Samuel G. (Samuel Griswold) Goodrich.

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period, will show the spirit of the time :

" No treaty ought to have been made with Great
Britain, for she is famed for perfidy and double deal-
ing.; her polar star is interest ; artifice with her is a
substitute for nature. To make a treaty with Great
Britain is forming a connection with a monarch ; and
the introduction of the fashions, forms and precedents
of the monarchical governments has ever accelerated
the destruction of republics. If foreign connections
are to be formed, they ought to be made with nations
whose influence would not poison the fountain of
liberty, and circulate the deleterious streams to the
destruction of the rich harvest of the revolution.
Fkance is our natural ally; she has a government

F



82 JOHN JAY

congenial with our own. There can be no hazard of
introducing from her principles and practices repug-
nant to freedom."

The democratic societies coitimenced by Genet
were likewise active in exciting opposition to the
treaty, and in preparing the public mind for war with
England, and an alliance with France. A society in
Virginia thus announced its wishes: "Shall we
Americans, who have kindled the spark of liberty,
stand aloof and see it extinguished, when burning a
bright flame in France, which hath caught it from us?
If all tyrants unite against free people, should not all
free people unite against tyrants ? Yes, let us unite
with France, and stand or fall together."

As yet, the contents of the treaty, as propriety
required before its ratification, had been kept secret ;
but, on the 29th of June, a senator from Virginia,
regardless both of the rules of the senate and of offi-
cial decorum, sent a copy of it to a democratic printer
in Philadelphia, Avho published it on the 2d of July.
This act was applying the torch to that vast mass of
combustibles, which the party had long been engaged
in collecting, and the intended explosion instantly
followed. On the 4th, a great mob assembled and
paraded the streets, with an effigy of Mr. Jay, bearing
a pair of scales ; one labelled, " American Liberty
and Independence," and the other, which was in
extreme depression, " British Gold ;" while from the
mouth of the figure proceeded the words, " Come up
to my price, and I will sell you my country." The
effigy was afterwards publicly committed to the
fiames. No time was lost in getting up meetings



JOHN JAY. 83

throughout the country, to denounce the treaty; and, in
many instances, inflammatory resolutions, previously
prepared, were adopted by acclamation, without
examination or discussion. Despite these formidable
movements, the senate sanctioned the treaty, and
Washington gave it his signature, in the face of
threats tliat might have shaken less steady nerves.
The last hope of the opposition lay in the house of
representatives. Here an attempt Avas made to defeat
ilie measure, by refusing to pass the laws necessary
to carry it into effect. The democratic party had a
large majority in this body, and every efibrt was
made, both in and out of the house, to bring them up
to an adverse decision. The subject was debated
with great power, and it was during this discussion
that Fisher Ames, of Massachusetts, pronounced one
of the most eloquent speeches that ever fell from
human lips. Its effect was deepened by his condi-
tion ; he was wasted and pale with consumption. As
he rose, it seemed indeed that he had hardly strength
to speak. As he proceeded, his countenance gathered
brightness, and his tones, force and fervor. The
power of his argument, — the solemn earnestness of
his manner, — the prophetic wisdom of his views, all
spoken while standing on the verge of the grave, —
gave his speech almost supernatural force. In point-
ing out the evils which must follow the rejection of
the treaty, he adverted to the certain renewal of
the Indian war at the west, in the following terms :

" On this theme my emotions are unutterable. If
I could find words for them, — if my powers bore any
proportion to my zeal, — I would swell my voice to such



84 JOHN JAY.

a note of remonstrance, that it should reach eveiy log-
house beyond the mountains. I would say to the in-
habitants, — wake from your false security ; your cruel
dangers, your more cruel apprehensions, are soon to
be renewed ; the wounds yet unhealed are to be torn
open again; in the daytime, your path through the
woods will be ambushed; the darkness of midnight
will glitter with the blaze of -your dwellings. You
are a father, — the blood of your sons shall fatten your
field. You are a mother, — the war-whoop shall wake
the sleep of the cradle !

