« AnteriorContinuar »
ing the arduous duties assigned him, with fidelity and great ability, and to the satisfaction of his
colleagues and his country, His was the only name affixed to the Declaration of Independence when it was first published and presented to the fearless patriots for their approval; and it stands first in bold relievo, on a thousand fac similes, scattered through the world. It stands at the head of a list of sages, whose names are enrolled in unfading glory, and will be handed down to the remotest ages of time, unsullied and untarnished.
Impaired in his health and worn down by fatigue, Mr. Hancock resigned his station in Congress in October, 1777, having presided over that august body for two years and a half, with a credit to himself, gratifying to his friends, and advantageous to the cause of human rights.
Soon after he returned home, he was elected to a convention of his native state to form a constitution for its government. His experience and talents were of great service in producing a truly republican instrument. In 1780, he was elected the first governor under the new constitution, and continued to fill the gubernatorial chair for five years, when he resigned. After two years he was again elected, and continued to fill this station, with dignity and usefulness, during the remainder of his life. During his administration over the destinies of his dear native state, there were many difficulties to overcome, many evils to suppress. The devastations of the war had paralyzed every kind of business; reduced thousands from affluence to poverty; polluted the morals of society; and left a heavy debt to be liquidated. Many conflicting interests were to be reconciled; many restless spirits were to be subdued; and many visionary theories were to be exploded. Insubordination, arrayed in a faction of 12,000 men, threatening to annihilate the government, was the most prominent evil to be removed. Abuses and riots were of frequent occurrence; the civil authorities were disregarded; and it was found necessary to call out the militia to preserve order. By the prudent management of Governor Hancock, these difficulties were adjusted, the clamour of the people hushed, their complaints silenced, order restored, and but few lives sacrificed at the shrine of treason.
For a time, the governor, by his firm and determined course, incurred the displeasure and enmity of many prominent men; but when reason resumed her station, and prosperity began to alleviate the burdens that had been so strongly felt, their ire was appeased, the sour feelings of party spirit lost their rancour, and admiration and esteem for his sterling virtues and talents, and the long and arduous services he had rendered his country and his state, disarmed his enemies of their resentment, and produced uniform love and esteem.
He used his best exertions in favour of the adoption of the federal constitution, and, to cap the climax of his well earned fame, he left a sick bed on the last week of the session of the Assembly of his state, and, by his vote and influence, induced them to accept and sanction that important instrument of confederation, that has thus far held us in the bonds of union, strength, and power.
Governor Hancock now had the satisfaction of seeing prosperity spread its benign influence over the whole infant republic, and her institutions, laws, trade, manufactures, commerce, and agriculture, based on the firm pillars of freedom and eternal justice. His long nursed vision was reduced to a happy reality; he felt that he could die in peace; and, on the 8th of October, 1793, his soul took its flight suddenly and unexpectedly, to join the kindred spirits that had gone before, to enter upon the untried scenes of the eternal world. He continued to serve his country to the last, and, if a particle of malice against him lingered in the dark bosom of any man, it was buried with him in the tomb. Governor Hancock was amiable in his private character; highly honourable in his feelings; gentlemanly in his deportment; fashionable in his style of living; fond of innocent amusements, but free from corrupting vices; liberal and charitable; a friend to the poor, the oppressed, and the distressed; diligent in business, open and frank in his disposition; a faithful companion; a public spirited citizen, and a consistent man.
The name of BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, conspicuous upon the
of European and American biography, ever commands peculiar respect and veneration. It is surrounded with a rich variety, as rare as it is instructive and interesting.
Franklin was born at Boston, on the 17th of January, 1706, exactly ninety years before my humble self. His father was among the puritans who fled before persecution, and sought repose in the wilds of Massachusetts. His parents were poor, but honest and esteemed. Poverty is ever inconvenient, but has not always been a disgrace. Honesty and industry were formerly the brightest stars on the escutcheon of fame.
