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who survive him. Influenced as these sentiments, which we hold to be correct, and under the impulse of impressions to which we are proud to yield a willing obedience, we have ventured to prepare a biographical notice of Fisher Ames.
This distinguished personage was the youngest of a family consisting of five children. He was born on the 9th of April 1758, in the old parish of Dedham, a pleasant country town, situated in the county of Norfolk, about nine miles from the city of Boston. Descended from one of the oldest families in the state of Massachusetts, he was, in the strictest sense of the word, an American. In this respect, his blood was as pure from foreign admixture, as his spirit was free from foreign partialities. Although by far the most able and eminent of his line, he was not the only one of them who aspired to and attained distinction in letters. His father, a man of uncommon wit, acuteness, and worth, was a practitioner of medicine, high in reputation. In addition to the extent of his professional attainments, he was well versed in natural philosophy, astronomy, and mathematics. He died in Ju. ly, 1764, when the subject of this notice had but little more than completed the sixth year of his age. He also numbered in the line of his ancestry, the rev. William Ames, who fourished about the beginning of the seventeenth century, and was the author of a very able work, denominated Medulla Theologiæ, and several smaller tracts in polemical divinity. That celebrated English divine, unable to submit to the spirit of domination and intolerance by which he was assailed, under the authority of Christ's College in Cambridge, emigrated to the State of Friesland, where he was afterwards chosen a professor in their university. He was an active member in the synod of Dort, in the year 1618. That he might be still farther removed from that most galling of tyrannies, which interferes with the rights of conscience and the forms of devotion, he had made definitive arrangements for emigrating to Newengland, but was prevented by death in the month of November 1633. We mention these facts to show, that the family of Ames had been long distinguished by their love of freedom.
On the death of young Ames's father, his mother was left to experience the anxieties, and to struggle with the difficulties incident to the rearing of a family, in a widowed condition, and under straightened circumstances. As if inspired, however, with a presentiment of the future destinies of her son, she determined to bestow on him a liberal education. She accomplished her task, lived to rejoice in his prosperity and eminence, to witness the manifestations of his filial piety, and to weep, alas! over his untimely grave.
In a notice like the present, much that is important must be necessarily omitted. It is scarcely allowable, therefore, to exhibit even a transient view of the scintillations of genius in the morning of life, when they are so completely obscured by the lustre of its meridian. Were such a step admissible, it would be easy to show the early and rapid development of the faculties of young Ames--that he surpassed, in vigour and activity of intellect, the companions of his childhood, no less than the associates of his riper years.
At the age of six, he commenced the study of the Latin language. Here, the incompetency of teachers, and the frequent interrụptions he experienced in his scholastic pursuits, were serious barriers in his career of improvement. of his own mind, however, aided by a degree of industry, exemplary for his years, supplied the want of every thing else, and hurried him along in the road to knowledge. In the spring of 1770, his twelfth year being just completed, he was received as a student into Harvard College. Preparatory to his admission, he was examined by one of the ablest scholars of the country, who had long been a teacher of the learned languages. On this occasion, such was the readiness and accuracy he manifested, and such his acquaintance with the principles of language, even at so carly a period, that his acquirements excited admiration and applause. From that time he was considered as a youth of exalted promise.
During the years that are spent in college, the character usually begins to unfold itself. To young Ames, this development was highly honourable. Persevering in his studies, conciliating in his manners, gentlemanly in his deportment, and amiable in his disposition, he was equally the ornament and delight of the institution. From his strict subordination to dis
cipline, the correctness of his general conduct, and his distinguished attainments in learning, he became and continued a favourite with his teachers; while his associates were charmed with the affability of his manners, and the brilliancy of his parts.
Among the subordinate institutions of the college, calculated to minister to the improvement of the youth, was a society recently established for the cultivation of elocution. In this, young Ames discovered an object capable of awakening all his ambition; for even now, he coveted fame, and was warmly enamoured of the glory of eloquence. In the declamations which he practised under this establishment, he was early marked and admired for the propriety, energy, and elegance of his delivery. In specimens of lofty and impassioned eloquence in particular, his manner was peculiarly forcible and impressive. From the aptness of his genius for oratory, and the assiduity with which he devoted himself to its cultivation, he might soon be said to stand alone in the society. Discouraged and humbled by the acknowledged superiority of a youth so far behind most of them in point of years, his fellow students were at length induced to yield him the palm without competition. His orations, though mostly selected, were occasionally the production of his own pen. In these instances he manifested a capacity for the style and manner of the orator. Although he never offered himself a candidate for “ wreaths of rich Parnassian growth,” the invocation of the muse of poetry was sometimes the employment of his leisure hours. Even at this early period his compositions exhibited not a little of the same stamp and character which marked them so strongly in after life. They were figurative and sententious, highly animated and rich in ornament.
