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This period of eight years, during which Mr. Ames held a seat in the legislature of the union, was all-important to the people of America. In the course of it, the most momentous concerns of the nation were discussed and adjusted with that sagacity and discernment, that expanded wisdom and spotless integrity, which their weight and the crisis so pressingly demanded. The complex and mighty machine of a government calculated to maintaiu its own existence, and to embrace and reconcile the different and clashing interests of an extensive country and a numerous, high-spirited, and jealous people, was constructed and put in motion. In addition to this, successful and satisfactory arrangements were made on the score of the most important of our external relations. By a wise and humane system of policy, combining the principles of justice and force, .conciliation and firmness, the friendship of the Indian tribes was secured. With Great Britain and Spain, an honourable adjustment was effected in relation to all our points of difference. A spring was given to commerce which carried our flag to every sea, and brought to our shores the products and riches of every climate; and, by a dignified neutrality, the nation was preserved from the horrors of war, and the threatening vortex of a foreign alliance.
In the achievements of wisdom and the duties of patriotism, necessarily appertaining to these transactions, Mr. Ames held a share that was ample and distinguished. Persevering in his attentions, and faithful to the trust reposed in him by his constituents, in no instance did he indulge himself in absence from his post. On every question of interest and importance, he took an active and responsible part in debate. His eloquence was always adapted to the occasion--argumentative or impassioned, playful or serious, lofty or satirical, according to the subject, and the prevaling temper and disposition of the house. It was rich in every thing, both as to matter and manner, calculated to delight, impress, and instruct. Although it might not always convince his opponents, it seldom offended them, and never failed to excite their admiration, and command their respect.
His speech, on the appropriations for carrying into effect the British treaty, was certainly the most resplendent exhibition of
his talents; and may almost be regarded as constituting an epoch in modern eloquence. An English gentleman of cultivated taste and great attainments, who was present on the occasion, frankly acknowledged, that it surpassed, in effect, any thing he had ever heard in the British parliament. He even preferred it to Sheridan's celebrated speech in the case of Warren Hastings. It had, perhaps, more of the irresistible sway, the soul-subduing influence of ancient eloquence, than any thing that has been heard since the days of Cicero. The circumstances attending its delivery were peculiar. A brief recital of them will not, we fatter ourselves, be deemed uninteresting, or regarded as a departure from the duty of the biographer.
The debate on the subject of the treaty had been unusually protracted. In the course of it great liberties had been taken in the manifestation of individual feeling; and the collision of party politics had been inordinately keen. The public mind, having felt a deep and lively interest in it at first, had become weary and exhausted by its unexpected length, and was now extremely anxious that it should be brought to a close. The house itself, particularly the great body of the members who had already spoken, gave strong indications of the same lemper. For several days the question had been repeatedly called for, by numerous voices at once, with a vehemence amounting almost to disorder.
During all this time, Mr. Ames, in a feeble and shattered state of health, and bowed down by a load of languor and despondency, had remained a silent spectator of the conflict. He had even determined not to speak at all, because he felt himself unequal to the exertion, and had, therefore, made no preparatory arrangements. As the moment, however, approached, when he was to join in the vote-a vote, on which, in his estimation, depended the future prosperity of his country, his resolution forsook him, and his patriotism triumphed over his prudence. From an expectation, on the part of some, that the question would be that day decided, and of others, that, perhaps, Mr. Ames would be induced to speak, the lobbies and galleries of the house were overflowingly crowded. The flower of Philadelphia was present on the occasion.
Under these circumstances, with a pale countenance and a languid air, the orator rose, and, in a voice, feeble at the commencement, addressed himself to the chair. At his appearance on the floor, a murmur of approbation escaped from the audi. ence, who in their keen impatience that the debate should be closed, would have been tempted to frown on any other speak
To this involuntary expression of the public satisfaction succeeded the most profound silence, that not a syllable might escape unheard. Animated, for the moment, by the workings of his mind, and inspired, as it were, by the occasion, with a degree of life and strength, to which his frame had long been a stranger, the orator's ardour and energy increased, as he proceeded; his voice acquired a wider compass, and he carried the house triumphantly along with him. Never was man gazed at with more steadfast attention, nor listened to with more eager and thrilling delight Pale and sickly, as it was, his countenance seemed at times, under the irresistible illusion of the moment, to be irradiated with more than mortal fires, and the intonations of his voice to be marked with more than mortal sweetness. We speak feelingly for we heard him throughout; and never can his image be effaced from our recollection, nor his accents seem to fade on our ear. Even now, after a lapse of nearly sixteen years, his look, his gesture, his attitude-all the orator seemis embodied be
He addressed himself to every faculty of the mind, and awakened every feeling and emotion of the heart. Argument, remonstrance, entreaty, persuasion, terror, and warning, fell, now like the music, and now like the thunder of heaven, from his lips. He seemed like Patriotism personified, eloquently pleading for the salvation of his country. The effect produced was absolute enchantment, if any thing earthly deserve the appellation. He threw a spell over the senses, rendering them insensible to every thing but himself. We venture to assert, that while he remainded on the floor, no person present had the slightest consciousness of the lapse of time.
