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dread Moloch, our country's glory has been too often sacrificed. No purity of heart, no brilliancy of talent, no pre-eminence of worth, save a man from the vile attacks of party spirit. Even Washington, the father of his country, often writhed under its withering lash. Some men seem born demagogues, and live under the influence of Gog and Magog during their whole lives.
As a member of the Continental Congress, Mr. Wilson acted well his part, and was esteemed as one of its most active and useful delegates. Coolness and consistency, marked characteristics of the Scotch nation, were the crimes of Mr. Wilson, on which his enemies based an accusation that he was not a pure patriot, and that he op posed the declaration of independence. But those who knew him well soon convinced the people of the falsity of the slander, and the character of this great and good man shone with renewed brightness.
On the twelfth of November, 1782, he was again elected to the national legislature, and the same year was appointed one of the counsellors and agents of Pennsylvania to attend the court of commissioners at Trenton, to which was referred the final determination of the protracted controversy between Connecticut and the Commonwealth relative to certain lands claimed by the latter within the Jimits of the former, situated in Wyoming valley.
The luminous and unanswerable arguments of Mr. Wilson, which lasted for several days, contributed, in no small degree, to influence that court to determine in favour of Pennsylvania, and put at rest for ever an angry litigation of years.
During the interim in which he was not a member of Congress he held the office of Advocate General for the French nation, which led him to the close investigation of national and maritime law. At the close of his services, the French king rewarded him with ten thousand livres. He was at the same time a director of the bank of North America, and had the full confidence of Robert Morris as a safe and able adviser in financial matters.
As an active, clear headed, and discreet member of the most important committees, Mr. Wilson stood in the front rank. He weighed every subject with a mathematical judgment, and traced all its bearings with the compass of wisdom.
He arrived at the desired goal with less parade but with more certainty than many others, whose zeal was more impetuous but not more pure than his. He sought more to bestow lasting benefits upon his bleeding country than to excite the huzzas and gaze of the multitude. Substantial usefulness is not always found in the foaming froth of popularity. It lives and is admired long after that transient vapour has disappeared and left its subject to repose in the peaceful shades of oblivion. Those who become inflated and rise by the power of party, vain pride and flattery, may soar aloft in the political atmosphere, followed by the eyes of thousands, but rely upon it, in a large majority of instances, their every action is dependent upon these subtile gases, and they will ultimately prove to be a mere bag of wind. Modest worth avoids etherial excursions; the terra firma of deep thought, calm reflection, and sound discretion, constitute its most congenial clime. It consents to launch into the revolving yortex of party with great reluctance, and nothing but a sense of duty to his country and fellow citizens, can induce a man of genuine merit to enter the vexatious arena of politics. How many such men are now in public stations, guarding the rights and directing the destiny of our nation, is a subject worthy of anxious and careful inquiry. If the people are not true to themselves, demagogues may easily ride into office who will not be true to them.
Mr. Wilson was one of the most useful members of the convention that formed our national constitution. He warmly opposed the appointment of delegates to Congress by the legislatures of the several states, and was powerfully instrumental in placing their election in the hands of the people. He was one of the committee which framed that important document, as first reported to the delegates. When this model of wisdom received its finishing stroke, Mr. Wilson warmly advocated its adoption. He was the only member from Pennsylvania of the national convention that framed the constitution who had a seat in the convention of that state convened to consider its provisions. His closing remarks in favour of its acceptance are worthy the attention of this enlightened age. They manifest a thorough acquaintance with human nature and with the circumstances that prompted many to dissent from its ratification.
