J. M. (James Mason) Hoppin.

Memoir of Henry Armitt Brown, together with four historical orations (Volume 1) online

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Copyright, 1879, by Josephine Lea Brown.


Political wisdom fails sometimes to perceive and
make use of the fact that the spring of a nation's pro-
gress is in its youth's fresh ideas; for they are inspira-
tions from a fountain nearer the original source of national
life than the profoundest theories of scientific statesman-
ship. Youth's radicalism has more than once proved t<>
be the principle of the rapid advancement of a people in
freedom and civilization.

The subject of the following memoir possessed elements
of greatness worthy of the best days of the republic. A
power went forth from his short life (for he was compara-
tively a young man when lie died) which will not soon
cease to be felt. It was an influence for the political refor-
mation of the land, and for a higher standard of national
character. He represented, as far as in him lay, the best
modern political spirit. Nobly as he had done, there
seemed to be much more for him to do. Although his
life's work was in some sense complete, he had not yet
attained the full development of his powers. He attracted
the eyes of men by his splendid promise. His life had
a direction toward something lofty, rare, and beautiful,



and which, too, was all unspent when it suddenly reached
its close. The star was still ascending when the darkness
covered it. His addresses and writings will, we are sure,
do much to perpetuate his name. There are really few
things in our historical literature superior to Ins Carpenters'
Hall, Burlington Bi-Centennial, and Valley Forge orations.
But the fire and nobleness of his delivery, the music of his
voice, the charm of his unsurpassed oratory, these are gone

J. M. H.

New Haven, November, 1879.



Memoir of Henry Armitt Brown 9

Historical Orations :

Oration delivered in Carpenters' Hall, Philadelphia, on the
One Hundredth Anniversary of the Meeting of the Con-
gress of 1774 213

" The Settlement of Burlington." An Oration delivered in
that City December 6, 1877, in Commemoration of the Two
Hundredth Anniversary of its Settlement .... 251
Oration at Valley Forge, June 19, 1878, the One Hundredth
Anniversary of the Departure of the Army of the Revo-
lution from Winter Quarters at that place . . . 301
Oration composed to he delivered at Freehold, New Jersey,
June 28, 1878, the One Hundredth Anniversary of the

Battle of Monmouth 349






James Browne,* fronTwhom the subject of this biog-
raphy was the seventh in descent, was one of the colonists
who came over in " the good ship Kent," and laid out the
town of Burlington, New Jersey, towards the latter part of
the eighth month, 1677. This was five years before the
landing of William Penn and his peaceful company on the
banks of the Delaware. James Browne was the son of
Richard and Mary Browne, of Sywell, in Northampton-
shire, England. His father, Richard, having been con-
verted to the Quaker doctrine, had removed to Bedfordshire,
where the family was living when James, then a young
man of twenty-one, came to America with others to settle
on that portion of territory purchased of Lord Berkeley by
the Society of Friends.

In 1679, James Browne married Honour Clayton in
" the primitive meeting-house, made of a sail taken from
the Kent," being the first marriage recorded in the State

*Thc terminal "e" was afterwards dropped to satisfy Quaker

2 9


of New Jersey. He removed from Burlington once more
" into the Wilderness," dying at Nottingham, Pennsylvania,
in 1716. His descendants, with the exception of James
Brown, who, near the close of the last century, returned to
England and lived on his estate at Snaresbrook Manor, in
the neighborhood of London, were mostly residents of
Philadelphia, and fairly represented the mercantile intelli-
gence, respectability, and wealth of the old Quaker families
of the " City of Brotherly Love."

Charles Brockden Brown, author of " Edgar Huntley,"
and, it may be said, the originator of American novel litera-
ture, who was born in 1771, and died in 1810, belonged to
this family. He was own uncle of Henry Armitt Brown's
father, and his grand-nephew, in some points of character,
strikingly resembled him. They were both men of sen-
sitive natures, and were both bred to the law ; but having
early a strong bias toward a literary life and to that of
political essayists, this literary bent in the case of the first
drew him away entirely from the legal profession, and in
the case of the last exerted a powerful influence that was
gradually separating him from his practice at the bar and
leading him into a broader political career.

