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After he had completed his education he spent nearly two years in travelling, making the tour of Europe. Familiar with the Greek and Roman classics, he enjoyed peculiar satisfaction in visiting Rome and other ancient seats of literature. He possessed an exquisite taste for poetry, music, and painting, and was well versed in all the technicalities of sculpture and architecture. After completing this tour he returned home. Soon after his arrival, he led the aniable and accomplished Miss Izard, daughter of Walter Izard, to the hymeneal altar.
About a year after, he embarked with his wife for England. After enjoying a pleasant season with their friends and connexions there, they visited France and Spain, and in 1773, returned home and located on his native spot, which his father bestowed upon him, placing him
at once in possession of an ample fortune.
Having resided so long in Great Britain, possessed of an observing mind, tracing causes and results to their true sou he was well qualified to aid in directing the destiny of his country through the approaching revolution. Rocked in the cradle of patriotism by his father, tracing its fair lines in the history of his ancestors, he acted from the genuine feelings of his heart when he boldly espoused the cause of liberal principles and human rights. The Middletons were the nucleus of the opposition in South Carolina. Unlike many others who mounted the stage of public action for the first time, untried and almost unknown, this family had been proved and their influence was felt throughout the colony, and was known in the mother country. Hence the importance of their services at the commencement of the doubtful struggle, and for the same reason they were peculiarly obnoxious to the creatures of the crown. Aristocracy, too often the attendant of riches, found no resting place in their bosoms. The very marrow of their bones was republican, and to defend their country's rights they freely pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honours.'
Arthur Middleton was a member of the different committees that were appointed by the people to devise means of safety. On the 17th of April, 1775, he was one of the committee of five, 'in South Carolina, that determined to have recourse to arms, and under whose direction the royal magazine was entered, in defiance of the king's offcers, and its contents put into the hands of the people for their defence.
On the 14th of June following, the provincial Congress of this state appointed a council of safety, consisting of thirteen persons, of whom Arthur Middleton was one. They were fully authorized to organize a military force, and adopt such measures as they deemed necessary to arrest the mad career of the royalists. Mr. Middleton was one of its boldest and most decided members, and appears to have been much chagrined at the temporizing spirit of some of his colleagues. That he possessed a penetrating sagacity as well as a firm patriot
from the following circumstance. During the session of the first provincial Congress of South Carolina, the new governor, Lord William Campbell, fresh from his majesty, arrived to enter upon the duties of reducing the rebellious sub
ie. In this engage
jects to subordination. He was all mildness and did not pretend to justify the oppressions of which the people complained. To prove his sincerity, Captain Adam M.Donald, one of the council, was introduced to Lord William as a tory from the upper country, who seemed anxious to have some means devised to put down the rebels. The plan succeeded. The governor desired him and his friends to remain quiet for the present, as he expected troops in a short time that would put a quietus 'upon the new fangled authorities.
When the report of this interview was laid before the council, Mr. Middleton, although nearly related to the governor by marriage, made a motion to have him immediately arrested and confined. This measure was too bold for his timid companions, a majority of whom voted against it. Soon after, his excellency retired on board a British sloop of war and did not venture to return until accompanied by Sir Henry Clinton and Sir Peter Parker, who showed more bravery than judgment in their unsuccessful attack on Fort M ment Sir William was severely wounded, and Sir Peter had his silk breeches badly mutilated by the unceremonious course of a rebel cannon ball.
On the 11th of February, 1776, Mr. Middleton was one of the committee that drafted the first constitution of his native state. Soon after this he was elected a member to the Continental Congress, taking a conspicuous part in its deliberations. Bold in all his movements, he advocated, and by his signature sanctioned the declaration of independence, then called by many the death-warrant of the fifty-six, but ultimately proving the warrant of LIBERTY, the morning star of FREE
Mr. Middleton was a man of few words in debate—these few words were to the point, and gave him a substantial influence in every legislative body of which he was a member. He stood at the head of the delegation of his state. He possessed a strong mind, a clear head, and a good heart. He exercised plain common sense, attending diligently to the business of his constituents and his country. He was on the most intimate terms with John Hancock and was by him highly esteemed. He remained in Congress until the close of the session of 1777. The following year he was elected governor of South Carolina, not knowing that he was a candidate until his election was announced. The mode was by secret ballot by the members of the assembly, who had not then learned the art of intrigue and caucusing-merit was the only passport to office-management and corruption dared not show their hydra heads.
