網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

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 Jefferson 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, 1820, 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 debate, 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 commanded 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 Staunton, 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 youngest sister of Patrick Henry, and of George Madison, Governor of Kentucky, 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 King's 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 Sweet 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 Virginia, under articles of service for his passage. Upon his arrival at Williamsburg 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 graduated thence about the year last stated. Tradition affirms him to have 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 230 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

mand was disbanded, and he was honorably discharged from service, August 18, 1815. In recognition of his patriotic service he was elected, by the General Assembly, Governor of Virginia, to succeed Wilson Cary Nicholas, December 1, 1816, and served in that capacity by annual re-election until December 1, 1819. It is noteworthy that in the last year of his incumbency, on the 25th of January, the law was passed establishing the University of Virginia, in Albemarle County, upon a site near Charlottesville which had previously belonged to Central College, which was purchased. Fifteen thousand dollars per annum were appropriated from the Literary Fund to meet expenses of building and of subsequent endowment. The institution was to be under the direction of seven visitors, appointed by the Governor and Council, and from their number these visitors were to elect a rector to preside and give general superintendence. Thomas Jefferson was elected the first rector and retained the office until his death, He drew all the plans for the buildings, which were so nearly completed in 1824 that preparations were made for opening the schools the following year. This was done with professors chiefly obtained from Europe. Only the chairs of law, chemistry and ethics were filled from the United States. In the year 1819, also, a revision of the Code of Virginia was made.

Subsequent to his gubernatorial service, Mr. Preston was for several years postmaster of the city of Richmond. He finally retired to his patrimonial inheritance, the homestead “Smithfield,” 'in Montgomery County, where he died May 4, 1843. The county of Preston, now in West Virginia, formed in 1818, from Monongalia County, was named in his honor.

He married Ann Taylor, the second daughter of Robert Taylor, a prominent merchant of Norfolk, Virginia, and the sister of General Robert Barraud Taylor, of Virginia, and left issue three sons and three daughters: i. William Ballard Preston, a member of the Virginia Conventions of 1850–1 and 1861, Secretary of the Navy in the Cabinet of President Taylor and Confederate States Senator; married Lucy Redd, and left issue; ii. Robert Taylor Preston, Colonel Confederate States Army, married Mary Hart, of South Carolina, and left issue; iii. James Patton Preston, Jr., Colonel Confederate States Army, married Sarah Caperton, and left issue; iv. Susan Preston, died unmarried; v. Virginia Preston, died unmarried; and vi. Jane Grace Preston, married Judge George Gilmer.

In support of the claim made in the opening paragraph of this sketch, it may be said of “the Preston family” that it has furnished the National Government a Vice-President (the Hon. John Cabell Breckinridge), has been represented in several of the Executive Departments, and in both branches of Congress. It has given Virginia five Governors--McDowell, Campbell, Preston, and the two Floyds

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]
« 上一頁繼續 »