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vantageous and honourable to himself. His reading, although somewhat irregular, had been so extensive and multifarious, as to excite astonishment, and almost surpass belief. His ardour for books amounted to enthusiasm. During this period, he not only revised the classical works, which he had previously read in the course of his academical studies, but, not satisfied with this, pushed his researches still further into the rich stores of ancient learning. No man relished, in a higher degree, the beauties of Greek and Roman literature. Few in America have been more familiar with them. On the works of Virgil he dwelt with rapture; and could recite, from memory, with an eloquence and force peculiar to himself, all his most splendid and touching passages. His rehearsal of the stories of Nisus and Euryalus, Pallas and Evander, Lausus and Mezentius, is said to have been a specimen of pathetic elocution. Poetry was now the luxury of his mind. He read with attention all the principal English poets, and became familiar with the writings of Milton and Shakspeare, committing to memory many passages of peculiar excellence. This course of reading, although possibly in some instances, not well directed, tended greatly to extend and liberalize, enrich and embellish, the mind of the young student. It aided in supplying him with that fund of materials for writing and speaking which he possessed in such abundance, as no length of debate or latitude of discussion could ever exhaust. It was also the source, in part, of his unprecedented fertility and aptness of allusion-his ability to evolve, with a felicity we never witnessed in any other speaker, a train of imagery suited to every subject and every occasion.
Not long after his admission to the bar, Mr. Ames was called on to appear in the character of a statesman and a legislator. Having been attentive to the native impulses of his own mind, and carefully observant of the drift of his genius, he had now a sufficient knowledge of his powers to perceive that the senate chamber rather than the forum, was to prove eventually the theatre of his renown. Notwithstanding, therefore, the voice of private interest to the contrary-for what honest American has ever grown rich in the service of his country!—so highly was he enamoured of that reputation and glory which conscious ability
whispered was awaiting him, and so ardent was his desire to move for a time in his proper sphere, that he now, perhaps, courted rather than declined the conspicuous walks of public life. Nor dowe regard this disposition as amounting to a blemish in his character. On the other hand, we consider it as tantamount to a virtue. That great man is so far deficient in greatness, who is not ambitious of his just reward, the gratitude and applause of the virtuous and discerning portion of the world, consequent on the performance of exalted duties. Even Washington himself, that resplendent epitome of all that is great and excellent in our nature, was no stranger to the love of renown.
After having acquired distinction in the discussion and arrangement of certain points of local policy, he was elected a delegate to the convention of the state of Massachusetts, which met in the year 1788 with a view to the ratification of the federal constitution. Here an opportunity presented itself for making fresh and ample augmentations to his fame. The subject under consideration was eminently momentous. It elevated and expanded his views to its own dimensions, and called forth all the fervours of his mind. It was a decision of the question, whether the United States should be blessed with a wise, free, and efficient government, or exhibit the awful spectacle of a national chaos—a people passing in convulsions from faction to anarchy, and from that to the calm of a military despotism. It was during the session of this convention that he gained such high and well merited eclat, by that beautiful specimen of parliamentary eloquence, his speech on the subject of biennial elections.
In the first congress under the federal constitution, which met at Newyork in the year 1789, Mr. Ames appeared in the house of representatives, as a member from that district in which was included the city of Boston. During the eight years of the Washington administration, he retained his seat in that august assembly:-august let us call it; for it was composed of the ablest and most virtuous men of the nation. Rome, in her best days, would have gloried in a senate so enlightened and dignified; and the states of Greece would have committed their destinies to a council so preeminent in patriotism and wisdom.
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 maintain its own existence, and to embrace and re. concile 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 Hatter 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 temper. 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 no 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. er. 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 scenis embedied before us.
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 a dream of delight. So absorbed were they in admiration-so fascinated and subdued by the charms of his eloquence, that no one had the proper command of his faculties. Conscious