For the same reasons that induced Governor Rutledge to resign a few days previous, Mr. Middleton declined accepting the proffered honour. These reasons were founded in objections to a new constitution, then before the legislature for adoption, and which required the sanction of the chief inagistrate of the state before it could go
into operation. Mr. Rawlins Lowndes was then elected, who approved the new form of government on the 19th of March, 1778. Political candour and honesty were marked traits in the character of Arthur Middleton. Noinducements could swerve him from the path of recti. tude. He weighed measures, men, and things, in the unerring scales
of reason and justice. He went with no man when clearly wrong, he concurred with all whom he believed right. Patriotism, pure and unalloyed, governed his every action. Discretion, the helm of man's frail bark, guided him in the path of duty. Philanthropy and love of country pervaded his manly bosom. He was sound at the core. His mind was pure and free as mountain air; his purposes, noble, bold, and patriotic.
In 1779, when the British spread terror and destruction over South Carolina, Mr. Middleton took the field with Governor Rutledge, and cheerfully endured the privations of the camp. He was at Charleston when General Provost attacked that place, and was found in the front ranks acting with great coolness and courage. Knowing that the plundering enemy would visit his plantation, he sent word to his lady to remove out of danger, but took no means to remove his property, which fell a sacrifice to the mercenary army. They did not burn but rifled his house, and several large and valuable paintings that they could not carry away they defaced in the most shameful manner.
At the surrender of Charleston in 1780, Mr. Middleton was among the prisoners sent to St. Augustine, and endured the indignities there practised upon the Americans with heroic fortitude. In July of the following year he was included in the general exchange, and arrived safe at Philadelphia. He was shortly after appointed a member of Congress, and again assumed the important duties of legislation. Soon after this, the last important act of the revolutionary tragedy was performed at Yorktown, where the heroes of the revolutionary stage and of our nation took a closing benefit at the expense of British pride and kingly ambition. With the surrender of Lord Cornwallis the last hope of the crown expired in all the agonies of mortification. Had a spirit of retaliation predominated in the bosom of Washington, awful would have been the doom of his barbarian, desolating foe. But he possessed a noble soul that soared above revenge. He sunk his enemy into the lowest depths of humiliation by kindness and generosity.
'In 1782, Mr. Middleton was again elected to Congress, where he continued until November, when he visited his family, from whom he had long been separated. At the declaration of peace he declined a seat in the national legislature, believing the interests of his own state required his services at home. He was highly instrumental in restoring order, harmony, and stability in the government of South Carolina. He was several times a member of its legislature, and used every exertion to advance its prosperity. During the intervals of his public duties he spent his time in improving his desolated plantation, the place of his birth, and of the tomb of his yenerable ancestors. He once more participated in the enjoyments of domestic felicity and fondly anticipated years of happiness. But, alas! how uncertain are all sublunary things. In the autumn of 1786, he was attacked with an intermittent fever, which paved the way for disease that terminated his life on the first of January, 1787, leaving a wife, two sons and six daughters, to mourn their irreparable loss. By the public he was deeply lamented. His memory was held in great veneration by his contemporaries. He had a strong hold upon the affections of his fellow citizens. Those who knew him best esteemed him most. In his private character he was a consolation to his friends, an ornament to society, a consistent, honest, and virtuous man. His wife lived until 1814, highly respected and beloved. The example of a good man is visible philosophy; the memory of departed worth lives undivided, operates unspent.
