صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

of America was liable to be arrested and carried to England to be tried, when accused of high crimes. By the 5th of George the Second, ch. 23d, the colonists were prohibited from exporting hats, and hatters were even limited as to the number of apprentices they should keep to learn this trade; in order, as the statute declares, “that hatting may be better encouraged in Great Britain.” The other acts referred to infringements of sundry local arrangements of the colonies equally obnoxious with the above; and when the final list of grievances was completed at a subsequent time, many statutes under George the Third were complained of as violating the constitution of England and the charters predicated upon it, which had grown sacred by long and acknowledged usage, by learned and legal construction, and by numerous declaratory acts of the British parliament, passed when sitting under the mantle of reason, equity, justice and sound policy.

By these instructions, directly from the people, we can judge of the feeling that pervaded the great mass of the yeomanry at that time; and by referring to the instructions given to the delegates appointed by the assembly of the province to Congress, it will be seen that royal influence still pervaded that body, as they contain scarcely a definite feature or point similar to those from the primary convention of the people. *

So fully convinced was Mr. Smith of the issue between the colonies and mother Britain, that on his return home he immediately raised a company of volunteers, and was elected its captain by acclamation. This was the pioneer company of Pennsylvania, raised for the purpose of resisting tyranny. This company was organized about nine months before the bloody affair at Lexington; showing deep penetration and sagacious foresight in its original. He introduced thorough discipline in the corps, and imparted to its members the same holy fire of patriotism that was illuminating his own soul. Around this military nucleus accumulating force continued to increase, until it formed a regiment. Mr. Smith accepted the honorary title of its colonel, but imposed the actual commanding duties upon a younger man.

He had given a momentum to the ball, and was gratified to see it rolling onward towards the temple of liberty with an increased impetus.

Mr. Smith was a member of the next convention that convened in January, 1775, at Philadelphia. He was among the foremost to oppose force to force, and peril life for freedom. He was then called an ultra whig, and considered as treating the government of his majesty with disrespect. His patriotism had carried him six months in advance of most of the leading men, and no one could outstrip him in zeal for the cause of equal rights. His course was onward-right onward to action. For this the time soon arrived. During the year 1775 he took a conspicuous part in public measures, and in the spring of the ensuing year was appointed upon a committee, with Dr. Rush and Colonel Bayard, to organize a camp of four thousand five hundred troops, to be raised in Pennsylvania. No man was better calculated to render efficient aid in this important business. The committee

* See them at large in the biography of George Ross.

immediately prepared, and, under the sanction of Congress, published an address to the volunteer and yeomen military of Pennsylvania, urging them to rally under the standard of liberty. In order that the reader may have a sample of every kind of proceeding and address that characterized the revolution that gave to us freedom, I insert an extract from this.

“We need not remind you that you are now furnished with new motives to animate and support your courage. You are not about to contend against the power of Great Britain in order to displace one set of villains to make room for another. Your arms will not be enervated in the day of battle with the reflection that you are to risk your lives or shed your blood for a British tyrant, or that your posterity will have your work to do over again. You are about to contend for permanent freedom, to be supported by a government which will be derived from yourselves, and which will have for its object, not the emolument of one man or class of men only, but the safety, liberty and happiness of every individual in the community. We call upon you, therefore, by the respect and obedience which are due to the authority of the UNITED COLONIES, to concur in this important measure. The present campaign will probably decide the fate of America. It is now in your power to immortalize your names by mingling your achievements with the events of the year 1776-a year which, we hope, will be famed in the annals of history to the end of time, for establishing, on a lasting foundation, the liberties of one quarter of the globe. Remember the honour of our colony is at stake. Should you desert the common cause at the present juncture, the glory you have acquired by your former exertions of strength and virtue will be tarnished; and our friends and brethren, who are now acquiring laurels in the most remote parts of America, will reproach us, and blush to own themselves natives or inhabitants of Pennsylvania. But there are other motives before you. Your houses, your fields, the legacies of your ancestors, or the dear bought fruits of your own industry and your liberty, now urge you to the field. These cannot plead with you in vain, or we might point out to you further your wives, your children, your aged fathers and mothers, who now look up to you for aid, and hope for salvation in this day of calamity only from the instrumentality of your swords."

