« AnteriorContinuar »
country well. He knew and loved his own better. The pomp of courts had no charms for him; he was a republican, a patriot, a friend to liberty; in her cause he enlisted; under her banners he took his stand, willing to sacrifice bis property, kingly favour, and his life, in defending the sacred rights of his bleeding, bis injured fellow citizens.
He carried with him his friend, the Rev. Dr. Witherspoon, both of whom were elected, in June, 1776, to the Continental Congress at Philadelphia, vested with full power to unite in such measures as that body might deem necessary and expedient to adopt under existing circumstances. Mr. Stockton, after listening to the arguments several days, stood forth, an eloquent and bold advocate, for the declaration of independence, brandishing the amputating knife fearlessly in public and in private.
Nor did he stand alone. The members of that august body soon acquired the art of cutting five and six. They forged and finished a blade, pure as damask steel, and placed it in the hands of their venerable President, John Hancock. Liberty dipped her golden pen in the font of FREEDOM, and recorded the names of the memorable fifty-six upon the shining tablet of enduring fame. At one bold stroke the cords of parental authority were cut asunder. America was redeemed, regenerated, and free. Heaven smiled its approbation, angels shouted their joy, nation's gazed with admiring wonder, and every patriot responded a loud-AMEN.
The extensive information, matured experience, soaring talent, and powerful eloquence of Mr. Stockton, rendered him one of the most useful and efficient members of that Congress. His knowledge of law and political economy, of human nature, human rights, and of men and things, enabled him to command the respect and admiration of all his colleagues. He performed every duty assigned him with zeal, industry, and dignity. In the autumn of 1776, Mr. Stockton and George Clymer, of Pennsylvania, were sent to inspect the northern army, with full
power to provide for its wants and correct any abuses that might exist. This duty they discharged in the most satisfactory manner, both to the officers of the army and to Congress.
Soon after his return he was under the necessity of removing his family to save them from the brutality of the approaching enemy. Whilst performing this important duty he was taken prisoner by the British, dragged from his bed, and, in the most brutal manner, conveyed to New York, consigned to the common prison, deprived of every comfort, left twenty-four hours without any provisions, and then received but a very small and coarse supply; in direct violation of the laws of nations and humanity, and of all the rules of civilized warfare. This base treatment impaired his health, and laid the foundation of disease that terminated in death. His capture was effected by the information of a tory, who was subsequently indicted and punished for the act.
This abuse of one of their members, roused the indignation of Congress. General Washington was directed to send a flag of truce
to General Howe, and ultimately obtained the release of Mr. Stockton, Simultaneous with this event, his property was devastated by a merciless soldiery, his papers and extensive library burnt, and his plantation left a desolate waste.
Thus oppressed by want and disease, he was unable to again take his seat in Congress, but was ever ready to give counsel and advice, and was often consulted. His opinions had great weight, and in this way his country continued to be benefitted long after disease had fastened its iron hand upon him. Among his complicated afflictions he had a cancer upon the neck, which rendered his situation painful in the extreme. He endured his sufferings with christian fortitude until the 28th of February, 1781, when death relieved him from his burden of afflictions, and assigned him a place amongst the peaceful dead. He died at his native residence, near Princeton, in the 51st year of his age, mourned, deeply mourned, by all his numerous acquaintances and by his country.
Thus prematurely ended the brilliant career of one of Columbia's noblest sons.
He was a man of general science and universal knowledge. He was the first chief justice of his native state under the new constitution. As a lawyer he stood pre-eminent; as a judge he was impartial, sound, and lucid; as a statesman, able, discreet, and wise; as a patriot, firm, fearless, and devoted; as a gentleman, polished, urbane, and graceful; as a citizen, liberal, peaceful, and generous; as a friend, true, sympathetic, and charitable; as a husband, kind, affectionate, and provident; as a father, faithful, tender, and instructive; as a christian, open, frank, and consistent; as a man, honest, noble, and brave; and as a whole, he was an ornament in society, an honour to his country, and a blessing to mankind.
