Abbildungen der Seite

served on the most important committees. He was placed on a committee of which Washington was chairman, to devise means to supply the colonies with ammunition; and was appointed to the arduous task of detaching the western Indians from a coalition with Great Britain. On this errand, he repaired to Pittsburg, and acted with great zeal and address. In the beginning of 1776, he resumed his seat in Congress, where he continued a laborious and very useful member.

When the subject of independence began to be openly talked of among the people of America, in none of the colonies was a greater unwillingness to the measure betrayed than among the inhabitants of New York. There were many, however, who were the determined opposers of all farther attempts at compromise; and among the latter was Mr. Morris. When he signed the Declaration of Independence, it was at the most obvious risk of his rich and beautiful estate, the dispersion of his family, and the ruin of his domestic enjoyments and hopes. He manifested on the occasion a degree of patriotism and disinterestedness, which few had it in their power to display.

It happened as was anticipated. The beautiful manor of Morrisania was laid waste by the hostile army; and a tract of woodland of more than a thousand acres in extent was destroyed. Few men during the Revolution were called to make greater sacrifices than Mr. Morris ; and none could make them more cheerfully.

He quitted Congress in 1777, and was afterwards a member of the State Legislature, and a Major General of militia. His latter years were devoted to the pursuit of agriculture; his fondness for which was an amiable trait in his character. He died, very generally esteemed, on his paternal estate, in January, 1798, at the age of seventy-one years.


ROBERT MORRIS, the great financier of the American Revolution, was born in Lancashire, England, January, 1733-4, 0. S., of respectable parentage. His father embarked for America, and caused him to follow at the age of thirteen. He received a respectable education, and before he reached his fifteenth year, was placed in the counting-house of Mr. Charles Willing, at that time one of the first merchants at Philadelphia. His diligence and capacity gained him the full confidence of Mr. Willing, after whose death, he entered into partnership with his son, Thomas Willing, subsequently President of the bank of the United States. This connexion lasted from the year 1754 until 1793,—a period of thirty-nine years.

At the commencement of the American Revolution, Mr. Morris was more extensively engaged in commerce than any other merchant of Philadelphia. He zealously opposed the encroachments of the British Government on the liberties of the colonists, and embraced the popular lause, at the imminent sacrifice of his private interest and wealth. He declared himself immediately against the stamp act, signed, without hesitation, the non-importation agreement of 1765, and, in so doing, made a direct sacrifice of trade.

In 1775, Mr. Morris was elected, by the Legislature of Pennsylvania, a delegate to the second General Congress. He was placed upon every committee of ways and means, and connected with all the deliberations and arrangements relative to the navy, maritime affairs, and financial interests. Besides aiding his country by his talents for business, his judge ment, and his knowledge, he employed his extensive credit in obtaining loans, to a large amount, for the use of the Government.

In May, 1777, he was elected a third time to Congress, and continued to be the chief director of the financial operations of the Government. In 1780, he proposed the establishment of a bank, the chief object of which was, to supply the army with provisions. He headed the list with a subscription of ten thousand pounds; and others followed to the amomit of three hundred thousand pounds. The institution was established, and continued until the bank of North America went into operation in the following year.

In 1781, Mr. Morris was appointed, by Congress, Superintendent of Finance. The state of the treasury, when he was appointed to its superintendence, was as bad as possible. Abroad, the public credit was every moment in danger of annihilation. At home, the greatest public, as well as private distress, prevailed. The treasury was so much in arrears to the servants of the public offices, that many of them could not without payment perform their duties, but must have gone to jail for debts they had contracted to enable them to live. It was even asserted, by some of the members of the board of war, that they had not the means of sending an express to the army. But the wasted and prostrate skeleton of public credit sprung to life and action at the reviving touch of Robert Morris. The face of things was suddenly changed. Public and private credit was restored; and it has been said, that the Americans owe as much acknowledgment to the financial operations of Robert Morris, as to the negociations of Benjamin Franklin, or even the arins of George Washington.”

The establishment of the bank of North America was one of his first and most beneficial measures; an institution which he himself planned, and to forward which, he pledged his personal credit to an immense amount.

In 1786, Mr. Morris was chosen to the Assembly of Pennsylvania; and the same year was elected a member of the Convention which framed the Federal Constitution. For the adoption of the present system, he was one of the most strenuous advocates. In 1788, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania appointed him to represent the State in the first Senate of the United States, which assembled in New York. He was a fuent and impressive speaker; and wrote with great ease and power. His conversation was replete with interest and instruction. When the Federal Government was organized, Washington offered him che post of Secretary of the Treasury, which he declined; and, being requested to designate a person for it, he named General Hamilton. At the conclusion of the war, he was among the first who engaged in the East India and China trade. He was, also, the first who made an attempt to effect what is termed an out of season passage to China.

In his latter days, Mr. Morris embarked in vast land speculations, which proved fatal to his fortune. The man who had so immensely contributed to our national existence and independence, passed the closing years of his life in a prison ; a beautiful commentary upon those laws which make no distinction between guilt and misfortune, and condemn the honest debtor to the punishment of the convicted felon! He died on the 8th of May, 1806, in the seventy-third year of his age.

Until the period of his impoverishment, the house of Mr. Morris was a scene of the most lavish hospitality. It was open, for nearly half a century, to all the respectable strangers who visited Philadelphia. He was active in the acquisition of money, but no one more freely parted with his gains. No one pursued a more enlightened policy, or mani. fested through life a greater degree of humanity, virtue, energy, and gentlemanly spirit, than Robert Morris.


John Morton was born in the county of Chester, (now Delaware,) in Pennsylvania. His ancestors were of Swedish extraction ; and his father died a few months previous to his birth.

