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the litigated points in controversy, and was well acquainted with the relative feelings and situation of the two countries. When the question of liberty or slavery was fairly placed before the people of his adopted land, he declared himself in favour of the latter. Knowing as he did the superior physical force of Great Britain and the com parative weakness of the colonies, their freedom, at first, seemed to him a paradox. His doubts upon the subject were removed in 1775, by the enthusiasm exhibited by the patriots, and by the lucid demonstrations of Lyman Hall, a bold and fearless advocate of equal rights, with whom he became intimate. Convinced from the beginning of the justice of the cause, and now convinced of its feasibility, he soon became a public champion in its favour. He had counted the cost, he had reyolved in his mind the dangers that would accumulate around his family, himself and his property, which he truly predicted would be destroyed by his enemies, and had deliberately and nobly resolved to risk his life, his fortune and his sacred honour, in defence of chartered rights and constitutional franchises.
He enrolled himself among the leaders of the popular party and became a conspicuous and active member of public meetings, and of the several revolutionary committees. For some time after the other colonies had united in a concert of action against the common enemy, that of Georgia refused to join them. She stood perched upon the pivot of uncertainty, indeterminate, irresolved and doubting. Some of her noblest sons had become shining lights in the glorious cause, the fire of patriotism was extending, oppression was increasing, and, at length, the cry of blood was heard from Lexington. The work was done. Like a lion roused from his lair, Georgia started from her lethargy and prepared for the conflict. She resolved “to do or die.”
On the 2nd of February, 1776, Mr. Gwinnett was appointed a member of the Continental Congress, and took his seat in that venerable body on the 20th of the ensuing May. Although his constituents were now determined to maintain their rights at all hazards, the plan of independence was to the most of them more than problematical; a thing of visionary fancy, merely ideal, and not to be hoped for, much more not to be seriously attempted. The subject, however, gained new strength daily, and began to emerge from its embryo form. At this juncture, the Rev. Mr. Zubly, a colleague with Mr. Gwinnett, with an Iscariot heart, wrote a letter to the royal governor of Georgia, disclosing the contemplated measure, a copy of which was in some way obtained by one of the clerks and placed in the hands of Mr. Chase, who was proverbial for boldness, and who immediately denounced the traitor on the floor of Congress. The Judas at first attempted a denial by challenging his accuser for the proof, but finding that the betrayer had been betrayed, he fled precipitately for Georgia, in order to place himself under the protection of the governor, who had just escaped from the enraged patriots and was safely ensconced in a British armed vessel in Savannah harbour, and could render him no aid on terra firma. He was pursued by his colleague, Mr. Houston, but upon the wings of guilt he flew too rapidly to be overtaken. When the proposition came before Congress for a final separation from the mother country, Mr. Gwinnett became a warm advocate of the measure, and when the trying hour, big with consequences, arrived, he gave his approving vote and affixed his signature to the important document that stands acknowledged by the civilized world the most lucid exposition of human rights upon the records of history —the Declaration of American Independence.
In February, 1777, Mr. Gwinnett took his seat in the convention of his own state, convened for the purpose of forming a constitution and establishing a republican form of government. His activity in Congress, to which he stood re-elected, had already given him great weight, and he at once exercised a powerful influence in his new situation. He submitted the draft of a constitution which, with a few slight amendments, was immediately adopted by the convention. Shortly after this he was elevated to the presidency of the provincial council, then the highest station in the state, thus rising within a single year from private life to the pinnacle of power in the colony. At this time an acrimonious jealousy existed between the civil and military authorities. At the head of the latter was General M·Intosh, against whom Mr. Gwinnett had pitted himself the preceding year, whilst in Congress, as a candidate for brigadier-general, and was unsuccessful. His elevation and influence became a source of uneasiness to his antagonist. The civil power claimed the right to try military officers for offences that General M·Intosh conceived were to be tried only by a court-martial. Another root of bitterness between these two gentlemen took its growth from the promotion of a senior lieutenant-colonel, then under General M Intosh, to the command of his brigade, destined for the reduction of East Florida, agreeably to a plan formed by Mr. Gwinnett, which proved a disastrous failure. This was a source of mortification to the one, and the other publicly exulted in the misfortune. Under the new constitution a governor was to be elected on the first Monday of the ensuing May, and Mr. Gwinnett offered himself as a candidate. His competitor was a man whose talents and acquirements were far inferior to his, but succeeded in obtaining the gubernatorial chair. General M'Intosh again publicly exulted in the disappointments that were overwhelming his antagonist—a challenge from Mr. Gwinnett ensued—they met on the blood-stained field of false honour-fought at the distance of four paces
-both were wounded, Mr. Gwinnett mortally, and died on the 27th of May, 1777, the very time he should have been in Congress. Comment is needless-reflection is necessary.