Franklin manifested a taste for improvement at an early age, and exhibited talents of a superior order. His pious parents encouraged his education as far as their limited means would permit, and were anxious to see him prepared for the pulpit; but necessity compelled his father to take him from school at the age of ten years, and place him in his shop, to aid him in the prosecution of the chandler business. But this did not paralyze his native genius. Original in every trait of his character, eccentric in his manner, and the child of nature and experiment, he commenced the study of practical philosophy, amidst candle wicks, tallow, and soap. He went through the experiments of ascertaining the precise quantity of sleep and food requisite to supply the wants of nature, and the kind most conducive to health. At this early age, he adopted rules of temperance, frugality, and economy, worthy of imitation, and adorned with all the system of mature age.
He also accustomed himself to meet and bear disappointments with philosophic fortitude. He continued to improve his mind by reading, for which he had an insatiable thirst. Nothing passed by him unnoticed, and his expanding genius drew philosophy from nature, from things, and from men. "He reasoned, analyzed, moralized, and improved, from every thing he saw. Hence the vast expansion of his gigantic genius, comprehending at one bold view, through after life, the philosophy of mind, of nature, of science, of art, of government, of society, and all the relations of creation, from the dust under his feet, through the myriads of animalculæ in a drop of water, up to the bright seraphs of the skies. A mind like his could not long be confined in a chandler's shop. Open and honest in his disposition, he communicated his wish of moving in some other sphere, to his father. After an examination of the various trades, and working a short time with a cutler, he was bound to his brother, to learn the art of a printer. He soon became master of his profession, and left a shining example for all apprentices, by adding to his industry in business the improvement of his mind during every leisure hour~a happy prelude to his glorious and useful career through future life.
So intensely bent on the acquisition of knowledge was Franklin, that he often preferred his book to his meal, and studied whole nights, in defiance of the commands and entreaties of Morpheus. As he was paid a weekly sum for his board, he adopted a course of simple vegetable diet, by which he saved money to purchase books. He manifested a correct taste and a sound judgment in the selection of authors and subjects. Among them, he studied with admiration and attention the Memorabilia of Xenophon, and became one of the closest imitators of Socrates, in his mode of reasoning and habits of life, to be found on record. Before he became versed in the rules of propriety, he often
gave offence by the bold and obstinate manner in which he advanced and maintained his opinions.
He now commenced his literary career; and, as is most usually the case with young authors, he offered his first sacrifice to Calliope, in a strain of rhyming ideas. His poetry was applauded, but his father, who was a man of sound judgment, cured him of his poetic mania, by turning his verses into ridicule; at the same time encouraging him to improve his talents by writing prose. Suspicious of his own ability, fearing the shafts of criticism, he managed to have several of his productions published in the paper edited by his brother, in so clandestine a manner, that no one could know the author. When he found they met with general admiration, his vanity, as he says, did not let the world long remain ignorant of the writer.
Being flattered by praise and attention from others, he began to feel his importance, which resulted in an open rupture between him and his brother, to whom he was an apprentice. For some time, he endured a course of harsh treatment, but at length resolved to free himself from the chains of bondage. He soon found an opportunity of embarking for New York, where he arrived in safety. Not being able to obtain business there, he bent his course towards the city of Philadelphia, on foot, and alone. On his arrival there, he had but one solitary dollar left; was a stranger, and only seventeen years of age; and, without business, must soon be dependent on the cold charities of the world for his bed and board. On entering Market street, his eccentric appearance excited the gaze of the multitude, as much as his towering talents subsequently did the gaze of the world. He had a roll of bread under each arm, and, approaching the Delaware, he sat down and feasted upon his bread and the pure water from the river. His pockets were projected to an enormous size with the various articles of his wardrobe, and, on the whole, his corpulent appearance was not in bad keeping with old Boniface.
Although there were but two printing offices in Philadelphia, he succeeded in obtaining employment in one, as compositor. He now reduced all his theories of economy to successful practice, maintaining himself at a trifling expense, pursuing a correct and industrious career, which gained for him the esteem of all his acquaintances. Among others, his talents attracted the attention of Sir William Keith, then Governer of the province, who invited him to his house and treated him with great kindness.