This mild strain of Quaker ancestry was mingled in the
subject of the present memoir with Revolutionary blood.
His great-grandfather upon his mother's side, Colonel
Benjamin Hoppin, of Providence, Rhode Island, passed
through the seven years of the War of Independence as a
captain of the Rhode Island Continentals, and was present
at Princeton, Red Bank, Monmouth, and other battles of
the Revolution ; while another maternal ancestor, Thomas
Weld Philbrook, of Rhode Island, served at Ticonderoga,
and also suffered incredible hardships on board the "Jersey


Henry Armitt Brown was born in Philadelphia,
December 1, 1844. His father, Frederick Brown, was a
representative business man in Philadelphia, whose character
for integrity and public spirit need not be enlarged upon, es-
pecially to those of his townsmen who, for half a century, so
well knew, and honored, and loved him ; and, although his
commanding presence is seen no more in the streets, he will
be long remembered for his geniality and sterling worth.

Although Henry exhibited mental traits of both parents,
yet from his mother, wdiose maiden name was Charlotte
Augusta Hoppin, it has been remarked by his friends that
he inherited literary tastes; for such tastes are, perhaps, as
frequently a matter of temperament as of education.

He was a sweet-tempered child, delicately strung, and
extremely sensitive to the touch and sig-ht of harsh things
as if unfit to be stretched on this rough world, imaginative,
curious in his questionings, sympathetic and affectionate,
but stubborn of will, and apt to see things in a very inde-
pendent and ludicrously odd light.

When an older boy, his favorite pastime was studying
the histories of great battles, especially those of Napoleon,
and also at the time those of the Crimean w r ar, and in
arranging and moving companies of tin soldiers and parks
of artillery according to the changing plans of the battles.
This play was carried out on so large a scale as to attract
the attention of the neighbors and of older people to the
extent of the combinations. One whole portion of the
garden thus employed would become the scene of a wide
and hurrying conflict, platoons of soldiers shifting across
the field, forts blowing up, dwellings in flames, rivers
crossed, and discharges of artillery from the flying bat-
teries. " On one occasion," his younger brother relates,
" I, being the representative Russian, had to build my


tower and raise my parapets in order to prepare for the
defence of the Malakoff. Hal, as the besieging force, dug
his intrenchments. We each had little brass cannon, and
loaded them with one pellet of lead and a few grains of
powder, attaching to each a train of powder, so that at the
appointed time the fuse could be lighted, and we could
step off and await the result. The attack commenced.
Harry brought out some forty or fifty of his men as the
attacking column, and while doing so was endeavoring to
start his cannon in order to cover and assist them, but his
punk would not light the fuse. I, however, was more
fortunate, and trained up my cannon on the assaulting
column, and the fuse ignited. Three or four of the enemy
were demolished, and the majority of them knocked down.
Harry, immediately on surveying the field of battle, said,
' Well, Lardner, we have reversed history. The MalakofF
cannot be taken this afternoon. Let us get some dinner.'"
This boyish play, in fact, grew to be an absorbing passion,
turning a childish amusement into a thoughtful and fore-
casting exercise of the reasoning powers; and his early
taste seems to have long clung to him, for until he was
fourteen years old his principal ambition in life Mas to be
a great captain. His letters were full of military matters,
organization of companies, marches, and courts-martial, as
if they were very real things and the fate of empires hung
on them. He besought his father over and over again to
send him to West Point Academy. This throws some
light upon his character, which, as it sometimes happens,
beneath an almost feminine delicacy of organization hid a
nature of sinewy ambition fitted to leadership.

