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MACLAY, WILLIAM BROWN,
Is among the youngest members of the thirtieth Congress. He was born in 1815, in that portion of the city of New York comprised within the limits of the district which he now represents, and from which he was elected in 1842, immediately after the state became divided into Congressional Districts, in conformity with the law of Congress of that year. (See title, HOWELL COBB.
He is the son of the Reverend Archibald Maclay, a venerable clergyman of the Baptist denomination-favorably known to many of our readers—a Scotchman by birth, who emigrated to the United States in the year 1804. He preached to one congregation in the city of New York for the long period of thirtyfive years, when, to the regret of all his flock, and against their earnest desires, he retired from the Church to take upon himself the duties of another very laborious and responsible station. During the thirty-five years of his ministry, he united in the bonds of matrimony upward of ten thousand persons.
On his retirement from this ministerial station, he accepted the office of general agent of the American and Foreign Bible Society, which he still holds. He is now seventy-two years of age, in the full vigor of his mental and bodily faculties. During the last year, in the discharge of his duties, he traversed, on horseback, a distance of some four or five thousand miles. The remarkable preservation of his life, while on his business trav. els two years ago, is worthy of record, and is thus stated by himself:
“The steamer Bellezane, of Zanesville, Ohio, left that place for New Orleans : she ran on a snag on the 18th instant, about one o'clock in the morning, five miles below the mouth of White River, and about fifteen above the mouth of Arkansas River.
“Nearly all the passengers were asleep at the time she struck upon the snag, which went completely through her bottom. She careened first on the one side and then on the other; the boilers rolled off, which righted her a little, and the vessel then went completely over on her side and filled with water. I was asleep when she struck, but was roused by the shock and the rolling of the empty barrels on the hurricane deck into the river. I instantly sprang from my berth. The vessel gave a heavy lurch, the water rushing in at the same time up to my chest. I struggled across the cabin floor, and, aided by the handle of the door between the ladies' cabin and ours, I reached the state-room on the opposite side of the boat, and, as both doors were providentially open, I passed through them to the outside; the boat was then on her beam ends. The scene was truly awful; the night was intensely cold, and those who had es. caped immediate death were clustered together on the wreck, destitute of clothing, bareheaded and barefooted. The hurricane deck separated from the cabin, and the captain and four others floated ashore on it. Three of these were frozen to death.
"The hull of the boat became detached from the cabin, and turned bottom up; fifteen of the passengers climbed upon the hull and were saved. Some of the passengers clung to the side of the cabin, and were taken off by a small boat. I floated with others on a portion of the wreck about ten miles down the river, near Napoleon, at the mouth of the Arkansas River. From some of the berths, which constituted a portion of the wreck we were on, a few quilts were obtained. I gave a mattress which I had procured to Mr. Chapman, who had the child of Captain Hins in his arms. I put the mattress over him and the child. With some difficulty I obtained another; but a planter from Kentucky, whose name, I think, was Burns, suffered excessively from the cold, and, being in danger of freezing to death, I gave up to him the second mattress. I remained afterward four hours on the wreck. Some of the boat's crew, who had reached the shore, obtained a small boat and came to our relief. The ladies were very properly first taken from the wreck. I was brought to the shore with Mr. Burns, the planter before mentioned, who had suffered so much from the cold. - Almost the instant we had reached the shore, he gave one groan and expired. Colonel Rives, a relative of Mr. Rives, of Washington, was on board of the steamer, and was the first man that reached the shore. He possesses great energy of character, and was exceedingly kind and attentive to me and the rest of the passengers. He traveled along the shore through the woods a num. ber of miles, and obtained a small boat, and came to the wreck as the last of the passengers were taken off.
“We walked about a mile to the house of Mr. Cook, an overseer to Mr. Hibbard, of Napoleon, by whom we were received and treated with the utmost kindness. Judge Sutton and other citizens came from Napoleon, and tendered us every assistance that our wants required. The captain states that there were one hundred and twenty-five passengers: sixty-five were lost; four of the number were frozen to death. I attribute my pow. ers of endurance (sufficiently put to the test on this terrible night) to my constitution and temperate habits. I have lost my watch, money, clothing, &c., but my life has been gra. ciously spared.
“During the four hours I was on the wreck I spent most of the time in mental prayer, and was resigned and composed. I would with gratitude raise another Ebenezer, and say, 'Hitherto hath the Lord helped me: what shall I render unto God for all his mercies toward me. I am at the house of Cornelius Paulding, Esq., who has always exhibited toward me much kindness and Christian sympathy, and has, if possible, on this occasion, manifested more kindness to me than ever.”