• " It is vain to ofier as an excuse, that public men
are not to be reproached for the evils that may happen
to ensue from their measures. This is very true, .
where they are unforeseen or inevitable. Those I
have depicted are not unforeseen. They are so far
from inevitable, that we are going to bring them into
being by our vote ; we choose the consequences, and
become as justly answerable for them, as for the
measure that we know will produce them.

" By rejecting the treaty, we light the savage fires,
we bind the victims. This day we undertake to
render account to the widovv's and orphans whom our
decision will make; to the wretches that will be roasted
at the stake ; to our country, and, I do not deem it too
serious to say, to conscience and to God. We are
answerable; and if duty be anything more than a
word of imposture, if conscience be not a bug-bear,
Ave are preparing to make ourselves as wretched as
our country.

" There is no mistake in this case — there can be
none; experience has already been the prophet of



JOHN JAY. 85

events, and the cries of our future victims have
already reached us. The western inhabitants are not
a silent and uncomplaining sacrifice. The voice of
humanity issues from the shade of the wilderness ; it
exclaims that while one hand is held up to reject this
treaty, the other grasps a tomahawk. It summons
our imagination to the scenes that will open. It is

00 great effort of the imagination to conceive that
events so near are already begun. I can fancy that

1 listen to the yells of savage vengeance and the
jhrieks of torture ; already they seem to sigh in the
western wind ; already they mingle with every echo
jrom the mountains."

At the outset of the discussion, it was supposed that
the house would decide against the treaty ; but when
the gulf into which party spirit was about to plunge
the country was laid open, some of the leaders of the
opposition began to shriilk from the responsibility of
taking the leap. After a protracted and heated dis-
cussion, the question was taken — and, thirteen of the
democratic party voting to sustain the treaty, the house
was equally divided. The speaker gave his casting
vote in its favor, and it went into operation. Its results
proved it to be one of the wisest and most beneficent
measures in the history of our government.

]\Ir. Jay discharged the duties of governor of New
York with great ability, and was a second time
elected to that office. He was offered again the post
of chief justice of the United States, but this he
declined. In 1801, having been in public life twenty-
seven years, and now being fifty-six years old, he left
Albany, where he had resided since he was governor,
VI.— 8



86 JOHN JAY.

and settled upon his estate in Bedford, about fifty
miles northeast of New York. Here he spent the
remainder of his days in the bosom of his family, and
in the peaceful and unostentatious discharge of the
duties which religion and benevolence demand.

About this time the religious associations were
formed in our country for the dissemination of the
Scriptures. To them he was a sincere friend. In
1821, upon the death of the venerable Elias Bowdi-
not, president of the American Bible Society, Mr.
Jay was chosen his successor. He discharged the
duties of the station till 1828, when his declining
health obliged him to resign. He accompanied this
act by a liberal donation to the society.

In May, 1829, he was seized in the night with the
palsy ; medical skill was obtained, but nothing could
be done to arrest the disease. His speech was af-
fected, but his mind seemed clear. He lingered till
the seventeenth, when he died, in the eighty-fourth
year of his age.

Mr. Jay had survived nearly all who had ever been
personally opposed to him in politics. His character
had triumphed over the calumnies by which it had
been assailed ; his long retirement had exempted him
from all participation in the conflicts and animosities
of modern parties; and when he left the world, he
probably left no one in it who harbored an unkind
feeling towards him. Hence, the intelligence of his
death called forth from men of all parties willing
attestations of his worth. The public journals, how-
ever discordant on other topics, united in doing justice
to his memory. The judges and members of the bar



JOHN JAY.



87



of the county court put on mourning for thirty days,
and the supreme court of the state, being in session
when the news of his death was received, immedi-
ately adjourned, as a mark of respect; and, by order
of congress, a bust of the first chief justice has since
been executed, and placed in the chamber of the
supreme court of the United States.

The character of Mr. Jay may be gathered from
the acts recorded m the preceding pages. In its sim-
plicity, harmony, equanimity, and patriotism, it bears
a strong resemblance to that of Washington. It
would seem that his affections were strong — his love
of country fervent ; yet he appeared to be prompted
even by higher motives of action. A sense of
future accountability seems to have been ever present
to his mind, and to have made him think the judg-
ments of men as dust in the balance, compared with
the realities of a future reckoning. He was a friend
to churches and schools ; an ardent advocate of the
abolition of slavery ; a Christian, a patriot, and a phi-
lanthropist.

