« ZurückWeiter »
JAMES Wilson was born in Scotland, about the year 1742. He re ceived an excellent education ; studying successively at Glasgow, St. Andrews, and Edinburgh, and enjoying the instruction of the distinguished Dr. Blair, and the not less celebrated Dr. Watts.
After completing his studies, he embarked for America, and arrived at Philadelphia, early in the year 1766. Here he served some time in the capacity of tutor in the College of the city, and acquired the reputation of being a fine classical scholar. He shortly after entered the law office of Mr. John Dickinson, and, at the expiration of two years, commenced practice, first at Reading and Carlisle, then at Annapolis, and finally at Philadelphia, where he continued to reside during the remainder of his life. At an early period, Mr. Wilson espoused the cause of the colonies. He was an American in principle from the time that he landed on the American shore. He became a member of the Provincial Convention of Pennsylvania, and in 1775, was unanimously elected a Delegate to Congress. His standing during the whole course of his attendance on this body, was deservedly high. He evinced great ability and fidelity in the discharge of his numerous duties, and voted in favor of Independence in opposition to a majority of his colleagues.
The high estimation in which Mr. Wilson was held, may be learned from his receiving the appointment of Advocate General for the French Government, in the United States. He continued to hold this office, which was both arduous and delicate, for several years, at the close of which, the King of France handsomely rewarded him by a gift of ten thousand livres. About the year 1782, Mr. Wilson was appointed a Counsellor and Agent for Pennsylvania, in the great controversy between that State and the State of Connecticut, relating to certain lands within the charter boundary of Pennsylvania, He discovered much legal knowledge and tact in the management of this business; and the question was finally settled in favor of Pennsylvania.
He was a member of the celebrated Convention of 1787, which assembled in Philadelphia, for the purpose of forming the Constitution of the United States. During the long deliberations on this instrument, he rendered the most important services. He was on the committee which reported the draught of the Constitution, and did much to settle, upon just principles, the great and inportant points which naturally arose in the formation of a new Government.
When the State Convention of Pennsylvania assembled to ratify the Federal Constitution, Mr. Wilson was returned a member of that body, and as he was the only one who had assisted in forming that instrument, it devolved upon him to explain to the Convention the principles upon which it was founded, and the great objects which it had in view,
In 1789, Mr. Wilson was appointed by Washington, a Judge of the Supreme Court, under the Federal Constitution. In this office, he continued until his death, which occurred on the 28th of August, 1798, at Edenton, in North Carolina, while on a circuit attending to his judicial duties. Mr. Wilson was twice married; the first time to a daughter of William Bird, of Berks county, and the second time to a daughter of Ms. Ellis Gray, of Boston.
JOHN WITHERSPOON, alike distinguished as a minister of the Gospel and a patriot of the Revolution, was born in the parish of Yester, a few miles from Edinburgh, on the 5th of February, Î722. He was lineally descended from John Knox, the celebrated Scottish reformer; and was sent at an early age to the public school at Haddington, where he applied himself closely to the study of classical literature.
At the age of fourteen, he was removed to the University of Edinburgh; and on completing his theological studies, he was ordained and settled in the parish of Beith, in the west of Scotland.
Doctor Witherspoon left behind him a sphere of great usefulness and respectability, in retiring from his native land. He arrived in America in August, 1768, and in the same month was inaugurated President of the College of New Jersey. His exertions in raising the character and increasing the funds of this institution, were successful and indefatigable.
On the occurrence of the American war, the college was broken up, and the officers and students were dispersed. Doctor Witherspoon now assumed a new attitude before the American public. On becoming a citizen of the country, he warmly espoused her cause against the British ministry. He was a Delegate to the Convention which formed the republican Constitution of New Jersey; and proved himself as able a politician as he was known to be philosopher and divine. Early in the year 1776, he was chosen a Representative to the General Congress, by the people of New Jersey. He took a part in the deliberations on the question of Independence, for which he was a warm advocate. To a gentleman, who declared that the country was not yet ripe for a Declaration of Independence, he replied: "Sir, in my judgment, the country is not only ripe, but rotting.”
For the space of seven years, Doctor Witherspoon continued a Delegate from New Jersey to the Continental Congress. Few men acted with more energy or promptitude, or attended more closely and faithfully than he to the duties of his station.
At the close of the year 1779, Doctor Witherspoon voluntarily retired from Congress, and resigned the care and instruction of the students to another. His name, however, continued to add celebrity to the institution, over which he had so creditably presided. But he did not remain long in repose. In 1781, he was again chosen to Congress, and in 1783, he embarked for England, with the view of promoting the interests of the College, for which he had already done so much. He returned to America in 1784, and again withdrew from active life.
Doctor Witherspoon was an admirable model for a young preacher
"A profound theologian, perspicuous and simple in his manner; an universal scholar, acquainted with human nature; a grave, dignified. solemn speaker ;-he brought all the advantages derived from these sources, to the illustration and enforcement of divine truth. His social qualities rendered him one of the most companionable of men."
Doctor Witherspoon was twice married; the first time in Scotland, at an early age, to a lady of the name of Montgomery; and the second time, at the age of seventy years, to a lady who was only twenty-three. He had several children, who all passed, or are passing, honorably through life. He died on the 15th day of November, 1794, in the seventy-third year of his age. His works have been collected in four volumes, octavo.
OLIVER Wolcott was born in Connecticut in the year 1726. His family was ancient and distinguished; and his ancestors successively held a long list of honorable offices in the State. He was graduated at Yale College in 1747; and the same year received a commission as Captain in the army, in the French war. At the head of a company, which was raised by his own exertions, he proceeded to the defence of the northern frontiers, where he continued until the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle.
