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instrument as adopted, and participated liberally in the political abuse of the partisans who were opposed to him, not by the noble minded statesmen who differed with him in opinion, all honest in their views and patriotic in their motives. They soared above the acrimonious scurrility of venal party spirit.
After the constitution was adopted, no one manifested more zeal in adhering to it than Mr. Gerry; actuated, as on all other occasions, by the great republican principle—that the majority snust rule and be obeyed. He was elected a member of the first Congress under it, and did much towards raising the beautiful superstructure that now towers sublimely upon its broad basis. After serving four years he declined a re-election and again sought retirement. But this was of short duration. The relations between America and France had become deranged and threatened a disastrous result.
Mr. Adams, then president of the United States, determined on sending an able embassy to that government, and to make a strong effort to effect an amicable arrangement of difficulties before appealing
General Pinckney was already appointed an ambassador to France. Mr. Gerry and Mr. Marshall, since chief justice of the United States, were appointed to join him in this delicate duty of diplomacy, empowered to act separately or collectively, as a sound discretion should dictate. On their arrival at Paris they were not treated with proper courtesy by the directory, and were not recognised as the official organ
of their nation. Prudence and patience were necessary to prevent an immediate rupture between the two countries. They opened a correspondence with the French secretary of foreign affairs, and after
many fruitless attempts to be met in a proper manner, Messrs. Pinckney and Marshall were ordered peremptorily to depart from the republic of France, and Mr. Gerry invited to stay. By his prudent, manly and firm course, he succeeded in allaying the angry feelings of the French nation, and prevented a war that for a long time seemed inevitable.
On his return he was placed upon the republican ticket as a candidate for governor of Massachusetts. Party spirit at that time was in its full vigour, and the federal party had for a long time been in the majority. So popular was Mr. Gerry, that his antagonist, Mr. Strong, was elected but by a small majority, and that resulted from the incorrectness of some of the returns, the former having actually received the largest number of votes. In 1805 he was upon the electoral ticket which succeeded. In 1810 he was elected governor of his state by a large majority, and ably discharged the duties of chief magistrate. He had never entered into partisan feelings and views, and in his first message pointed out, in a luminous manner, the dangers arising from high toned party spirit, and did all in his power to allay it. He felt and acted for his whole country and the general good. This deterioration from party caused him to lose his election for the next term; the leaders of each having marshalled their forces in solid phalanx—the federal party, when consolidated, having always had a majority in the state since its distinctive formation.
For many years Mr. Gerry had anxiously desired to be excused
from the public duties of high and responsible stations, but no excuse was accepted. In 1813 he was inaugurated vice-president of the United States, and proceeded to discharge the devolving duties with great dignity and propriety. His impartiality, correctness and candour gained for him the esteem of the elevated body over which he presided to the last day of his eventful and useful life-thus teaching by example the principle of his precept, that "It is the duty of every citizen, though he may have but one day to live, to devote that day to the service of his country.”
At the city of Washington a beautiful monument is erected to his memory, with this inscription:
The tomb of
Aged 70. In the review of the life of Elbridge Gerry the pure patriot finds much to admire and nothing to condemn, unless a man is to be condemned for an honest difference of opinion and for keeping aloof from high toned party spirit, which, for the sake of liberty, God forbid. His examples of devotedness to the good of his country, his untiring industry, his prudence, his discretion, his intelligence, and his moral virtues, are all worthy of imitation and shed a lustre upon his character. In private life he was highly esteemed and fulfilled its duties with the strictest fidelity. He was emphatically a useful man in every sphere in which he moved. No perils retarded him from the faithful performance of what he deemed duty. His purposes were deliberately formed and boldly executed. He was an honour to his country, to the cause of freedom, and to enlightened liberal legislation. He was truly a worthy and an honest man.