The governor was a man whose liberality in promises, often went beyond the means of his purse. Anxious to see his young
friend placed in more auspicious circumstances by his benefaction, he proposed to set him up in business, and sent him to London, with letters of high commendation, to obtain the necessary materials for his new enterprise. On his arrival there, he was much chagrined to find that no pecuniary arrangements were made by his new benefactor, and he found himself in strange land without money to enable him to return. But this was only another lesson of experience, in whose school he delighted to study; and, instead of sitting down under the weight of disappointment and dejection, he soon obtained employment, and, by his skill and industry, gained the confidence and esteem of all his new acquaintances. After residing there for eighteen months he took passage for Philadelphia on the 22nd of July, 1726. On his way home he concocted a set of rules to govern his actions through future life, of the following substance:
I resolve to be frugal; to speak truth at all times; never to raise expectations not to be realized; to be sincere; to be industrious; to be stable; to speak ill of no man; to cover, rather than expose the faults of others; and to do all the good I can to my fellow men.
Upon this foundation of native granite he built a superstructure, as beautiful and enduring as the proudest memorials of Greece and Rome.
He arrived at Philadelphia on the 11th of October, and engaged with the merchant, who owned the goods brought in by the ship in which he came, as a clerk. The same industry and success attended him in the counting-house that cheered him at the press, showing clearly that his talents were of a rare and rich variety. His future prospects in this new department brightened before him, but were suddenly prostrated by the death of his employer, which threw him back into his former trade. For a few months he worked for his old master, but finding a partner who had more money than skill, they commenced business on their own account. His industry and exertions were now put in full requisition: he manned his own wheelbarrow in collecting materials for business, and put nature on short allowance, until he should acquire enough to be free from debt. His industry, punctuality, and correct deportment, gained him many valuable and influential friends, through whose patronage he was enabled to extend his business, and shake off his partner, who had become worse than worthless, by embarrassing and retarding the business of the firm. Up to this era in his life, Franklin had been emphatically fortune's foot-ball. His life had been a complete checker-board of changing vicissitudes, blasted hopes, and keen disappointments. But, amidst all the stormy trials that had tossed his youthful bark to and fro, surrounded by the foaming torrents of vice, he never became tarnished by corruption, or degraded by the commission of a base or mean action. The moral principles deeply planted in bis bosom by parental instruction during his childhood, were as lasting as his life; a happy illustration of the good effects of faithfulness in parents towards their children.
Having now become liberated from his partner in business, he began to feel the necessity and propriety of choosing another, to fill up the vacuum in his side, and share with him the joys and sorrows that awaited him on this mundane sphere of action. Accordingly, in 1730, he entered into a partnership for life with a widow lady, whose maiden name was Read, and for whom he had contracted an attachment previous to her first marriage. In bim she found a kind husband, and in her he found a much more agreeable partner than his former one.
Philanthropy predominated in the heart of Franklin; to better the condition of his fellow men, was pleasure to his soul. The rules governing the "Junto,” formed by him, and now merged in the Philosophical Society, show a superior knowledge of human nature, and of the duty men owe to the creature and the Creator. They breathe universal charity, kindness, benevolence, and good will to all mankind. Among them is one for the suppression of intemperance, a prophetic prelude to the exertions of the present day in this cause.
Franklin had profited by the experience of the past, and was now enabled to steer clear of the numerous rocks and quicksands of error, on which so many are ruined and lost. Although he rode in many a storm, prosperity beamed upon him from this time onward, through a long life of usefulness. His new partner smiled upon him, his friends esteemed him, and in the pleasures of the present, past pains were forgotten.
In 1732, he commenced the publication of "Poor Richard's Almanac,” which he continued until 1757, circulating 10,000 copies annually. Although under an bumble title, it was a work of great merit, being replete with maxims and rules calculated for every day use in the various relations of life. It gained great celebrity in Europe, and was translated into various languages.
About this time he commenced the publication of a newspaper, which was conducted with great ability, free from all scurrility, and