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The termination of the American war—not too soon for his wishes, nor for the welfare of his country, but too soon for his glory—put an end to his military career. The sudden termination of his life cut him off from those scenes which the progress of a new, immense, and unsettled empire could not fail to open to the complete exertion of that universal and pervading genius which qualified him not less for the senate than for the field. * * General Greene, descended from reputable parents, but not placed by birth in that elevated rank which, under a monarchy, is the only sure road to those employments that give activity and scope to abilities, must, in all probability, have contented himself with the humble lot of a private citizen, or, at most, with the contracted sphere of an elective office in a colonial and dependent government, scarcely conscious of the resources of his own mind, had not the violated rights of his country called him to act a part on a more splendid and more ample theatre. Happily for America, he hesitated not to obey the call. The vigor of his genius, corresponding with the importance of the prize to be contended for, overcame the natural moderation of his temper; and though not hurried on by enthusiasm, but animated by an enlightened sense of the value of free government, he cheerfully resolved to stake his fortune, his hopes, his life, and his honor, upon an enterprise of the danger of which he knew the whole magnitude,-in a cause which was worthy of the toils and of the blood of heroes. The sword having been appealed to at Lexington as the arbiter of the controversy between Great Britain and America, Greene shortly after marched, at the head of a regiment, to join the American forces at Cambridge, determined to abide the awful deClsion. He was not long there before the discerning eye of the American Fabius marked him out as the object of his confidence. His abilities entitled him to a pre-eminent share in the councils of his Chief. He gained it, and he preserved it, amidst all the chequered varieties of military vicissitude, and in defiance of all the intrigues of jealous and aspiring rivals. As long as the measures which conducted us safely through the first most critical stages of the war shall be remembered with approbation; as long as the enterprises of Trenton and Princeton shall be regarded as the dawnings of that bright day which afterwards broke forth with such resplendent lustre; as long as the almost magic operations of the remainder of that memorable winter, distinguished not more by these events than by the extraordinary spectacle of a powerful army straitened within narrow limits by the phantom of a military force, and never permitted to transgress those limits with impunity, in which skill supplied the
place of means, and disposition was the substitute for an army; as long, I say, as these operations shall continue to be the objects of curiosity and wonder, so long ought the name of Greene to be revered by a grateful country.
FISHER AMES, 1758–1808.
Few statesmen of this or any other country have passed through the perilous arena of politics with a character and reputation so unsullied as Fisher Ames. He was the youngest son of Dr. Nathaniel Ames, of Dedham, Massachusetts, and was born in that ancient town, April 9, 1758. He was but six years old when he lost his father; but his mother, as if “anticipating the future lustre of the jewel committed to her care,” struggled bravely with her narrow circumstances in order to give him a literary education. She lived to be a witness of his eminence, to receive the expressions of his filial piety, and to weep over his grave. At the completion of his twelfth year, he was admitted to Harvard College, where he distinguished himself, young as he was, by his studious habits and his classical attainments; and he passed through that ordeal, so trying for young men, with a character unstained by any vice. After leaving college, he engaged in the business of instruction, and for three or four years employed his time partly in teaching others, and partly in reviewing his studies and adding new stores to his stock of knowledge. At length he entered the office of William Tudor, Esq., of Boston, and in the autumn of 1781 commenced practice at Dedham. Mr. Ames entered upon his professional duties at a very eventful period of our history. From the outset of his career he was ever the warm, consistent, and able friend of constitutional liberty; and when resistance to law, in Massachusetts, broke out into open rebellion, he wrote a series of essays in the “Independent Chronicle,” published in Boston, under the signatures of “Lucius Junius Brutus” and “Camillus,” to animate the Government to decision and energy. These pieces were pronounced to be the production of no common mind; and when traced to Mr. Ames, the eyes of leading men in the State were turned to him as one destined to render the most important services to his country. In 1788 he was chosen a member of the Massachusetts Convention for ratisying the Federal Constitution. In this body he displayed so much talent and sound political wisdom that he was selected by the friends of the then new Government to assist in its organization, and he was accordingly chosen the first representative to Congress from the district of Suffolk, which included the capital of the State. During the whole of Washington's administration, he continued a member of the House of Representatives; and though his health was feeble, he took an active and responsible part in every important question, giving all his time and all his powers to public business; and such were his abilities and such his enlarged views, united to sound moral and Christian principles, that no member of the House exerted a greater influence. The greatest speech that he delivered in that body—and, indeed, the speech of that session of the fourth Congress—was that on the appropriation for the British treaty, more generally known as “Jay's