When he resumed his seat, the audience seemed to awake as from dream of delight. So absorbed were they in adṁiration-so fascinated and subdued by the charms of his eloquence, that no one had the proper command of his faculties. Conscious
of this, a leading member in the opposition moved for an adjournment, that the house might have time to cool, and the vote not be taken under the iufluence of the overwhelming sensibility which the orator had excited. This circumstance was in itself a tribute to the eloquence of Mr. Ames, far beyond what language can bestow. It was a confession, extorted from a political adversary, the most inexorable of human characters, that even the spirit of party was vanquished by his powers.
In the autumn of the same year, the college of Princeton, in consideration of his distinguished rank as a scholar and a statesman, conferred on Mr. Ames the honorary degree of Docior of Laws.
His health being somewhat restored by regimen and travel, he was enabled to appear in the national legislature during the winter of 1796-7, although not to fill up his usual sphere in the duties of the house. Still, however, he was a leading member. The splendeur of his former services had thrown around him unfading honours, and given him an ascendancy which little else than his presence was requisite to maintain. But even now he was far from being a silent spectator of eyents. In the debate which ensued on the answer of the house to the president's speech, he vindicated in a strain of the loftiest eloquence, and in a style of eulogy peculiar to himself, the claim of Washington to the unqualified love and gratitude of the nation.
On the close of this session, which was the last under the auspices of the Washington administration, Mr. Ames, having previously declined standing a candidate for congress, returned to the walks of private life. But it was his body alone that sought repose from public toils. His love of country continuing, as before, his predominant passion, and his mind still delighting to mingle in exercises where the eminent contend, he threw even now a large portion of light into the councils of the nation. Through the medium of the public prints, under various signatures, and in a style rich and fascinating, in an eminent degree, he imparted to his fellow citizens, from his private residence, as exquisite lessons of political wisdom, as had issued from his lips in the house of representatives. For several years his produce tions through this channel were multifarious and abundant. Al
though generally written with great rapidity-frequently amidst the interruptions of a court-house, or the noise of a public inn, where he only rested for the night, they were always delightful and instructive, breathing the purest sentiments of patriotism, and hallowed by a spirit of enlightened philanthropy.
Among his compositions, during the period of his retirement, should be particularly noticed his eulogy on Washington, to the delivery of which he was appointed by the legislature of Massachusetts, and his masterly sketch of the character of Hamilton. He lived long enough to weep over the ashes, and to celebrate the praises, of these two wonderful statesınen and heroes; and, perhaps, of all men of the age, he was most worthy o so exalted an honour, because most competent to the task it im· posed. His affection for the latter, and his sorrow and regret for his untimely fall, he pours forth in a style of sensibility and pathos, which nothing can exceed.
" The tears,” says he, “that flow on this fond recital, will never dry up. My heart, penetrated with the remembrance of the man, grows liquid as I write, and I could pour it out like water. I could weep, too, for my country, which, mournful as it is, does not know the half of its loss. It deeply laments, when it turns its eyes back, and sees what Hamilton wir; but my soul stiffens with despair, when I think what Hamilton would have been.
“ His social affections and his private virtues are not, however, so properly the object of public attention, as the conspicuous and commanding qualities that gave him his fame and influence in the world. It is not as Apollo, enchanting the shepherds with his lyre, that we deplore him; it is as Hercules, treacherously slain in the midst of his unfinished labours, leaving the world overrun with monsters.”
In the year 1804, Mr. Ames was chosen president of Harvard college. To the infinite regret, however, of that institution, the broken and precarious state of his health, conjoined with other considerations, which had no influence on any one but himself, prevented his acceptance of so responsible an office. The proper education of youth was a subject which always lay near to his heart. He considered it not merely as the principal ornament