Peter Thacher.

A sermon preached June 12, 1799, before His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., lieutenant governor and commander in chief : the honorable Council, Senate and House of Representatives of the commonwealth of Massachusetts at the interment of His Excellency Increase Sumner, esq., who died June 7, 1799, aet. 53 online

. (page 15 of 51)
Online LibraryPeter ThacherA sermon preached June 12, 1799, before His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., lieutenant governor and commander in chief : the honorable Council, Senate and House of Representatives of the commonwealth of Massachusetts at the interment of His Excellency Increase Sumner, esq., who died June 7, 1799, aet. 53 → online text (page 15 of 51)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

return. They conducted me into Kilborn's house.

"It was now the 16th of July. Nineteen days had passed away,
while I had been their prisoner. Having no razor, nor a second shirt,
I had neither shaved nor changed my linen during that whole time. —
They had told me, if I desired clothing or any thing else from home, and I
would write for them, they should be brought to me. I accordingly
wrote to your mother for clothing — and for a book. She sent them up
as directed, and they arrived at Zebulon Marcy's at Tunkhannock ;
and there I found them, after I was released. The shirt I wore from
home, I repeatedly took off, and washed as well as I could, in cold water
and without soap.

"As soon as I entered Kilborn's house, they brought me a razor and
soap to shave, and a clean shirt, and pair of stockings ; and told me I
was at liberty. They roasted some chickens, and gave me as good a
dinner as the poor wretches could furnish.

" While dinner was preparing, they renewed their request, that I
would intercede for Franklin's pardon. This I again peremptorily re-
fused to do. Then they made the same request for themselves ; and I
again told them that I could venture to assure them of pardons, if they
would give me the mames of their " Great Men" who had instigated
them to commit the outrage I had endured at their hands. They con-
sulted together for some time ; and finally told me they could not give
up their names. " This (I said to them) is a very unwise determination.
Here are two-and-twenty of you (I had counted them) who may all ob-
tain pardon, if you will give me the names of your employers; and a-
mong so many, some one at least, to save himself, will turn states's ev-
idence; you had better therefore give me the names ofthemenwho
have engaged you in this wicked business." "Whoever does it (said
Gideon Dudley) ought to go to hell, and be damned everlastingly."

" They then made a last request, that I would write a petition for
them to the Executive Council praying for pardons, and carrying it

f It would be the 17th of July — my birth day.


with me to Wilkesbarre, take an opportunity to send it to Philadelphia.
With this, undeserving as they were, I complied.

" It was now late in the afternoon ; and unless I went to Tunkhan-
nock (distant twelve miles) that night, I could not reach home the next
day. They had a good boat in which they carried me down. It was
dark when they landed. I had only set my foot on shore, when the two
Earls came to me, aside, and offered to become evidences for the state
upon an assurance of pardon. This I ventured to give them : but the
rogues, when brought before the court, divulged none of the names of
their "great men;" and reluctantly furnished any evidence against
their companions.

" Walking from the landing place about a mile, across the Tunkhan-
nock bottom land, we arrived at the house of Zebulon Marcy, to get
supper and lodging. There I found the bundle of clothing which your
mother had sent up for me ; and there, also, I found an inhabitant of
Pittstown, going down the river as far as Lachawonnock Creek.* And
Tuttle, one of the " Boys," said he would go down with us, and take
his chance. The next morning, we three set off in a canoe. Landing
the man destined for Lachawonnock, the other went on with me to
Wilkesbarre. On the way, he told me that he had joined the "Boys"
but two or three days before, in order to discover where I was, and get
me rescued out of their hands.

" Stepping ashore at Wilkesbarre, I walked directly to our house.
You were standing at the front door. As I drew near, you looked a
moment — appeared frightened — and retired. Before I readied the
door, your mother came with Edward in her arms. Consternation
marked her countenance — as if I had been an apparition. My return so
soon was wholly unexpected ; and she looked at me as if to satisfy her-
self of the reality.

