ePub 版
[ocr errors]

urging him, unless there was a certainty of a favorable change in the
affairs of the nation, before the meeting of Congress, to announce to
the body in his message, that the great object in laying the embargo
had been effected. That nothing more was to be expected from it, and
that it should be raised, and other measures which the vindication of
the national honor demanded, resorted to; that our people would not
much longer submit to the burdensome restrictions of the embargo, and
that we could not and ought not to think of abandoning the resistance
which we so solemnly pledged to make. In 1809 Mr. Nicholas was re-
elected to Congress, and served in the spring session, during which the
agreement of our government with Mr. #. produced for a time a
delusive calm. In the autumn of the same year, on his way to Wash-
ington, he experienced so violent an attack of rheumatism, that he was
compelled to resign his seat, and was closely confined to his room for a
period of four months. He was now so thoroughly convinced of the
impracticability of enforcing any commercial restrictions; of their de-
moralizing influence on the people, and exhausting effect on the finances
of the country, that he frequently avowed his intention never again to
vote for any similar measure, except as preparatory to war, and for the
briefest duration. In the month of December, 1814, the gloomiest
§. of the war, and when Virginia especially, but the remaining
tates as well, were chiefly left to their own resources, Mr. Nicholas
was elected Governor of the State, an unthankful office, which yet his
patriotism would not allow him to decline. The happy announcement
of peace in the spring of the following year, gave but little opportunity
for the exhibition of administrative capacity, which emergency, with his
attested characteristics, would have enlisted. The defence of the State
depending chiefly upon the militia, who could not be kept constantly in
the field, an appropriation was made by the Assembly to enable him to
erect telegraphic stations, and to raise a corps of videttes to be so dis-
tributed at his discretion, as to transmit his orders throughout the State
with the utmost dispatch possible. But peace rendered needless the
carrying into execution this well digested provision.
The great confidence reposed in Governor Nicholas by the State
Legislature, was evinced in their enactment, in great haste, at the close
of the spring session of 1815, of a statute for the raising of forces for
the defence of the State, the execution of which, in almost every par-
ticular, was dependent on such instructions as the discretion of the
Governor might deem advisable. Loans, which were necessary to equip
and pay this force, were provided by the Governor, under terms the
most reasonable, with a just condition not originally specified by the
Legislature, but which that body, to its honor, duly authorized at its
next session. Peace having been declared, every duly audited claim
against the State was promptly paid. The militia were discharged in a

manner the most gratifying to them. They were fully paid for their term of service, provision was made for their return home, and for the care of the sick until they could be safely removed. All military stores of a perishable nature were sold. The remaining supplies, includin

