صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

108

WILLIAM FLOYD.

Private virtue and undisguised sincerity were marked characteristics of the revolutionary patriots. They were actuated by pure and honest motives, and not by wild ambition and political phrenzy. Noisy partisans and intriguing demagogues were not the favourites of the people during the war of independence. The man of genuine worth and modest merit was the one whom they delighted to honour and trust.

In the character of William Floyd these qualities were happily blended. He was a native of olk, Long Island, in the state of New York, born on the 17th of December, 1734. His grandfather, Richard Floyd, immigrated from Wales in 1680, and settled at Setauket, Long Island. During his childhood, he was remarkable for frankness and truth, and for amiableness of disposition and urbanity of manners. He was an industrious student, and acquired a liberal education. During the prosecution of his studies, he preserved his health in its full vigour, by devoting a short period almost daily to the use of his gun, in pursuit of game, the only diversion to which he was ardently attached. This exercise gave his system a healthy tone, and enabled him to master his lessons with more accuracy than soine who confine themselves exclusively to their rooms, and become debilitated for the want of physical action. Upon the health of the body the improvement of the juvenile mind very much depends-exercise in the open air should not be neglected.

The father of William M‘Nicoll Floyd died before this son arrived at his majority, and left him an ample fortune. He managed it with prudence and economy, and when his country was doomed to pass through the fiery furnace of a revolution, he was one of the most opulent and influential men on Long Island. From his youth he had been the advocate of liberal principles, and opposed to the innovations of the British ministry, upon the chartered rights of the American colonies. As oppression increased, his patriotic feelings were more frequently and freely expressed, and when the Congress of 1774 convened at Philadelphia, he was an active and zealous member. By his uniform candour and purity of purpose, he gained the unliınited confidence of his constituents and of his country. His cool deliberation and calm deportment, under all circumstances, were well calculated to preserve an equilibrium among those of a more fiery temperament and of more rashness in action. The Congress of 1774 was re; markable for clear and unanswerable argument, calm and learned discussion, wise and judicious plans, and reasonable but firm purposes. The course pursued operated powerfully and favourably upon

the minds of refleoting men, whose influence it was important to obtain and secure.

Mr. Floyd also had command of the militia of his native county, and when the British attempted to land at Gardner's Bay, promptly assembled them, and repelled the invading foe. In 1775 he was again chosen a representative in Congress, and became one of its active and efficient members. He was emphatically a working man, and engaged constantly on important committee duties. During his absence at Philadelphia, the British obtained possession of Long Island, and forced his family to flee for their safety to Connecticut. His property was materially injured by the enemy, and his mansion-house converted into a military barrack, for the accommodation of the invaders of his country. For seven years he was deprived of all resources from his plantation, and was dependant upon his friends for the protection of his family. The year following he was again elected to a seat in the Continental Congress, and had the satisfaction of affixing his name to the declaration of independence, which he had advocated from its incipient stages to the time of its adoption. In 1777 he was elected to the first senate of the state of New York, convened under the new order of things. He immediately became a prominent and leading member, and rendered important services in forming a code of republican laws for the future government of the empire state, carefully guarding the rights of person and property inviolate.

In January, 1779, he again took his seat in the Continental Congress, and entered upon the duties of his station with the utmost vigour and industry'. On the 24th of the ensuing August, he resumed his station in the senate of his native state. Much important business was before the legislature, requiring wisdom, energy, and unity of action. To devise some plan of relief from a depreciated currency and a prostrate credit, was an important item. Mr. Floyd was at the head of a joint committee appointed for this purpose, and reported a plan that proved him to be an able financier and a man of deep thought and investigation. It was predicated upon a gradual and just system of taxation, to be carried into effect by responsible and honest agents, with good and sufficient sureties for the payment of all monies collected to the proper officer—the state treasurer. In October of that year, Mr. Floyd, Ezra L'Hommedieu, and John Loss were appointed by the New York legislature delegates to a convention of the eastern states convened for the purpose of devising some system by which supplies of provisions could be more readily obtained and preserved from the grasp of avaricious monopolists.

Immediately after the discharge of the duties assigned him, he again took his seat in Congress. On the third of December he was elected one of the board of admiralty, and on the thirteenth of the same month a member of the treasury board. By incessant application to the various duties that devolved upon him, his health became impaired, and in April following he obtained leave of absence. In June he repaired to the senate of New York, and was immediately appointed upon a joint committee to act upon resolutions of Congress, involving the important relations between the state and general government. He opposed, unsuccessfully, the plan of making bills of credit a legal tender, but had the pleasure in after life of seeing the principles he then advocated sanctioned and adopted.

In September he was appointed upon a committee of the senate to prepare a reply to the message of the governor. To effect a proper organization of the general government, was the anxious desire of the state legislatures. To confer upon Congress all necessary powers, strictly defined and plain to be understood, was considered the only safe policy to insure future safety. To this important subject the governor had drawn the particular attention of the members. The committee reported several resolutions on this point, which were adopted and forwarded for the consideration of the national legislature. They recommended the enactment of laws that should produce an equal responsibility upon each of the states to bear its pro rata proportion of the burden of the war, in the way and manner that should be devised by the general government. In 1780 he was again returned to Congress. In addition to the usual duties, he was instructed by an act of the legislature, together with the other members from New York, to obtain a settlement of the claims of his native state, and those of New Hampshire, to the territory now comprising the state of Vermont. This was a vexed question that required much industry and wisdom to manage. These were eminently possessed by Mr. Floyd, who, on that occasion, as upon all others, discharged his duties to the entire satisfaction of his constituents. He also, during the same session, introduced a resolution for the cession of the western territories to the United States. He also nominated, on the 10th of August, Robert L. Livingston as secretary of foreign affairs, who was immediately appointed to that important station.