" Without waiting the result of their petition to the Executive Coun-
cil, most of the actual perpetrators of the outrage upon me, fled to the
northward, to escape into the state of New- York. On their way, as
they reached Wysocks creek, they encountered a party of militia, un-
der the command of Captain Roswell Franklin, and exchanged some
shots. Joseph Dudley was very badly wounded. The others escaped.
Dudley was put into a canoe, and brought down to Wilkesbarre, a dis-
tance of perhaps 60 or 70 miles. The doctor who was sent for, had no
medicine. I had a small box of medicines which had been put up un-
der the care of my good friend Dr. Rush. Of these, upon applica-
tion of the physician, I furnished all he desired. But Dudley survived
only two or three days. On his death, his friends sent to your mother,
to beg a winding sheet — which she gave them.

* Small rivers are, in Pennsyvania, called Creeks.



" In the autumn, a court of Oyer and Terminer was held at Wilkes-
barre, by M'Kean, Chief-Justice, and Judge Rush. A number of the
villains had been arrested — were tried and convicted — fined and imprison-
ed in different sums, and for different lengths of time, according to the ag-
gravation of their offence. The poor creatures had no money to pay
their fines, and the new jail at Wilkesbarre was so insufficient, that all
of them made their escape excepting Stephen Jenkins, brother to Maj.
John Jenkins. Stephen was not in arms with the party ; but was con-
cerned in the plot. He might have escaped from the jail with the
others ; but chose to stay ; and in consequence received a pardon, after
about two months confinement.

" The fate of Captain Roswell Franklin, a worthy man, whom I have
mentioned on the preceding page, I sincerely commiserated. Weari-
ed with the disorders and uncertain state of things at Wyoming, he
removed with his family into the state of New-York, and sat down on a
piece of land to which he had no title. Others had done the same. —
The country was new, and without inhabitants. They cleared land,
and raised crops, to subsist their families and stock. In two or three
years, when all their crops were harvested, their hay and grain in stack,
and they anticipated passing the approaching winter comfortably, Gov.
George Clinton sent orders to the sheriff of the nearest county, to raise
the militia, and to drive off the untitled occupants. These orders were
as severely, as prorr.ptly, executed ; and the houses and crops all burnt.
Reduced to despair, Captain Franklin shot himself. This, as well as I
recollect was in the autumn of 1792.

"Governor Clinton was distinguished for energy of character. Had
like prompt and decisive measures been taken at the beginning, with the
Connecticut settlers at Wyoming, it would have been happy for them
and for Pennsylvania; the actual sufferers would have been few in
number: but the unstable, and generally feeble measures of that gov-
ernment, instead of intimidating, rather encouraged hardy men, desti-
tute of property, to become intruders ; and thus, eventually, a great
many families were involved in calamities.

"John Franklin, so often mentioned, having been indicted on the
charge of treason, for which he had been arrested, remained a good
while in jail. At length he was liberated, on giving bond, with a large
penalty, And finally all opposition to the government, in Luzerne coun-
ty, ceasing, he was fully discharged. The people of the county, after-
wards chose him to represent them in the state legislature, where, in
the house of representatives, he sat, I believe, for several years. Dur-
ing this period, chance, once or twice, threw him in my way. He was
very civil, and I returned his civilities."

In 1790 Col. P. was elected a Delegate to the Convention of the State
of Pennsylvania, for the purpose of revising the Constitution of that State,
in which he was associated with many eminent men, among whom were


Thomas Mifflin, Thomas M'Kean, William Lewis, James Ross, Albert
Gallatin, and Samuel Sitgreaves. At the instance of Col. Pickering,
the following wise and benevolent provision was made an article of the
Constitution : —

" The Legislature shall, as soon as conveniently may be, provide by
law for the establishment of Schools throughout the State, in such
manner that the poor may be taught gratis."

From the year 1790 to 1794, Col. Pickering was charged, by Gen.
Washington, (then President of the United States) with several nego-
ciations with the Indian nations on our frontiers : In 1793, in a joint
commission with Gen. Lincoln and Beverly Randolph, Esq. of Vir-
ginia, to treat of peace with the western Indians: And in 1794, he was
appointed the sole agent to adjust all our disputes with the six nations ;
which were terminated by a satisfactory treaty.