At this time he returned to his native State, and entered upon the study of medicine. He never engaged in the practice of the profession, however, in consequence of receiving the appointment of Sheriff of the county of Litchfield. In 1774, he was elected an Assistant in the Council of the State, and continued in the office till 1786. He was also for some time Chief Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the county, and Judge of the Court of Probate for the district of Litchfield. In 1776, he was chosen a Delegate from Connecticut to the National Congress, which assembled at Philadelphia. He participated in the deliberations of that body, and had the honor of recording his name in favor of the Declaration of Independence.
From the time of the adoption of that measure until 1786, he was either in attendance upon Congress, in the field in defence of his country, or, as a Commissioner of Indian affairs for the northern department, assisting in settling the terms of peace with the Six Nations. In 1786, he was chosen Lieutenant-Governor of Connecticut, an office which he continued to hold for ten years, at the expiration of which he was raised to the Chief Magistracy of the State. He died on the 1st of December, 1797, in the seventy-second year of his age.
Mr. Wolcott was possessed of great resolution of character; and his attainments in literature were of a superior order. He was also distin. guished for his love of order and religion. In 1755, he was married to a Miss Collins, of Guilford, an estimable woman, with whom he enjoyed much domestic felicity, for the space of forty years.
George WYTHE was born in the county of Elizabeth city, Virginia, in the year 1726. His mother, who was a woman of superior acquirements
, instructed him in the learned languages, and he made considerable progress in several of the solid sciences, and in polite literature. Before he became of age, he was deprived of both his parents; and inheriting considerable property, he became addicted, for several years, to dissipated courses and habits of profligacy. But at the age of thirty, he abandoned entirely his youthful follies, and applied himself with indefatigable industry to study; never relapsing into any indulgence inconsistent with a manly and virtuous character.
Having studied the profession of law, he soon attained a high reputation at the bar, and was appointed from his native county to a seat in the House of Burgesses. He took a conspicuous part in the proceedings of this assembly, and some of the most eloquent state papers of the time were drawn up by him. The remonstrance to the House of Commons, which was of a remarkably fearless and independent tone, was the production of his pen. By his patriotic firmness and zeal, he powerfuly contributed to the ultimate success of his country.
In 1775, Mr. Wythe was elected a Delegate from Virginia to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He assisted in bringing forward and urging the Declaration of Independence, and affixed his name to that deathless instrument. During this latter year, he was appointed, in connexion with Thomas Jefferson, Edward Pendleton, and others, to revise the laws of the State of Virginia. In the year 1777, Mr. Wythe was chosen Speaker of the House of Delegates, and during the same year was made Judge of the High Court of Chancery.. On the new organization of the Court of Equity, in a subsequent year, he was appointed sole Chancellor, a station which he filled with great ability, for more than twenty years.
In the course of the Revolution, Mr. Wythe suffered much in respect to his property. By judicious management, however, he contrived to retrieve his fortune, and preserve his credit unimpaired. Of the Convention of 1787, appointed to revise the Federal Constitution, he was an efficient member. During the debates, he acted for the most part as chairman. He was a warm advocate for the Constitution, and esteemed it the surest guarantee of the peace and prosperity of the country. He died on the Sth of June, 1806, in the eighty-first year of his age, after a short but very excruciating sickness. By his last will and testament, Mr. Wythe bequeathed his valuable library and philosophical apparatus to his friend, Mr. Jefferson, and distributed the remainder of his little property among the grand-children of his sister, and the slaves whom he had set free.
EARLY HISTORY OF AMERICA.
It is a singular fact, that the principal European nations owe their possessions in America to the enterprise and skill of Italian navigators, though not a single colony was planted by the Italians themselves. Columbus opened to Europe a new world, and acquired for Spain a dominion wide and rich enough to satisfy even Castilian ambition, and his recompense was ingratitude, imprisonment, and an old age dishonored by chains. Cabot, a Venetian in the English service, acquired claims upon the lasting remembrance of Great Britain, whose extent he never lived to realize. Verazzani, of Florence, explored America for the benefit of France, but when sailing in a second expedition to this country, perished at sea. Amerigo Vespucci, who was also a Florentine, though he associated his name in imperishable union with the new world, bought but an empty fame for himself and his country.
Columbus sailed on his first voyage of discovery, from the bar of Saltes, a small island in front of the town of Huelva, early on the morning of the 3d of August, 1492. He directed his course in a south-westerly direction, for the Canary Islands, and immediately commenced a minute journal of the voyage, in the preface to which he recounted the motives which led him to the expedition. In the conclusion of this preface, he says, “I intend to write, during this voyage, very punctually, from day to day, all that I may do, and see, and experience, as will hereafter be seen. Also, my sovereign princes, beside describing each night a!l that has occurred in the day, and in the day the navigation of the night, I propose to make a chart, in which I will set down the waters and lands of the Ocean sea, in their proper situations under their bearings; and, further, to compose a book, and illustrate the whole in picture by latitude
the equinoctial, and longitude from the west ; and upon the whole, it will be essential that I should forget sleep, and attend closely to the navigation, to accomplish these things, which will be a great labor.”
The first land that Columbus expected to meet was Cipango, which had been placed by geographers at the eastern extremity of India. This was the name given to the island now called Japan, by Marco Polo, the celebrated Venetian traveller. The most extravagant accounts of the riches of this country were given by the writers of that age, and the Admiral was anxious to proceed directly there. At sunrise, on Sunday, the 7th of October, the Nina, which had outsailed the other vessels, on account of her swiftness, hoisted a flag at her mast-head, and fired a gun, as a signal of having discovered land. There had been a reward promised by the King and Queen to the man who should first make this discovery; and each of the vessels was striving very eagerly to get ahead, and obtain the promised recompense. As they found nothirg of