Harry, even as a child, had a peculiar sense of personal
dignity, which was disturbed at anything which seemed
unfairly to lower him in the eyes of others. But he was


brimful of life, and his mimicry of animals and funny
performances at school were sources of infinite satisfaction
to his schoolmates, and sometimes the laughter bore away
on its tide botli teacher and scholars. He seemed uncon-
scious of the pleasure he gave others. Although not domi-
neering, every one naturally fell under his control. He-
was director of the mock orchestra and captain of the
juvenile battalion, and also a champion cricket-player,
difficult as this is to reconcile with his quiet habits in

His excessive fondness for sport was commenced at an
early age, when, as a little boy, he brought in the cedar-
birds and small game in abundance. This love of " gun-
ning," as we call it in America, was carried into later life,
and it was increased as he grew older by his love of nature,
leading him into the woods and fields in rambles, accom-
panied only by his dogs, or along the picturesque banks
and silver stretches of the Delaware River, the home of
the duck and the little reed-bird, and the habitation of
innumerable bright plants and flowers.

Like most lively boys he fell to rhyming, inditing verses
to the young ladies at the Burlington St. Mary's School,
or lampooning "ye unpopular tutor," or writing burning
patriotic odes, or composing German ballads "in the
manner of Longfellow or some other fellow." Some of
these effusions in point of lively wit were quite up to the
mark of juvenile performances of most of the great poets
that are published.

His first instructor, outside of home walls, was Miss
Lucy A. Lcrned, who taught school in the basement of
St. Luke's Church, in Philadelphia. A warm, mutual
esteem was always kept up between teacher and scholar,
as their correspondence shows. Harry's later school-days


were passed at the Burlington Academy and at the board-
ing-school of Dr. James Gilborne Lyons, in Haverford,
Pennsylvania. He began to study Latin at the age of
seven, and obtained a " first honor" in the summer term
of 1853; and when he went to college, his master, Dr.
Lyons, wrote a letter, in which he speaks of him as " a
student of industrious habits and good abilities." He
appears to have taken captive his instructors, not only by
his faithfulness to his studies, but by his exceedingly win-
ning qualities of heart, for they follow his career with
words of affectionate praise.

He came up to be examined for admission to Yale Col-
lege in July, 1861, an unspoiled youth. If truthfulness,
sincerity, and purity were ever expressed in a countenance,
they shone on his open brow. Yet it was a thoughtful
and serious face. His great, blue eyes asked searching
questions of all. Then, as always, he looked at you
steadily, and grasped your hand with a firm grasp. He
seemed at first to be half-amusingly and half-actual ly dazed
by the new responsibilities and, to him, immense vistas of
a great college, but it was not long before he cast himself
into the current of student life with an unbounded ardor.
He here found a congenial field for his varied talents. It
was into the brotherhood of young men he had come, and
his sympathies went out to all in whom he recognized an
honorable and sympathetic heart. There has not been
graduated for a long period — perhaps never, socially — a
more thorough-bred Yale student, one inspired by a more
genuine college spirit, who more whole-heartedly identified
himself with college life, and who infused into that life a
more genial influence, than he of whom we write. Though
both were popular men, the true Harry Brown of Yale


was a vastly higher order of student than the fictitious
Tom Brown of Oxford. This is the testimony of his
classmates, and his college career is too recent for us to
forget it.

He was soon felt to be a social and, in some points of
view, intellectual power in college, — a leaven to leaven the
whole with the enthusiasm for true brotherhood. While
more ambitious of class than of scholarly distinction, there
was no envy or spirit of intrigue about him. He never
wrought nor wriggled himself into an influential position.
Whatever honors he won were freely accorded to him.
While he did not make a positive mark as a scholar, he
succeeded in obtaining an excellent intellectual discipline.
Yale did wonders for him. He did not lose sight of this
object. He gained more from his college course than
many higher-stand men in substantial improvement. He
had "sensibility," which, Emerson says, is even better than
talent; and he had also a remarkable power of intellectual
appreciativeness, though not always operating in regular
ways. In merriest and maddest moods he studied his own
powers, his mental aptitudes, the character of his instruc-
tors and companions, and the best methods of influencing
men. The jest was succeeded by the thoughtful mood and
by the air of intense abstraction. Those deep-sunk, glow-
ing eyes underneath the square, bold forehead did not be-
speak a frivolous nature. Concentration, intense purpose,
were strongly marked. As in the legend of taking Calais
castle by disguised English knights, under the silken robe
was hid the coat of mail. He was already preparing him-
self for life. He read much, but independently and rather
scatteringly. He was fond of the classics, — the Latin poets
especially, — and also of history, of political economy, and,
to a certain extent, of philosophy, so that the studies of


Senior year were particularly agreeable to him. But he was
soon recognized as an off-hand speaker, — lithe, graceful,
never at a loss for something witty, brilliant, and telling.

