« AnteriorContinuar »
to expand the ideas of his students, and launch them upon the sea of reflection and investigation. He dispelled the dogmatical and bewildering clouds of metaphysical fatality and contingency, and of unmeaning and abstruse physiology, that hung like an incubus over the old schools. He illumined their understandings with the rays of scientific truth, founded upon enlightened philosophy, sound reason, plain common sense, and liberal principles. He taught his pupils to explore the labyrinthian mazes of human nature, and the revolving circuit of their own immortal minds. He raised before them the curtain of the material, moral, physical and intellectual world; and delineated, by lucid demonstration, their harmonious connection and unity, perfected by the grand architect of this mighty machinery made for man. He pointed out to them the duties they owed to themselves, their fellow men, their country, and their God. He imbued their souls with charity, the golden chain that reaches from earth to Heaven: He taught them how to live and be useful, and how to throw off their mortal coil, when called to "that country from whose bourne no traveller returns.” His instructions were luminous and enriching; his precepts were fertilizing to every mind on which they fell, capable of receiving an impression.
On the flood tide of a high and merited literary and theological fame, Dr. Witherspoon floated peacefully along, until the revolutionary storm drove him from his citadel of classics and the pulpit of his church to a different sphere of action. Before he immigrated to America he understood well the relations between the mother country and the colonies. He was master of civilian philosophy, international law, monarchial policy, and the principles of rational freedom. The enrapturing beauties of liberty, and the hideous deformities of tyranny, passed in review before his gigantic mind. In the designs of creative wisdom he saw the equal rights of man and determined to vindicate them. He at once took a bold stand in favour of his adopted country. With an eagle's flight he mounted the pinnacle of political fame; with a statesman's eye he calmly surveyed the mighty work to be performed by Columbia's sons. The plan of political regeneration and independence stood approved by Heaven, and he resolved to lend his aid in the glorious cause. Most nobly did he perform his part.
From the commencement of the revolution he was a member of various committees and conventions formed for the purpose of seeking redress from the king, by peaceable means if possible, by forcible means if it became necessary. He was a member of the Convention of New Jersey that formed its republican constitution of 1776. On the 20th of June of the same year, he was elected to the Continental Congress, and advocated, by his powerful and eloquent reasoning, the declaration of our rights, to which he affixed his name, appealing to his God for the approval of the act, and to the world for the justice of the cause he espoused. He was continued a member of that august body until 1782, with the exception of one year, and contributed largely in shedding lustre over its deliberations. With a mind and intelligence able to grasp, comprehend, ard expound the whole
minutiæ of legislation and government, he combined a patriotic devotion and holy zeal for the interests of his bleeding country. His labours were incessant, his industry was untiring, his perseverance was unyielding, and his patriotism was as pure as the crystal fountain or pellucid stream.
During the time he served in the legislative halls, he did not neglect the higher honours of the vineyard of his Lord and Master. He was often at the family altar, in the closet-and in the pulpit; and was esteemed as one of the most able, eloquent, and profound preachers of that eventful period. He was one of the brightest ornaments of the religion of Christ, and one of the strongest advocates of the cause of liberty. As a speaker, he was listened to with deep interest; as a logical and systematic debater he had few equals. His arguments were aposteriori, apriori and afortiori; leading the mind from effect to cause, from cause to effect, and deducing the stronger reasons. His memory was remarkably retentive, his judgment acute, and his perceptions clear. He was a member of the secret committee of Congress, the duties of which were arduous and delicate. He was a member of the committee appointed to cooperate with general Washington in replenishing and regulating the army; of the committee of finance, and of various other and important committees. Several eloquent appeals to the people from Congress recommending special days to be set apart for public fasting and prayer, were from his nervous and vigorous pen. The melting and burning manifesto, protesting against the inhuman and barbarous treatment of the American prisoners confined on board the filthy prison ships at New York, was supposed to have been written by him. From his mode of reflecting and reasoning, Dr. Witherspoon was prophetic in pointing out the results of propositions laid before Congress, and opposed all those that he believed would terminate unfavourably. Against the emission of continental paper money he strongly remonstrated. His predictions of its depreciation were soon verified. In March, 1778, one dollar and three quarters of paper money were worth but one silver dollar; one year from that time the rate was two for one; in five inonths after it was eighteen for one; the next year it was forty for one; shortly after, seventy-five for one; and in a few more months, one hundred and fifty for one; and finally became worthless.
