صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

severe.

the adherents of the crown and the patriots in the assembly had been

The able letters written by their delegates in the national legislature had great weight in the colonial council, and the affair at Lexington admitted of no extenuation. The first decided vote in favour of the cause, then in embryo, obtained in the Maryland legislative body, was on the 28th of May preceding the declaration, when their chaplain was directed to omit praying for the king. This was a sore cut upon the dignity of his majesty, and, as trifling as it may seem, had a potent effect upon the people. It convinced them that if the king had forfeited all claims to the prayers of his subjects, he was not pure enough to direct their destinies, and with one accord de. clared, "we will not have this man to rule or reign over us.”

When the glorious 4th of July, 1776, arrived, Mr. Paca was in his place, fully prepared to sanction the Magna Charta of American freedom by his vote and signature, and enrolled his name among the great apostles of LIBERTY, whose fame will continue to rise in peerless majesty until the last trump of time shall sound its final blast and the elements be dissolved in fervent heat.

On his retirement from Congress, in 1778, Mr. Paca was appointed chief judge of the superior court of Maryland, and in 1780 his duties were increased by the appointment of chief judge in prize and admiralty cases. He had proved himself an able statesman-his talents as a judicial officer shone with equal brilliancy. The acumen of his mind and his legal acquirements made him an able judge, his honesty and impartiality rendered him a popular one. He was a man of polished manners, plain but dignified in his deportment and graceful in his address, with an engaging, intelligent and benignant countenance, all combining to gain admiration.

In 1782 he was elevated to the gubernatorial chair of his native state. As chief magistrate he sustained a high reputation for usefulness and sound policy. He was a devoted friend to literature and religion, and did much to promote their prosperity. He inculcated the principles of political economy and governed the state with a parental

His wise and judicious course furnished no food for malice, was above the assaults of slander, and afforded jealousy no loop to hang upon. After completing his term he retired to private life, until 1786, when he was again called to preside over the destinies of his native domain.

In 1789 he was appointed by President Washington, United States district judge for the Maryland district, which office he continued to fill with dignity and respect until 1799, when he was summoned by death to appear before the dread tribunal of the great Jehovah to render an account of his stewardship. His life had been that of a good man, his final end was peaceful and happy.

Let his memory vered and his examples imitated. He demonstrated most clearly that moderation and mildness, tempered with discretion and firmness, govern better and more potently than angry and authoritative dicta

care.

be re:

tion.

GEORGE ROSS.

I HAVE frequently referred, in several of the preceding biographies, to the powerful eloquence of several of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. Of its nature, the reader should be correctly informed.

Rhetoric, as taught in the schools, as defined in the lexicons, and as practised in times of prosperous peace and leisure like the present, is not the kind that graced the Continental Congress.

Not to leave the reader to depend upon a picture drawn by my own fancy and imagination, I will present the delineation as drawn by those who saw and felt its influence, at the time it illuminated the legislative hall, roused men to deeds of noble daring, and gave freedom to our happy country.

One of the illustrious members of that body, John Adams, has said: "Oratory, as it consists in expressions of the countenance, graces of attitude and motion, and intonation of voice, although it is altogether superficial and ornamental, will always command admiration, yet it deserves little veneration. Flashes of wit, corruscations of imagination and gay pictures, what are they? Strict truth, rapid reason, and pure integrity, are the only essential ingredients in oratory. I flatter myself, that Demosthenes, by his action! action! action! meant to express the same opinion.”

