صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

what the laws are, whose operation they even now observe, yet observe darkly; but not to attempt to classify till they are masters of all the matters to be classed. They will thus aid in rebutting the opinion commonly entertained of our pursuits, and prove to the world that like every other science, the science of words also may be made to weave linked armour for man's soul. At some time to come the works which now appear a mass of indigested crudities and careless guesses, will have some truth worth observing, and contain some knowledge not undeserving to be stored up: not till then must such works as Jäkel's form part of their study, for not till then will they be safe against the attraction of often fallacious appearance. Knowledge of the history of a people, above all, knowledge of the history of their language at every different period, is the great key-stone on which the philological arch depends. The helps which each man may find in his way are numerous, but all valueless unless applied in the spirit of a cautious metaphysic: and that the days in which we live offer advantages without number to the wayfarer in these paths, from the daily discoveries which we are making of precious and long-lost documents, is most true; but even these, if carelessly and incautiously made use of, become arms turned against ourselves, and the occasions of deeper error. These are not matters of light or trivial import, και Κρατύλος αληθή λέγει, λέγων φύσει τα ονόματα είναι τοις πράγμασι, και ου πάντα δημιουργών ονομάτων είναι, αλλά μόνον εκεινον τον αποβλέποντα εις το φύσει όνομα δν εκάστω και δυνάμενον αυτό το είδος τιθέναι είς τε τα γράμματα, και τας συλλαβάς.

[ocr errors]

Art. IV.-The Life of Gouverneur Morris, with Selections from

his Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers, detailing events in the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and in the Political History of the United States. By Jared Sparks. 3 vols. 8vo. Boston.

1832. It is almost hard upon us to hold such a man as Gouverneur Morris in the light of a foreigner. In race at least he was British: his youth was spent in allegiance to Britain, the great examples he proposed to himself for imitation were Britons, the very spirit with which he resisted the authority of England, his energy, coolness and

perseverance, were all stamped with the true Island character. The decisions of the political world, however, sometimes fix the boundaries of literature, and in this instance we are authorized to pounce upon this work as foreigo, which, neither in genius nor in language, breathes a spark of unEnglish spirit. In sentimeut---in exclusive attachment to the United States--the constitution of which was in part bis handywork, and in a sort of jealousy and suspicious vigilance of England-Gouverneur Morris is as thoroughly foreign, as though he had neither been bred a subject of England, nor spoke its language as an orator, nor wrote it as a legislator and man of letters, Gouverneur Morris was one of the beroes of the American rerolution; not in the field, however, were either his courage or bis abilities displayed, but in the senate, and the closet, and the cabinet. In the midst of difficulties he was a man of unfailing elasticity; when others despaired, he displayed his resources; amidst the struggles of jealousy and selfishness, and the backsliding and despondency of cowardice and timidity, he always stood up undismayed and undisgusted, beaming with hope, fertile in expedient, and steady of purpose. Finance, the main spring of a new state, was his great forte-in this, his counsel was always as wise as it was ingenious; from the nature of his early pursuits, and the character of his mind, he seems not only to have anticipated the truths of political economy, but to have so well understood their working, that he was not, like many theorizers of the present day exposed to the mischance of applying truth in such a bungling manner as to produce error. Some men have acquired a widerspread fame than this friend of Washington, but none stood higher in the estimation of his fellow architects of the grand republic of the West. He was a steady and active agent, friend and support, on whom they could always reckon for efficient service. It is such men that can manage the helm of a country in a revolution, and such men alone. Weaker and more inconstant persons are flung aside by the wheel, or swept overboard by the wave; but his firmness, force, and weight of metal maintained him at his post till the storm was weathered; nay, till long after the vessel of the state was safely secured and laid up in harbour.

Gouverneur Morris was descended from a leader in Cromwell's army, who had emigrated to the state of New York, under motives at that time common. Each of his ancestors had enjoyed some degree of eminence in their parent state, and had acquired a property, called Morrisania, where Gouverneur was born in the year 1752. His father, Lewis Morris, was judge of Vice-Admiralty for New York, and had several children, the eldest of whom, Lewis, was a member of the Old Congress, and a signer of the declaration of independence. The second, Staats Long, became a general officer in the British army, was at one time a member of

parliament, and married the Duchess of Gordon. Gouverneur was the fourth son, and by a second marriage. His father died before he was twelve years old, leaving him to the care of his mother. A provision was made for his education, and by a clause in his father's will it was directed that the best to be procured either in Europe or America should be bestowed. His father had even, it seems, at the age of eight years, observed the capabilities of his child. Great pains were accordingly employed under the judicious direction of an affectionate mother, and the result, both in conduct and cultivation, was of the most satisfactory kind. All the eminent men of Mr. Morris's family had been remarkable for their acuteness, their skill in discussion, and power of argument. In addition to these hereditary qualities, Gouverneur pose sessed an active and excursive imagination, a warm flow of eloquence, and much versatility of character. He had, moreover, a decided propensity to mathematical studies, which is not often found in alliance with the gifts of the imagination. In Mr. Morris, however, the fancy was but the handmaid of his reason; if he drew upon the imagination, it was only for the purpose of dressing up the dictates of the judgment in more seducing colours. His love of mathematical science remained to him all his life, and is said to have been of great service to him in his financial and mercantile pursuits, and more especially in the conduct and management of that splendid national undertaking, on which he occupied himself during his latter years in his retirement in his native state—the great canal which joins the waters of Lake Erie with the Hudson. It was amusement to him to pursue rapid calculations in his mind, and to make out the solution of arithmetical difficulties unassisted by figures, and sometimes he found occasion for his higher skill in solving practical problems in physical science, such as relate to the velocity and force of running water, and the motion of machinery.

