Imágenes de páginas

he fell in with general Caswell, and requested of him to give him, a flag, observing that, although a great part of the militia had behaved ill, yet many of them, as he must have observed, fought with distinguished bravery, and that a considerable number, in consequence, were wounded and made prisoners. They claimed our attention. The general advised him to send in some of the regimental surgeons, observing that his duty did not require that service from him. The doctor replied, that the regimental surgeons, such of them as he had seen, refused to go; being, as he suspected, afraid of the consequences. But, said he, if I have lived until a flag will not protect me, I have out-lived my country; and, in that case, have lived one day too long. To this observation, no reply was made he obtained a pass, and the necessary instructions.

He remained two months with the enemy in Camden, during which time he rendered very essential services to the prisoners committed to his care. Such, too was the estimation in which the medical skill of Dr. Williamson was held by the enemy, that during the illness of one of their general officers, in which the advice of a physician became necessary, his attendance was requested in addition to that of the surgeons constituting their medical department.

Early in the spring of 1782, Dr. Williamson took his seat as a representative of Edenton, in the house of commons of North Carolina. In that assembly he fortunately met with several members, whose brothers, sons, or other connexions, he had served in the army, or while they were prisoners. Those services were not forgotten. It was to be expected that a gentleman who had seen much of the world, and whose education had been so extensive, could hardly fail, with the aid of moderate oratorical abilities, to become an influential member in a deliberative body. Such in fact he proved. Among other bills which he introduced with success, we find one for erecting a court of chancery, which had often been attempted, in vain, in that state. It may be presumed, that old members who had been accustomed to conduct the business of that house, were not gratified with being left in the minority by a gentleman who was, at that time, comparatively a stranger in their state. Yet when the election came on for members of congress, those very gentlemen added their influence to that of the friends

whom he had acquired in the army, and he was sent to the general congress without opposition. He continued at the head of the delegation for three years, the longest time that any member was then permitted to serve.

During the three years in which he was not eligible to hold a seat in that body, he served the state occasionally in its legislature, or in some other capacity.

In the year 1786, he was one of the few members who were sent to Annapolis, to revise and amend the constitution of the United States; and who, finding that they had not sufficient powers to do any thing effectual, recommended to the several states to make another choice of delegates, and to invest them with the requisite powers. In that year Dr. Williamson published a series of Essays, deprecating paper currency, and recommending an excise to be imposed. In the year 1787, he was one of the delegates from North Carolina, in the general convention at Philadelphia, who formed and signed the present constitution of the United States.

The assembly passed a law for a general state convention, to be held at Hillsborough, in July, 1788, for the purpose of determining upon this constitution. The convention, after much debate, adjourned on the 2d of August, having refused to adopt the proposed constitution by a majority of more than two to one, viz. one hundred and eighty-four to eighty-four.

As a representative of the people in the legislature of North Carolina, and in the supreine council of the nation, he was occupied many years. No man, I believe, ever enjoyed in a larger degree the confidence of his constituents, for integrity of conduct; and the influence of his character will be readily appreciated, when we advert to the many important services he effected during the most eventful period of our political history.

He was anxious to prove himself worthy of the high trust reposed in him, nor did he ever permit any private or selfish views to interfere with considerations of public interest. As chairman of numerous committees, -as the mover of important resolutions,as the framer of new propositions, and new laws,-he devoted the best energies of an active mind, and was ever prominent in the business of the house. In debate, his elocution was striking, but somewhat peculiar. The graces of oratory did not belong to Dr.

Williamson; yet the known purity of his intentions, his inflexible devotedness to the interests of his country, and the unblemished tenor of his private life, awakened an attention which was well supported by the pertinency of his observations, the soundness of his reasoning, and the information he possessed upon every subject to which he directed his attention.

While in congress, his duties as a legislator were his exclusive study, and this advantage seldom failed of a success which was denied to the lengthened debate and declamation of his opponents.

In his answer to a letter enclosing the thanks of the general assembly of North Carolina, for his long and faithful services, referring to his own conduct, he observes, “ On this repeated testimony of the approbation of my fellow citizens, I cannot promise that I shall be more diligent or more attentive to their interests; for ever since I have had the honour to serve them in



particular interest, and the honour and prosperity of the nation, have been the sole objects of my care; to them I have devoted every hour of my time."

In January, 1789, doctor Williamson was married to Miss Maria Apthorpe, daughter of the late Charles Ward Apthorpe, formerly a member of his majesty's council, for the province of New York: by that lady he had two sons: she died when the youngest was but a few days old.