"It is neither unexpected nor extraordinary, that the constitution offered to your consideration should meet with opposition. It is the nature of man to pursue his own interest in preference to the public good; and I do not mean to make any personal reflection when I add, that it is the interest of a very numerous, powerful, and respectable body, to counteract and destroy the excellent work produced by the late convention. All the officers of government and all the appointments for the administration of justice and the collection of the public revenue which are transferred from the individual to the aggregate sovereignty of the states, will necessarily turn the influence and emolument into a new channel. Every person, therefore, who either enjoys or expects to enjoy a place of profit under the present establishment, will object to the proposed innovation;—not in truth, because it is injurious to the liberties of his country, but because it affects his schemes of wealth and consequence. I will confess, indeed, that I am not a blind admirer of this plan of government, and that there are some parts of it which, if my wish had prevailed, would certainly have been altered. But when I reflect how widely men differ in their opinions, and that every man-and the observation
applies likewise to every state-has an equal pretension to assert his own, I am satisfied that any thing nearer to perfection could not have been accomplished. If there are errors, it should be remembered that the seeds of reformation are sown in the work itself, and the concurrence of two-thirds of the Congress may, at any time, introduce alterations and amendments. Regarding it, then, in every point of view, with a candid, disinterested mind, I am bold to assert, that it IS THE BEST FORM OF GOVERNMENT WHICH HAS EVER BEEN OFFERED TO THE WORLD.
Mr. Wilson was also a member of the convention to alter the constitution of Pennsylvania, where he acted a very conspicuous part in defending the elective franchise, as belonging exclusively to the sovereign people. The last vestige of aristocracy trembled beneath his powerful eloquence, and the last whisper of slander against his pure, unsophisticated democracy, was forever silenced and hushed.
The boldest features of liberal principles in the old revised constitution of Pennsylvania were penned by James Wilson; and, could his views have been fully incorporated in that instrument, I doubt much if a convention would ever have been called for its revision.
That the talents and integrity of Mr. Wilson were held in high estimation by Washington, appears from the fact, that he was appointed one of the first Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, in which office he continued until his death, discharging its duties with great ability, integrity, and justice. His manner was dignified, urbane, and pleasing.
In 1790, he was appointed the first professor in the law college of Philadelphia, and the following year, when the college and university of Pennsylvania were united, he was called to fill the chair. In 1791, he was appointed by the legislature of that state to revise its laws, but a disagreement of the two houses relative to the disbursements necessary to prosecute the work, frustrated the plan. As a learned and eloquent lawyer, he stood at the head of the Philadelphia bar. He was honoured with the degree of LL.D. and, during the first year of his professorship, delivered a course of lectures to the students. Towards them he was reserved and distant, another marked characteristic of the Scotch literati. His writings were vigorous and logical, and did much to disseminate just conceptions of a republican form of government. As early as 1774, he wrote an essay, portraying, in language bold and strong, the assumptions of the British parliament not warranted by their constitution, and painted, in fascinating colours, the blessings arising from a republican form of government and the enjoyment of equal rights. To a person unacquainted with the bitterness of party feeling, it must seem mysterious that any one could have been found so base as to accuse him of being an aristocrat. A purer patriot and an abler advocate for the cause of freedom did not exist among the statesmen and sages of '76. He several times passed through the
ordeal of severe and relentless persecution, but truth-telling time, in every instance, forced his enemies to retrace their steps, covered with shame and disgrace.
The private character of this truly great man was, in all respects, amiable and untarnished. It always stood beyond the reach of slander, a pure, unsullied sheet. As a friend, he was warm-hearted and benevolent; as a husband, kind and affectionate; as a father, discreet and exemplary; consistently indulgent, and faithful in imparting that instruction and advice to his children calculated to prepare them for future usefulness and respect.
In 1798, on the 28th of August, this venerable sage, eminent lawyer, able statesman, and profound judge, took his exit to that country from whose bourne no traveller returns,” in the fifty-sixth year of his age. He died whilst on his circuit, of stranguary, in the hospitable mansion of his colleague, Judge Iredell, in Edenton, North Carolina, where his ashes rest in peace beneath the clods of the valley.