Such were some of the intellectual distinctions of this young man; but as in, perhaps, all other successful cases, the part he played in life was made rather by his moral than his mental qualities. The distinctive feature of a thoroughly healthy mind is an accurate and well defined knowledge of its own powers, and, placed on this foundation, a due degree of self confidence. Gouverneur Morris has often been heard to say that in all his intercourse with men he never knew the sensation of fear or inferiority, of embarrassment or awkwardness. A happy temperament, which, though it may sometimes perhaps assume the appearance of boldness or presumption, yet, by giving a man the full command of all his resources, must almost ensure success, when combined with

man.

judgment and spirit, in every affair in which the individual may be called to take a part. Mr. Morris's biographer observes “ that although this almost daring self-possession, which never forsook him, may at times have deprived his manners of the charm, which a becoming diffidence and gentleness of demeanour are apt to infuse, yet as a means of advancement in the world, it must be allowed, when properly regulated, to take precedence of every other quality."

Such a man is not slow to distinguish himself even in youth. At eighteen Gouverneur Morris wrote against a plan of issuing a paper currency, entertained by the assembly of New York in 1769: “ The first fruits,” says Mr. Sparks, “ of his financial abilities, afterwards so eminently developed, are clearly seen in these juvenile essays.” In October 1771, Mr. Morris, full three months before he was twenty years of age, was licensed to act as an attorney.

“ His financial discussions and some other proofs of his abilities had made him known to the principal men of the province; and a volunteer address to the jury, about the time of his being licensed, on some occasion in which the community took a deep interest, was represented by the hearers as an extraordinary display of eloquence and skilful reasoning in so young a

With the advantages of his family name, a fine person, an agreeable elocution, active and industrious habits, talents and ambition, no young man in the province was thought to exhibit a fairer promise of rapid advancement and ultimate eminence in his profession. But providence had destined him to another and wider sphere.

It was his fortune to come upon the theatre of action at a time, when events of the greatest moment both to his country and to the civilized world at large were ripening into maturity, and it was likewise his fortune to take a conspicuous part in the accomplishment of those events. For the present, however, his views reached no farther than to the limited distinction of a colonial lawyer, and his chief aim was to attain an elevated rank in the profession of his choice. Bent steadily on his purpose, neither his ambition nor his active spirit would allow him to neglect any means of qualifying himself for the fullest expansion and best use of his powers."-vol. i. p. 16.

When the disputes between the colonies and Great Britain arose, Mr. Morris, young as he was, took a cool and dispassionate view of the affair, which by no means led him to consider the throwing off of the allegiance to the mother country a desirable He saw that the

consequence would be the destruction of the aristocracy, and the sovereignty of the mob, and he had been neither bred nor educated in such a manner as to lead him to look

event.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

me

[ocr errors]

Er forward with satisfaction to what he calls the “worst of all pos

olverte sible dominions--the domination of a riotous mob.” Thus Mr. de neve Morris was by no means early in the field as one of the “ sons of the contre liberty;" but as soon as the country with a general unanimity had

agreed in abandoning the protection of the parent state and asserting its own independence, no unworthy hesitation, no shuffling middle course, no tampering with both sides, was discoverable in

him; he immediately took the side of his country, and never once fevet 2

looked back. Mr. Morris was a member of the first Provincial lan de Congress of New York, which was convened in the spring of Neo's 1775, and he continued a member of that body under its various

names of Congress, Convention, and Committee of Safety, with the exception of a short period, for nearly three years, till he went to the Continental Congress. In the state assemblies, Mr. Morris was distinguished for his sound views in matters of finance, and for the clear-sighted eloquence with which he decried the idea of a reunion with Britain after a revolt had once taken place, and maintained the glorious prospects of an independence. Fragments of his speeches are preserved, and many of them are specimens of a noble eloquence. We have only room for a paragraph of a speech, in which he runs through the common-place and cant phrases by which a case was endeavoured to be made out for returning to their ancient allegiance,-such as protection, security, &c. afforded by the present government.

« • Thus, Sir, by means of that great gulph which rolls its waves between Europe and America ; by the situation of these colonies, always adapted to hinder or interrupt all communication between the two; by the productions of our soil, which the Almighty has filled with every necessary to make us a great maritime people ; by the extent of our coasts, and those immense rivers which serve at once to open a communication with our interior country, and teach us the arts of navigation; by those vast fisheries, which affording an inexhaustible mine of wealth and a cradle of industry, breed hardy mariners, inured to danger and fatigue; finally, by the unconquerable spirit of freemen, deeply interested in the preservation of a government, which secures to them the blessings of liberty, and exalts the dignity of mankind; by all these, I expect a full and lasting defence against any and every part of the earth ; while the great advantages to be derived from a friendly intercourse with this country almost render the means of defence unnecessary, from the great improbability of being attacked. So far peace seems to smile upon our future independence. But that this fair goddess will equally crown our union with Great Britain, my fondest hopes cannot lead me even to suppose. Every war in which she is engaged must necessarily involve us in its detestable consequences; whilst weak and unarmed, we have no shield of defence,

talents

to

rent het

7 elemente

alled

Tkest

dispensa

det the bar

« السابقةمتابعة »