In manner, he was modest and simple. Though few
men have done so much, in any age or country, he
assumed no importance, claimed no deference, boasted
no merit. A stranger might have lived with him for
months, and never have known, from his lips, the his-
tory of his great deeds. As a writer, he was among
the first of his time ; his wisdom was deep ; his mind
penetrating and far-sighted ; his judgment cool, cir-
cumspect, and seldom mistaken.

Mr. Jay's religion was fervent, but mild and unos-
tentatious. Throuo-h life, he continued a member



SS JOHN JAY.

of the Episcopal church, and approved the doctrines
and policy maintained by that portion of the denomi-
nation which is distinguished as the low Church.
While his health permitted, he was regular in his
attendance on public worship, and was always a
scrupulous, but not superstitious observer of the Sab-
bath. On the whole, his life exhibits a rare but
interesting picture of the Christian patriot and states-
man, and justifies the reverence for his character so
eloquently described in an address delivered soon after
his death:

" A halo of veneration seemed to encircle him as
one belonging to another world, though lingering
among us. When the tidings of his death came to
us, they were received through the nation, not with
sorrow or mourning, but with solemn awe, like that
with which we read the mysterious passage of ancient
scripture, 'And Enoch walked with God, and he was
not, for God took him.'"





PATRICK HENRY.

Patrick Henry was born in the county of Hanover,
Virginia, May 29th, 1736. His parents,=^ though not



* His father, Colonel John Henr)', was a native of Aberdeen,
Scotland, and came to Virginia to seek his fortune about 1730.
He was a man of liberal education, of sound judgment, great
integrity and fervent piety. His mother, the widow of Colonel
Syme, at the time of her marriage to Mr. Henry, was a native
of Hanover county. She was a woman of excellent character,
and marked by fine powers of conversation, said to be heredi-
tary in her family.

8*



90 PATRICK HENRY.

rich, were in easy circumstances, and, in point of
character, were among the most respectable inhabitants
of the colony. Until ten years of age, Patrick was
sent to school in the neighborhood, where he learned
to read and write, and made some small progress in
arithmetic. He was then taken home, and, under the
direction of his father, who had opened a grammar
school in his own house, he acquired a superficial
knowledge of the Latin, and learned to read the Greek
character, but never to translate the language. At
the same time, he made considerable proficiency in
mathematics, the only branch of education for which,
it seems, he discovered in his youth the slightest pre-
dilection.

But he was too idle to gain any solid advantage
from the opportunities that were thrown in his way.
He was passionately addicted to the sports of the field,
and could not support the confinement and toil which
education required. Hence, instead of system, or any
semblance of regularity in his studies, his efforts were
always desultory, and they became more and more
rare, until, at length, when the hour of his school
exercises arrived, Patrick was scarcely ever to be
found. He was in the forest with his gun, or over
the brook with his angle rod ; and in these frivolous
occupations, when not controlled by the authority of
his father — which was rarely exerted — he would spend
whole days, and even weeks, with an appetite rather
whetted that cloyed by enjoyment.

His school-fellows, having observed his passion for
these amusements, v/atched his movements, to dis-
cover, if they could, the cause of that delight which



PATRICK HENRY. 91

they seemed to aflbrd him. Their conclusion was,
that he loved idleness for its own sake. They often
observed him lying under the shade of some tree that
overhung the sequestered stream, watching for hours
the motionless cork of his fishing line, without one
encouraging symptom of success, and without any
apparent source of enjoyment, unless he could find it '
in the ease of his posture, or in the illusions of hope,
or, which is most probable, in the stillness of the scene,
and the silent workings of his own imagination. His
love of solitude in his youth, was often observed. Even
when in society, his enjoyments were of a peculiar
cast ; he did not mix in the wild mirth of his equals
in age, but sat quiet and demure, taking no part in
the conversation, giving no responsive smile to the
circulating jest, but lost to all appearance in silence
and abstraction. His absence of mind, however, was
only apparent; for, on the dispersion of the company,
if interrogated by his parents as to what had been
passing, he was able not only to detail the conversa-
tion, but to sketch, with strict fidelity, the character of
every speaker.