The sacredness of contracts honourably and fairly entered into by parties competent to make and consummate them, should be held in high veneration by all. The individual and the social compact from the co-partnership of the common business firm up to the most exalted nation, are bound by the laws of God, of man and of honour to keep inviolate their plighted faith. A deviation from the path of rectitude in this particular, is uniformly attended with evil consesequences and often with those of the most direful kind. The party that violates its engagements without accruing causes of justification, and to advance its own interests regardless of those of the other, comes to court with a bad cause. I have repeatedly remarked, that the American revolution was produced by a violation on the part of the mother country of chartered rights secured to the colonists by the crown under the British constitution.
To enter into a full exposition of the relations between the two high contracting parties, would require more space than can be allowed in this work." A reference to some of the prominent points in a single charter, will give the reader an idea of the nature of the whole as originally granted, although some of a later date are rather more limited in their privileges than that of Rhode Island, to which I refer.
This charter secured religious freedom, personal liberty, personal rights of property, excluding the king from all interference with the local concerns of the colony and was virtually democratic in its features. One of the early acts of parliament, referring to Rhode Island, contains the following language. “That no person within the said colony at any time hereafter shall be in any way molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question for any difference of opinion in matters of religion that does not actually disturb the civil peace of the said colony.”. The feelings of the inhabitants from the time they received their charter up to the time oppressions were commenced by Great Britain, may be inferred from the following extract taken from the ancient records of the secretary of state of that province addressed to the king. “The general assembly judgeth it their duty to signify his majesty's gracious pleasure vouchsafed to us,” &c.; and also from the following extract of a letter written at a later period to Sir Henry Vane then in England. “We have long drunk of the cup of as great liberties as any people we can hear of under the whole heavens. We have not only been long free together with all English from the yokes of wolfish bishops and their popish ceremonies, against whose grievous oppressions God raised up your noble spirit in parliament, but we have sitten down quiet and dry from the streams of blood spilt by war in our native country. *** We have not known what an excise means. We have almost forgotten what
tythes are, yea, or taxes either to church or common weal.” In addition to other declaratory acts of parliament, sanctioning and constru. ing chartered privileges generally in all the colonics, one was passed in March, 1663, involving the very hinge upon which the revolution turned, as the following extract shows. "Be it further enacted, that no taxes shall be imposed or required of the colonies, but by the consent of the general assembly," meaning the general assembly of each colony separately and collectively. This single sentence of that act, based upon the British constitution and guarded by the sanctity of contracts that could not be annulled but by the mutual consent of the high contracting parties, solves the whole problem of the revolution. Living as the colonists did in the full enjoyments of these chartered privileges which had become matured by the age of more than a century, they would have been unworthy of the name of men, had they tamely submitted to their annihilation. To the unfading honour of their names let it be said—they did not submit. A band of sages
and heroes arose, met the invader sof their rights, and drove them from Columbia's soil.