treaty.” For many months he had been sinking under bodily infirmity; and though he had attended the long and interesting debate on a question involving the principles of the Constitution and the peace of the United States, it was feared he would be unable to speak. He himself had no design of speaking, feeling utterly unequal to the effort. But when the time came for taking a vote so big with consequences, his emotions would not suffer him to be silent; and, pale, weak, and emaciated as he was, he rose and delivered that speech, which, for chaste diction, argumentative reasoning, high-toned morality, and impassioned eloquence, has not its superior in our legislative history.” At the close of the session, in the spring of 1796, Mr. Ames travelled for his health, which he regained so far as to enable him to attend the next session of Congress; after which he declined another election, and retired to his favorite residence, “to enjoy repose in the bosom of his family, and to unite, with his practice as a lawyer, those rural occupations in which he delighted.” His interest in public affairs, however, did not cease; and his pen was almost constantly employed in writing political essays for the papers of the day, in defence and supPort of the principles of the Federal party, of which he was one of the most distinguished members;” and when Washington, the illustrious head of that party, died, Mr. Ames pronounced his eulogy before the Legislature of Massachusetts. In 1804, Mr. Ames was chosen President of Harvard College, but his feeble health would not allow him to accept the high honor. At length his disease began to make more rapid strides. With great calmness and Christian resignation he saw his end approaching. He was fully prepared to die, as he had lived the life of a Christian, and his faith grew stronger as his body grew weaker; and on the morning of the 4th of July, 1808, the birthday of the independence of that country
! It was delivered April 28, 1796, in support of the following motion:
“Resolved, That it is expedient to pass the laws necessary to carry into effect the treaty lately concluded between the United States and the King of Great Britain.”
* Dr. Charles Caldwell, in his autobiography, thus speaks of Ames's eloquence: —“He was decidedly one of the most splendid rhetoricians of the age. Two of his speeches, in a special manner, that on Jay's treaty, and that usually called his ‘tomahawk speech,” (because it included some resplendent passages on Indian massacres,)—were the most brilliant and fascinating specimens of eloquence I have ever heard; yet have I listened to some of the most celebrated speakers in the British Parliament; among others, to Wilberforce and Mackintosh, Plunket, Brougham, and Canning. Dr. Priestley, who was familiar with the oratory of Pitt the father and Pitt the son, and also with that of Burke and Fox, made to myself the acknowledgment that, to use his own words, “the speech of Ames on the British treaty was the most bewitching piece of parliamentary oratory he had ever listened to.’”
* In a letter to Thomas Dwight, dated October 26, 1803, he thus writes:—“Our country is too big for union, too sordid for patriotism, too democratic for liberty. What is to become of it He who made it best knows. Its vice will govern it by practising upon its folly. This is ordained for democracies. The men who have the best principles, and those who act from the worst, will talk alike, except only that the latter will exceed the former in fervor. But the language of deceit, though stale and exposed to detection, will deceive as long as the multitude love flattery better than restraint.”
His Essay on the Dangers of American Liberty is replete with sould political wisdom; and well would it be for our nation if it would heed its counsels and its warnings.
which he so ardently loved, and for whose best interests he had so faithfully labored, he resigned his spirit into the hands of Him who gave it. Fisher Ames was a truly great man. None of our statesmen have united, to talents and attainments of so high an order, a private character of greater purity, or a deeper sense of moral and religious obligation. He was a close student of the Bible, an admirer of our translation for the purity of its English, and deeply lamented the growing disuse of it in our schools. He thought that children should be made acquainted with its important truths, and said, “I will hazard the assertion that no man ever did or ever will become truly eloquent without being a constant reader of the Bible, and an admirer of the beauty and sublimity of its language.” “It is happy for mankind,” says his biographer, “when those who engage admiration deserve esteem; for vice and folly derive a pernicious influence from an alliance with qualities that naturally command applause. In the character of Mr. Ames, the circle of the virtues seems to be complete, and each virtue in its proper place.”
