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which he was unanimously appointed, and the duties of which, for ten years, until the organization of the federal government, he continued to discharge with honour to himself, and benefit to his country.
Soon after the adoption of the federal constitution, General Washington, with the advice and consent of the senate, appointed Mr. Hopkinson to the office of Judge of the United States, for the district of Pennsylvania. This was an important and dignified station, for which he was admirably fitted, and in which capacity he assisted in giving stability and dignity to the national government.
During the period of his judicial career, he conscientiously avoided mingling in party, or occasional politics. He employed his powers, however, when occasion required, in promoting the public good. He contributed in no small degree in rousing the feelings of the people, during the war of the revolution. The chief means by which he accomplished this, was the employment of his powers of satire, which he possessed in an uncommon degree. His occasional productions were quite numerous, and were well adapted to the state of the country at that time. They rendered the author justly popular at that day, and will continue to interest and amuse, while the memory of these times shall remain.
Mr. Hopkinson published several poetical pieces. His chief merit as a poet consisted in an easy versification. His poetical productions were chiefly designed to amuse. This object they effected. They attracted no small attention, throughout the country; but none was more popular than the humorous and well known ballad, called "The Battle of the Kegs."
The life of Mr. Hopkinson was suddenly terminated, while in the midst of his usefulness, on the eighth of May, 1791, in the fifty-third year of his age. He died of an apoplectic fit, which, in two hours after the attack, put a period to his mortal existence. In stature, Mr. Hopkinson was below the common size. His countenance was extremely animated, though his features were small. In speech he was fluent, and in his motions he was unusually quick. Few men were
kinder in their dispositions, or more benevolent in their lives,
He was distinguished for his powers of taste, and for his love and devotion to science. He possessed a library, which contained the most distinguished literary productions of the times; and in his library room was to be found a collection of scientific apparatus, with which he amused himself in his leisure hours, and added greatly to his stock of knowledge. The following anecdote furnishes evidence of the estimation in which he was held, as a philosopher, and a man of letters. Sometime during the revolutionary war, Bordentown, the place where Mr. Hopkinson and family resided, was suddenly invaded by a party of Hessians. The family had hardly time to escape before the invaders began the plunder of the house. After the evacuation of Philadelphia, by the British, a volume, which had been taken from the library of Mr. Hopkinson, at the above period, fell into his hands. On a blank leaf, the officer, who took the book, had written in German an acknowledgment of the theft, declaring that although he believed Mr. Hopkinson to be an obstinate rebel, the books and philosophical apparatus of his library were sufficient evidence, that he was a learned man.
Mr. Hopkinson, at his decease, left a widow and five children. The eldest of these, Joseph Hopkinson, who still lives, strongly resembles his father, in the endowments of his mind, and the brilliancy of his genius. He occupies an enviable rank among the advocates of the American bar.
THE history of the world probably furnishes not another instance in which there was a nobler exhibition of true patriotism, than is presented in the history of the American revolution. It was certain at its commencement, in respect to numerous individuals, whose talents, wisdom and enterprise were necessary to its success, that they could derive but little,
if any, individual advantage. Nay, it was certain, that in stead of gain they would be subjected to great loss and suffering. The comforts of their families would be abridged; their property destroyed; their farms desolated; their houses plundered or consumed; their sons might fall in the field of battle ; and, should the struggle be vain, an ignominious death would be their portion. But, then, the contest respected rights which God had given them; it respected liberty, that dearest and noblest privilege of man; it respected the happiness of generations yet to succeed each other on this spacious continent to the end of time. Such considerations influenced the patriots of the revolution. They thought comparatively little of themselves; their views were fixed on the happiness of others; on the future glory of their country; on universal liberty!
These sentiments alone could have actuated JOHN HART, the subject of the present memoir, a worthy and independent farmer of New-Jersey. He was the son of Edward Hart, of Hopewell, in the county of Hunterdon, in New-Jersey. The time of his birth is unknown to the writer; and unfortunately few incidents of his life have been preserved. He inherited from his father a considerable patrimonial estate. To this he added, by purchase, a farm of about four hundred acres. He married a Miss Scudder, a respectable and amiable lady, by whom he had a numerous family of children. He was fond of agricultural pursuits; and in the quiet of domestic life, sought those enjoyments, which are among the purest which the world affords.