About the year 1764, Mr. Morton was sent as a delegate to the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, of which he continued for several years an active and distinguished member. He was also appointed to attend the General Congress at New York. In 1766, he was made sheriff of the county in which he resided, and, shortly after, was elevated to a seat on the bench, in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. He was deputed to the Congress of 1774; and continued to represent Pennsylvania in that assembly through the memorable session of 1776. On the question of declaring independence, in the latter year, the delegation from Pennsylvania being divided, Mr. Morton gave his casting vote in the affirmative. This was an act of great intrepidity, under all the circumstances of the case; and placed upon him a fearful load of responsibility. But he did not hesitate to assume it. The enemies of the measure were exasperated at his conduct; but on his death-bed, he desired his attendants to tell his revilers, that the hour would come, when it would be acknowledged, that his vote in favor of American Independence was the most illustrious act of his life. It is needless to observe how fully and comprehensively his prophetic annunciation has been fulfilled.

In 1777, Mr. Morton assisted in organizing a system of confederation for the colonies, and was chairman of the cominittee of the whole, at the time when it was agreed to. During the same year, he was seized with an inflammatory fever, and died on the 15th of November, in the fifty-fourth year of his age. He left behind a character for piety, liberality, and patriotism, which his actions are sufficient to substantiate.

[ocr errors]

THOMAS NELSON, Jun! Thomas Nelson was born at York, in Virginia, on the 26th of December, 1738. At the age of fourteen, he was sent to England and placed at a private school in the neighborhood of London. He was afterwards removed to the University of Cambridge, where he enjoyed the instruction of the eminent Doctor Porteus, subsequently Bishop of London. About the close of 1761, he returned to his native country, and, in the following year, married the daughter of Philip Grymes, Esq., of Brandon. His ample fortune enabled him to indulge his spirit of hospitality to its fullest extent, and to live in a style of unusual elegance.

It is not determined with certainty at what period the political career of Mr. Nelson commenced. He was a member of the House of Burgesses in 1774, and during the same year was deputed to the first general Convention of the province which met at Williamsburg on the 1st of Aogust. The next

year he was again returned a member to the General Convention, and introduced a resolution for organizing a military force in the province.

In July, 1775, Mr. Nelson was appointed a delegate from Virginia to the General Congress about to assemble at Philadelphia. He retained his seat in this body until 1777. In May of that year, he was obliged to resign all serious occupation, in consequence of a disease in the head. When relieved from this malady, his energies were again called into action, and he was appointed Brigadier General and Commander in chief of the forces of the commonwealth. In this office, he rendered the most important service to his country, and in times of emergency often advanced money, to carry forward the military operations. In 1779, he was again chosen to Congress; but a close application to business produced a recurrence of his former complaint, and he was again compelled to return home.

Soon after his recovery, General Nelson entered with animation into several military expeditions against the British, who, at that time, were making the southern States the chief theatre of war. It was owing to his measures that the army was kept together, until the capture of Yorktown terminated the war. For this service, Governor Nelson had the pleasure of receiving the acknowledgments of Washington, who, in his general orders of the 20th of October, 1781, thus spoke of him: “ The General would be guilty of the highest ingratitude, a crime of which he hopes he shall never be accused, if he forgot to return his sincere acknowledgments to his Excellency Governor Nelson, for the succors which he received from him, and the militia under his command, to whose activity, emulation, and bravery, the highest praises are due."

A month subsequent to the surrender of Lord Cornwallis, Governor Nelson resigned his station in consequence of ill health, and immediately afterwards was accused, by his enemies, of having transcended his powers in acting without the consent of his council ; but he was honorably acquitted by the Legislature, before whom the charge was preferred. He died on the 4th of January, 1789, just after he had completed his

fiftieth year.


WILLIAM PACA was born on the 31st of October, 1740. He was the second son of John Paca, a gentleman of large estate, who resided in Hartford county, Maryland. After receiving his degree of bachelor of arts at the College of Philadelphia, in 1759, he studied law, and, when admitted to the bar, established himself at Annapolis.

In 1771, Mr. Paca was chosen a representative of the county in the Legislature. At this time much contention existed between the proprietary government of Maryland, and the people. Mr. Paca, who represented the people in this body, proved himself a staunch and determined assertor of their rights, which no one more clearly understood. He zealously opposed the avaricious proceedings of the Proprietor and his partizans; and manifested on all occasions a settled hostility to tyranny and oppression.

Mr. Paca was a delegate from Maryland to the Continental Congress of 1774; and was re-appointed to the same station until the year 1778, at the close of which he retired. He was an open advocate for a Decla. ration of Independence, as were several of his colleagues. A majority of the people of Maryland, however, were not prepared for such a measure. A change was afterwards effected among the people in relation to this subject. The Convention of Maryland recalled their prohibitory instructions to their delegates; and Mr. Paca gladly received permission to vote according to the dictates of his own fearless and unshackled judgment.

In 1778, Mr. Paca was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland, an office which he continued to exercise with great ability until 1780, when he was made by Congress Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals in prize and admiralty cases. In 1782, he was elected Governor of his native State. He was distinguished for great correctness and integrity in the discharge of the duties of this station, and manifested a peculiar regard for the interests of religion and literature. At the close of the year he retired to private life. In 1786, he again accepted the executive chair, and continued in it for a year. On the organization of the Federal Government, in 1789, he received from Washington the appointment of Judge of the District Court of the United States for Maryland. This office he held until the year 1799, when he died in the sixtieth year of his age.


ROBERT TREAT PAINE was born in Boston, in 1731.

At the age of fourteen years, he became a member of Harvard college, and after leaving it, kept, for a period, a public school, the fortune of his father having been considerably reduced. With the view of obtaining

« ZurückWeiter »