In the year 1791, General Washington appointed him Post-Master
General. In this office he continued until the close of the year 1794;
when, on the resignation of Gen Knox, he was appointed Secretary of
War. In August 1795, Mr. Edmund Randolph having resigned the of-
fice of Secretary of State, Genei-al Washington gave Col. P. the tem-
porary charge of that department also. Some time before the meeting
of Congress, which was in December following, he also tendered to
Col. Pickering the office of Secretary of State, which, from unaffected
diffidence he at first declined. But as soon as Congress assembled,
without speaking to Col. P. again, Washington nominated him to the
Senate to be Secretary of State : and the Senate approved the nomina-
tion. He continued in this office until May, 18C0 ; when he was re-
moved by the late President Adams, and was suceeeded by John Mar-
shall, the present Chief Justice of the United States, then and ever
since his friend and correspondent.

At the close of year 1801, Col. Pickering returned to live in Massa-
chusetts. In 1803, the Legislature appointed him a Senator to repre-
sent the State in Congress, for the residue of the term of Dwight For-
ter, Esq. who had resigned. In 1805, the Legislature again elected
him a Senator, and for the term of six years.

Being in debt for new lands purchased some years before in the Mid-
dle and Western states, and by the appreciation of which he had hoped
to make eventual provision for his children ; and having no other re-
sources — as soon as he was removed from office, in 1800, he carried his
family from Philadelphia into the country ; and with one of his sons
went into the back woods of Pennsylvania, the Wyoming country, where,
with the aid of some labourers, they cleared a few acres of land, sowed
wheat, and built a log hut, into which he meant the next year to remove
his family. From this condition he was drawn by the kindness of his
friends in Massachusetts.— By the spontaneous liberality of those friends


in taking a transfer of new lands in exchange for money, Col Pickering
was enabled to pay his debts, return to his native state, and finally to pur-
chase a small farm in this County, on which he lived many years, culti-
vating it with his own hands, and literally with the sweat of his brow.

Col. P. continued to sustain the office of a Senator in Congress till
1811, when he devoted himself entirely to the labours of agriculture. —
Soon after he was chosen by the Legislature of this state a member of
the Executive Council, and, during the late war, when apprehensions
were entertained that the enemy contemplated assailing our towns and
cities, he was chosen a member of the Board of War for the defence of
the State. In 1814 he was chosen a Representative in Congress, and
held his seat till March, 1817.

In his retirement he enjoyed the respect and esteem of his contempo-
raries ; his devotion to his favorite rural pursuits, his extensive corres-
pondence with eminent and worthy men in various parts of our country,
his love of literature and science, and his zeal in promotion of the inter-
ests of our best institutions, furnished his mind with active employment.

The activity of his life, and the magnitude and variety of his public
labors, left him little leisure for solitary and continued application to the
pursuits of science and literature ; he made no pretensions to either ; —
yet few public men possessed knowledge so various and extensive. The
productions of his pen bear testimony to his ability, power, elegance,
and vigor as a writer. The charms and the variety of his powers in
conversation were unrivalled, and made him a favorite of the social cir-
cle. The grave and the gay, the aged and the young, were delighted
with his colloquial eloquence, and instructed by his wisdom.

In public life he was distinguished for energy, fidelity, firmness,
promptitude, perseverance, and disinterestedness. The many arduous
and honorable offices he filled were in no instance sought by him, but
were conferred on him solely for his fitness and ability to discharge the
duties of them to the advantage of the public.

Of his private virtues there is no difference of opinion. All men of
all parties speak of them with admiration. This voluntary homage has
been paid to his character amid all the vicissitudes of party. In all the
private relations of life he was honest, faithful, and humane. No man
ever impeached his integrity with any color of justice. Love of Truth,
and Integrity that could not be shaken, were his characteristics.
"Where Truth led the way, he did not fear to follow." His man-
ners were plain and simple, his morals pure and unblemished, and his
belief and profession of the Christian Religion were, through a long
life, accompanied with practice and conduct in accordance with its di-
vine precepts.

During the past year he had been employed in preparations for writ-
ing the Life of Alexander Hamilton, a task he was eminently qualified
to execute, as well by the intimacy of the friendship that long existed


between them, as from his familiar and personal knowledge of and par-
ticipation in the events and measures to which it related. If his life
had been prolonged, it cannot be doubted that he would have reared a
monument to the memory of that eminent Statesman, worthy of the
brilliant reputation of his fellow soldier during the war for indepen-
dence, and his colleague in the cabinet of Washington. But the wing
of ruthless Time has swept away "both the poet and the song."