Another eminent writer, who had often felt the force of this, the kind of eloquence exhibited by the sages of the revolution, in describing that of the illustrious statesman just named, remarked; "It was bold, manly, and energetic, but such as the crisis required. When public bodies are to be addressed on momentous occasions, when great interests are at stake, and strong passions excited, nothing is valuable in speech farther than is connected with high intellectual endowments. Clearness, force and earnestness are qualities which produce conviction. True eloquence, indeed, does not consist in speech. It cannot be brought from far. Labour and learning may toil for it, but they toil in vain. Words and phrases may be marshalled in every way, but they cannot compass it. "It must exist in the man, in the subject, and in the occasion. Affected passion, intense expression, the pomp of declamation, all may aspire after it, but they cannot reach it. It comes, if it comes at all, like the outbreaking of a fountain from the earth, or the bursting forth of volcanic fires, with spontaneous, original, native force. The graces taught in schools, the courtly ornaments and studied contrivances of speech, shock and disgust men when their own lives, and the lives of their wives and children, and their country, bang on the decisions of the hour. Then

the

au

words have lost their power, rhetoric is vain, and all elaborate oratory contemptible. Even genius itself, then feels rebuked and subdued, as in the presence of higher qualities. Then patriotism is eloquent, then self-devotion is eloquent. The clear conception outrunning the deductions of logic; the high purpose, the firm resolve, the dauntless spirit speaking on the tongue, beaming from the eye, informing every feature, and urging the whole man onward-right onward to his object--this, this is eloquence, or rather, it is something greater and higher than eloquence it is action, noble, sublime, and god-like action.”

This was the kind of eloquence that characterized the Continental Congress, and sounded an alarum that vibrated the souls of millions, and often drove back the purple current upon the aching heart. No long, no set, no written speeches were then crowded upon dience to kill time and make a show. Governor M.Kean, who was constantly a member during the revolution, remarked, shortly before his death, “I do not recollect any formnal speeches, such as are made in the British Parliament, and in our late Congresses, to have been made in the Revolutionary Congress. We had no time to hear such speeches, little for deliberation-action was the order of the day."

of the kind of eloquence above described, GEORGE Ross possessed a large share. This faithful public servant was the son of the Rev. George Ross, pastor of the Episcopal Church at New Castle, Delaware, and was born in 1730, at that ancient town. Under the parental roof, and under the instruction of his father, his strong native talents unfolded their beauties, and at the age of eighteen he became a good classical scholar. He then commenced the study of law with John Ross, an elder brother, in the city of Philadelphia, where he was admitted to the bar in 1751. In order to have more elbow-room he located at Lancaster, then a border town near the confines of civilization, and verging on the "far west.”

Noble in his disposition, agreeable and plain in his manners, learned and diligent in his profession, candid, honest, and just in his course, he succeeded in gaining the confidence and esteem of the people, and a lucrative practice. In addition to all this, in order to plant himself more firmly in his new location, he married Miss Ann Lawler, an amiable and highly respectable lady, who proved an affectionate and worthy companion.

He built his legal fame upon its legitimate basis, close application to his professional business unconnected with public politics. At the present day, many young men, unfortunately for themselves, when they are admitted to the practice of law, at once enter the political arena, for the purpose of obtaining professional notoriety and business. This conclusion is based upon false premises, and has prevented many from rising to a legal eminence that a contrary course would have gained. Sacred writ has declared, ono man can serve two masters." This is particularly the case with a young lawyer at the present day; the American revolution was a different thing. When he becomes devoted to the interests of a policical party, a tyrant that exacts the most abject and humiliating services, either his business, or that of the party must be neglected. Reflecting men know this, and aware that it requires close study and diligent application to become learned in the law, they keep aloof from young political lawyers. A few high toned partisans may employ them in small matters, but if they have an important case, the studious, industrious attorney, who has not imbibed the corrupting atmosphere of modern politics, is the man of their choice. A word to the wise should be sufficient.