This appeal had a most powerful and salutary effect, and met with a response from the people that drove the royal power from Pennsylvania like chaff before the wind. Simultaneous with the preparation of the declaration of independence in Congress, delegates were elected to raise the arch of a republican constitution and government over the keystone state. The members of the convention for this purpose convened on the 15th of July, and in the declaration of rights just promulged from Congress Hall, had a polar star to guide them—a master piece for a pattern to direct them.

In this convention Mr. Smith took his seat, and was immediately placed upon the committee appointed to prepare a declaration of rights. His ultraism had become an admired quality, and assumed the baptismal name of patriotism. His worth and zeal were now duly appreciated, and he became one of the most influential men in his state. On the 20th of July he was called to higher duties than those of the convention, by his appointment to the Continental Congress. This was as unexpected to him as it was pleasing to his friends. He immediately enrolled his name with the apostles of liberty upon the chart of freemen. Anxious to see the foundations of the new government firmly laid in Pennsylvania, he continued his services in the convention until the constitution assumed à visible form. He was one of the committee that remodelled the penal code. He was as humane in his feelings as he was ardent in the cause of his 'country. Justice and mercy were blended in his heart.

Early in October he assumed fully his congressional duties. The first part of the instructions to the delegation of the keystone state is worthy of particular notice; and if general obedience could be enforced, would be quite apropos at the present day. It is as follows:

“The immense and irreparable injury which a free country may sustain by, and the great inconveniences which always arise from a delay of its councils, induce us, in the first place, strictly to enjoin and require you to give not only a constant, but a punctual attendance in Congress.”

At the commencement of our free government, the will of the people was respected and obeyed. Their public servants were not then their political masters. Committee rooms were not then diverted from their proper use by partisan caucuses. The halls of legislation were not then the forum of personal recrimination and unparliamentary procedure. The mantle of infantile purity was then spread over those in high stations. Pro bono publico was the order of the daypro libertate patriæ was the motto of each freeman.

Mr. Smith obeyed his instructions to the letter. He entered heart and soul into the labours of the house and committee room. A dark gloom was at that time spread over the cause of liberty, and many of its warmest friends considered success a paradox. At such a time the sprightliness and drollery of Mr. Smith was a powerful antidote against despondency. Always cheerful and elastic, always seasoning his conversation and speeches in the forum with original wit and humour, he inparted convivial life to those around him. Amidst the waves of misfortune and the breakers of disappointment, he floated like a buoy on the ocean, above them all. The following letter written to his wife, when General Howe was bending his triumphant course towards Philadelphia, from which place Congress was soon after compelled to retreat before him, shows that no hyppish feelings pervaded his imagination.

"If Mr. Wilson should come through York, give him a flogging-he should have been here a week ago. I expect, however, to come home before election-my three months are nearly up. General left this on Thursday, I wrote to you by Colonel Kennedy,

“This morning I put on the red jacket under my shirt. Yesterday I dined at Mr. Morris's, and got wet going home and my shoulder got troublesomebut by running a hot smoothing iron over it three times,

it got better. This is a new and cheap cure. My respects to all friends and neighbours—my love to the children. I am your loving husband, whilst

“JAMES SMITH. “Congress Chamber, 11 o'clock."

On the 23d of November, he was on the committee with Messrs. Clymer, Chase, and Stockton, appointed to devise means for reinforcing the American army, and for arresting the victorious and destructive career of General Howe. The powers of this committee were soon after very properly transferred to Washington. Mr. Smith was also on the committee that laid before Congress the testimony of the inhuman treatment of the British towards the American prisoners at New York.

