« AnteriorContinuar »
descended from its lofty and legitimate eminence and planted its before unsullied feet in the obloquious quagmire of party spirit. Since that time partisan presses have been sinking deeper and deeper, until some of them, pro et con., have become so deeply planted in the filth and scum of personal abuse and political slander, that, to use a simile, Archimedes, with the mighty powers of his lever, could not raise them to their pristine elevation in half a century. So far were matters carried by his political friends against the public measures of Mr. Adams in 1800, that Mr. Jefferson was compelled, from a sense of duty, to rebuke the slanders that were uttered, in the following emphatic language, which becomes more forcible from the fact that his own private character had been shamefully attacked by those who supported his political opponent.
“Gentlemen, you do not know that man--there is not upon earth a more perfectly honest man than John Adams. Concealment is no part of his character-of that, he is utterly incapable. It is not in his nature to meditate any thing that he would not publish to the world. The measures of the general government are a fair subject for difference of opinion—but do not found your opinions on the notion that there is the smallest spice of dishonesty, moral or political, in the character of John Adams, for I know him well, and I repeat—that a man more perfectly honest never issued from the hands of his Crea
Mr. Adams proceeded to the conscientious and independent discharge of his présidential duties, prompted by the best motives for the glory of his country. His administration, however, became unpopuJar, and at the expiration of his term the democratic party triumphed, and he retired to Quincy, to once more enjoy the long lost comforts of retirement. Much has been written upon the causes that produced the political overthrow of Mr. Adams. To my mind the solution is brief and plain. His cabinet was not of his own choosing—he was too independent to bend to party management-he opposed the humiliating demands of the then self-styled democratic France—he advocated, most earnestly, the augmentation of the navy of the United States, and recommended the law for suppressing the venality of the press. In the two first points he was impolitic as the head of a party-in the two next, he did what all now acknowledge to be right-and in the last, he took the wrong method to correct one of the most alarming evils of that day—an evil that still hangs over our country like an incubus. The three last were the strong points seized upon by partisans, and were rendered extremely unpopular, and enabled his opponents to defeat his re-election. He retired with a good grace, and remained the personal friend of his rival until the day of his death. He supported the policy of Mr. Jefferson towards England, and approved of the declaration of war in 1812. In writing to a friend, in July of that year, he remarked:
«To your allusion to the war, I have nothing to say—but that it is with surprise that I hear it pronounced, not only in the newspapers, but by persons in authority, ecclesiastical and civil, and political and military-that the declaration of it was altogether unexpected
How it is possible that a rational, a social or a moral creature can say the war is unjust, is to me utterly incomprehensible. How it can be said to be unnecessary, is very mysterious. I have thought it necessary for five or six years. How it can be said to be unexpected, is another wonder. I have expected it more than five-and-twenty years, and have great reason to be thankful that it has been postponed so long."
He attributed the opposition of the eastern states to the war to the impolicy of the government in not cherishing the navy, and compared them to Achilles, who, in consequence of his being deprived of Briseis, withdrew from the Grecian confederacy. The augmentation of the navy was the ne plus ultra of his national policy, and had his views upon this point been carried out by our government, our nation would now have been mistress of the seas, instead of having scarcely armed vessels enough to protect the expanding commerce of our enterprising merchants—a fact that has become a by-word among other nations, and has often crimsoned the cheeks of liberal minded Americans.
