« AnteriorContinuar »
his death was surrounded by a sacred purity that reached from earth to heaven-his examples will be held in veneration by the great and good to the remotest period of truth-telling time.
A PURELY confederate republican government to answer fully its beautiful theory, must be healthful and sound in all its parts, and be wielded by enlightened rulers whose hearts are free from all guile, whose judgments are strong and matured, whose characters are in all respects irreproachable, whose conduct is in all things consistent, whose patriotism and virtue extinguishes self and soar above all temptation to digress from the most exalted honesty and rigid moral rectitude, whose minds are stored with useful knowledge and large experience, and whose souls are imbued with wisdom from above.
În such a condition and in such hands this kind of government is calculated to elevate the mental powers of man, to spread before the mind correct and liberal principles, and to promote social order and general happiness by extending its radiant light, its genial rays and its benign influence to the remotest bounds of the inhabited globe. In such a condition and in such hands it would become the solar fountain of intellectual improvement, the polar star of expanding science, and a shining light to the human family. Its refulgent beams would enrapture the ignorant, the oppressed, and the forlorn-its harmonious links would form a golden chain that would reach the confines of earth. It would be a messenger of peace, pointing and inviting the weary pilgrims of bondage in every clime to a reposing asylum of peaceful and quiescent rest. This is the kind of government intended by the sages of the American revolution—this is the kind of government they desired to form and perpetuate.
Among those who laid the foundation and commenced the superstructure of our admired and expanding republic was GEORGE TavLOR, a native of Ireland, born in 1716. His father was a clergyman and bestowed upon him a good education. He then placed him with a physician, under whose direction he commenced the study of medicine. Not fancying the idea of becoming a son of Æsculapius he flew the course, and finding a vessel bound for Philadelphia and ready to sail, without consulting his friends and without money, he entered on board as a redemptioner. Soon after he arrived in this country his passage was paid by Mr. Savage, of Durham, Bucks county, Pennsylvania, a few miles below Easton, for which he bound himself as a common labourer for a term of years. This gentleman was the owner of iron works where he lived, and assigned to his new servant the station of filler, his business being to throw coal into the furnace when in blast. He soon found this work to differ widely from that of handling books and the pen. His hands became cruelly blistered, but be
ing resolute and ambitious to gain the approbation of all around him, he persevered without a complaint. The workmen, observing his condition, named the circumstance to Mr. Savage, whose humanity induced him to provide some less laborious employment for the young foreigner. On conversing with him he discovered his intelligence, education and talents, and immediately promoted him to clerk in the counting room of the establishment. He proved fully competent to his new situation, and gained the friendship and esteem of all around him. Nor did he neglect the improvement of his mind. He applied to practical use the theories he had acquired at school. His reflecting and reasoning powers became developed. He made himself familiar with the formula of the business, the customs and the government of his adopted country. He became esteemed for his correct deportment, and admired for his clearness of perception and soundness of judgment. To add to his importance in society, the wife of Mr. Savage became a widow and was subsequently married by Mr. Taylor, by which he became sole proprietor of a large property and the husband of a worthy and influential woman. By persevering industry and good management he continued to add to the estate constantly, and in a few years purchased a tract of land on the bank of the Lehigh, in Northampton county, upon which he built a splendid mansion and iron works, and made it his place of residence. He was not prospered in business at his new location, and at a subsequent period removed back to Durham. During his residence in Northampton county he became extensively and favourably known, and in 1764, was elected to the provincial assembly at Philadelphia, and took a prominent part in its deliberations.