Some irregularity into which he was led by an untem-
pered zeal for college customs (many of them more to be
honored in the breach than the observance), caused him to
spend a part of Sophomore year in seclusion, which, how-
ever, in his case, did not hurt him in the estimation of his
classmates, nor, it might be said, of his instructors, for the
reason that no moral taint was ever breathed upon him.
He was no rioter or deep drinker. His life was irreproach-
able, and his sense of honor exquisite.

When fun was in order he was assuredly " Master of the
Revels." As humorist there was no end to his exuberant
drollery, his sportive fancies, and his witty invention. The
" Pow-wow" of June 7, 1862, in which he largely partici-
pated, will ever be memorable as being the best of its kind.
The motley chorus of his racy songs roared by the throats
of sturdy Sophomores struck the level of the occasion much
better than something more fine would have done. In
resolutions drafted by class committees; in speeches de-
livered at class suppers; in Delta Kappa, Alpha Sigma
Phi, and Psi Upsilon lyrics; in debates and war-songs of
the Brothers in Unity; in the organization and carry-
ing out the Thanksgiving Jubilees of Sophomore, Junior,
and Senior years ; and, above all, as one of the illustrious
" Cochleaureati" in the now defunct " Wooden Spoon"
celebration, his pen and voice were foremost. He was class
Mercury and Apollo — orator and poet. He was Momus
too. His acting was excellent in every role, comic, tragic,
and sentimental, and was much praised. A newspaper
writer thus spoke of it in noticing the " Wooden Spoon"
exhibition of June, 1865 : " The colloquy of Virginia did


not refer to the unfortunate State somewhere down South,
but was a comic rendering of the old tragedy of Virginius.
The author, Henry A. Brown, of Philadelphia, is the best
actor in the college, and personated old Virginius to per-
fection." Another said : " The announced poem by Henry
A. Brown was omitted on account of the lateness of the
hour, much to the regret of the audience, as Mr. Brown's
poetical talents are widely known in New Haven, and are
of no common order. Two of the songs of the occasion
are from his pen, and are sufficient evidence of his superi-
ority in this line."

The " Wooden Spoon," as is known to those acquainted
with Yale life, was originally a grotesque custom instituted
as an award to the biggest eater, but it had lost its coarse
associations, and came to be highly prized by the students
as conferring social distinction upon those who received it.
They were the most popular men in the class, and who de-
served to be so because they were men of genuine kindness
and unselfish character, who, sunny-hearted themselves,
made "sunshine in a shady place" to others, — in a word,
they were heart-crowned. Well did Harry Brown merit
this unrecorded college honor ; and the big wooden spoon,
wreathed with ivy, now hanging on the wall of his silent
study, is a memento that to his old friends would ever speak
pathetically. The heart's fruits are unfading. In no evil
sense, but, as time went on, in a true sense, and bearing
many a divine fruit, he held to the poet's words, though put
in cynic lips, —

" Und grtin des Lebeus goldner Baum."

In the November (1864) number of the Yale Literary
Magazine, Harry Brown contributed a versified story en-
titled "The Lady of Katzenjammcr," in the style of the


" Ingoldsby Legends," — a very clever performance, com-
mencing and travelling on in the free-swinging pace of
those rollicking Irish poems. Indeed, much of his intel-
lectual energy was spent in these literary excursions and
by-paths, and especially in the life of student societies.