In addition to serving in the senate of his own state, more or less every year, he continued an active member of Congress until 1783, when he joined in the general joy of triumphant victory and heartcheering peace, and was once more permitted to return and take possession of the ruins of his once flourishing plantation, amidst the congratulation of his numerous friends, all animated by the resplendent glories of LIBERTY. In order that he might repair his private fortune, he declined the urgent request of his constituents to consent to a reelection to Congress. He however continued to serve in the senate of his native state until 1788, when he was returned a member of the first Congress under the federal constitution... Worn out in the service of his country, he retired at the end of his term from the public arena, and once more entered upon the enjoyments of domestic bliss.

Being possessed of a large tract of valuable land upon the banks of the Mohawk river, then a dense wilderness, he commenced gradual improvements upon it, and in 1803 took up his final residence there. His friends often urged him to again become a member of the national legislature, but he declined entering upon any laborious public duties, except serving the district to which he removed one term in the state senate, and also of serving as a member of the convention of 1801, to revise the constitution of New York. He was four times a member of the electoral college of his state for the election of president and

vice-president, and in 1800 he travelled two hundred miles to give bis vote for his old companion and friend, Thomas Jefferson, in the dreary month of December.

He continued to improve his new plantation until he saw the wilderness blossom as the rose, and his mansion surrounded by happy neighbours, all basking in the clear sunshine of that freedom he had been instrumental in acquiring. Envy was a stranger to his philanthropic and patriotic bosom; he rejoiced in the happiness of the whole human family; he delighted in the prosperity of all around him.

In all things he was a practical man, free from pomp and vanity, and systematic in all his proceedings. When his purposes were formed, he prosecuted them with an unyielding energy that was seldom arrested or thwarted. He was possessed of a clear head, a strong mind, a good heart, a vigorous and sound judgment, matured by long experience and a close observation of men and things. He spoke but little in public assemblies, and rarely entered into debate. Happy would it be for our country if we had more men like William Floyd at the present day, instead of so many who talk more than they work. Long speeches hang like an incubús over our legislatures, and those who feel disposed, are prevented by them from doing the business of the people promptly.

In all the private relations of life William Floyd presented a model as worthy of imitation as that of his public career. He was warm in his friendships, and most scrupulously honest in all his transactions. His feelings and morals were of a refined cast, and the most rigid integrity marked his every action. He thought and acted for himself, and left others.to do the same. He marked out his path of duty from the reflections of his own mind, and pursued it steadily and fearlessly. For more than fifty years he enjoyed the full fruition of popular favours, and only one year before his death was elected a member of the electoral college. His physical powers were remarkable until a short time before his last illness. He was a man of middle size, well formed, and of easy deportment. He was dignified in his general appearance, and affable in his manners. For the last two years of his life his health was partially impaired, and on the 1st of August, 1821, he was seized with general debility, and on the fourth day he folded bis arms calmly, closed his eyes peacefully, and met the cold embrace of death with the fortitude of a sage, a patriot, and a christian. Although general Floyd did not possess the Ciceronian eloquence of ar Adams, a Jefferson, or a Henry, he was one of the most useful men of his day and generation. His examples and bis labours shed a lustre over his character, as rich and as enduring as the fame of those who shone conspicuously in the forum. He was an important link in the golden chain of liberty, and was so esteemed by all his associates in Congress. The working man was then properly appreciated. The most powerful orators of that eventful era were concise and laconic. Long speeches were as uncommon as they are now pernicious and unnecessary. The business of our nation was performed promptly, expeditiously, effectually, and economically. Let us imitate the examples of the patriots of the times that tried their souls, and preserve,

us.

in its native purity, the rich boon of liberty they have transmitted to

Let us emulate the virtues of general WILLIAM Floyd, and we shall be highly esteemed in life, deeply mourned in death, and our names will

survive, on the tablet of enduring fame, through the revolutions of time.

WILLIAM WHIPPLE.

[ocr errors]

A COMMON error that has gained credence among mankind, consists in a belief that to obtain a sufficient share of knowledge to enable a man to appear advantageously upon the theatre of public action, he must spend his youthful days within the walls of some celebrated seminary of learning. In the view of many, it is necessary for a young mau to commence his career under the high floating banner of a collegiate diploma in order to ensure future fame.

That a refined classical education is a desirable and high accom. plishment, I admit; that it is indispensably necessary, and always renders a man more useful, I deny. The man who has been incarcerated from his childhood up to his majority within the limited circumference of his school-room and boarding house, although he may have mastered all the sciences of the books, cannot have acquired that knowledge of men and things necessary to prepare him for action in private or public life. Polite literature is one thing, useful knowledge, fit for every day use, is another, and of vital importance. By proper application a man may obtain both, and that without entering college. The field is open to all, especially under a republican form of government. Franklin and Sherman, both humble mechanics, became finished scholars and profound philosophers without the aid of collegiate professors. I do not design to deteriorate the usefulness of high seminaries of learning, but to stimulate those who have native talent and cannot enjoy their advantages, to imitate the examples of those who have risen to high stations of honour and distinction by the force of their own exertions, unaided by these dazzling lights.

Among the self taught men of our country the name of WILLIAM WHIPPLE stands conspicuous. He was the eldest son of William Whipple, and born at Kittery, Maine, in 1730. He was educated in a common English school, where he was taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and navigation. These branches he mastered at an early age, and was then entered as a cabin boy on board of a merchant vessel, which was in accordance with the wishes of his father and his own inclination. Before he arrived at the age of twenty-one years, he rose to the station of captain and made several successful

voyages to Europe. Some writers have attempted to cast a stigina -upon his character at that era of his life, because, in a few instances, he participated in the slave trade. If they will learn the general feeling that

« السابقةمتابعة »