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TO THE READER When perusing the productions of the philosopher, the divine, or the biographer, there is no inquiry more natural to the human mind, whether ignorant or intelligent, than “Who is the author of this production ?" If, therefore, a memoir of the writer accompanies a pleasing or instructive work, the account is read with avidity; and although there be nothing extraordinary in the narrative,--nothing by which the individual is peculiarly distinguished from his contemporaries, yet the outlines of his life are calculated to gratify the curiosity which his works have excited.
I have not the vanity, however, to suppose, that any of my readers will have their curiosity so strongly excited in relation to the author, or rather compiler, of the succeeding articles; neither do I vainly imagine that they would sustain an irreparable loss, by remaining ignorant of the particulars that are to follow No, but it is pleasing to a rational mind, to contemplate the footsteps of an all-directing Providence, to trace the progress
of the human mind in various relations, and become acquainted with the actions of individuals, who have laboured under great difficulties. The following memoir is offered to the reader, as a simple unvarnished tale, and as calculated to awaken those sentiments of sympathy, which are common both to the peasant and philosopher.
Persuaded, from the kind encouragement I have experienced, that this narrative will fall into the hands of many of my distinguished and disinterested friends, I should consider myself ungrateful, were I not to declare, that no length of time, no change of circumstances, will ever be able to efface from my memory, the pleasing recollections of unmerited kindness so long experienced; recollections which are stamped in indelible characters upon my heart.
SOME PARTICULARS OF
LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.
« But what avails it to record a name,
I WAS born May 24th, 1779, in Richmond, State of Virginia, North America. My father, John Wilson, was a native of Scotland. His family was originally of Queen's-ferry, a small village in Fifesbire, about eleven miles from Edinburgh; he had an uncle who emigrated to America when a young man, as a mechanic, where, by honest industry and prudent economy, he soon amassed a considerable property. He wrote for my father, who was then about eighteen years of age, and promised to make him his heir in case he would come to America. My grandfather hesitated for some time, but at length consented, and preparations were accordingly made for my father's departure, who sailed from Greenock, and arrived safely at Norfolk, in the United States; from whence he was forwarded by a merchant of that place, and
soon reached Richmond, where he was gladly received by his uncle. This man being in the decline of life, without a family, and bowed down by infirmities, now looked upon his nephew as the comfort of his life, and the support of his declining years, and therefore entrusted him with the entire management of his affairs, which he had the happiness of conducting to the old man's satisfaction. Thus he continued to act till the death of his uncle in 1775, when he found himself in possession of £3000 value, in money and landed property.
Prior to this event, my father, on a visit to Baltimore, became acquainted with my mother, Elizabeth Johnson. To her he was introduced by an intimate friend, a Mr. Freeman, whom I may have occasion to mention hereafter. His uncle, on hearing this, could not bear the idea of a matrimonial connexion during his own life, and so stood as a grand barrier to the completion of his wishes; but, at the decease of the old man, being left to think and act for himself, as soon as his affairs were settled, he hastened to Baltimore, where the long wished for union took place.
Shortly after his marriage he returned again to Virginia. His whole mind was now bent on the improvement of his plantation, and the acquiring of a paternal inheritance for his offspring. Flushed with the hope of spending the eve of life on a fertile estate that amply rewarded the hand of industry, of spending it in the bosom of his family, and of tasting the pleasures which domestic retirement affords, he
followed his avocation with alacrity, and could say in the midst of his employments,
“ The Winter's night and Summer's day
Glide imperceptibly away.” But, alas, bow uncertain are human prospects and worldly possessions ! How often do they wither in the bud; or bloom like the rose, to be blasted when full blown! How repeatedly do they sicken, even in enjoyment, and what appears at a distance like a beautiful verdant hill, degenerates on a closer survey into a rugged barren rock! This moment the sky is bright, the air is serene, and the sun of our prosperity beams forth in unclouded splendour; in the next, blackness and darkness envelope us around, the cloud of adversity bursts upon our devoted heads, and we are overwhelmed by the storm. It was so with my father, and, of course, the misfortune was entailed on me.
The disturbance which took place at Boston at the commencement of the revolutionary war, was at first considered only a riot; but it shortly began to assume a more formidable aspect. The insurgents were soon embodied throughout all the Colonies, and the insurrection became general. Between them and the loyal party no neutrality was allowed, and every man was under the necessity of finally joining one side or the other. For some time, indeed, my father strove to avoid taking an active part, but he was soon convinced that this was totally impossible. Many of his early friends had embraced the cause of the revolutionists and were very anxious that he should join their party. To induce him to do this, several advantageous offers were made to him, and when this expedient failed,