It does not appear that he displayed any of that
precoc'ty which sometimes distinguishes uncommon
genius. His companions recollect no instance of pre-
mature wit, no striking sentiment, no flash of fancy,
no remarkable beauty or strength of expression ; and
no indication, however slight, either of that impas-
sioned love of liberty or of that adventurous daring
and intrepidity which marked so strongly his subse-
quent character. So far was he, indeed, from exhibit-
ing any one prognostic of this greatness, that every



92 PATRICK HENRY.

omen foretold a life at best of mediocrity, if not of
insignificance. His person is represented as having
been coarse, his manners uncommonly awk\A-ard, his
dress slovenly, his conversation very plain, his aver-
sion to study invincible, and his faculties almost
entirely benumbed by indolence. No persuasion
could bring him either to read or work. On the con-
trary, he ran wild in the forest, like one of the abori-
gines of the country, and divided his life between the
dissipation and uproar of the chase, and the languor
of inaction.

The propensity to observe and comment upon the
human character, was the only trait that distinguished
him at this early period. This tendency appears to
have been born Avith him, and to have exerted itself
instinctively, Avhenever a new subject was presented
to his view. Its action was incessant, and became, at
length, almost the only intellectual exercise in which
he seemed to take delight. To this cause may be
traced that consummate knowledge of the human
heart which he finally attained, and which enabled
him, when he came upon the public stage, to touch the
springs of passion with a master hand.

When Patrick had reached the age of fifteen, his
father, finding it inconvenient to sustain the expenses
of his large and increasing family, placed him behind
the counter of a country merchant. The next year he
purchased a small amount of goods for Patrick and
"William his elder brother, and, according to the lan-
guage of the country, they set up in trade. Unhap-
pily, they were both destitute of those habits of indus-
try, energy and attention, which were indispensable to



PATRICK HENRY. 93

success in their present pursuit. The business of ihe
store soon rushed to its catastrophe, and at the end of
the year it was closed. William was thrown loose
upon society, and for a time was addicted to dissipa-
tion. Patrick was engaged for two or three years in
winding up his disastrous experiment in trade. During
the confinement of this period, he solaced himself with
music, and learned to play well on the violin and on
the flute. From music, he passed to books, and,
having procured a few light and elegant authors,
acquired, for the first time, a relish for reading.

Adversity does not seem to have taught him pru-
dence. At the age of eighteen, he married Miss Shel-
ton, the daughter of a poor, but honest farmer in the
neighborhood, and the young couple Avere soon settled
upon a small farm. Assisted by one or two slaves,
Henry began to delve the earth with his own hands ;
but he could not endure systematic labor, and at the
end of two years, selling out his possessions, he again
turned merchant. But his early habits still continued
to haunt him. The same want of method, the same
facility of temper, soon became apparent, by their
ruinous effects. He resumed his violin, his flute, his
books, his curious inspection of human nature ; and
not unfrequently ventured to shut up his store, and
indulge himself in the favorite sports of his youth.

This second mercantile experiment was still more
unfortunate than the first. In a few years, it left him
a bankrupt, and placed him in a situation than which
it is difficult to conceive one more wretched. Every
atom of his property was now gone ; his friends were
■inable to assist him any farther ; he had tried ev?ry



94 PATRICK HENRY.

means of support, of which he could suppose himself
capable, and every one had failed; ruin was behind
him ; poverty, debt, want and famine before ; and, as
if his cup of misery were not already full, here were a
suffering wife and children to make it overflow.

But, though Henry possessed acuteness of feeling,
he had great firmness of character, as well as an
unvarying cheerfulness of temper. His misfortunes,
even at this period, could not be traced in his counte-
nance or conduct. His passion was still music, danc-
ing and pleasantry. He excelled in the last, and thus
attached every one to him. As yet, however, no one
had suspected the extraordinary powers of his mind.

Having failed in all other attempts, he at last
determined to make a trial of the law. He studied
six weeks, and, being examined, obtained a license,
though with difficulty. He was now at the age of
twenty-four. Of the science of law, he knew almost
nothing; of the practical part, he was so wholly
ignorant, that he was not only unable to draw a
declaration or a plea, but incapable, it is said, of the
most common and simple business of his profession;
even of the mode of ordering a suit, giving a notice,
or making a motion in court.