THE OBLIGATIONS OF NATIONAL FAITH.
Mr. Chairman :-The question before us seems at last to resolve itself to this: SHALL we BREAK THE TREATY The treaty is bad, fatally bad, is the cry. It sacrifices the interest, the honor, the independence of the United States, and the faith of our engagements to France. If we listen to the clamor of party intemperance, the evils are of a number not to be counted, and of a nature not to be borne, even in idea. The language of passion and exaggeration may silence that of sober reason in other places; it has not done it here. The question here is, whether the treaty be really so very fatal as to oblige the nation to break its faith.
I lay down two rules, which ought to guide us in this case.
* Read the Life of Mr. Ames, prefixed to his works, by the Rev. Dr. Kirkland, President of Harvard University, one of the best-written pieces of biography in our language. Also, “Works of Fisher Ames, with a Selection from his Speeches and Correspondence; edited by his Son, Seth Ames;” a beautiful edition, published by Little, Brown & Co., Boston.
* The debate in the House of Representatives upon Jay's celebrated treaty is perhaps the most memorable that ever occurred in that body, and, we may add, one of the most important; for the great question was then discussed whether a treaty would be valid without the approbation of the House. Those who were in the affirmative of this question argued, from the Constitution, that the treaty was already made, and could not be broken without breaking the faith of the nation : for the Constitution vests the power of making treaties in the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. Those in the negative argued that, if the President and Senate could make treaties without the assistance of the House, they might absorb all legislative power. The treaty itself, too, was made a subject of bitter animadversion by one party. For a comprehensive account of the whole debate, see “Pitkin's Political and Civil History of the United States,” vol. ii. page 442. It is now seen that the treaty obtained as much for us as, from all circumstances, we could have looked for, while it has proved, in its application, eminently beneficial to us.
The treaty must appear to be bad, not merely in the petty details, but in its character, principle, and mass; and, in the next place, this ought to be ascertained by the decided and general concurrence of the enlightened public. I confess there seems to me something very like ridicule thrown over the debate, by the discussion of the articles in detail. The undecided point is, shall we break our faith? and while our country and enlightened Europe await the issue, with more than curiosity, we are employed to gather piece-meal, and article by article, from the instrument, a justification for the deed, by trivial calculations of commercial profit and loss. This is little worthy of the subject, of this body, or of the nation. If the treaty is bad, it will appear to be so in its mass. Evil, to a fatal extreme, if that be its tendency, requires no proof; it brings it. Extremes speak for themselves, and make their own law. Few men of any reputation for sense, among those who say the treaty is bad, will put that reputation so much at hazard as to pretend that it is so extremely bad as to warrant and require a violation of the public faith. In the next place, will the state of public opinion justify the deed 7 No government, not even a despotism, will break its faith without some pretext; and it must be plausible, it must be such as will carry the public opinion along with it. Reasons of policy, if not of morality, dissuade even Turkey and Algiers from breaches of treaty in mere wantonness of perfidy, in open contempt of the reproaches of their subjects. Surely a popular government will not proceed more arbitrarily, as it is more free; nor with less shame or scruple in proportion as it has better morals. It will not proceed against the faith of treaties at all, unless the strong and decided sense of the nation shall pronounce, not simply that the treaty is not advantageous, but that it ought to be broken and annulled. Why, Mr. Chairman, do the opposers of this treaty complain that the West Indies are not laid open 7 Why do they lament that any restriction is stipulated on the commerce of the East Indies? Why do they pretend that if they reject this and insist upon more, more will be accomplished 7 Let us be explicit: more would not satisfy. If all was granted, would not a treaty of amity with Great Britain still be obnoxious? Have we not this instant heard it urged against our envoy that he was not ardent enough in his hatred of Great Britain’ A treaty of amity is condemned because it was not made by a foe, and in the spirit of one. The same gentleman, at the same instant, repeats a very prevailing objection, that no treaty should be made with the enemy of France. No treaty, exclaim others, should be made with a monarch or a despot; there will be no naval security while