Most of the measures he proposed when he commenced his career in Congress were either then or subsequently adopted with success, and those that he opposed unsuccessfully, terminated unfortunately in almost every instance. So closely and deeply did he investigate and probe every subject that came before him, that his powers of penetration became proverbial.
Whether in the halls of classic literature, the ecclesiastical courts, or upon the floor of Congress, he was a shining light to those around bim. His literary, political, and theological writings was numerous, of a high order, and are justly celebrated in Europe as well as in this country. They exhibit a pleasing and rich variety of thought; a strong and brilliant įmągisation; a luminous and flowing fancy; a keen and
sarcastic wit; a chaste and fascinating style; broad and liberal views; philosophic and reasonable propositions; clear and convincing conclusions; all softened and embalmed by heaven-born charity and universal philanthropy:
At the close of the session of Congress in 1779, he was induced to resign his seat in consequence of his ill health, and a serious affection of the nerves, producing dizziness, that sometimes suddenly prostrated him. Being relieved from the more arduous duties of superintending the college at Princeton by the vice president, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Smith, his son-in-law, he sought the enjoyments of retirement. These were allowed to him but a brief period. In a little more than a year he was again elected to Congress, and when he finally resigned in 1782, he was shortly after persuaded by the trustees of the college, at the age of sixty, to embark for England for the purpose of obtaining funds to aid the seminary over which he presided. His exertions were laudable, but his mission unsuccessful. posed the project as visionary before he started; he demonstrated the correctness of his opinion when he returned in 1784.
He then retired to his country seat about one mile from Princeton, there to participate in the blessings of peace, of liberty, of independence, and of fame, the golden fruits that had been richly earned by years of peril and of toil. Surrounded by fond relatives and devoted friends; enjoying the gratitude and praise of a nation of freemen; his name immortalized as a civilian, a statesman, a patriot, a scholar, and a divine, he could sit down beneath the bright mantle of a pure conscience and an approving Heaven; and, through the bright vista of the future, gaze upon a crown of enduring glory, prepared for him in realms of bliss beyond the skies. He was peaceful and happy.
In this manner he glided down the stream of life until the 15th of November, 1794, when he fell asleep in the arms of his Lord and Master, calm as a summer morning, serene as the etherial sky, welcoming the messenger of death with a seraphic smile. His remains rest in the church yard at Princeton.
A review of the life of this great and good man, affords an instructive lesson worthy to be engraven upon the heart of every reader. He was endowed with all the qualities calculated to ennoble and dignify the creature, and assimilate him to the Creator. His superior virtues completely eclipsed his human frailties, and placed him on a lofty eminence beyond the reach of envy, malice, or slander. His fame, in all its varied and refulgent hues, spreads a lustre over his naine that will brighten and shine until the last death knell of liberty shall be sounded, and social order shall be lost in the devouring whirlpool of chaos.
In all the relations of private and public life, he stood approved, admired, and revered. Let us all endeavour to imitate his examples of virtue, the crowning glory of talent, that our lives may be useful in time, and our final exit tranquil and happy.
THOMAS LYNCH, JR.
REVOLUTIONARY struggles, predicated solely upon political ambition and partisan principles, often produce the most bitter persecution between those whose ties of consanguinity and friendship are seldom severed by other incidents. To the credit of our nation, instances of this kind were very rare during the struggle for American independence. In the field of battle, sire and son fought shoulder to shoulder; in the public assemblies, they united their eloquence in rousing the people to action.