Amidst the dissipation, which notwithstanding the most strict and salutary laws, is too often attendant on a college life, it was equally the honour and felicity of young Ames to preserve his morals free from taint. Like the person of Achilles by the waters of the Styx, his mind was rendered invulnerable by a happy temperament and a virtuous education. This circumstance amounts to no ordinary praise. When vice approaches the youthful mind in the seductive form of a beloved companion, the ordeal is threatening and dangerous in the extreme. Few possesses the prudence and firmness requisite to pass it in triumphant safety. One of these few was the subject of this article. Those who have been accurately observant of the dependence of one part of life on another, will readily concur with us, that his future character derived much of its lustre, and his fortunes much of their elevation, from the untainted purity and irreproachableness of his youth. Masculine virtue is as necessary to real eminence, as a powerful intellect. He that is deficient in either will never, unless from the influence of fortuitous circumstances, be able to place and maintain himself at the head of society. He may rise and flourish for a time, but his fall is as certain as his descent to the grave.
As happily illustrating and confirming the preceding observations, we cannot resist the temptation of introducing, in this place, a few very sensible and well expressed sentiments of a friend to Mr. Ames, in relation to his early habits of virtue, and the influence they exercised over his subsequent character and standing in society. “ Young Ames," says this elegant writer, “ did not need the smart of guilt to make him virtuous, nor the regret of folly to make him wise. He seems to have been early initiated in that caution and self-distrust, which he used afterwards to inculcate. He was accustomed to say, we have but a slender hold of our virtues; they ought, therefore to be cherished with care, and practised with diligence. He who holds parley with vice and dishonour, is sure to become their slave and victim. The heart is more than half corrupted that does not burn with indignation at the slightest attempt to seduce it."
“ His spotless youth,” continues his biographer and friend, “ brought blessings to the whole remainder of his life. It gave him the entire use of his faculties, and all the fruit of his literary education. Its effects appeared in that fine cdge of moral feeling which he always preserved; in his strict and often austere temperance; in his love of occupation that made activity delight; in his distaste for public diversions, and his preference of simple pleasures. Beginning well, he advanced with unremitted steps in the race of virtue, and arrived at the end of life in peace and honour.” These are sentiments which we earnestly recommend to the youth of our country. They deserve
to be treasured up with care and guarded with more than miserly vigilance. They are precious beyond gold and pearl and jewels, and all that is comprised in the riches of the east. Besides shielding the earlier periods of life from those vices and dissipations, which sow the seeds and quicken the germ of future wretchedness, they will tend to crown a manhood of vigour, usefulness, and renown, with an old age of peace and honour, and to scatter blessings on the borders of the grave.
In the year 1774, when he had just completed his sixteenth year, Mr. Ames was admitted to the degree of Bachelor of Arts. He took leave of college, bearing along with him an equal share of affection and honour. To say nothing of the excellence of his scholarship, he was pronounced the most eloquent of the sons of Harvard.
The struggle of the American colonies for freedom soon afterwards commencing, rendered the times perplexing and perilous. They were peculiarly so for the youth of the country, who had yet their principles to mature, and their plan of life to shape and settle. Too young to be employed in the public councils, and not having a predilection for the profession of arms, Mr. Ames took no active 'part in the contest which ensued. His heart, however, with its warmest affections, and his whole soul, with its best wishes, were with the sages who toiled, and the heroes who bled, in the cause of Independence. Nor was this all. Juvenile as he was, his pen was frequently employed in anonymous addresses, calculated by their wisdom to instruct the patriot, and by their impassioned eloquence to animate the soldier.
Influenced no less by the wishes of his mother, to whom his obedience and piety were exemplary, than by the early predilection of his own mind, he had determined, almost from his childhood, on devoting himself to forensic pursuits. He did not, however, enter on the study of his profession, till the year 1781, when he commenced it under the direction of William Tudor, Esq. an eminent counsellor, of the city of Boston. The interim, from his leaving college to this period, Mr. Ames had in no instance misemployed or abused. On the contrary, he had passed it in a manner useful to the community, as well as ad