He had not been an idle spectator or careless observer of passing events or of subjects discussed. He had examined the principles uponi which various governments were predicated, and became enraptured with the federal republican system. He had watched, with a freeman's eye, the increasing advances of British oppression. He was too patriotic and too bold to tamely submit to the yoke of bondage. So well was he then known as a discerning and discreet man, that he was placed upon the important committee of grievances. He also took a bold stand against the corruptions of the proprietary government, and advocated strongly an alteration of the charter, so that peculation should be diminished and abuses corrected. The ensuing year he was again elected to the assembly, and was
the committee that prepared the instructions of the Pennsylvania delegation to the Congress that convened in New York in 1765, to adopt measures for the restoration and preservation of colonial rights. This document combined caution and respect with firmness of
purpose and deliberation of action. It instructed the delegates to move within the orbit of constitutional and chartered privileges, and to respectfully but clearly admonish the king and his advisers not to transcend the limits of the same circle.
The stamp act was repealed shortly after, and Mr. Taylor was one of the committee that prepared a congratulatory address to the king. on the happy event. So ably did he discharge his public duties that
his name was uniformly placed upon several of the standing committees of the highest importance, assigning to him an onerous burden of legislative service. Upon the committee of grievances, assessment of taxes, the judiciary, loans on bills of credit, navigation, to choose a printer of the public laws, and others of importance the name of George Taylor was generally found and often the first. For six guccessive years he was constantly a member of the assembly. In 1768,
, he was upon a committee appointed by that body to prepare an address to the governor censuring him for a remissness in duty, in not having brought to condign punishment certain offenders who had openly and barbarously murdered several Indians, thereby provoking retaliation. It was respectful and manly, but keen and cutting as a damask blade. It was a lucid exposition of political policy, sound law, and public duty.
In October, 1775, Mr. Taylor was again returned to the assembly and added fresh laurels to his legislative fame. In addition to others he was placed upon the committee of safety, then virtually the organ of government. An awful crisis had arrived, the dread clarion of war had been sounded, American blood was crying for vengeance, the revolutionary storm had commenced, and the mountain waves of British wrath were rolling over the colonies. Firmness, sound discretion and bold measures were required. Mr. Taylor possessed the former and promoted the latter. He stood forth a faithful sentinel in the cause of freedom, not a blazing luminary, but as solid as the granite rock. He was in favour of prudence in all things, but was not affected by the temporizing mania that at first paralyzed the action of many who desired liberty but dreaded penalties. He continued to exercise a powerful and salutary influence in the assembly of Pennsylvania until the summer of 1776, when he became a member of the Continental Congress, and sanctioned with his signature to the declaration of rights, the principles of liberty he had boldly advocated. Although Mr. Taylor did not tempt the giddy height of refined rhetoric, he knew where and when to speak, what to say and how to vote—the highest qualifications of a legislator.
In the spring of 1777, he retired from Congress and from public life, covered with the honours of a devoted and ardent patriot, an industrious and useful legislator, an enlightened and valuable citizen, a worthy and honest man. On the 23d of February, 1781, he closed his eyes upon terrestrial things, bid a final adieu to earth and its toys, and bowed submissively to the king of terrors. He died at Easton, to which place he had recently removed. From the character of Mr. Taylor the reader may learn, that without the luminous talents of a Jefferson, a Lee, or a Franklin, a man may be substantially useful and render valuable and highly important services to his country and to the world.
FRANCIS LIGHTFOOT LEE.
VIRTUE affords the only foundation for a peaceful and happy government. When the wicked rule, the nation mourns. Not that rulers must necessarily profess religion by being attached to some visible church-but they must venerate it, and be men of the highest moral and political honesty. Disease and corruption affect the body politic and produce dissolution with the same certainty that they prostrate the physical powers of man. If the head is disordered, the whole heart is sick. If the political fountain becomes polluted, its dark and murky waters will eventually impregnate every branch with their contagious miasma. The history of the past proves the truth of these assertions; the passing events of the present day afford too frequent demonstration of the baneful effects of intrigue and peculation. Without virtue our union will become a mere rope of sand, the victim of knaves and the sport of kings. Self-government will become an enigma with monarchs, rational liberty a paradox, and a republic, the scoff of tyrants. Let every freeman look to this matter in time. Let hiin look back to the sages who wisely conceived, nobly planned, and boldly laid the foundations of the freedom we now enjoy, but which cannot, will not be perpetuated unless we imitate their examples and obey their precepts. They were virtuous, many of them devotedly pious, and all of them politically honest.