It is a fact worthy of remark, that many of the most eminent sages of the American revolution were devoted and consistent professors of christianity, and some of them ministers of the cross. They all seem to have been actuated by motives pure as Heaven, and influenced alone by the demands of imperious duty, based upon the inalienable rights of man. They were not prompted to action from a love of conquest or of military glory. Their pilgrim fathers fled from the clanking chains of servile oppression, and planted the standard of civilization in the new world, that they might enjoy FREEDOM in its native purity, and transmit the rich behest to their offspring. The principles of rational liberty were enforced upon the minds of each rising generation, and when tyranny reared its hydra head, they readily recognised the monster, and resolved, nobly resolved, to drive from their shores the invading foe.
Among the revolutionary sages who boldly espoused the cause of
equal rights, was SAMUEL ADAMS, who was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on the 22nd of September, 1722. He was a man of middle size, well formed, with a countenance beaming with intelligence, indicating firmness of purpose and energy of action. His parents were highly respectable, and descended from ancestors who had always moved in the first rank of society, and were among the early emigrants to this western world. His father was for many years a member of the Assembly of Massachusetts, and by him, this, his eldest son, was early taught those liberal principles that he so fearlessly and triumphantly vindicated during his subsequent career.
When but a child, Samuel Adams exhibited the index of a strong and enquiring mind, and talents of a high order. Under the guidance and instruction of Mr. Lovell, an eminent teacher of that day, he was prepared to enter upon his collegiate studies. He was remarkable for his close application, and rapid progress in the exploration of the field of science. He soared above the allurements that too often lead the juvenile mind astray, and made his books his highest pleasure. His powers of intellect unfolded their variegated hues like a blooming amaranth, and shed a pleasing lustre around him, gratifying to his friends and creditable to himself.
Being of a serious turn, his father placed him in Harvard College, believing him destined for the gospel ministry. He ascended the hill of science with a steady and rapid pace, and gained the esteem and admiration of all around him. During his whole course, he subjected himself to reproof but once, and that for remaining too late in the arms of Morpheus, by reason of which he did not arrive in time to attend morning prayers. At the age of eighteen, he received the degree of bachelor of arts; and, three years after, that of master of arts, although much of his time had been devoted to the investigation of theology, which apparently had been the absorbing topic of his thoughts during the last years he was in college: the subject of his discourse, when he took his final degree, showed that other ideas had also received his attention. It was this: "Is it lawful to resist the supreme magistrate, if the commonwealth cannot otherwise be preserved.” In a masterly manner he maintained the affirmative of this proposition, and with enrapturing eloquence and unanswerable logic, unfolded the beauties of that liberty for which he subsequently pledged his life, his fortune and his sacred honour. From that time he seems to have abandoned the idea of clerical orders, and to have turned all the powers of his gigantic mind to the disenthralment of his country. From that time forward he became a bold and constant advocate of equal rights, and a valiant opposer of British wrongs. By rigid economy he had saved a sum of money from the stipend allowed him by his father when in college; this he devoted to the publication of a pamphlet from his own pen, entitled "The Englishman's Rights.”. This was one of the entering wedges of the revolution, and awakened a spirit of enquiry that eventually kindled the flame of opposition to the increasing oppressions of the crown that consumed the power of monarchy over Columbia's soil.
Anxious that his son should embark in some permanent business,
the father of Samuel Adams obtained for him a situation in the counting-house of Thomas Cushing, an eminent merchant of that period, preparatory to his engaging in commercial affairs; but for that 'sphere of action nature had not designed him; his mind became absorbed in the pursuit of political knowledge, international law, and the rights
About the time he entered the counting-house, he formed a club of kindred spirits, for the purpose of political discussion and enquiry. Mr. Adams and some of the other members furnished political essays for a newspaper called the Independent Advertiser, which were so severe in their strictures upon the conduct of the creatures of the crown, that the association obtained the name of the “Whipping Post Club.” The hirelings of the king treated these essays with derision, and passed them by as idle wind; upon the great mass of the people they had a different influence. Stamped upon their face with plain truth, sound reasoning and uncontroverted facts, they operated upon British power like the sea-worm upon a vessel, silently and slowly, but with sure destruction. They contributed largely in perforating each plank of the proud ship of monarchy, then riding over the American colonies, until she sank to rise no more. They served as the kindling material of that blazing fire that ultimately illumined the horizon of liberty and lighted the pilgrim patriots to the goal of freedom. “Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth.”