For several years, he lingered in the back-ground
of his profession. During this period his family was
reduced to extreme want; and, to obtain the necessaries
of life, he was obliged to take up his residence with
his wife's father, who now kept the tavern at the
Hanover Court-House. In his absence, Patrick Henry
was accustomed to receive the guests and provide for
their entertainment.



PATRICK HENRY. 95

But the clouds, which had thus far ohscurcd his
existence, were about to pass away. The Episcopal
religion Avas established by law in Virginia, and the
clergy had each a right to claim an annual stipend of
sixteen thousand pounds of tobacco. Various acts in
relation to this were passed, one of which gave the
people the right of paying the tobacco at a certain rate
per pound. It became, at last, a question whether
this right existed or not; and, as the tobacco was worth
more than the rate fixed by law, the clergy had an
interest to maintain the privilege of talcing the tobacco
and not the money. The case that arose, and which
was to determine the whole question, was a suit of
Rev. James Murray, against the collector of Hanover.
Already a partial decision, favorable to the claims of
the clergy, had taken place, and hardly a more hope-
less case could have been chosen, than that of the
defendant, in which Henry was now to commence his
career as an advocate.

The array before his eyes, as he was about to begin
his plea, was indeed formidable. On the bench were
more than twenty clergymen. The court-house was
crowded to excess, and in the chair of the presiding
magistrate sat his own father ! The opposing coun-
sel opened the cause, and, after a flourishing speech,
concluded with an eulogium upon the clerg}'. And
now came on the first trial of Patrick Henry's strength.
No one had ever heard him speak, and curiosity was
on tiptoe. He rose awkwardly, and faltered at the
outset. The people hung their heads ; the cleigy
exchanged sly looks, and his father almost sunk with
confusion from his seat.



96 PATKICK HENRY.

But these feelings were brief. Henry seemed
speedily to burst the clownish fetters Avhich embar-
rassed his limbs, and the impediments which fettered
his speech. His attitude became erect ; his counte-
nance glowed ; his tones became mellow and touch-
ing, and his words flowed like a torrent. He piled
argument upon argument, illustration upon illustra-
tion. The whole crowd around seemed fixed with
amazemerit and awe, as if some miracle had taken
place before their eyes. Every look was riveted upon
the wonderful speaker ; every ear stretched to catch
his lightest word : the mockery of the clergy was
turned to alarm, and, at one burst of his rapid and
overwhelming invective, they left the bench, discon-
certed and despairing of their cause. As for the
father, he was taken completely by surprise, and,
unconscious of his position, gave vent to his feelings
in a shower of tears. The jury, captivated and
bewildered, and forgetting even the obvious right of
the plaintiff to reasonable damages, brought in a ver-
dict of one penny. This was indeed a triumph —
though it was at the expense of law and justice.
The event caused a great sensation, and was long
remembered. It was the custom of the people in
that quarter, 'for many subsequent years, to express
their utmost conception of eloquence by referring to
Pa/rick's plea against the parsons.

Henry found himself suddenly elevated to the sum-
mit of his profession, at least in the estimation of the
people around him. They had witnessed the display
of his talents, and they considered him as having vin-
dicated their cause against the clergy. He saw at



PATRICK HENRY. 97

once the advantage to be derived from cultivating
their good will, and this he did with success. He
dressed as plain as the plainest; partook of the homely
fare of the country ; mixed with the mass on terms of
equality, and even continued to imitate their vicious
language. "Naiteral parts is better than all the
larnin upon yearth" is given by his biographer as a
specimen of his speech in condescension to the cor-
rupt standard of those he sought to flatter.

His practice Avas now considerable, and his fame
was rapidly extended. But he was soon called to
another theatre of action, where his highest laurels
were won. In January, 1765, the famous Stamp Act
was passed in England. A general feeling of alarm,
attended however by a prevailing disposition to sub-
mit to the heavy hand of tyranny, spread through the
country. About this period Henry became a member


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Online LibrarySamuel G. (Samuel Griswold) GoodrichLives of benefactors; → online text (page 6 of 21)