Imagens das páginas

In May, 1777, he was elected a third time to Congress. and continued to be the chief director of the financial op erations of the government. In 1780, he proposed the establishment of a bank, the chief object of which was, to supply the army with provisions. . He headed the list with a subscription of ten thousand pounds; and others followed to the amount of three hundred thousand pounds. The institution was established, and continued until the bank of North America went into operation in the sollowing year. • In 1781, Mr Morris was appointed, by Congress, Superintendent of Finance. The state of the treasury, when he was appointed to its superintendence, was as bad as possible. Abroad, the public credit was every moment in danger of annihilation. At home, the greatest public, as well as private distress, prevailed. The treasury was so much in arrears to the servants of the public offices, that many of them could not without payment perform their duties, but must have gone to jail for debts they had contracted to enable them to live. It was even asserted, by some of the members of the board of war, that they had not the means of sending an express to the army. But the wasted and prostrate skeleton of public credit sprung to life and action at the reviving touch of Robert Morris. The face of things was suddenly changed. Public and private credit was restored; and it has been said, that “the Americans owe as much acknowledgment to the financial operations of Robert Morris, as to the negociations of Benjamin Franklin, or even the arms of George Washington.” The establishment of the bank of North America was one of his first and most beneficial measures; an institution which he himself planned, and to forward which, he ledged his personal credit to an immense amount In 1786, Mr. Morris was chosen to the Assembly of Pennsylvania; and the same year was elected a member of the Convention which framed the Federal Constitution. For the adoption of the present system, he was one of the most strenuous advocates. In 1788, the General Assembly of Penr syvania appointed him to represent the State in the firs Senate of the United States, which as

[ocr errors]

sembled in New York. He was a fluent and impressive speaker, and wrote with great ease and power. His conversation was replete with interest and instruction. When the Federal Government was organized, Washington offered him the post of Secretary of the Treasury, which he declined; and, being requested to designate a person for it, he named General Hamilton. At the conclusion of the war, he was among the first who engaged in the East India and China trade. He was, also, the first who made an attempt to effect what is termed an out of season passage to China.

In his latter days, Mr. Morris embarked in vast land speculations, which proved fatal to his fortune. The man who had so immensely contributed to our national existence and independence, passed the closing years of his life in a prison; a beautiful commentary upon those laws which make no distinction between guilt and misfortune, and condemn the honest debtor to the punishment of the convicted felon! He died on the Sth of May, 1806, in the seventy-third year of his age.

Until the period of his impoverishment, the house of Mr. Morris was a scene of the most lavish hospitality. It was open, for nearly half a century, to all the respectable strangers who visited Philadelphia. He was active in the acquisition of money, but no one more freely parted with his gains. No one pursued a more enlightened policy, or manifested through life a greater degree of humanity, virtue, energy, and gentlemanly spirit, than Robert Morris.

[ocr errors]

John MoRtox was born in the county of Chester, (now Delaware,) in Pennsylvania. His ancestors were of Swedish extraction; and his father died a few months previous to his birth.

About the year 1764, Mr. Morton was sent as a dele

te to the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, of which É. continued for several years an active and distinguished member. He was also appointed to attend the General Congress at New York. In 1766, he was made sheriff of the county in which he resided, and, shorty after, was elevated to a seat on the bench, in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. He was deputed to the Congress of 1774, and continued to represent Pennsylvania in that assembly through the memorable session of 1776. On the question of declaring independence, in the latter year, the delegation from Pennsylvania being divided, Mr. Morton gave his casting vote in the affirmative. This was an act of great intrepidity, under all the circumstances of the case; and placed upon him a fearful load of responsibility. But he did not hesitate to assume it. The enemies of the measure were exasperated at his conduct; but, on his death-bed, he desired his attendants to tell his revilers that the hour would come, when it would be acknowledged, that his vote in favor of American Independence was the most illustrious act of his life. It is needless to observe how fully and comprehensively his prophetic annunciation has been fulfilled.