Among the strange freaks of human nature is that of inconsistency, showing itself in as many shapes and forms as are exhibited by the kaleidescope, but of a contrary character. One of its most odious features is persecution, prompted by jealousy and promulgated by slander and falsehood. Great and good men are often the victims of unprincipled and designing partisans, who stop at nothing and stoop to every thing calculated to accomplish their unholy desires. In recurring to the eventful period of the American revolution, we would naturally suppose that party spirit found no place in the bosoms of any of those who advocated the principles of liberty; that all were united in the common cause against the common enemy. This is the impression upon the minds of many, perhaps all who are not familiar with the history of the local politics of that period. But far otherwise was the fact. Many of the best men of that trying time were scourged and lacerated, and their noblest exertions for a time paralyzed by the reckless hand of party spirit. No one, perhaps, suffered more from this source, and no one gave less room for censure than JAMES WILSON.
He was born of respectable parents, residing near St. Andrews, Scotland, in 1742. His father was a farmer, in moderate circumstances, which he rendered still more limited by rushing into the whirlpool of speculation, a propensity which unfortunately seems to have been transmitted to his son. After receiving a good classical education, having been a worthy student at St. Andrews, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, James was finished under the master hand of Dr. Blair, in rhetoric, and of Dr. Watts, in logic. Thus fitly prepared, he immigrated to Philadelphia in 1766, with letters of high recommendation, and soon obtained the situation of usher in the college of that city. His moral worth, combined with fine talents and high literary attainments, gained for him the esteem and marked respect of Dr. Richard Peters, Bishop White, and many others of the first rank in society. Indeed, those who knew him best admired him most.
He subsequently commenced the study of law under John Dickinson, Esq. and when admitted to the practice, settled permanently at Carlisle, in Pennsylvania, where he exhibited powers of mind sur
passed by no one at that bar, and equalled but by few in the province.
A powerful display of his legal knowledge and Ciceronean eloquence at the trial of an important land cause between the Proprietaries and Samuel Wallace, gained for him an early celebrity in his profession. Mr. Chew, who was then attorney-general, is said to have fixed his eyes upon him soon after he commenced his speech, and to have gazed at him with admiring astonishment until he concluded. He was immediately retained in another important land case, and from that time forward he stood second to no one at the Pennsylvania bar. He removed from Carlisle to Annapolis, in Maryland, where he remained a year, and then removed to Philadelphia, where he obtained a lucrative practice.
Notwithstanding the liberal patronage of the public, his circumstances frequently became embarrassed by unfortunate speculations, to which he frequently became a victim. Amidst his severest adversities he frequently sent remittances to his mother, in Scotland, his father having died and left her poor. To the day of her death he manifested an earnest and commendable solicitude for her comfort, and used every means within his power to alleviate her wants and smooth her downward path to the tomb.
With the commencement of British oppression the political career of Mr. Wilson began. He freely spoke and ably wrote in favour of equal rights and liberal principles. He was an early, zealous, and able advocate of the American cause. Of a consistent and reflecting mind, he sometimes censured the rashness of those who were less cool, which laid the foundation for many unjust and malicious slanders against him, which, in the dark fog of party spirit, several times enabled his enemies to obtain a momentary triumph over him, but which were always fully and satisfactorily confuted.
In 1774, a short time previous to the meeting of the Continental Congress, the provincial convention of Pennsylvania convened to concert plans for the redress of wrongs imposed by the mother country, of which Mr. Wilson was a bold and efficient member. So conspicuous were his talents and so pure his patriotism, that he was nomi. nated by the same convention one of the delegates to the national assembly. His appointment was opposed by Mr. Galloway, who had long been his bitter enemy; but on the sixth of May, 1775, he was appointed a member of that august body. At the commencement of hostilities he was honoured with the commission of colonel, and was one of the commissioners to treat with the Indians. He was continued a member of Congress until 1777, when his enemies again succeeded in their machinations against him.
On the 4th of July, 1776, Mr. Wilson, with a bold and fearless hand, guided by love of country and motives pure as heaven, gave his vote in favour of independence, and subscribed his name to that matchless instrument which records the birth of our nation and liberty. That act alone was sufficient to confute the base slanders circulated against him, in the minds of all whose eyes were not covered by the baneful and deceptive film of party spirit. At the shrine of this