Having suffered severe losses by being absent from his private business, he declined a re-election to Congress for the ensuing year, but was made to understand by his constituents that he was public property and must be used. He was continued at his post and abated none of his zeal. So devoted was he in the service of his country, that when Congress was compelled to fly to York, his place of residence, he closed his office against his clients and gave it up to the board of war. He sacrificed every private consideration that he believed would promote the public good.

In November, 1778, he resigned his seat in Congress, and once more enjoyed for a season the comforts of retirement. He deemed his advanced age an ample excuse, after he was convinced that the independence of his country was rendered doubly sure by the French alliance.

In 1780, Mr. Smith was induced to take a seat in the legislature of his state. He entered upon his duties with the same activity that had characterized his whole public career. After completing his term of service he retired finally from political life. He continued to pursue his professional business with great success and profit, until 1800, having been an active member of the bar for sixty years. His eccentricity, wit and humour, retained their originality to the last years of his existence. He was a great admirer of the illustrious Washington. A castigation from his ironical tongue, was the sure consequence to any one, at any time or place, who spoke against religion or Washington, two points upon which he was extremely sensitive. The former he adored, the latter he revered. He corresponded regularly with Franklin, Samuel Adams, and several others of the patriarch patriots, and had preserved a valuable cabinet of letters from those apostles of liberty, which was destroyed by fire, with his office and its contents, about a year before his death. Surrounded by an affectionate family and a large circle of ardent and admiring friends, this happy son of Erin glided smoothly down the stream of life until the eleventh day of July, 1806, when his frail bark was anchored in the bay of death, and his immortal spirit was transferred to the realms of glory.

In life he had lived usefully and esteemed; in his exit from earth he left a blank not readily filled. His public and private reputation were untarnished and unsullied. He had contributed much towards the freedom of his country; he was the life of every circle in which he moved. Ennui could not live in his presence. He was warm hearted, kind, and affectionate, and a friend to the poor. He never entertained malice, but used his enemies very much as a playful kitten does a mouse-teasing without a desire to hurt them-a propensity that rendered him more formidable than a knight of the sword and pistols. Such pure originals as JAMES SMITH are like the inimitable paintings of the ancient artists-few in market and difficult to be copied.

JOSEPH HEWES.

The cardinal virtue of charity, like the patriotism of 76, is more frequently professed than practised. It is placed at the head of all the christian virtues by St. Paul, one of the ablest divines that ever graced a pulpit or wielded a pen. Charity is a child of heaven—the substratum of philanthropy, the brightest star in the christian's diadem the connecting link between man and his Creator-the golden chain that reaches from earth to mansions of bliss. It spurns from its presence the scrofula of green-eyed jealousy—the canker of self-tormenting envy—the tortures of heart-chilling malice, and the typhoid of foaming revenge. It neutralizes and tames the fiercer passions of man and prepares him for that brighter world where this darling attribute reigns triumphant without a rival. Could its benign influence reach the hearts of all mankind, the partition walls of sectarianism would crumble and disappear-national and individual happiness would increase, and many of the dark clouds of human woe and misery would vanish before its heart-cheering and soul-enlivening rays, like the morning fog before the rising sun. It is a true and impartial mirror set in the frame of love and resting on equity and justice.

These preliminary remarks are elicited from a review of the life of the subject of this biographette, whose father was among the persecuted Quakers of New England, and was compelled to fly from Connecticut to New Jersey in consequence of his religious tenets. It is an inconsistency of human nature that when those who have suffered by religious persecution from superior force obtain the reigns of power, they often become the persecutors of all who will not succumb to their authority and dogmatical notions. In the biography of Charles Carroll the reader has recognised one example. Under the administration of the Cambridge Platform," commenced by the ecclesiastical convention of New England in 1646, and completed in 1648, a sterner policy was pursued towards the Quakers than against the Roman Catholics. On this “Platform” the municipal and legislative regulations were based for about sixty years. In 1656, the legislature of Massachusetts passed a law prohibiting every master of a vessel from

« السابقةمتابعة »