« AnteriorContinuar »
spectacle more imposing has been exhibited to human observation.
In 1776, July 4th, his name appears as president of the congress which declared the colonies independent of the crown of Great Britain. The name of the president alone was published with the declaration, though every member signed it. It was a mark of respect due to Massachusetts, to have one of their members in the chair, which had been filled by a member from South Carolina and Virginia. Mr. Hancock had those talents which were calculated to make him appear to more advantage as chairman, than in the debates of a publiç body. He excelled as moderator of the Boston town-meetings, as president of the provincial congress, and state convention; and, as head of the great council of our nation, he was much respected. He discovered a fine address, great impartiality, sufficient spirit to command attention, and preserve
order. His voice and manner were much in his favour, and his experience in public business, gave him ease and dignity.
In 1779, Mr. Hancock resigned his place in congress. He was chosen a member of the convention that formed the constitution of Massachusetts.
From 1780 to-1785, Mr. Hancock was annually chosen governor of the commonwealth of Massachusetts. He declined being a candidate for the office the ensuing year, and was succeeded by the honourable James Bowdoin, Esq. During the administration of Mr. Bowdoin, there was an insurrection in the state, which was happily quelled. Every thing was done in the most judicious manner, by the governor and the legislature, yet a part of the community appeared to be discontented with the administration, and in the year 1787, Mr. Hancock was again placed in the chair.
His conduct in the state convention during the discussion of it, gained him honour. The opposition to this excellent form of government was great. It was said that the majority of the convention would be against the adoption; and that the governor was with the opposers.
He was chosen president of the convention, but did not attend the debates till the latter week of the session.Certain amendments were proposed to remove the objections of those, who thought some of the articles deprived the people of their rights. He introduced these amendments with great propriety, and voted for the adoption of the constitution. His name and influence doubtless turned many in favour of the federal government.
The latter years of his administration were easy to him, on account of the public tranquility. The federal government became the source of so much prosperity, that the people were easy and happy. The two patriots, Hancock and Adams, were reconciled. When lieutenant governor Cushing died, general Lincoln was chosen as his successor. This gave great offence to Mr. Adams, and it was very disagreeable to the governor. They joined their strength to support the same measures, as well as renewed their friendship. The next year Lincoln was left out of office, and Mr. Adams chosen lieutenant governor. This gentleman succeeded Mr. Hancock. as governor of the commonwealth, after his death. He died October 8, 1793.
The death of such a man was interesting to the people at large. The procession at his funeral was very great. Doctor Thacher preached his funeral sermon the next sabbath. He was very friendly to the clergy of all denominations, and did a great deal to promote the cause of learning as well as religion. The library of Harvard College will give an exhibition of his munificence; for the name of Hancock, in golden letters, now adorns one of the alcoves of the library room, and is upon the records of the university among her greatest benefactors.
Mr. Hancock was promoted to every office which a man fond of public life could expect or desire. His manners were pleasing. He was polite, affable, easy, and condescending; and, what was greatly in his favour, did not appear lifted up with pride. Such an elevation to prosperous circumstances would make some men giddy, and cause others to despise their neighbour, poorer. than themselves.
The editor will again refer to, and give an extract from, the oration of Richard Rush, Esq. delivered at the city of Washington, July 4, 1812. He said, “during the siege of Boston, general Washington consulted congress upon the propriety of bombarding the town. Mr. Hancock was then president of congress. After general Washington's letter was read, a solemn silence ensued. This was broken by a member making a motion that the house should resolve itself into a committee of the whole, in order that Mr. Hancock might give his opinion upon the subject, as he was so deeply interested from having all his estate in Boston. After he left the chair, he addressed the chairman of the committee of the whole, in the following words: 'It is true, sir, nearly all the property I have in the world, is in houses and other real estate in the town of Boston; but if the expulsion of the British army from it, and the liberties of our country require their being burnt to ashes, issue the orders for that purpose immediately."
HAWLEY, JOSEPH, distinguished as a statesman and patriot, was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1724, and was graduated in Yale college in 1742. Soon after finishing his collegial education, he engaged in the study and the practice of the law in his native town. In this science he became a great proficient, and was one of the most distinguished counsellors in the province. Among his other studies, he attained to such an eminence of knowledge in political history, and the principles of free government, that, during tlie disputes between Great Britain and the colonies, he was regarded as one of the ablest advocates of American liberty. His integrity, both in public and in private life, was inflexible, and was not even questioned by his political opponents. He was repeatedly elected a member of the council, but refused in every instance to accept the office, as he preferred a seat in the house of representatives, where his character for disinterested patriotism, and his bold and manly eloquence gave him an ascendency, which has seldom been equalled.
In 1776, he, together with Samuel Adams and John Hancock, were elected members of the legisJature. He acquired great influence in the public councils. The ascendancy which was allotted to him by the deference of others, was a fortunate circumstance for his country. Never was influence exercised with more intelligent, devoted and inflexible patriotism. He made up his mind earlier than most men, that the struggle against oppression would lead to war, and that our rights at last must be secured by our arms. As the crisis approached, when some persons urged upon him the danger of a contest, so apparently unequal, his answer was, “We must put to sea, Providence will bring us into port.”
From a correspondence between Mr. John Adams, late president of the United States, and William Wirt, Esq. of Virginia, the biographer of Patrick Henry, it would seem that the declaration “We must fight,” which Mr. Wirt had claimed for Mr. Henry, was derived from a letter which he himself had shown to Mr. Henry, written by
major Hawley, in 1774. Mr. Adams, in a letter to Mr. Wirt, dated Quincy, January 23, 1818, says, “When congress had finished their business, as they thought, in the autumn of 1774, I had, with Mr. Henry, before we took leave of each other, some familiar conversation, in which I expressed a full conviction that our resolves, declaration of rights, enumeration of wrongs, petitions, remonstrances and addresses, associations, and non-importation agreements, however they might be expected in America, and however necessary to cement the union of the colonies, would he but waste water in England. Mr. Ilenry said they might make some impression among the people of England, but agreed with me that they would be totally lost upon the government.
government. I had just received a short and hasty letter, written to me by major Joseph Hawley, of Northampton, containing a few 'broken hints,' as he called them, of what he thought was proper to be done, and concluding with these words, “AFTER ALL WE MUST FIGHT.' This letter I read to Mr. Henry, who listened with great attention, and soon as I had pronounced the words, “after all we must fight,' he raised his head, and, with an energy and vehemence that I never can forget, broke out with By - I am of that man's mind.' I put the letter into his hand, and when he had read it he returned it to me, with an equally solemn asseveration, that he agreed entirely in opinion with the writer. I considered this as a sacred oath, upon a very great occasion, and could have sworn it as religiously as he did, and by no means inconsistent with what you say, in some part of your book, that he never took the Sacred Name in vain."
In 1819, president Adams communicated the “broken hints," alluded to in the foregoing, to H. Niles, Esq. which are inserted at length in Mr. Niles's valuable work, entitled, “Principles and