tents and other camp equipages, sufficient for an army of ten j men, were deposited in the State Arsenals. The closing of the accounts for the expenses of the war, was pushed with all dispatch consistent with the interest of the State, in their after adjustment at Washington with the National Government. It had been the determination of the Governor, in the event of the continuance of the war, to urge all men of talent and ability with whom he might take the liberty, to offer for election to the ensuing Assembly, that the State might have the benefit of their counsel in her time of need. The return of peace did not prevent this application, but the motive was different. Foreseeing that the State would have command of considerable funds, he deemed it to be important that an early effort should be made to induce the Assembly to apply the F. to the great purposes of internal improvement and education. This application, it is believed, was not without effect, as in the two succeeding Assemblies there appeared many gentlemen of conspicuous ability, who had not served in the body for some years before. At the commencement of the autumn session of 1815, Governor Nicholas zealously pressed these subjects upon their attention. They were acted upon, and means severally placed at the disposal of the Board of Public Works, and of the President and Directors of the Literary Fund, to be devoted to the respective objects. The foundation was thus laid of systems which have fostered and infused education, as well as expanded the wealth and fructified the material prosperity of the State. Upon a review of the messages of Governor Nicholas, it will be found that most of the objects recommended by him were acted upon by the Legislature, and that they are all strongly marked by an intimate knowledge of the needs and capacity of Virginia. The first act of the second term of the Governor, was an effort to adjust the claims of the Commonwealth against the United States, all previous attempts having proved abortive. After reflection, he devised a plan, which was finally adopted by the Council, and an additional agent being o 8. speedy adjustment ensued. As the President of the Board of Public Works and of the Literary Fund, Governor Nicholas displayed the industry and wise foresight which uniformly characterized his administration in every department of the Government. In every contract made by him for the State, the utmost economy was observed, and every caution used to protect and conserve the public interest. A remarkable proof of this was given in the execution of a law providing for a complete survey of the State within justifiable limits. This desirable accomplishment he hesitated to authorize in a general contract, fearing that the expense would exceed the provision contemplated. Finally, under specific instructions to the several county courts of the State, the survey was accomplished in districts at an aggregate cost by which fully $100,000 was saved to the State. After the expiration of his second term as Governor, Mr. Nicholas served for a few months as President of the branch of the United States Bank at Richmond. In the spring of 1819 he returned to “Warren,” his country-seat. His constitution had always been delicate, and the physical fatigue and mental anxiety which he had undergone in his later years of public service had seriously impaired his health. A.journey on horseback was advised as salutary by his physician. He accordingly thus set out from home, but upon reaching “Montpelier,” the residence of ex-President Madison, in Orange County, he found himself too feeble to proceed, and returned to “Tufton,” the residence of his son-in-law, Thomas Jef. ferson Randolph, the grandson of Thomas Jefferson. Here he lingered, each day hoping to be well enough to return to his own home. Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison (the latter being then on a visit at “Monticello”), with both of whom his relations had always been of the warmest personal friendship and confidence, visited him frequently, and all was done which affection could suggest for his recovery, but without avail. On the 10th of October, |; he suddenly expired whilst in the act of dressing. The popularity and success of Governor Nicholas were the just results of intrinsic worth and of conscientious purpose. His style in conversation, as well as on the hustings or in .. was deliberate, sententious, and impressive. It was effective through the justness of his conclusions and the cogency of his reasoning, and borrowed nothing from the meretricious arts of the popular orator, whose devices, indeed, he held in contempt. Though ever ready, at the sacrifice of his private interests, to serve his country, he was singularly modest in his personal claims, and shunned instead of seeking political preferment. The successive positions occupied by Mr. Monroe, previous to his election as President, and which proved the stepping-stones to that exalted station, were all declined by Mr. Nicholas before they were offered to Mr. Monroe. Mr. Jefferson, his life-long friend, saw in the pecuniary embarassments in which he became unfortunately involved, the only obstacle to his election to the highest post in the gift of the country, and which, he maintained, the wisdom, purity of purpose, and varied talents of Wilson Cary Nicholas would have eminently adorned.

JAMES PATTON PRESTON. Scarce another American family has numbered as many prominent

and honored representatives as that of the yeoman founded Preston descent, with its collateral lines and alliances.