Every man is not designed by creative wisdom to become a Demosthenes or a Cicero; but every man of cominon sense has the power to be good and to render himself useful. If all were alike gifted with splendid talents, the monotony would become painful, and variety, the very spice of life, would lose its original flavour. If all our statesmen were eloquent orators and were affected by the mania of speech-making, as sensibly as most of our public speakers are at the present day, we should be constantly, as we are now frequently, overwhelmed with talk and have but little work finished. No one admires eloquence
more than the writer, but the speedy accomplishment of business is of higher importance. Like our bodies that end in a narrow cell, the speeches of our legislators, although based upon the purest motives, dictated by the most enlightened understanding, decked with the beauties of intelligence, strengthened by the soundest logic and embellished with the richest flowers of rhetoric, receive their final fate from the approving Aye-or the emphatic No. I indulge no desire to extinguish these brilliant lights, or to snuff them too closely. The volume of their flame, often so large as to emit smoke, might safely be diminished and their wicks cut shorter. Brevity is the soul of wit, prudent despatch, the life of business. In the committee-room every man can be useful—the responsibilities of a vote bear equally upon each at the time and place he is called to act. Let the importance of no man be undervalued by himself or his compeers because he is not born with a trumpet tongue. If his head is clear and his heart right, he can do good.
Some of the most useful members of the Continental Congress seldom participated in debate, and the ablest speakers were remarkable for conciseness and for keeping close to the question under consideration. Among those who rendered essential services in the cause of the revolution, in a retiring and unassuming manner, was WILLIAM Paca, a native of Wye Hall, on the eastern shore of Maryland, born on the 31st of October, 1740. His father was a highly respectable and influential man, and bestowed upon William a good education, and planted deeply in his mind the principles of virtue and moral rectitude. He completed his classical studies at the college in Philadelphia, and in 1758 commenced the study of law at Annapolis. Industrious in his habits, and not fond of the public gaze, he applied himself closely to the investigation of that science which unfolds the nature and duty of man in all the relations of life, shows what he is and what he should be under all circumstances, unveils his passions, his propensities and his inclinations, carries the mind back through the abysm of times of light, of shadows, of darkness and of pristine happiness, and illuminates the understanding more than either branch of the sciences, it being a compound of the whole in theory and in practice. An honest and upright lawyer, who is actuated alone by principles of strict justice, pure ethics, equal rights and stern integrity, can do more to sustain social order and promote human happiness than a man pursuing either of the other professions.
Upon principles like these Mr. Paca commenced his practice, and upon a basis like this he built an enduring fame. He was esteemed for his clearness of perception, honesty of purpose, decision of character, prudence of conduct and substantial usefulness-all exhibiting a clear light, but not a dazzling blaze or an effervescent embrocation. Upon minds like his, the oppressions of the mother country made a gradual impression, that was deepened by the graver of innovation, and that all the powers of earth could neither efface, deface, erase nor expunge. Thus it was with Mr. Paca—as chartered rights and constitutional privileges were more openly infringed by the British authorities, his soul became more strongly resolved on liberty or death.
He was on intimate terms with Mr. Chase, who possessed all the requisites to command, while Mr. Paca possessed the indispensable acquisitions of a safe and skilful helmsman. With qualities thus differing, but with the same object in view, these two patriots commenced their
voyage upon the boisterous ocean of public life, at the same time and place.
Soon after he became a member of the bar Mr. Paca was elected a member of the legislature of Maryland, and discharged his duties to the entire satisfaction of his constituents. In 1771 he was one of the committee of three that prepared a letter of thanks from the citizens of Annapolis to Charles Carroll for his able advocacy of the cause of liberty, in a written controversy with the royal governor and his lackeys. In that letter the committee expressed a determination never to submit to taxation without representation, or to the regulating of taxes by executive authority-thus fully approving and sustaining the position taken by the distinguished citizen whom they addressed.
