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The history of republics furnishes us with but few instances of men, however distinguished for talents, continuing from youth to old age as successful politicians. Pericles, who governed Athens in the days of her glory for nearly forty years, is an exception which only proves the rule ; for he stands alone in the annals of Greece. Others, of equal fame, have felt the chances and changes of a free government. Miltiades, who had saved his country by his consummate military prowess, in fighting the battle of Marathon, experienced the ingratitude of a republic, and died in prison. Æschylus, the father of tragic writers, and the great improver of the scenic art, after having distinguished himself as a warrior at Marathon, Platea, and Salamis, was charged with impiety in his writings, because he was too sublime for the comprehension of the mass of the people, and was sentenced to death by those whom he had instructed and defended. He was pardoned by means of a brother's eloquence, but retired in disgust from an ungrateful people. Aristides the Just was exiled by the ostracism for many years, through the machinations of his political opponents: the perpetual agitations of a republic carry one up on the flood who is often in turn swept down as the tide recedes. This has too often been the case in this great republic of ours:
we have seen statesmen give way to
There politicians, and patriots to demagogues : but to the honor of the "ancient dominion” it must be acknowledged, that she has been less subject to change and caprice, than any of her sister states. She has in most instances been true to her men of talents, and found her reward in the influence they have acquired in the councils of the nation, and sustained in every change of policy. Among her sons whom she has delighted to honor, and who have reaped the reward of her constancy, is James Monroe. For more than half a century, he was daily before the public, and in that period has filled more important offices than any other man in the United States.
James Monroe was born in Westmoreland county, Virginia, on the 28th of April, 1758. His ancestors came to this country among the early settlers, and he was born on the paternal acres first meted out to them. He was educated at William and Mary col- , lege, and was graduated in 1776. On leaving college, he took the law for a profession; but before he had read Coke upon Lyttleton, the military spirit, then firing the breasts of all our distinguished young men, created a sever in his veins, and he entered as a cadet in a corps then organizing under the gallant General Mercer, of Virginia. He was soon after appointed a lieutenant, and joined the army at New York. The campaign of 1776 was disastrous in the extreme. In four months after the declaration of independence, the Americans had been beaten in seven battles, and dismay and despair hung around them. Lieutenant Monroe took a part in the engagements at Harlaem heights, and at White Plains, and was with the army in their distressing retreat through the Jerseys. He was with Washington when the general crossed the Delaware, and made
the successful attack on the Hessians at Trenton, on the morning of the 26th of December, 1776, which masterly movement saved the country. It was one of doubtlul issue; and Washington had prepared to return to the interior of Pennsylvania, it unsuccessful. This blow was unexpected to the British ; until this moment they considered the country as virtually conquered, and their fighting at an end. The victory of Trenton was followed by that of Princeton, and the hopes of the nation began to revive, although thousands of the Americans were then in prisons ships and dungeons, treated with the greatest cruelty, to intimidate them to subjection ;-but from their ashes was lighted up the unquenchable fire of indignation and revenge. In the battle of Trenton, Lieutenant Monroe was wounded in the shoulder, fighting gallantly in the van of the army. He was at once promoted to a captaincy. On recovering from his wounds, he was invited to act as aid to Lord Sterling, and served with him two campaigns, in which he saw much service, having been in the bat, tles of Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. Not thinking the staff the proper place for promotion for one who sought glory in arms, he was desirous of obtaining the command of a regiment; for this purpose he repaired to his native state, with strong recommendations from the commander-in-chief, and applied to the legislature for leave to raise a regiment of which he was to have the command. From the exhausted state of Virginia, he failed of raising his corps, and did not return to the army, but entered the office of Mr. Jefferson, as a student at law. With Mr. Jefferson, Major Monroe found an extensive library, and in him had a sage adviser. International law was then closely studied; for the young and the
old made themselves masters of this subject, as well as the rights of men in every civil community, that in every situation they might be able to vindicate the cause they were pursuing. At this time there was no practice at the bar; and of course his time was not frittered away by painful attention to the drudgery of smaller business, so common in offices at the present day.
In 1780, Mr. Jefferson, being governor of Virginia, sent Mr. Monroe as a commissioner to the southern army, under de Kalb, to ascertain its effective force, its wants, and ulterior prospects.
In 1782, Mr. Monroe was elected a member of the legislature of Virginia, and the next year, after serying in the executive council, was sent to the continental congress, when only twenty-four years old. In this body he proved himself a business man; and and for three years labored indefatigably in the arduous duties of this station. While in congress, he saw that the independence of the country was barely achieved, not secured, if the loose way they had of raising a revenue was still continued, for it was quite optional with each state, to what degree and when they would collect their proportions of the means necessary to support the government; and he introduced resolutions to invest congress with the power to regulate trade with all the states, which was probably the germ of our present constitution.
After leaving congress he was again in the legislature of his native state, taking a very active part in the deliberations of that body, which was engaged in a revision of their laws, which required, like those of other commonwealths, a conformity to the state of the times. His good sense was brought to bear on these subjects, as was evinced by the share he took