John Preston, its propositus, a ship-carpenter, was born in Londonderry, Ireland, where he married Elizabeth Patton, a sister of Colonel James Patton, of Donegal, with whom he removed to Virginia, and settled in the summer of 1735 in that portion of Orange County from which Augusta County was erected in 1738. Colonel Patton had for some years lo a merchant ship trading to Virginia, and was a man of property, enterprise and influence. He obtained an order from the Council of Virginia under which patents were issued to him and his associates for 120,000 acres of the best lands lying beyond the Blue Ridge. He was killed by the Indians at Smithfield, Virginia, in 1753. He left as issue two daughters, one of whom married Captain William Thompson, and the other Colonel John Buchanan. From the last were descended John Floyd and John B. Floyd, Governors of Virginia, Hon. James D. Breckinridge, of Louisville, Ky., and Colonel William P. Anderson, of the United States Army. John Preston settled first at Spring Hill, but in 1743 he purchased a tract of land, adjoining taunton, on the north side of the town. He died soon after, and was buried at the Tinkling Spring Meeting-House. His widow died in 1776, aged seventy-six years. They had issue five children: Letitia, who married Colonel Robert Breckinridge; Margaret, who married Rev. John Brown; William, who married Susanna, daughter of Francis Smith, of Hanover County, Virginia, and who was a member of the House of Burgesses and a prominent patriot in the American Revolution; Ann, who married Francis Smith; and Mary, who married John Howard. Colonel William and Susanna (Smith) Preston had issue twelve children: i. Elizabeth, married William S. Madison, the second son of John Madison, and the brother of Rev. James Madison (President of William and Mary College), of Thomas Madison, who married the oungest sister of Patrick Henry, and of George Madison, Governor of K. who married Jane Smith, the niece of Colonel Preston's wife; ii. General John, member of the Assembly, and long treasurer of Virginia; married twice, first to Mary, daughter of William Radford, and secondly, to Mrs. Elizabeth Mayo, née Carrington; iii. Francis, lawyer; member of Virginia Senate, and of Congress, and brigadier-general in the war of 1812; married Sarah B. Campbell, a niece of Patrick Henry and daughter of General William Campbell, the hero of †. Mountain; iv. Sarah, married Colonel James McDowell, of Rockbridge County, an officer of the war of 1812, and had issue Governor James McDowell and two daughters: Susan S., who married Hon. William Taylor, of Virginia, and Elizabeth, who married Hon. Thomas H. Benton, of Missouri; v. Anne, died at the age of thirteen years; vi. William, Captain in the United States Army under Wayne; married Caroline, daughter of Colonel George Hancock; of their issue, Henrietta, married General Albert Sydney Johnston, of the United States and Confederate States Armies; and William, statesman, diplomate and soldier, was a Major-General in the Confederate States Army; vii. Susanna, married Nathaniel Hart, of Woodford County, Kentucky; viii. James Patton; ix. Mary, married John Lewis, of §: Springs, Virginia; x. Letitia, married John Floyd, Governor of Virginia; xi. Thomas Lewis, lawyer, member of the Virginia Assembly and Major in the war of 1812; married Edmonia, daughter of Governor Edmund Randolph, and had issue: Elizabeth R., who married William A. Cocke, of Cumberland County, Virginia; and John Thomas Lewis, Colonel in the Confederate States Army, and Professor in the Virginia Military Institute, who married Margaret Junkin, Virginia's sweet poetess; xii. Margaret Brown, married Colonel John Preston, of Walnut Grove, Virginia, a distant relative. James Patton Preston, the subject of the present sketch, and the eighth of the children of Colonel William and Susanna (Smith) Preston, as enumerated, was born at Smithfield, June 21, 1774. He enjoyed early advantages of education, under one Palfrenan, a poet and scholar, who having, in a drunken frolic, been inveigled into a disreputable marriage in London, shipped himself to Virinia, under articles of service for his passage... Upon his arrival at illiamsburg he was purchased by Colonel William Preston, and employed by him as a tutor in his family. Palfrenan was the friend and correspondent of the poetess Elizabeth Carter, an English lady of great learning and acquirements. Colonel Preston also possessed a fine library which had been selected for him in London by Gabriel Jones, a learned and able lawyer, who is said to have been an early partner in the practice with Thomas Jefferson. James Patton Preston appears from the catalogue of William and Mary College to have been a student in that institution for some time during the period 1790–1795. He probably raduated thence about the year last stated. Tradition affirms him to #. been a merry youth; and a distinguished jurist, in a recent letter to the writer, accredits him with the perpetration, whilst a student, of a feat of equivocal distinction. In the preceding sketch of Lord Botetourt, it will be recollected that it is stated that the statue of him erected by order of the House of Burgesses, had been much mutilated by the college students. Its graceless decapitation is stated to have been a frolicsome freak of the embryo legislator and chief executive of the Commonwealth of Virginia. James Patton Preston was elected to the State Senate of Virginia in 1802; was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the 12th Infantry, United States Army, March 19, 1812, and for gallantry was promoted, August 15, 1813, to the rank of Colonel, and assigned to the command of the 23d Regiment of Infantry. He participated in the battle of Chrystler's Field, November 11, 1813, and was so severely wounded in the thigh that he was crippled for life. Peace having been declared, his com.

« 上一頁繼續 »