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of Washington, Botta's History of the Revolution, Allen's Biographical and Historical Dictionary, Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, Thatcher's Medical Biography, Austin's Life of Gerry, Tudor's Life of Otis, Witherspoon's Works, Select Eulogies, &c. &c.
While writing the following biographical notices of the signers to the declaration, the author has been struck with their longevity, as a body of men. They were fifty-six in number; and the average length of their lives was about sixty-five years. Four of the number attained to the age of ninety years, and upwards; fourteen exceeded eighty years; and twentythree, or one in two and a half
, reached three score years and ten. The longevity of the New-England delegation, was still more remarkable. Their number was fourteen, the average of whcse lives was seventy-five years. Who will affirm that the unusual age to which the signers, as a body, attained, was not a reward bestowed upon them, for their fidelity to their country, and the trust which they in general reposed in the overruling providence of God. Who can doubt the kindness of that Providence to the American people, in thus prolonging the lives of these men, till the principles for which they had contended, through a long series of years, had been acknowledged, and a government had been founded upon them? Of this venerable body, but a single one* survives. The others are now no
“They are no more, as in 1776, bold and fearless advocates of independence. They are dead. But how little is there of the great and good which can die. "To their country they yet live, and live for ever. They live, in all that perpetuates the remembrance of men on earth; in the recorded proofs of their own great actions, in the offspring of their intellect, in the deep engraved lines of public gratitude, and in the respect and homage of mankind. They live in their example; and they live, emphatically, and will live, in the influence which their lives and efforts, their principles and opinions, now exercise, and will continue to exercise, on the affairs of men, not only in our own country, but throughout the civilized world.”
“It remains to us to cherish their memory, and emulate their virtues, by perpetuating and extending the blessings which they have bequeathed. so long as we preserve our country, their fame cannot die, for it is reflected from the surface of every thing that is beautiful and valuable in our land. We cannot recur too often, nor dwell too long, upon the lives and characters of such men; for our own will take something of their form and impression from those on which they rest. If we inhale the moral atmosphere in which they moved, we must feel its purifying and invigorating influence. If we raise our thoughts to their elevation, our minds will be expanded and ennobled, in beholding the immeasurable distance beneath and around us.
Can we breathe the pure mountain air, and not be refreshed; can we walk abroad amidst the beautiful and the grand of the works of creation, and feel no kindling of devotion ?'
* Charles Carroll, of Carrollton.
SUMMARY OF EVENTS WHICH LED TO THE DECLARATION OF
The venerated emigrants who first planted America, ana most of their distinguished successors who laid the foundation of our civil liberty, have found a resting place in the peaceful grave. But the virtues which adorned both these generations; their patience in days of suffering; the courage and patriotic zeal with which they asserted their rights; and the wisdom they displayed in laying the foundations of our government; will be held in lasting remembrance.
It has, indeed, been said, that the settlement of America, and the history of her revolution, are becoming “a trite theme.” The remark is not founded in truth. Too well does the present generation appreciate the excellence of those men, who guided the destinies of our country in days of bitter trial; too well does it estimate the glorious events, which have exalted these United States to their present elevation, ever to be weary of the pages which shall record the virtues of the one, and the interesting character of the other.
The minuter portions of our history, and the humbler men who have acted a part therein, must, perhaps, pass into oblivion. But the more important transactions, and the more distinguished characters, instead of being lost to the remembrance and affections of posterity, will be the more regarded and admired the farther “we roll down the tide of time." Indeed, “ an event of real magnitude in human history," as a recent literary journal has well observed, “is never seen, in all its grandeur and importance, till some time after its occurrence has elapsed. In proportion as the memory of small
men, and small things, is lost, that of the truly great becomes more bright. The contemporary aspect of things is often confused and indistinct. The eye, which is placed too near the canvass, beholds, too distinctly, the separate touches of the pencil, and is perplexed with a cloud of seemingly discordant tints. It is only at a distance, that they melt into a harmonious, living picture.”
Nor does at detract from the honour of the eminent person ages, who were conspicuous in the transactions of our earlier history, that they foresaw not all the glorious consequences of their actions. Not one of our pilgrim fathers, it may
be safely conjectured, had a distinct anticipation of the future progress of our country. Neither Smith, Newport, nor Gosnold, who led the emigrants of the south ; nor Carver, Brewster, Bradford, or Standish, who conducted those of the north; looked forward to results like those which are witnessed by the present generation. But is the glory of their enterprise thereby diminished ? By no means; it shines with an intenser light. They foresaw nothing with certainty, but hardships and sacrifices. These, they deliberately and manfully encountered. They went forward unassured, that even common prosperity would attend their enterprise They breasted themselves to every shock; as did the vessel which bore them, to the waves of the ocean.
Or, to take an example which has a more direct reference to the work before us; it may be fairly conjectured, that not a member of the illustrious assembly that declared the Inde pendence of America, had any adequate conception of the great events which were disclosed in the next half century. But, will this detract from their merit in the estimation of posterity ? again we say, it will enhance that merit. In the great national crisis of 1775, the minds of the leading men were wrought up to the highest pitch of fervour. They glowed with the loftiest enthusiasm. The future was, indeed, indistinct; but it was full of all that was momentous. What the particular consummation would be, they could not foresee. But conscious of their own magnanimous designs, and in a humble reliance on divine providence, they pledged to each