The character which Mr. Hart sustained for wisdom, stability, and judgment naturally brought him into notice, and disposed the community to seek the aid of his counsel. He was often a member of the colonial assembly; and rendered important service to the section of country in which he resided, by suggesting improvements as to laying out new roads, the erection of bridges, the superior means of education, and the prompt administration of justice.
At the commencement of the aggressions of the British ministry upon the rights of the colonies, Mr. Hart perceived,
in common with many of the thinking men of the day, that the only alternative of the latter would be a resort to arms, or absolute slavery. Although he was not one of the most zealous men, or as easily roused to adopt strong measures, as were some of those around him, still he was not backward to express his abhorrence of the unjust conduct of the mother country, nor to enter upon a well matured system of opposition to her designs. He was particularly disgusted with the stamp act. Not that he feared pecuniary loss from its exactions; it was an inconsiderable tax; but trifling as it was, in volved a principle of the greatest importance. It gave to the crown a power over the colonies, against the arbitrary exercise of which they had no security. They had in truth, upon the principles claimed by the British government, little or no control over their own property. It might be taxed in the manner, and to the extent, which parliament pleased, and not a single representative from the colonies could raise his voice in their behalf. It was not strange, therefore, that the setting up of such a claim, on the other side of the water, should have been severely felt in the American colonies, and that a spirit of opposition should have pervaded all classes, as well the bumble as the elevated, the farmer in his retirement as well as the statesman in his public life.
This spirit of opposition in the colonies kept pace with the spirit of aggression in the mother country. There were few men in the community, who did not feel more intensely each succeeding month the magnitude of the subject; and who were not more and more convinced of the necessity of an united and firm opposition to the British government.
When the congress of 1774 assembled, Mr. Hart appeared, and took his seat; having been elected by a conference of committees from several parts of the colony. The precise share which he took in the deliberations of this august and venerable body, is unknown. If his habits and unambitious spirit led him to act a less conspicuous part than some others, he rendered perhaps no less valuable service, by his moderation and cool judgment.
During several succeeding sessions, Mr. Hart continued to
represent the people of New-Jersey in the continental con gress. When the question respecting a Declaration of Independence was brought forward, he was at his post, and voted for the measure with unusual zeal. It was a distinguished honour to belong to this congress, under any circumstances; but the appointment of Mr. Hart must have been peculiarly flattering to him. A little time previous, the provincial congress of New-Jersey had made several changes in their delegation to the general congress. Their confidence was not entire in some of their representatives, especially in regard to that bold and decisive measure, a declaration of independence, which was now occupying the thoughts of many in the country. But the firmness of Mr. Hart, or, as he was afterwards called, "honest John Hart," they could safely trust. They knew him to be a man of tried courage, and never inclined to adopt temporizing or timorous measures. He was accordingly retained, while others were dismissed; and was instructed, "to join with the delegates of the other colonies in continental congress, in the most vigorous measures for supporting the just rights and liberties of America; and if you shall judge it necessary or expedient for this purpose, to join with them in declaring the United Colonies independent of Great Britain, entering into a confederation for union and common defence, making treaties with foreign nations for commerce and assistance, and to take such other measures as may appear to them and you necessary for those great ends, promising to support them with the whole force of this province; always observing, that whatsoever plan of confederacy you enter into, the regulating the internal police of this province is to be reserved to the colonial legislature."
Sometime during the latter part of the year 1776, New-Jersey became the theatre of war. The distress which the people suffered in consequence, was very great; and a wanton destruction of property was often occasioned by the enemy. In this destruction, the property of Mr. Hart largely participated. His children were obliged to flee, his farm was pillaged, and great exertions were made to secure him, as a prisoner. The situation of Mrs. Hart was at the time peculiarly distressing. She was afflicted with a disease, which