At a time when Yale was swarming with societies, open
and secret, partly derived from the German universities
and the old customs of the Burschen Pennalism, and partly
a home product, Harry Brown was a great Society man.
The societies did much for him, perhaps more than they
would do for a hundred other men of different mental
make. They were most assuredly not an " unmixed evil"
in his case.

It will not be denied that our American university sys-
tem, which, in some respects, is the child of our wants
and a truly marvellous result of our civilization, is not
as yet ideally perfect or practically complete. The old
system, which had some excellent features and turned out
men of strong individuality, is giving way to the new, while
the new is not yet attained. We are in a transition, and
thus chaotic state. We aim at the universal and fail in the
particular. We glorify and perfect the system, and leave
the subject of it imperfectly educated. Too much is at-
tempted for it to be thoroughly done. The result, there-
fore, is sciolism rather than science. It is like grasping
too large a handful of which little or nothing remains in
the hand. " Modern education," another says, " is the
beginning of many things, and it is little more than a be-
ginning." It certainly becomes a serious question whether
an elementary knowledge of many things is worth as much
as the mastery of one rugged art, which necessitates such
a toughening of the mental fibre as to enable the student to
grasp any subject. Power balanced by character is the


highest aim of education. The culture that teaches the
mind its uses, that gives capacity for affairs, that develops a
harmonious and vigorous personality, should be the 1 common
resultant of the various forces of a university education.
Merc specific training of one set of faculties is not the theory
of a scientific education. The severest discipline of the critical
powers, or of the memory, which goes to make scholars,
and is of the utmost value in laying the foundation of a
true, intellectual training, leaves untouched some of the
richest parts of the manifold nature of man, the aesthetic
and moral powers wherein, more than in others, potential
manhood exists. "Experience has shown that the intel-
lectual qualities which insure success in the discovery of
truth are rarely combined with the qualities which lend
these truths their greatest practical efficiency. The habits
of the study are not the best discipline for affairs."' This
truth, so tersely put by one of our younger writers on edu-
cational matters, should he a hint to those who desire to
make a university system of education the most practically
effective as well as the most thoroughly scholar-like. The
waste of mind is too great a price to pay for the experiment
of theories. "Culture," says Principal Shairp,* "is not
the product of mere study. Learning may be got from

1 ks, but not culture. It is a more living process, and

requires that the student at times should close his books,
leave his room, and mingle with his fellow-men. He must
seek the intercourse of living hearts, especially in the com-
panionship of his own contemporaries, whose minds tend
to elevate and sweeten his own. It i> also a method of
self-discipline, the learning of self-control, the fixing of
habits, the effort to overcome what is evil, and to strengthen

* Now Professor of Poetry at Oxford.


what is good in our nature." It is laying the plan of life
in human intercourse, in the knowledge of human nature,
in self-knowledge, in self-reliance, in thought as in study.
It is the drawing out of the energies in strife with living
forces, wherein what is slavish and useless is stripped away
and a free manhood is the result. We once came across an
officer, high in. rank in the American army, who had dis-
tinguished himself in the last war for his business capacity
as well as gallantry in the field, — by brains as well as
bravery, — who, in a familiar conversation upon a hotel
stoop, remarked, emphatically, that the qualities and acts
which won him success in his professional life were just
those which caused his expulsion from college. This was
putting the matter in a way where truth is sacrificed to
point ; but it is a question whether such a man, or a man
powerful in another career, like Henry Armitt Brown,
would have been what either of them was if they had re-
stricted themselves entirely to the prescribed course, and
had been mere scholars while in college, or continued to be
mere scholars out of it. It seems, sometimes, to be regretted
that such force could not earlier be recognized and turned
into right channels. These men, in their secret heart,
lamented the time they may have spent in social life that
should have been given to thorough study : nor would
severe scholarship have done them more injury than polish
a steel blade ; but to do what they and other manly intel-
lects ought to do, and do it well, requires a longer time than
four crowded years, and a broader, scholarly preparation for
college, with a more free and professional course of study
in the university, ending in a definite concentration upon

Online LibraryJ. M. (James Mason) HoppinMemoir of Henry Armitt Brown, together with four historical orations (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 31)