Among their number the name and character of Francis LIGHTFOOT LEE claims our present attention. He was the son of Thomas Lee, and born in Westmoreland county, Virginia, on the 14th of October, 1734. He was the brother of Richard Henry Lee, whose eloquence rose higher but whose reflections were no deeper than those of Francis. In childhood he was admired for his docility and amiable deportment, in youth he was the pride of every circle in which he moved, and when manhood dawned upon him he exhibited a dignity of mind and maturity of judgment that his fellow citizens highly appreciated and delighted to honour.
He was educated by the Rev. Mr. Craig, a Scotch clergyman, of high literary attainments and profound erudition. Under his tuition the germs of knowledge took deep root in the prolific mental soil of young Francis, and produced plants of a rapid and luxuriant growth. The Scotch literati are remarkable for deep investigation, thorough analyzation, and lucid demonstration. I have never met one who was a pedant, a vain pretender, or a superficial scholar. Under such an instructor the intellectual powers of Francis assumed a vigorous and solid tone that placed him upon the substantial basis of useful knowledge and enduring fame. He became delighted with the solid sciences,
FRANCIS LIGHTFOOT LEE. and spent less time in the bowers of belles lettres than his Ciceronean brother. The history of classic Greece and republican Rome enraptured his mind with the love of liberty and liberal principles. He read closely, thought deeply, and investigated fully. He prosecuted his studies with untiring industry and became an excellent scholar, without the advantages of European seminaries, to which most of the young sons of wealthy men were then sent to complete their education. Imitating the examples of his elder brothers, whose manners had received the highest polish of English gentilesse and French etiquette he became an accomplished gentleman. Raised in the midst of affluence, actuated by moral rectitude, free from a desire to participate in the follies of the world, living in the enjoyment of the refined pleasures that promote felicity without enervating the body or vitiating the heart, and a favourite among all his numerous acquaintances, his earthly happiness was of the purest kind. With a mind richly stored with scientific theory, with ethics and correct religious principles, he entered the school of experience and became emphatically a practical man. Possessed of an ample fortune he could devote his time to such objects as he deemed most useful. Having early imbibed the love of rational liberty, and having fully canvassed the conduct of the British ministry towards the American colonies, Mr. Lee resolved to oppose the encroachments of the king upon rights and privileges clearly guarantied by the constitution of the mother country. He could not consent that the trappings of the crown, the pomp of the court, the extravagance of the ministry, and the expenses of the parliament of Great Britain should be borne by the yeomanry of America, eloigned as they were from the protection and good feeling of that power-deprived as they were from being properly represented in legislation-subject as they were to the caprice of every new cabinet created by the king-threatened as they were to be dragged from their native soil to be tried by a foreign jury-oppressed as they were by the insolence of hireling officers and driven as they were from under the mantle of constitutional rights.
In 1765, he was elected a member of the house of burgesses to represent Loudoun county, where his estate was situated. He became an important advocate of equal rights and took a bold stand in favour of natural and chartered privileges. Blessed with a strong and investigating mind, a deep and penetrating judgment, a clear and acute perception, a pure and patriotic heart and a bold and fearless disposition, he became one of the most efficient advisers in the house. He continued to represent Loudoun until 1772, when he married the highly accomplished and amiable Rebecca, daughter of Colonel Tayloe, of the county of Richmond, where Mr. Lee then permanently located. The same year he was elected to the house of burgésses from his new district, and continued to render valuable services and exercise a salutary influence in that body until he was appoined a delegate to the Continental Congress. Amidst the gathering storm of the revolution and the trying scenes that accumulated thick and fast around him, he stood undaunted, unmoved, and undismayed. He advocated every measure calculated to promote the independence of his