« AnteriorContinuar »
ten minutes before one o'clock, on the 4th of July, 1826, at the very hour in which, fifty years before, the Declaration of Independence was signed.
On the same day, about five hours later, died John Adıms, the great coadjutor of Jefferson, in passing the Declaration of Independence. As his great spirit took its flight, it left its footprint on earth in these his last words, Independence forever ; Jefferson survives.”
JAMES MADISON. JAMES MADISON, the fourth president of the United States, was born in Virginia, in 1750. Of his early life but little is known. In 1794, he was married to Mrs. Todd, widow of John Todd, Esq., a practitioner of the Pennsylvania bar. To the praise of his accomplished lady, it is known that, in her highest fortune, she did not neglect her early friends, but extended to all who approached her, those attentions which please the exalted, and inspire the humble with becoming confidence.
The first knowledge we have of Mr. Madison, is as an active member of the Continental Congress, at an early age. To him, more than any one else, perhaps, the people of the United States are indebted for the constitution under which they live. He was a leader in the Convention that framed it, and the most influential of its supporters in the Virginia Convention that adopted it. An interesting summary of Mr. Madison's opinions on the subject of confederation, will be found in the twentyfifth volume of the North American Review. These opinions were addressed to General Washington, in a letter previous to the Convention in Philadelphia.
At the outset of the federal government, Mr. Madison proposed a tax upon imported goods and tonnage. Much opposition was excited, but finally overcome by his arguments, and the measure agreed to. His plan favored the commerce of France, rather than that of Great Britain. This proposition was in 1789. In 1794, he submitted to the house his famous commercial resolutions. The substance of these resolutions was, that the interest of the United States would be promoted by further restrictions
and higher duties, and that provision ought to be made for ascertaining the losses sustained by American citizens, from the operation of particular regulations of any country contravening the law of nations; and that these losses be reimbursed, in the first instance, out of the additional duties on the manufactures and vessels of countries establishing such regulations. These were brought forward during Washington's administration. A correct estimate of Mr. Madison's worth as a public servant, induced Jefferson, when entering upon his duties as president, to appoint him to the office of secretary of state. At the expiration of Mr. Jefferson's second term, Mr. Madison was elected to the presidential chair; and on the 4th of March, 1809, he was inducted into the office of chief magistrate, with the usual formalities. If we may judge from the expressions of his inaugural address, the weighty responsibilities of the office now tendered him by the suffrages of a free people, were duly appreciated. But he shrunk not. With a steady hand, and an honest heart, he entered upon the discharge of his duties. The “orders in council’’ of the British government were in full force. Their effect upon this country was felt severely. Non-intercourse on our part was enforced. Various efforts were made on the part of each government for an adjustment, but ineffectually. The alienation of feeling, and real injury inflicted by commercial prohibitions, were perhaps greater than could have come of actual war. After frequent collisions, and protracted delays between the two governments, President Madison sent a message to Congress, recapitulating causes of complaint against Britain, and recommending a formal declaration of war, which was made June 18, 1812. During this year, at the commencement of the war, the president had a “talk” with the Indians, which may be considered as the manifesto of the American government, establishing the principles of its intercourse with them. It contained sentiments honorable to himself and country, and beautifully and appropriately expressed. About the same time, in view of a strong feeling of dissent to the war, shown by the Eastern States, the governor of Canada had the audacity to send an agent to New England, to propose measures dishonorable and schismatic. Mr. Madison brought this thing at once before Congress, without preferring any complaint to the British government. The effect was to inflame the American people against England, and to screw up the public mind to that pitch requisite to overlook the risk and expenses of the war. During the invasion of the capital by the British, the president retired into Virginia, and, for the time, established the government at Fredericktown, when he issued a proclamation calling upon all to unite their energies, in giving effect to the ample means possessed for “chastising and expelling the invader.” On the 17th of February, 1815, the president and Senate ratified the treaty of Ghent, and thus were freed from the horrors of a war declared just two years and eight months before. This event was followed by commercial treaties between the two countries on equitable terms. But English commodities were thus brought into successful competition with American manufactures. These demanded protection, and the president, jealous of the decline of manufactures, through British rivalry, soon recommended in his messages prohibitory measures and conservative duties. The expiration of his second term in the office of president now arrived, and Mr. Madison retired altogether from public life, and passed the remainder of his days in a dignified and honorable retirement, living in the strictest privacy at his seat in Montpelier, Virginia. In August, 1830, he wrote an admirable and conclusive letter on the agitated topic of nullification. It was addressed to Mr. Edward Everett, of Massachusetts. It indicates a familiarity with the constitution peculiar to him, and is worthy to be impressed upon the mind and heart of every citizen. During the latter part of his life, Mr. Madison was associated with Mr. Jefferson in the institution of the University of Virginia, and, after his decease, was placed at its head, with the title of rector. He was also president of an agricultural society in the county of his residence. Thus did he occupy his declining years. And on the anniversary of the day on which the Virginia Convention ratified the adoption of the constitution, of which JAMEs MAdison was the father, this philosopher, statesman, and patriot, sunk without a struggle to the grave, and his soul became a resident in the “spirit land.” He died at his seat in Montpelier, Virginia, on the 21st day of June, 1836, at the advanced age of eighty-six years. Peace to his memory !