It was not until long after his location at Lancaster that Mr. Ross commenced his legislative course. The time had already arrived when the people began to feel the smart of British oppression, and became more particular in selecting men of known worth, integrity and talents, to guard their interests against the machinations of an avaricious and designing ministry. They accordingly elected Mr. Ross a member of the colonial legislature in October, 1768. His reputation then stood high as an able lawyer and as a man of liberal views, sound judgment and decision of character. He at once exercised a salutary influence in the assembly, and took a bold and decided stand in favour of the people's rights. At that time it was the custom of the legislature to reply to the messages of the royal governor in extenso, or at large. Mr. Ross was appointed to prepare an answer to one of these documents at the first session of his service. In that as at all subsequent times, he boldly objected to every proposition that he considered impolitic or in opposition to the rights and best interests of the people. He became a faithful and fearless sentinel, a vigorous and able champion in the cause of liberty. He continued to serve in the legislature of his own colony until he was elected to Congress. He was one of the committee that prepared a consonant reply to the speaker of the bouse of burgesses of Virginia in answer to the resolutions recommending a general convention of delegates to deliberate upon the condition of the country. In every leading measure in favour of freedom, he was among the leading men.

In 1774, he was appointed a delegate to the Congress convened at Philadelphia, and repaired promptly to the post of duty. He was one of the committee of the assembly that determined on sending delegates to the general convention, and was appointed by that committee to prepare the instructions of that body to govern these delegates in their action. As these instructions are similar in their main features to those adopted by the other colonies, I here insert them that the reader may see that peaceable redress of grievances was all that was at that time contemplated by the sages of the revolution.

“The trust reposed in you is of such a nature, and the modes of executing it may be so diversified in the course of your deliberations, that it is scarcely possible to give you particular instructions respecting it. We shall therefore only in general direct, that you are to meet in Congress the committees of the several British colonies at such time and place as shall be generally agreed on, to consult together on the present critical and alarming situation and state of the colonies, and that

you, with them, exert your utmost endeavours to form and adopt a plan which shall afford the best prospect of obtaining a redress of American grievances, ascertaining American rights, and establishing that union and harmony which is most essential to the welfare and happiness of both countries. And in doing this, you are strictly charged to avoid every thing indecent or disrespectful to the mother state.”

Under instructions like these the first general Congress assembled; agreeably to instructions like these that august body acted. All honourable means were used to restore peace on the part of the colonists that were required by the constitution of England, more was offered than reason and strict justice demanded. Nothing but an infatuation making men blind, deaf and dumb, could have resisted the appeals and consummate arguments in favour of chartered and vio. lated rights that were poured upon the king, the parliament and the people of Great Britain, from the deep, the translucent fountain of intelligence concentrated in the Congress of 1774. The members were determined to clear their own skirts of blood and

not draw the bow of physical opposition until their arrows were dipped in the liquid fire of eternal justice and fixed in the quiver of wisdom.

Mr. Ross was continued a member of the Continental Congress until 1777, when ill health compelled him to retire. He rendered important services on numerous committees, and was a strong and truly eloquent debater in the house. He also served, when his congressional duties would permit, in the legislature of Pennsylvania, in which he continued to exercise an essential influence. The

governor and his friends were on the alert to thwart the designs of the patriots, and for some time presented a formidable opposition. To raise the foundation of this royal mass, Mr. Ross placed his whole weight upon the political lever, and contributed largely in breaking it up. He was a member of the colonial convention that commenced the new government, and one of the committee that prepared the declaration of rights on that occasion. He was chairman of the committee that formed the organization of the state government, and of the one that prepared the declaratory ordinance defining high treason and misprision of treason, and the kind and measure of punishment to be inflicted. Upon committees like these, his high legal acquirements rendered him an important member. He was a profound lawyer and an able statesman, and well prepared to aid in laying deep the foundations of rational liberty

On the 19th of July, 1779, he was appointed judge of the court of admiralty for Pennsylvnnia, and in July following was called suddenly and unexpectedly to witness the untried scenes of a boundless eternity. His death was occasioned by an excruciating attack of the gout.

Thus in the full career of life and usefulness, rising on the wings of fame, flushed with the hopes of liberty for his country, pressing right onward towards the goal of freedom, an arrow from the quiver of death pierced his patriotic heart and consigned him to the insatiate tomb. There his dust reposes in peace whilst the lustre of his examples when living will continue to shine and will be admired by millions yet unborn.

Immediately after he closed his legislative career, the citizens of Lancaster county passed two resolutions of the following tenor.

« السابقةمتابعة »