Among them was WILLIAM ELLERY, a native of Newport, Rhode Island, born on the 2nd of December, 1727. His ancestors were from Bristol, England. He was the son of William Ellery, a graduate of Harvard College and an enterprising merchant, who filled many public stations, among which were those of judge, lieutenant-governor, and senator. Delighted with the docility of his son, he became his instructor and superintended his studies preparatory to his entrance in college. After these were completed, William entered Harvard College and became a close and successful student. He became delighted with the Greek and Roman classics and dwelt with rapture upon the history of the ancient republics. So great was his veneration for the ancient authors, that he continued to be familiar with them during his whole life, and became a lucid philologist in classic literature. At the age of twenty he took the degree of bachelor of arts, and then commenced the study of law. In that laborious field he was all industry and diligence, and was admitted to practice with brilliant prospects before him. Located in one of the pleasantest towns on the Atlantic, surrounded by a large circle of friends who desired his success, blessed with superior talents, improved by a refined education, esteemed by all who knew him, his situation was truly flattering. He possessed an agreeable and amiable disposition, a strong mind, enlivened by a large share of wit and humour, an urbanity of manners of a refined and polished cast, and an animation and life in conversation that dispelled ennui from every circle in which he moved. He was of the middle stature, well formed, with a large head, an intelligent and expressive countenance, moderate in his physical movements, and with all his vivacity generally wore a grave aspect. He was temperate, plain, and uniform in his habits and dress, and could seldom be induced to join in the chase after the ignus fatuus of fashion. For many years before his death, his wardrobe bespoke a man of another generation.
Mr. Ellery commenced business in his profession at his native town,
took to himself a wife, soon became eminent and obtained a lucrative practice. He was highly honourable in his course and gained the confidence of his fellow citizens and of the courts. Up to the time of the commencement of British oppression, his days passed peacefully and quietly along and a handsoıne fortune accumulated around him. When the revolutionary storm began to gather, the mind of Mr. Ellery became roused and a new impetus was given to his physical powers. His townsmen were the first among the colonists who had dared to beard the lion and unicorn. On the 17th of June, 1769, in consequence of the oppressive conduct of her captain, the revenue sloop Liberty, belonging to his Britannic majesty, and then lying at Newport, was forcibly seized by a number of citizens in disguise, who cut away her masts, scuttled her, carried her boats to the upper part of the town, and committed them to the flames under the towering branches of a newly planted liberty tree. This was a hard cut and thrust at the revenue system that contemplated taxing the colonies contrary to the letter of the constitution and charters granted by the laws of England. This act was followed by another on the 9th of June, 1772, in which blood was spilt—that of seizing and burning the British schooner Gaspee. This was made a pretext for more severe measures on the part of the hirelings of the crown, and a disfranchisement of the colony was recommended and urged upon parliament. Already was the revolutionary ball in motion. In the midst of these turmoils, Mr. Ellery was not an idle spectator. He declared for the cause of liberty and the preservation of those rights that had become sacred by age and had the high sanction of the laws of nature, of man, and of God. In 1774, he was warmly in favour of the project of a general Congress, and, in conjunction with Governor Ward, who was a delegate with Mr. Hopkins to that august assembly, approved of a suggestion already made in a letter from General Greene, “that the colonies should declare themselves independent." The same spirit soon became general in the province.
In 1776, Mr. Ellery was elected a member of the Continental Congress, and proceeded to the post of duty boldly and fearlessly, left by his constituents to act as free as mountain air. He had participated in all the incipient measures of the conflicts in his own colony, he now became a vigorous and active patriot of the national legislature. He was fully prepared to sanction, and well qualified to advocate the Declaration of Independence. An agreeable speaker, master of satire, sarcasm, logic, and philosophy, he exercised a salutary and judicious influence. He was an able member of committees and was immediately placed upon some of great importance. He was upon the committee for establishing expresses, upon that for providing relief for the wounded and disabled, upon that of the treasury, and upon the committee of one delegate from each state for the purchase of necessaries for the army. He was also upon the marine committee, and was a warm advocate for the navy. His constituents were many of them bold mariners, and he felt a just pride in referring to his fellow-citizen, commodore Ezek Hopkins, of Rhode Island, as the first commander of the little fleet of the infant Republic. It was him