During the administration of Shirley, Mr. Adams wrote several spirited essays against his course and policy, and portrayed, in glowing colours, the dangers of concentrating civil and military power in the same individual.
After remaining for a time with Mr. Cushing, his father furnished him with a liberal capital, and he commenced business for himself. By losses, arising from the pernicious credit system, he was soon stripped of all his stock in trade. By the death of his father he was left, at the age of twenty-five, to take charge of the paternal estate and family. In the discharge of that duty, he proved that he was competent to manage pecuniary matters, by bringing his mind to bear upon the subject. The estate was considerably involved and under an attachment when he undertook his trust, from which he entirely relieved it. This accomplished he again bestowed his attention almost entirely upon politics. "He became celebrated as a keen, sarcastic, and ready writer, and laid deep the foundations of his fame as a statesman. He analyzed every point at issue between his own and the mother country, and exposed the corruptions of the British ministry to public gaze in all their pristine deformity. He soon became one of the most popular whigs in his native state, and was hailed as one of their boldest leaders. From his boyhood he had advocated their cause, and despised the chains of slavery. So strongly did the whig party become attached to him, that many of its members who were not personally acquainted with him contributed liberally to relieve him from pecuniary embarrassments, which arose from devoting his time exclusively to political matters. No man had examined more closely, or understood better, the relative situation of Great Britain and her
American colonies. · He measured
the scale of reason, and based his every action upon the sure foundation of immutable justice. He was not rash and inflammatory-always appealing to the judgment and understanding-endeavouring to allay rather than excite the passions of men. He was a friend to order, opposed to sudden bursts of popular fury, and to every thing calculated to produce riotous and tumultuous proceedings. He took a philosophic view of the chartered rights guarantied to his country, and of the infringements upon them.
Organized and systematic opposition against the unwarranted encroachments of the crown, emanating from the great majority of the sovereign people, was the plan he proposed; to be manifested first by petition and remonstrance, and, in the last resort, by an appeal to arms. Upon the expansive basis of republican principles he took his stand; calm and undismayed he maintained his position. When the offensive stamp act was promulged, he exposed its odious features; and when the climax of oppression was capped by the imposition of taxes upon various articles of daily consumption, for the support of a corrupt and corrupting foreign ministry, which denied the right of representation to the colonies, Samuel Adams proclaimed to his countrymen, that the time had arrived when forbearance was no longer a virtue, and that forcible resistance had become their imperious duty. He showed conclusively that the parliament of Great Britain had violated the constitution that should have guided their deliberations. Americans had in vain claimed protection under its banner, its sacred covering was snatched from over their heads, they were left exposed to the insults of foreign officers who were throwing the coils of tyranny around them. To be slaves or freemen was the important question. Being a member of the general assembly and clerk of the house, he was enabled to exercise a salutary and extensive influence. With great ardour and zeal, he united prudence and discretion. From the time he was elected in 1765, he remained in the assembly of his native state until he was chosen a member of the Continental Congress. He exerted the noblest powers of his mind to prepare the people for the approaching crisis, and kindled a flame of patriotic fire that increased in volume as time rolled on. He was the first man who
proposed to the people of Massachusetts the non-importation act, the committees of correspondence, and the congress that assembled at Philadelphia in 1774. Nor did he confine his exertions or limit his influence to New England alone; he corresponded with the eminent patriots of the middle and southern states, and contributed largely in producing unity of sentiment and concert of action in the glorious cause of liberty throughout the colonies. Over his own constituents he held a magic influence. At the sound of his voice the fury of a Boston mob would instantly cease; he could lead the lion of faction with a single hair. The people knew well he would maintain what was clearly right, and submit to nothing, willingly, that was clearly wrong.
When the affray of the first of March, 1770, between the British soldiers and some of the citizens of Boston occurred, the influence of