Mr. Paca was a member of the Congress that convened at Philadelphia in 1774, which rendered itself illustrious by proceedings of propriety and wisdom, such as would naturally flow from a mind like his. It is upon such men that we can always safely rely in times of peril and danger. They view every thing in the calm sunshine of reason and justice, and are never overwhelmed by the billows of foaming passion or sudden emotion. Always upon the terra firma of prudence, and always prepared for action, they are ready to render assistance to those whose more towering barks often get among the breakers.
Mr. Paca was continued a member of Congress until 1778, and rendered valuable services upon numerous and important committees. In 1775 he was a member of the one charged with providing ways and means to ward off the threatened dangers that hung frightfully over the cause of freedom in Virginia and North Carolina. He was also upon a similar committee for the aid of the northern department. About that time he joined Mr. Chase in furnishing a newly raised military corps with rifles, to the amount of nearly a thousand dollars, from their own private funds. His talents, his time and his fortune he placed in the fearful breach of his country's freedom. His exam, ples had a powerful influence upon the minds of his reflecting friends, who had unlimited confidence in his opinions, always deliberately formed.
When the declaration of independence was proposed, bs feelings and views were decidedly in its favour, but his instructions from the assembly of Maryland were directly opposed to the measure. The members of that body considered the project as wild and futile, believing the power of the mother country sufficient to crush all opposition. They only contemplated redress—this they fondly but vainly. hoped for. The course of the British authorities, however, soon furnished arguments, steeped in blood, that convinced them of the necessity of the course proposed in Congress, and about the first of July, 1776, they removed the injunction and left Mr. Paca and his colleagues to act freely without any restraint. The struggle between
the adherents of the crown and the patriots in the assembly had been
The able letters written by their delegates in the national legislature had great weight in the colonial council, and the affair at Lexington admitted of no extenuation. The first decided vote in favour of the cause, then in embryo, obtained in the Maryland legislative body, was on the 28th of May preceding the declaration, when their chaplain was directed to omit praying for the king. This was a sore cut upon the dignity of his majesty, and, as trifling as it may seem, had a potent effect upon the people. It convinced them that if the king had forfeited all claims to the prayers of his subjects, he was not pure enough to direct their destinies, and with one accord declared, “we will not have this man to rule or reign over us.”
When the glorious 4th of July, 1776, arrived, Mr. Paca was in his place, fully prepared to sanction the Magna Charta of American freedom by his vote and signature, and enrolled his name among the great apostles of LIBERTY, whose fame will continue to rise in peerless majesty until the last trump of time shall sound its final blast and the elements be dissolved in fervent heat.
On his retirement from Congress, in 1778, Mr. Paca was appointed chief judge of the superior court of Maryland, and in 1780 his duties were increased by the appointment of chief judge in prize and admiralty cases. He had proved himself an able statesman—his talents as a judicial officer shone with equal brilliancy. The acumen of his mind and his legal acquirements made him an able judge, his honesty and impartiality rendered him a popular one. He was a man of polished manners, plain but dignified in his deportment and graceful in his address, with an engaging, intelligent and benignant countenance, all combining to gain admiration.
In 1782 he was elevated to the gubernatorial chair of his native state. As chief magistrate he sustained a high reputation for usefulness and sound policy. He was a devoted friend to literature and religion, and did much to promote their prosperity. He inculcated the principles of political economy and governed the state with a parental
His wise and judicious course furnished no food for malice, was above the assaults of slander, and afforded jealousy no loop to hang upon. After completing his term he retired to private life, until 1786, when he was again called to preside over the destinies of his native domain.
In 1789 he was appointed by President Washington, United States district Judge for the Maryland district, which office he continued to fill with digrity and respect until 1799, when he was summoned by death to appear before the dread tribunal of the great Jehovah to render an account of his stewardship. His life had been that of a good man, his final end was peaceful and happy. Let his memory be revered and his examples imitated. He demonstrated most clearly that moderation and mildness, tempered with discretion and firmness, govern better and more potently than angry and authoritative dictation.