A pleasing illustration of the mutual devotion of father and son to the same glorious object, is found in the history of THOMAS LYNCH, Jr., and his venerable parent. Their paternal ancestors were of Austrian descent, and highly respectable. The branch of the family from which the subject of the present sketch descended, removed to Kent in England, from thence to Ireland, a son of which, Jonack Lynch, emigrated from Connaught to South Carolina, in the early part of its settlement. He was the great-grandfather of Thomas Lynch, jr., and was a man of liberal views and of pure morality. Thomas Lynch, the father of the subject of this brief narrative, was his youngest son, and imbibed, at an early age, the patriotic feelings that rendered him conspicuous at the commencement of the revolution. By his industry and enterprise in agricultural pursuits he amassed a large fortune, and was able and disposed to give this, his only son, a superior education.
Thomas Lynch, jr., was born upon the plantation of his father on the bank of the North Santa river, in the parish of Prince George, South Carolina, on the 5th of August, 1749. In early childhood he was deprived of the maternal care of his fond mother, who was the daughter of Mr. Alston, by relentless death. At a proper age he was placed at the Indigo Society School, then in successful operation at Georgetown in his native state, where some of the most eminent sages of the southern colonies received their education.
Warmed by the genial rays of the sun of science the germ of the young mind of Thomas Lynch, jr. soon burst from its embryo state, and exhibited a pleasing and luxuriant growth. His progress in the exploration of the fields of literature was creditable to himself and highly gratifying to his indulgent parent and numerous friends. So rapid was his improvement, that at the early age of thirteen, his father placed him at the famous school at Eton, Buckinghamshire, England, founded by Henry VI., where he commenced his classical studies. After completing his course there, he was entered as a gentleman commoner in the University of Cambridge, where he became a finished scholar and an accomplished gentleman, esteemed and respected by all who knew him. He then had his name entered in the Law Temple, and made himself familiar with the elementary principles of legal knowledge, and prepared himself thoroughly to act well his part through future life. During his stay, he cultivated an extensive acquaintance with the whigs of England, which gave him an opportunity of acquiring a knowledge of the policy and designs of British ministers with regard to the American colonies. He took a deep interest in the relative situation of the two countries, and returned home in 1772, prepared and determined to oppose the oppressions of the crown and strike for LIBERTY. As the dark clouds of the revolution gathered in fearful array, the firmness of his purposes increased. These were fostered and encouraged by his patriotic father, and responded to by the people of his parish.' Hand in hand did the sire and son march to the rescue of their country from the iron grasp of tyranny.
The first attempt of Thomas Lynch, jr., at public speaking, after his return from Europe, was at a large town meeting at Charleston. His father had just addressed the assembled multitude on the subject of British oppression, amidst the enthusiastic cheers of his fellow citizens. As he sat down his youthful son rose. A profound silence ensued. A thousand eyes were turned upon him. For a moment he paused; his eyes were fixed, his bosom heaved; the struggle was over, and a strain of eloquence followed that carried the insulating fluid of patriotism to the hearts of his astonished and delighted audience with irresistible force. Tears of joy ran down the furrowed cheeks of his father, and loud bursts of applause were shouted by the enraptured assembly.
When the final crisis for physical action arrived, Mr. Lynch was among the first to offer his services. In July, 1775, he accepted of the commission of captain, and repaired to Newbern, North Carolina, where he unfurled the star spangled banner, and in a few weeks enlisted the number of men required for his company. His father objected to his acceptance of so low a commission, to whom his affectionate son modestly replied, "My present command is fully equal to my experience;" a reply worthy of the consideration of every young person who desires to build his fame upon a substantial basis. If a man is suddenly placed upon a towering eminence to which he is unaccustomed, the nerves of his brain must be unusually strong if he does not grow dizzy, tremble, totter, and fall. If he ascends gradually, and pauses at the different points of altitude, he may reach the loftiest spire, preserve his equilibrium and be safe. Sudden elevations are uniformly dangerous. On his way to Charleston with his men, Captain Lynch was prostrated by the bilious fever, brought on by the fatigues and exposures of his new mode of life. From this attack he never entirely recovered. Towards the close of the year he so far regained his health as to be able to join his regiment. Soon after, he received intelligence of the dangerous illness of his father, then a member of Congress at Philadelphia. He immediately applied to Colonel Gadsden, his commanding officer, for permission to visit him, which was peremptorily refused, on the ground that the necessity for his services in the army was paramount to all private considera