Soon after his retirement he was offered the gubernatorial chair of his native state, but declined the honour on account of his advanced age--but continued to take a deep interest in the welfare of his country, and wrote many essays and letters in favour of liberal principles and American rights. After the retirement of Mr. Jefferson, a most happy, and interesting correspondence was continued between these two great apostles of liberty. In 1815, Mr. Adams had the gratifying pleasure of seeing his son at the head of the diplomatic commission to conclude a second treaty with Great Britain, which carried his mind back, with all the enthusiastic force of an old man's memory, to the scenes of 1782-3, when he had performed and executed a similar mission. In 1817, he was placed at the head of the list of presidential electors, and three years after was elected president of the convention that revised the constitution he had written forty years previous. The compliment was duly appreciated by him, but his infirmities did not permit him to preside over the deliberations of that body, although he imparted his counsels and aided greatly in the revision. This was the last public act of this great man—the curtain of the political drama then closed upon him for ever. Two years previous the partner of his bosom had gone to her final rest, which was an affliction most keenly felt by him. For more than half a century she had shared with him the pains and pleasures of their eventful career, and had always met the events of life with christian fortitude. Surrounded by friends who delighted to honour him, his country prosper. ous and happy, enjoying the full fruition of divine grace, which had produced the fruits of unsophisticated piety through a long life, political animosities buried in oblivion, his now frail bark glided smoothly down the stream of time until the fiftieth anniversary of independence dawned upon his beloved country. On the morning of the fourth of July, 1826, an unexpected debility seized him, and he was unable to leave his bed, but no one imagined he was standing on the last inch of his time. He was asked for a sentiment, to be given for him at the celebration on that day—"INDEPENDENCE FOR EVER," burst from his dying lips, which were the last words that he ever uttered, with a loud and animated voice. About four o'clock in the afternoon he expired—without an apparent pain, a groan, a murmur or a sigh, with a full assurance of a happy reception in that brighter world, where sin and sorrow never cross the peaceful path of the angelic throng. On the same day, and but a few hours previous, the immortal spirit of the illustrious Jefferson had left its prison of clay, thrown off its mortal coil, and perhaps took its kindred in its flight, and they together “ascended in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends they had loved and lost, and whom they should still-love and never lose, there to enjoy, through the rolling ages of eternity, the blissful scenes of angelic purity—the smiles and favours of their Saviour and their God.
This unparalleled combination of extraordinary circumstances produced a deep and unusual sensation in the United States and in Europe. The simultaneous departure of two of the noblest spirits that ever graced the great theatre of human life, illuminating the world around them with freedom-whose actions had resounded through the universe—whose mighty deeds had been and will continue to be a theme of wonder and admiration to the end of time-was an incident that seemed designed by the great Jehovah, to impress their precepts, their examples and their names upon the minds of men with all the force of god-like divinity:
Mr. Adams was a plain man; low in stature, not graceful in his movements, and was sometimes abrupt and repulsive. His manners were rather austere and unbending in public, but in the social circle, with his relatives and friends, he was familiar, pleasing and entertaining. He was not partial to ceremonious etiquette, and was averse to pedantry. Plain strong common sense he practised and admired. He spoke his sentiments freely, and could never have been transformed into a technical politican, even had he enjoyed the magic advantages of modern schools. His open frankness was proverbial, and he often alluded to it as one of his failings. When once in Stewart's room of paintings, he fixed his eyes upon the portrait of Washington, and then upon his own, and observing the compressed mouth of the former and the open lips of the latter, facetiously remarked as he pointed to it, “Ah! that fellow, never could keep his mouth shut.” This circumstance alone did much to enhance his unpopularity as a party politician.
In the brilliant career of this great and good man the reader must discover a higher and holier eulogy than language can express. For more than fifty years he served his country ably and faithfully in a public capacity, and continued to impart his counsels until the curtain of death shut him from the world. In all the relations of private life he stood upon a lofty eminence-beyond the reach of slander. The escutcheon of his social name was too pure for the approach of the foulest of all pestiferous atmospheres—that of party spirit
. And now, as his ashes rest in the peaceful grave, that hydra monster dare not impute to his actions in life a spark of political dishonesty or impurity of motive, however much he differed from other great men in his views, lest the voice of Jefferson should proclaim to them from the tomb-AN HONESTER MAN THAN JOHN ADAMS NEVER ISSUED FROM THE HANDS OF THE CREATOR.