The following notice of the early conduct of Col. Pickering in the
Revolution, is taken from the new and improved edition of Dr. Holmes'
Annals, a standard work in American History : —

" On the 26th of February, [1775] Gen. Gage, having received intel-
ligence that some military stores were deposited in Salem, despatched
Lieut. Col. Leslie from Castle William, with 140 soldiers, in a transport,
to seize them. Having landed at Marblehead, they passed on to the
draw-bridge leading to Danvers, where a large number of people had
assembled, and on the opposite side of which Col. Pickering had mus-
tered thirty or forty men, and drawn up the bridge. Leslie ordered
them to let it down ; but they peremptorily refused, declaring it to be a
private road, by which he had no authority to demand a pass. On this
refusal he determined to ferry over a few men in a gondola which lay
on the bank ; but the people, perceiving the intention, instantly sprang
into the gondola, and scuttled it with their axes. There was danger of
instant hostility ; but the prudent interposition of Mr. Barnard, minister
of Salem, and other persons, prevented that extremity. To moderate
the ardour of the soldiery, the folly of opposing such numbers was
stated ; and to moderate the ardour of the citizens, that, at so late an
hour, the meditated object of the British troops was impracticable. The
bridge was at length let down ; Leslie passed it, and marched about 30
rods; and the evening being now advanced, he returned, and embarked
for Boston. Some particulars of this transaction are taken from the
MSS. of President Stiles ; where he farther writes, that the British sol-
diers pricked the people with their bayonets ; that Leslie kept his troops
at the bridge an hour and a half; that he at length pledged his honor,
that, if they would let down the bridge, he would march but thirteen
rods over it, and return without doing any thing farther ; that the line
was marked ; and that Col. Pickering, with his forty brave men, like
Leonidas at Thermopylae, faced the King's troops." He had been cho-
sen Colonel of the Salem Regiment of Minute Men, on the 13th of the
same month in which this occurrence happened.



Page 19, line 13 from bottom, dele the before foremost.
" 23. <: 3 " " insert the before service.

" 24, top line, insert a before preference
" " line 18 from bottom, for and read by.
u a u 7 " " • for at read to.
t< 25 " 3 " " f° r stoc k rea d stocks.
" 27 1 line 13 from top, for remembered read remarked.
u u (< go « « for product read products.
" 28, " 19 " " for any read that.
'■ 29, top line, for tract read tmcte.
" " line 4 from top, for qualities read quantities.
'■' 30, " 13 " bottom, for calling read called.
" 32," 9 " top. for searching read searched. ■

" 33, " 21 " " before Bear Creek insert the deserted cabin whence
three men were detached to.

Page 64, line 17 from bottom, for country read comity.

° u u g ti " for my country read the county.
" 36, " 12 " " for stinking read slinking.
■ ■ 43' << 15 - : " insert Me before ?/c«r.






























rrinted by JOHN ROSSER, Lafayette, Ind,


tl It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might

learn thy statutes." — Psalm 119; 71:
"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but

grevious, nevertheless afterward, it yieldeth the peaceable
fruit of righteousness, unto them which are exercised

thereby." — Hebrews 12; 11:

"God only is great." His presence fills the universe, his
voice reaches the most distant inhabitant of his empire, and
wakes into melody, the songs of the whole creation. Sinai's
trumpet proclaims the nature and demerit of sin, the sweet
accents of Calvary, invite to a participation of the Saviour's
love, while a voice from the tomb, summons us on this solemn
•occasion, to contemplate the vicissitudes of life, preparatory
to the unchanging realities of eternity. Bitterly are we dis-
appointed, grievously are we afflicted, sorely are we chas-
tised, and solemnly are we reminded of the frail tenure, by
which we hold all earthly blessings.

The first year of a residence in a new country, had been
completed. The summer with its enervating influences had
passed away, autumn with its changes and its chills, justly
named the sickly season, had made its mournful procession,
■leaving sad and indellible impressions upon many hearts;
but there was one family still untouched, who rejoicing in
the signal evideiices o^ Providential preservation, might, al-
most have been tempted to believe, that they had a pledge
of life and health, for at least another year. Already death
had marked his victim, though his insidious approach was
not perceived.

A few days ago, she whose untimely end, we are called to
mourn, was apparently in perfect health; but stepping from her


door, she slipped and fell, and by some unaccountable casual-
ty, received the injury, which after protracted suffering of
twenty-six days, borne with remarkable fortitude and chris-
tian resignation, terminated in her death. [See note A.]