The following letter from the same source, embodying per. sonal recollections of “Old Mortality,” possesses much interest:
“I accompanied my son-in-law on a visit to Laurel Hill, a large public cemetery in the environs of Philadelphia, to which visiters are attracted by the beautiful land and water views with which Nature has surrounded the spot, and also by the many marble monuments of different form, sculpture, and inscription, which, though they can not back to its mansion call the fleeting breath, can yet express the virtues of the dead and the affection of the living, and, impressing with renewed force the afflicted Christian parent or child with the vanity of all things earthly, direct them for consolation to a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God. The propriety of such places of interment in the vicinity of our cities, yet sufficiently removed from the changes of a progressive population, is evident, whether reference be made to those for whom they are designed, or to those who are so soon to follow them. It accords with the best medical opinions, and, above all, with that sentiment which may indeed be said to find an echo in every human bosom, which condemns as infamous a desecration of the sanctuary of the dead, or a violation of what was once the temple of an immortal spirit.
« The immortality of the soul, and the relations between the present and the future state, as unfolded in revelation, give to the subject all its sacredness in the view of the believer; but even to minds upon which the light of the Gospel never shone, it was invested with an interest at once awful and tender. In one of the most barbarous islands in the Southern Seas, contend. ing savages proclaimed a truce to hostilities upon approaching the mound which indicated the narrow house appointed for all living; and, among the untaught Indians of our forest, he was considered accursed who despoiled the body, placed upon the rude scaffolding erected upon piles, and shrouded in the richest furs. The historian has pathetically told us that the Chippewa mother would not bury her new-born infant upon these scaffolds, but by the way side, that its spirit might secretly steal into the bosom of some passing matron, and be born again under happier auspices. 'I know my daughter will be restored to me,' she once said, as she clipped a lock of hair as a memorial; by this lock of hair I shall discover her, for I shall take it with me: alluding to the period when she, too, with her carrying-belt and paddle, and the little relic of her child, should pass through the grave to the dwelling-place of her ancestors. .,
"Laurel Hill, the place selected as the principal cemetery of Philadelphia, is distant about three miles from the city, embracing an area of thirty-two acres, situated upon a commanding eminence on the banks of the Schuylkill, to which it has a steep and broken descent. The ruggedness of the view of the cemetery grounds, although not hidden, is greatly relieved by a fine view of the forest trees which skirt the river. Many rare and beautiful trees have been collected, not indigenous to the soil, and among them the cedar of Lebanon, and some of the varieties of the firs which grow in northern Europe.
“Passing a short distance along the main carriage-road, you reach the group of statues of Old Mortality and his Pony of Sir Walter Scott, sculptured of freestone by a self-taught artist, Mr. Thom, inclosed within an iron railing, and protected
in some degree from the effect of the weather by an edifice of stone, with an open front view, overarching the whole. This was the principal object of my visit. When a boy, I have often seen Old Mortality, who always made his home at my mother's house when he visited our part of the country, and the deeply-thrilling incidents which he told me of the martyrs, and the sufferings they endured for Christ's sake, left a permanent impression on my mind; and the appearance which this singular personage then made is still vivid, as he approached, either riding or leading the companion of his journeys—a little pony -by a halter of hair or rope, with a straw cushion instead of a saddle. Thus accoutred, he traveled from one, church-yard to another throughout Scotland, happy if he could find some Cameronian epitaph from which his chisel could remove the moss, or deepen the record which told of the virtues of his country's martyrs, who in 1685 had been thrown into prison by the privy council for the political and religious views which they entertained, and many of whom had died of diseases contracted during their incarceration. To this pious duty he devoted his life, which was protracted to his eighty-sixth year. Having no wants but of the simplest kind, which were readily supplied by those who sympathized with his enthusiasm, applause did not encourage him, and obloquy had no other effect than to bring out into bolder relief the lineaments of a nature which distinguished his countrymen at that period, and whose character, their great delineator has said, shows most to advantage in adversity, when it seems akin to the native sycamore of the hills, which scorns to be biased in its mode of growth even by the influence of the prevailing wind, but, shooting its branches with equal boldness in every direction, shows no weather-side to the storm, and may be broken, but can never be bent. The time and scene when and where this high-hearted enthusiast breathed his last, are known, but the place where his bones repose has never been ascertained ; and he whose life was spent in repairing the rav. ages Time had made upon the monuments of others, has not even a frail memorial erected to mark the spot to which his own remains were committed.”
William B. Maclay received from his father every consideration which parental care and the attention of competent instructors could afford. Among his early teachers were the