In 1777, Mr. Morton assisted in organizing a system of confederation for the colonies, and was chairman of the committee of the whole, at the time when it was agreed to. During the same year, he was seized with an inflammatory fever, and died on the 15th of November, in the fifty-fourth year of his age. He left behind a character for piety, liberality, and patriotism, which his actions are sufficient to substantiate

[ocr errors]

THoMAs NELsoN was born at York, in Virginia, on the 26th of December, 1738. At the age of fourteen, he was sent to England, and placed at a private school in the neighborhood of London. He was afterwards removed to the University of Cambridge, where he enjoyed the instruction of the eminent Doctor Porteus, subsequently Bishop of London. About the ciose of 1761, he returned to his native country, and, in the following year, married the daughter of Philip Grymes, Esq., of Brandon. His pmple fortune enabled hio to indulge his spirit of hospi. tality to its fullest extent, and to live in a style of unusual elegance.

It is not determined with certainty at what period the political career of Mr. Nelson commenced. He was a member of the House of Burgesses in 1774, and during the same year was deputed to the first General Conven:ion of the province, which met at Williamsburg on the 1st of August. The next year he was again returned a member to the General Convention, and introduced a resolution for organizing a military force in the province.

In July, 1775, Mr. Nelson was appointed a delegate from Virginia to the General Congress about to assemble at Philadelphia. He retained his seat in this body until 1777. In May of that year, he was obliged to resign all serious occupation, in consequence of a disease in the head. When relieved from this malady, his energies were again called into action, and he was appointed Brigadier General and Commander in Chief of the forces of the commonwealth. In this office, he rendered the most important service to his country, and in times of emergency often advanced money, to carry forward the military operations. In 1779, he was again chosen to Congress; but a close application to business produced a recurrence of his former complaint, and he was again compelled to return home.

Soon after his recovery, General Nelson entered with animation into several military expeditions against the British, who, at that time, were making the Southern States the chief theatre of war. It was owing to his measures that the army was kept together, until the capture of Yorktown terminated the war. For this service, Governor Nelson had the pleasure of receiving the acknowledgments of Washington, who, in his general orders of the 20th of October, 1781, thus spoke of him: “The General would be guilty of the highest ingratitude, a crime of which he hopes he shall never be accused, if he forgot to return his sincere acknowledgments to his Excellency Governor Nelson, for the succors which he received from him, and the militia under his command to whose activity, emulation, and bravery, the highest pro- are lue '

A mono-, - ...sequent to the surrender of Lord Cornwallis, Governo, Nelson resigned his station, in consequence of "I health, and immediately afterwards was accused by nic zo- ies, of having transcended his powers, in acting without the consent of his council: but he was honorably acquitted by the Legislature, before whom the charge was preferred. He died on the 4th of January, 1789, just after he had completed his fiftieth year.


WILLIAM PACA was born on the 31st of October, 1740. He was the second son of John Paca, a gentleman of large estate, who resided in Hartford county, Maryland. After receiving his degree of bachelor of arts at the College of Philadelphia, in 1759, he studied law, and, when admitted to the bar, established himself at Annapolis. In 1771, Mr. Paca was chosen a representative of the county in the Legislature. At this time much contention existed between the proprietary government of Maryland and the people. Mr. Paca, who represented the people in this body, proved himself a staunch and determined assertor of their rights, which no one more clearly understood. He zealously opposed the avaricious proceedings of the proprietor and his partisans; and manifested on all occasions a settled hostility to tyranny and oppression. Mr. Paca was a delegate from Maryland to the Continental Congress of 1774; and was re-appointed to the same station until the year 1778, at the close of which he retired. He was an open advocate for a declaration of independence, as were several of his colleagues. A maJority of the people of Maryland, however, were not prepared for such a measure. A change was afterwards effected among the people in relation to this subject. The Convention of Maryland recalled heir prohibitory instructions to their delegates; and Mi Paca gladly received permission to vote according to the dictates of his own fearless and unshackled judgment. In 1778, Mr. Paca was appointed Chief Justice of the S preme Court of Maryland, an office which he continued

« AnteriorContinuar »