After the loss he had sustained by the death of Mrs. Williamson, he resolved to retire from public employment, to settle his private affairs; to prepare for publication his work on Climate, and his more elaborate performance, his History of North Carolina: but the object of attention which lay still nearer his heart, and which especially induced him to withdraw from the very honourable station he had held, was the education of his children: to them he devoted, with great solicitude, a large portion of his time and attention. His eldest son, who died in 1811, in the 22d year of his age, gave evidence of the parental care that had been exercised in the superintendence of his education, and of the success with which it had been conducted.

The younger son, whose constitutional infirmities gave little promise, by his death soon after, filled up the measure of his father's afllictions. Although the doctor was never heard to lament the loss



of his children, yet no fortitude of mind that he possessed could prevent him from feeling, that in the death of his elder son in par. ticular, he had lost his companion, the staff and solace of his old age. But his mind did not require that repose which his feelings otherwise solicited. From this period, the pursuits of philosophy became the more exclusive objects of his regard.

In 1811, his “Observations on the climate in different parts of America, compared with the climate in corresponding parts of the other continent,” were published, in one volume 8vo. It is in vain to attempt any thing like an analysis of this performance, at this time: a few remarks, however, on this interesting subject, may not be irrelevant. Actuated by patriotism and the love of truth, Dr Williamson indignantly exposes the sophistry of those writers who have asserted, that America is a country in which the frigid temperature and vice of the climate, prevent the growth and expansion of animal and vegetable nature, and cause man and beast to degenerate. He altogether discards the notion, that a new or inferior race of men had been created for the American continent. A firm believer in the Mosaic writings, he labours with the learned bishop of Clogher, to prove the conformity of things to biblical history. He believes our country, in her rivers, mountains, lakes, and vegetable productions, to be formed on a scale of more magnificence than those of the old world, and thinks that the winters are more temperate on the western than on the eastern coast of North America; although in some parts of this continent they are colder than in corresponding latitudes of Europe: he maintains a gradual amelioration of our climate. He considers the opinion that the Indian is of a new race, to be altogether untenable; that every part of America was inhabited when discovered by Columbus, and that North America was settled from Tartary or Japan, and from Norway; that South America was peopled from India.

In the following year, 1812, appeared his History of North Carolina, in two volumes 8vo.

The author commences his undertaking with a short account of the discoveries made in America by adventurers from the differ. ent parts of Europe. He next relates the attempts of Sir Walter Raleigh to settle a colony in North Carolina, and from that time the history of that colony is continued down to the beginning of the

American revolution: the work closes with a view of the soil, produce, and general state of health in different parts of that country. In the proofs and explanations annexed to each volume, are inserted many valuable documents, selected with care, illustrative of matters contained in the body of the text.

There are other writings by the same author, of a minor nature, which merit notice. He was at no time an indifferent spectator of passing events, and even after he had actually withdrawn from public life, was repeatedly engaged, exclusively of his works on Climate and on North Carolina, in various publications relating to natural history, medicine, and other branches of a philosophical character. In 1797, Dr. Williamson wrote a short but important paper* on the fevers of North Carolina, as they had prevailed in 1792, in Martin county, near the river Roanoke, and as they had appeared in 1794, upon the river Neus, pointing out the treatment that had been found most successful, and the fatal effects of bloodletting in fevers of that type: these remarks were afterwards extended, and compose a chapter in his History of North Carolina, highly interesting both to the pupil and practitioner of medicine.

In the American Museum, by Mathew Carey, he published several fugitive pieces on language and politics.

In his communication on the Fascination of Serpents, published in the Medical Repository, he offers some new and ingenious opinions on that still inexplicable phenomenon in natural history.

He enriched the American Medical and Philosophical Register with several valuable papers. The first entitled, “ Remarks upon the incorrect manner in which Iron Rods are sometimes set up for defending houses from Lightning," &c. conveys some important practical instruction upon that subject. His other papers were, “Conjectures respecting the Native Climate of Pestilence;"> “ Observations on Navigable Canals;"> « Observations on the means of preserving the Commerce of New York," and “ Additional Observations on Navigable Canals;" all printed in the same periodical journal, under the signatures of Observer, or Mercator. Doctor Williamson was among the first of our citizens who enter

* See Medical Repository, vol. 2. p. 156. † See vol. 2.

Vol. 10. p. 341, &c.

« AnteriorContinuar »