This revered name stands associated with every amiable and noble quality to which mortal man can attain on this dim revolving ball of human action. A sacred halo encircles it, that renders it dear to every philanthropist and respected by the whole civilized world. I am aware that this merits cannot be enhanced by eulogy, nor could detraction ever tarnish the glory of his fame. I am aware that the whole magazine of language has been exhausted in his praise. I am aware that talents of the highest order, hearts of the warmest devotion, imaginations of the happiest conception, united with the most refined and thrilling eloquence, have portrayed, in bold and glowing colours, the fair fame of WASHINGTON. To delineate fully and clearly the virtues of this great and good man, would require an angel's pen dipped in etherial fire, and an angel's hand to guide it. His life cannot be too often reviewed; his examples cannot be too closely imitated. Like some magnificent scenes of nature, his history is
"Ever charming, ever new,
The prospect never tires the view." The lustre of his virtues was of that celestial character, that, like the luminary of day, it is seen and felt, but cannot be fully described. His picture is one on which we may gaze with increased delight, and discover new beauties to the last. His memory should be rehearsed by every print in our land; every new press and fount of type should spread, in glowing capitals, the name of the beloved, the illustrious WASHINGTON. The aged sire should impress it on the hearts of the rising generation; the mother should teach it to her lisping babe; the preceptor should point his pupils to this polar star of virtue, goodness and magnanimity; and the friends of union, liberty and order, should read often, carefully and attentively, the biography of the father of our country. These are deemed reasons sufficiently strong to prompt this humble effort to delineate the interesting career of the man who was first in peace-terrible in war—the friend of humanity--the HERO or AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE—and the founder of our country's glory. To me, the subject possesses a peculiar zest, fraught with pleasure and delight.
GEORGE WASHINGTON was born in the county of Fairfax, Virginia, on the 22nd of February, 1732. He lost his father at an early age, and to the wisdom of his mother he declared himself indebted for the correct formation of his youthful mind. Matrons of America, if the mother of Washington moulded his mind with such beauty and greatness, how much may you do to perpetuate, through your sons, the prosperity and happiness of your favoured country! Train their youthful minds in wisdom's ways; guide them in the paths of virtue and patriotism; teach them to love their country and its liberty; and to prize, dearer than life, the sacred boon of freedom that was nobly won and sacredly transmitted by the sages and patriots of '76.
Washington, during his childhood and youth, exhibited a strong and enquiring miwd. His habits were those of industry, perseverance and stability. He was assiduous in his studies and enriched his memory with solid and useful knowledge. He possessed a large share of merit and modesty, which gained for him the love and esteem of all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance. He was frank, open, generous, humane and honest. Nothing could induce him to utter á falsehood, practice deceit, or disobey his fond mother. He soared above the vain and trifling amusements that so often divert youth from wisdom's ways. He was designed to be a star of the first magnitude on the great theatre of action; he studied well his part before he entered upon the stage, and when the curtain rose, he was prepared for his audience, acquitted himself nobly, and retired amidst the plaudits and cheers of astonished and admiring millions.
His talents and merit attracted the attention of Governor Dinwiddie, who then presided over Virginia, the frontiers of which were greatly annoyed by the French and Indians. It was deemed necessary to send a messenger to them, demanding the reasons for their unprovoked hostility, and, if possible, to induce them to evacuate their forts, smoke the pipe of peace and disperse. Young Washington, then only twenty-one years of age, was selected to perform this important mission, which was fraught with dangers on every side. His path lay through a dense wilderness for four hundred miles, inhabited by roving Indians seeking for prey. He undertook the hazardous enterprise and arrived at his place of destination in safety. Whilst the French commandant was writing an answer to Governor Dinwiddie, Washington, unobserved, took the dimensions of the fort and returned unmolested. It was soon found necessary to raise a regiment of troops to arrest the bloody career of the savages on the frontiers. Washington was placed in command over them with the commission of colonel, and marched towards the Great Meadows in April, 1754. On his way he surprised and captured a body of the enemy. On his arrival at the Great Meadows he erected a small stockade fort, very appropriately naming it Fort Necessity. Here he was reinforced, swelling his little army to four hundred men. He then made preparations to attack Fort Du Quesne (now Pittsburgh,) but soon learned that the enemy was advancing upon him to the number of 1500 men, commanded by M. de Villiers. The attack was soon commenced with great fury, and continued for several hours, when the French commander offered terms of capitulation and was glad to permit the young champion to march
away unmolested. This brilliant and bold adventure placed the talents of Washington high on the scale of eminence, as a bold,