The long anticipated stroke has fallen and she, who a little
while ago, in vigor of life and health, was the light of the
domestic hearth, the star of the social circle, and the joy of
bur hearts, is no more.

"Leaves have their time to fall
And flowers to wither at the North-wind's blast,

And stars to set, but .u.i, —
Thou hast all seasons for thine own, O DEATH."

Surprised by the stroke, stunned by the shock and over-
whelmed by the magnitude of the calamity, when one sus-
taining the responsible relations pf daughter, sister, wife,
mother and friend, and discharging the arduous duties of her
station with skill, energy, fidelity and zeal, is suddenly re-
moved, her days not numbered and her work apparently not
completed, leaving her friends to mourn her untimely end,
we turn instinctively for consolation, to the treasures of
heavenly wisdom, the promises which Revelation affords, and
that our minds may embrace some definite idea, some fun-
damental principle connected with the Rock of ages, I
propose for consideration, in accordance with the suggestion
of the text, "The mercies of sanctified afflictions."

It is .a singular fact, and to any one observant of the vi-
cissitudes of Providence, eminently consolatory, that so large
a proportion of the Bible is comprised of promises, encour-
agements and consolations. Through the loss of property,
or reputation, or health, or friends, all are afflicted ; and ad-
dressed in the language of kindness and sympathy.

1. This is a world of trial. To those who humbly appre-
hend the import of Providential chastisements, they are drops
of mercy from a father's hand. To those possessing a recep-
tivity for the divine, they are the means of re-impressing on
ihe heart, the law of Leaven, developing the original and es-
sential elements of hunmanity, once perfect and harmonious,
but now, perverted, depraved and covered over by selfish-


ness and sin: as the beautiful plain adjacent to a volcanic
mountain, is sometimes overwhelmed by the melted lava, ex-
hibiting when cooled and crusted over, a degree of desola-
tion and wo, which the light of heaven only renders more
hideous and repulsive.

To lose the benefit of an affliction is an irreparable loss.
Chastisements are sent in mercy, and are designed to promote
our spiritual welfare. They mav be regarded as means of
grace. "When Thy judgments are abroad in the earth, the
inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." Uniform
prosperty flatters us, that our hopes are here, but afflictions
direct our thoughts to Heaven. They are motives of an ex-
traordinary character, produced and applied by the Supreme
Disposer of all events, in trying circumstances and in view
of momentous results, when the strongest and best balanced
natures pause and deliberate, to stimulate the deficient ener-
gy of the living principle, in maintaining the life of faith, and
to spiritualize the affections, and bring the law of the feelings
and sensibilities into harmony and coincidence, with that ol
the reason and conscience; and thus to unite us more close-
ly to the Divine Mind.

2. Many of our most valuable lessons are learned in the
school of adversity. Who would have a just appreciation
of the value of property if it were obtained without an effort,
or held by a firm tenure, or of friends if they were never
separated from us, or oi reputation if it could not be tarnish-
ed, or of health if it were never impaired ? The metals and
gems of the earth, are valuable relatively, in proportion to
their scarcity, and difficulty of access. We do not proper-
ly appreciate the value of air, or water, or light, because
they are abundant, and free of access. Yet every one has
in them a personal interest of priceless value.

Good is known principally by contrast with evil. Every
pain and toil and suffering, and event in life, is a tree of
knowledge of good and evil, affording us an experimental
acquaintance with the qualities and principles of the natural
and spiritual worlds.


3. The universe of matter and of mind is made subject
to the dominion of law. "Even chaos, termed in the The-
ogony of Hesiod, the first of all beings, possessed con-
stituent elementary rules of action, whence in process of time,
resulted the order, harmony and beauty of nature."

The conception of a being without law, is a negation, in-
volving the idea of the annihilation of all created existence.
Man exists and acts as a part of a comprehensive whole,

Online LibraryPeter ThacherA sermon preached June 12, 1799, before His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., lieutenant governor and commander in chief : the honorable Council, Senate and House of Representatives of the commonwealth of Massachusetts at the interment of His Excellency Increase Sumner, esq., who died June 7, 1799, aet. 53 → online text (page 15 of 51)