Imagens das páginas

ulties and qualities that enter into this character, understanding, memory, imagination, invention, sensibility, ardour.

As a speaker and as a writer he had the power to enlighten and persuade, to move, to please, to charm, to astonish. He united those decorations that belong to fine talents, to that penetration and judgment that designate an acute and solid mind. Many of his opinions have the authority of predictions fulfilled and fulfilling. He had the ability of investigation, and, where it was necessary, did investigate with patient attention, going through a series of observation and deduction, and tracing the links which connect one truth with another. When the result of his research. es was exhibited in discourse, the steps of a logical process were in some measure concealed by the colouring of rhetoric. Minute calculations and dry details were employments, however, the least adapted to his peculiar construction of mind. It was easy and delightful for him to illustrate by a picture, but painful and laborious to prove by a diagram. It was the prerogative of his mind to discern by a glance, so rapid as to seem intuition, those truths which common capacities struggle hard to apprehend; and it was the part of his eloquence to display, expand and enforce them.

His imagination was a distinguishing feature of his mind. Prolific, grand, sportive, original, it gave him the command of nature and art, and enabled him to vary the disposition and the dress of his ideas without end. Now it assembled most pleasing images, adorned with all that is soft and beautiful; and now rose in the storm, wielding the elements and flashing with the most awful splendours.

Very few men have produced more original combinations. He presented resemblances and contrasts. which none saw before, but all admitted to be just and striking. In delicate and powerful wit he was preeminent.

He did not systematically study the exterior graces

of speaking, but his attitude was erect and easy, his gestures manly and forcible, his intonations varied and expressive, his articulation distinct, and his whole manner animated and natural. His written compositions, it will be perceived, have that glow and vivacity which belonged to his speechcs.

All the other efforts of his mind, however, were probably exceeded by his powers in conversation. He appeared among his friends with an illuminated face, and with peculiar amenity and captivating kindness, displayed all the playful felicity of his wit, the force of his intellect, and the fertility of his imagination.

On the kind or degree of excellence which criticism may concede or deny to Mr. AMES's productions, we do not undertake with accurate discrimination to determine. He was undoubtedly rather actuated by the genius of oratory, than disciplined by the precepts of rhetoric; was more intent on exciting attention and interest and producing effect, than securing the praise of skill in the artifice of composition. Hence critics might be dissatisfied, yet hearers charmed. The abundance of materials, the energy and quickness of conception, the inexhaustible fertility of mind, which he possessed, as they did not require, so they forbade a rigid adherence to artificial guides in the disposition and employment of his intellectual stores. To a certain extent, such a speaker and writer may claim to be his own authority.

Image crowded upon image in his mind, he is not chargeable with affectation in the use of the figurative language; his tropes are evidently prompted by imagination, and not forced into his service. Their novelty and variety create constant surprise and delight. Bvt they are, perhaps, too lavishly employed. The fancy of his hearers is sometimes overplied with stimulus, and the importance of the thought liable to be concealed in the multitude and beauty of the metaphors. His condensation of expression may be thought to produce occasional abruptness. He aimed

rather at the terseness, strength, and vivacity of the short sentence, than the dignity of the full and flowing period. His style is conspicuous for sententious brevity, for antithesis and points. Single ideas appear with so much lustre and prominence, that the connection of the several parts of his discourse is not always obvious to the common mind, and the aggregate impression of the composition is not always completely obtained. In those respects where his peculiar excellencies came near to defects, he is rather to be admired than imitated.

In public speaking he trusted much to excitement, and did little more in his closet than draw the outlines of his speech and reflect on it, till he had received deeply the impressions he intended to make, depending for the turns and figures of language, illustrations and modes of appeal to the passions, on his imagination and feelings at the time. This excitement continued, when the cause had ceased to operate. After debate his mind was agitated, like the ocean after a storm, and his nerves were like the shrouds of a ship, torn by the tempest.

Mr. Ames's character as a patriot rests on the highest and firmest ground. He loved his country with equal purity and fervour. This affection was the spring of all his efforts to promote her welfare. The glory of being a benefactor to a great people he could not despise, but justly valued. He was covetous of the fame purchased by desert; but he was above ambition; and popularity, except as an instrument of public service, weighed nothing in the balance by which he estimated good and evil.

It is happy for mankind, when those who engage admiration deserve esteem: for vice and folly derive a pernicious influence from an alliance with qualities that naturally command applause. In the character of Mr. Ames the circle of the virtues seemed to be complete, and each virtue in its proper place.

The objects of religion presented themselves with a strong interest to his mind. The relation of the

world to its Author, and of this life to a retributory scene in another, could not be contemplated by him without the greatest solemnity. The religious sense was, in his view essential in the constitution of man. He placed a full reliance on the divine origin of christianity. If there was ever a time in his life, when the light of revelation shone dimly upon his understanding, he did not rashly close his mind against clearer vision, for he was more fearful of mistakes to the disadvantage of a system, which he saw to be excellent and benign, than of prepossessions in its favour. He felt it his duty and interest to inquire, and discovered on the side of faith a fulness of evidence little short of demonstration. At about thirty-five he made a public profession of his belief in the christian religion, and was a regular attendant on its services. In regard to articles of belief, his conviction was confined to those leading principles, about which christians have little diversity of opinion. Subtle questions of theology, from various causes often agitated, but never determined, he neither pretended nor desired to investigate, satisfied that they related to points uncertain or unimportant. He loved to view religion on the practical side, as designed to operate by a few simple and grand truths on the affections, actions, and habits of men. He cherished the sentiment and experience of religion, careful to ascertain the genuineness and value of impressions and feelings by their moral tendency.

He of all men was the last to countenance exclusive claims to purity of faith, founded on a zeal for peculiar dogmas, which multitudes of good men, approved friends of truth, utterly reject. He was no enemy to improvement, to fair inquiry, and christian freedom; but innovations in the modes of wor ship and instruction, without palpable necessity or advantage, he discouraged as tending to break the salutary associations of the pious mind. His conversation and behaviour evinced the sincerity of his religious impressions. No levity upon these subjects

ever escaped his lips; but his manner of recurring to them in conversation indicated reverence and feeling. The sublime, the affecting character of Christ he never mentioned without emotion.

He was gratefully sensible of the peculiar felicity of his domestic life. In his beloved home his sickness found all the alleviation, that a judicious and unwearied tenderness could minister; and his intervals of health a succession of every heartfelt satisfaction.The complacency of his looks, the sweetness of his tones, his mild and often playful manner of imparting instruction, evinced his extreme delight in the society of his family, who felt that they derived from him their chief happiness, and found in his conversation and example a constant excitement to noble and virtuous conduct. As a husband and father, he was all that is provident, kind, and exemplary. He was riveted in the regards of those who were in his service. He felt all the ties of kindred. The delicacy, the ardour, and constancy, with which he cherished his friends, his readiness to the offices of good neighbourhood, and his propensity to contrive and execute plans of public improvement, formed traits in his character, each of remarkable strength. He cultivated friendship by an active and punctual correspondence, which made the number of his letters very great, and which are not less excellent than nume


He had no envy, for he felt no personal rivalry. His ambition was of that purified sort, which is rather the desire of excellence than the reputation of it: he aimed more at desert, than at superiority. He loved to bestow praise on those who were competitors for the same kind of public consideration as himself, not fearing that he should sink by their elevation.

He was tenacious of his rights, but scrupulous in his respect to the rights of others. The obloquy of political opponents, was sometimes the price he paid for not deserving it. But it could hardly give him, pain, for he had no vulnerable points in his character,

« AnteriorContinuar »