for employment; and maintained a character for integrity and ability in the management of his vast and complicated concerns. His princely estate, added to his honorable and generous character, soon gave him influence, and ever rendered him popular.

In 1760, he was chosen a member of the Legislature of Massachusetts, and thus became intimately associated with James Otis, Samuel Adams, and other distinguished patriots. In this assembly, his genius rapidly developed itself, and he became conspicuous for the purity of his principles, and the excellence of his abilities.

The arrival of a vessel belonging to Mr. Hancock, in 1768, which was said to be loaded contrary to the revenue laws, produced a violent ebullition of popular feeling. This vessel was seized by the customhouse officers, and placed under the guns of the Romney, at that time in the harbor, for security. This seizure greatly exasperated the people, and, in their excitement, they assaulted the revenue officers, and compelled them to seek safety on board the armed vessel, or in the neighboring Castle. The boat of the collector was destroyed, and several of the houses of his partisans were razed to the ground. Mr. Hancock, although in no wise concerned in this transaction, received from it a considerable accession of popularity.

A few days after the affray, which is usually termed “the Boston Massacre," and to which we have briefly adverted in the sketch of Samuel Adams, Mr. Hancock was appointed to deliver an address in commemoration of the event. After speaking of his attachment to a just government, and his detestation of tyranny, he proceeded to describe the profligacy and abandoned life of the troops quartered amongst them Not satisfied with their own shameful debauchery, they strove to vitiate the morals of the citizens, and “thereby render them worthy of destruction.” He spoke in terms of unmeasured indignation of the massacre of the inhabitants; and in appalling language forewarned the perpetrators of the deed, of the vengeance which would overtake them hereafter," it she laboring earth did not expand her jaws; if the air they breathed were not commissioned to be the immediate minister of death.” He proceeded in the following spirited strain:

“ But I gladly quit this theme of death. I would not dwell too long upon the horrid effects, which have already followed from quartering regular troops in this town; let our misfortunes instruct posterity to guard against these evils. Standing armies are sometimes, (I would by no means say generally, much less universally,) composed of persons who have rendered themselves unfit to live in civil society; who are equally indifferent to the glory of a George, or a Louis; who, for the addition of one penny a day to their wages, would desert from the Christian cross, and fighỉ under the crescent of the Turkish Sultan; from such men as these what has not a State to fear? With such as these. usurping Cæsar passed the Rubicon ; with such as these he humbled mighty Rome, and forced the mistress of the world to own a master in a traitor. These are the men whom sceptred robbers now employ to frustrate the designs of God, and render vain the bounties which his gracious hand pours indiscriminately upon his creatures.”

The intrepid style of this address removed all doubts as to the devoted patriotism of Mr. Hancock. His manners and habits had spread an opinion unfavorable to his republican principles. His mansion rivaled the magnificence of an European palace. *Gold and silver embroidery adorned his garments; and his carriage, horses, and servants in livery, emulated the splendor of the English nobility. But the sentiments expressed by him in the above address were so public, and explicit

, as to cause a complete renovation of his popularity. From this time, he became odious to the Governor and his adherents. Efforts were made to get possession of his person, and he, with Samuel Adams, was excluded from the general pardon offered by Governor Gage, to all who would manifest a proper penitence for their opposition to the royal authority.

In 1774, Hancock was unanimously elected to the presidential chair of the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts. The following year, the honor of the presidency of the Continental Congress was conferred upon him. His recent proscription by Governor Gage, no doubt, contributed to his popularity in that body. In this station Hancock continued till October, 1777; when his infirm health induced him to resign his office. He was afterwards a member of the Convention appointed to frame a Constitution for Massachusetts, and in 1780 was chosen first Governor of the Commonwealth, to which station he was annually elected, until the year 1785, when he resigned. After an interval of two years, he was re-elected to the same office. He continued in it till the time of his death, which took place on the Sth of October, 1793, in the fifty-fifth year of his age.

Mr. Hancock was a firm and energetic patriot, and though possessed of immense wealth, devoted himself to the laborious service of his country. It has been remarked, that by the force with which he inscribed his name on the parchment, which bears the declaration of independence. ne seems to have determined that his name should never be erased.

« ZurückWeiter »