JAMEs Monroe, the fifth president of the United States, was born in Westmoreland county, Virginia, September, 1759. His ancestors had for many years resided in the province where he was born.
When the colonies declared themselves a free and independent nation, James Monroe, now in his seventeenth year, was completing his classical education at the College of William and Mary. His youth precluded him from an active participation in the controversies which agitated the country. But upon the first formation of the American army, young Monroe, then only eighteen years of age, left college, repaired to General Washington's head-quarters at New York, and enrolled himself as a cadet in the regiment commanded by Colonel Mercer. The young cadet espoused the cause of his injured country with a firm determination to live or die with her struggle for liberty. He shared all the defeats and privations which attended the footsteps of the army of Washington, through the disastrous battles of Flatbush, Haerlem Heights, and White Plains. He was present at the subsequent evacuation of New York and Long Island, at the surrender of Fort Washington, and the retreat through the Jerseys. After having participated in the adversities of the gallant defenders of his country, he rejoiced with them in great and unexpected success.
At the battle of Trenton, he led the vanguard, and in the act of charging upon the enemy, he received a wound in his left shoulder, the scar of which remained until his death. He was promoted a captain of infantry, served, during the campaigns of 1777 and 1778, as aid-de-camp in
the staf of Lord Stirling, and endeavored to collect a regiment for the Virginia line, which was recommended by Washington, and authorized by the state legislature. This did not succeed. He then entered the office of Mr. Jefferson, at that time governor of Virginia, and pursued the study of the common law. He served as a volunteer during the two years of his legal pursuits.
In 1782, he entered upon a different field of action, as the supporter of a system of laws in a government he had fought and bled to establish. During this year, he was elected, by King George county, a member of the legislature of Virginia, and by that body elevated to a seat in tlie executive council.
On the 9th of June, 1783, he was chosen a member of Congress, and on the 13th of December took his seat at Annapolis; the same day on which, at the same place, the illustrious leader of the victorious revolutionary army resigned his commission. For three
years he was a useful member of the confederate Congress, and retired from Congress at the expiration of this term, as, by the articles. of confederation, no one was allowed to serve more than three years in six.
About this time, he formed a matrimonial alliance with Miss Kortwright, of New York city, a lady celebrated for her beauty and conversational powers, whose external accomplishinents, however, were surpassed by those of her mind, and those endearing qualities of the heart which cheer the gloom of existence.
In 1787, he established himself in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and, in 1788, he was chosen a member of the Virginia Convention to decide upon the federal constitution. He opposed its adoption in the form presented, proposing sundry amendments. Upon the death of the Honorable William Grayson, in December, 1789, Mr. Monroe was chosen to fill the vacancy thus occasioned in the Senate of the United States, which he filled until 1794. He favored the objects of the French revolution, and violently opposed President Washington's proclamation of neutrality. At the expiration of his senatorial office, he was appointed minister plenipotentiary to France. lle was received in that country with splendid ceremony by the National Convention, as one who strongly