In reviewing the life of this worthy man, no one can doubt his patriotism and purity. No one can doubt his devotedness to the American cause and his firm and uniform opposition to British oppression. Influenced, as he was, by the noblest motives; guided, as he was, by liberal principles, it is painful to reflect, that he was often wounded in the house of his professed friends, and placed under the castigating lash of persecution by those who had sworn to support the same cause he so ardently and ably espoused. The solution of the problem may be found in the present state of things, without travelling back to that time, of all others, when party should have hidden its hydra head.
At the present day, the dark intrigues of party are proverbial. Low cunning is practised by men in the same ranks, to over-reach an approaching rival, and all the machinery of slander put in requisition to destroy him. Is he a man of superior talents and worth? Means proportionably base must be resorted to, in order to insure his destruction and drive him from the course. Disgusted at such corruption, the very men best calculated to advance our dearest interests and add new lustre to our national glory, are those who most dread the political arena and shrink from the public gaze. How small a proportion of such men as James Wilson, Benjamin Franklin, and others of the same stamina, are now to be found in our legislative halls. We pay large sums of money every year for party legislation, and but a small proportion of business is accomplished, calculated to benefit our country. Let the people, the YEOMANRY, awake to this subject, and no longer be led blindfold towards the vortex of destruction. Unless we are true to ourselves, we need not expect purity in our legislators. The genuine salt grows less and less as time advances, and a dangerous carelessness is annually manifested in selecting men of proper industry and purity of moral and republican principles to transact our public business. Some of them are victims of the artful and designing, or are mere partisans, legislating for themselves and their immediate friends more than for the advancement of public good and national glory. These are facts that are self-evident to every reflecting, observing man, facts that demand our serious attention and timely correction, before the unholy leaven extends its baneful influence so far as to destroy our beautiful fabric of LIBERTY, and prostrate, at one bold stroke, the hopes of FREEMEN,
The fond and faithful parents who have guided to manhood family of sons whose every action is a source of pleasure and delight, who walk in wisdom's ways, who prove themselves to be bold, generous, brave, virtuous, and patriotic; whose lives shed new lustre upon the world, and whose achievements, on the battle field or in the senate chamber, place them on the loftiest, proudest pinnacle fame can rear, enjoy a rich, a heavenly consolation, pure as the etherial skies and cheering as the zephyrs of spring. More especially do their souls become enraptured with gratitude, if these, their sons, deliver them from the iron grasp of a merciless tyrant, disenthral them from the chains of slavery, and make them free and independent.
All this was done for our country by her valiant sons, who graced the memorable era of "76. Like a meteor bursting from the clouds amidst the gloom of midnight darkness, they illuminated the world with glory, raised the star spangled banner, and planted the treeof LIBERTY deep in the soil of FREEDOM. Sages and heroes of the American revolution! noble sons of Columbia's new world! your names will be held in grateful remembrance through the rolling ages of time, and millions yet unborn will rehearse your brilliant achievements and triumphant victories, with admiration and praise.
Among the sons of noble daring who stood forth the champions of their injured and bleeding country, was CHARLES CARROLL, of Carrollton, in the state of Maryland.
This good man, accomplished gentleman, finished scholar, and bold patriot, was born at Annapolis, on the 20th of September, 1737. He was the grandson of Charles Carroll, son of Daniel Carroll, of King's county, Ireland, the former of whom immigrated to Maryland about 1686, and located at Carrollton. The elder Carrolls were always found in the foremost rank of those who espoused the cause of liberal principles, and taught their sons to go and do likewise. Nor did the seed sown by them fall on a barren soil. Imitating the examples and obeying the precepts of his patriotic sire, young Charles proved himself worthy of the high source from whence he sprang. At the early age of eight years, his embryo talents shone so conspicuously that his father determined on giving them an opportunity to bud, blossom, and expand, amidst the literary bowers, and under the cultivation of a master's hand in Europe.
He was accordingly sent to France, where his advantages of acquiring an education were far superior to those then enjoyed in any of the infant seminaries of the colonies in America. His unremitting application to his studies and urbanity of manners, obtained for him a finished education and the esteem of his teachers and class-mates.