網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

tors and a warm personal friend of the deceased, and Mr. Joseph Wood brought the matter to the notice of the Legislature, and charged the judi. cial officers with a neglect of duty in not arresting McIntosh and binding him over to answer an indictment for murder. Informed of these proceedings, so soon as his wound permitted, the general surrendered him. self to Judge Glen, and entered into bonds for his appearance. He was indicted, tried, and acquitted. Even this determination of the matter did not allay the malevolent feelings of the Gwinnett party, who, incensed at the loss of their leader, used every exertion to impair the influence of McIntosh and to fetter his efforts in the public service. Moved by these untoward circumstances, and yielding to the suggestion of his friends, Colonels George Walton and Henry Laurens, the general consented to leave Georgia for the time being, and repaired to General Washington's headquarters for assignment to duty with the Continental army. Nearly two years elapsed before he returned to the State. During that time he rendered valuable service in the common cause.

The tradition lingers that Button Gwinnett was interred in the old cemetery in Savannah. So far as our information extends, no stone marks his grave, and the precise spot of his sepulture has faded from the recollection of succeeding generations. When the monument which rises in front of the City Hall in Augusta perpetuating the memory of the signers from Georgia of the Declaration of Independence was erected, the hope of its patriotic builders was that it would cover the dust of all three of them. The mortal remains of Dr. Lyman Hall and cf Chief Justice George Walton were readily found, and were then committed to the guardian care of this memorial shaft. After careful search, no trace could be discovered of the last resting place of Gwinnett, and he still sleeps in a grave which will probably never be identified.

Specimens of the chirography of this signer are very rare. He evidently wrote but little. He died in the forty-fifth year of his age, and his public life extended through only a few years. We have looked upon his original will. It still exists. It is a holograph. The following is a literal copy of it:

“Savannah, March 15th, 1777. "Im sound in Body and Mind for which I am under the highest obligations to the Supreme Being. How long I shall remain so God only knoweth : I therefore Dispose of my Property both real and Personal in the Following manner.

“First. Let all my Just Debts be Discharged, then One half of my Real and Personal Estate remaining be divided between my wife and Daughter in equal Shares.

“The other Half of my Estate both real and Personal shall belong to and appertain unto the Revd Mr Thos Bosomworth his Heirs and Assigns forever, he the said Thos Bosomworth first giving a rect in full of all other Demands.

“ This is my last Will and Testament and I hereby revoke all other Wills and Codicils. “ The above is only intended to convey my Estate in America.

“I hereby appoint Thos Savage and Lyman Hall Esqrs as Executors to this my last Will and Testament.

“Button Gwinnett (wafer). “Witness “ Jas Foley. “ Wm Hornby. “ Thoms Hovenden."

The foregoing will was admitted to probate by James Whitefield,“ Register of Probates," on the 30th of May, 1777. On the same day Lyman Hall qualified as Executor.

It would appear by the affidavits of William Hornby and Thomas Hovenden,—two of the subscribing witnesses,—that while this will bears date on the 15th of March, 1777, it was actually published and witnessed on the 16th of May, 1777. Hornby's affidavit reads as follows:

“Christ Church Parish Court of Registry

& County of Chatham I of Probates. “William Hornby of Savannah & State aforesaid Gentlo personally appeared & being sworn, maketh Oath that the within named Button Gwinnett Esq? did, on or about friday the 16th day of this inst May, deliver the paper to this deponent, now produced, purporting to be his will, and said to this deponent in words following, vizt “ this is my Will, sign as a witness thereto, and keep it, and if anything happens to me, read it & you'l know what to do with it;" and this deponent further saith He verily believes He, the said Button Gwinnett, the Testator, was, at that time of sound and disposing mind and memory, and that at the time He signed the same as a witness, He saw Jas Foley's name also subscribed thereto as a witness, & further saith not. “Sworn the 30th

" Wm. Hornby. “ May 1777 Before “ Jams Whitefield “Reg' of Probates."

Thomas Hovenden, in his affidavit, corroborates the statement made by Mr. Hornby. We extract the following from his oath made before the Register of Probates on the 30th of May, 1777: “The within named Button Gwinnett Esq' decd did, on or about the 16th day of this inst May, deliver the paper now produced, in his presence, to M' Wm Hornby, a subscribing Witness thereto, saying at the same time that it was His Will,' or words to that purpose, and asked this deponent to sign the same; and this deponent says that He did sign his Name thereto as a Witness, & further saith that He is well acquainted with the Hand writing of the said Button

Gwinnett Esq' deca, and that he verily believes that the said paper now produced as his will is in the Hand writing of the said Button Gwinnett," etc., etc.

The period was hazardous, and life peculiarly uncertain. We conclude that Gwinnett drew his will at the time the instrument bears date in anticipation of leading his projected expedition against East Florida, and then signed it, but failed to have it witnessed. In this state the instrument remained in his hands until, warned by the impending duel with McIntosh, and upon the eve of that unfortunate affair, he completed its publication and committed it to the care of Mr. William Hornby, one of the subscribing witnesses, with an injunction which denotes at least some apprehension on his part of the possibility of his encountering a mortal hurt in the approaching combat.

Brief but brilliant was the career of Button Gwinnett. Rising like a meteor, he shot athwart the zenith of the young commonwealth concentrating the gaze of all, and, in a short moment, was seen no more. Within the compass of a very few years are his brilliant aspirations, triumphs, and reverses compressed. Without the accident of birth or the assistance of fortune, he was advanced, and that most rapidly, to the highest positions within the gift of his countrymen. Inseparably associated is his name with the charter of American Independence. Of his intelligence, force of character, ability to command success, courage, indomitable will, tenacity of purpose, patriotism, love of liberty, and devotion to the cause of American freedom, he gave proof most abundant. But he was ambitious, covetous of power, strong in his prejudices, intolerant of opposition, and violent in his hate.

Of this signer we believe no authentic portrait exists. His name dig. nified a county in Georgia, but we know of none among the living in this State in whose veins courses a drop of blood inherited from, or kindred with that of, Button Gwinnett.

Jones. It

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA.

CALIFORNIA'S GOLDEN PRIME OF FORTY-NINE

History and literature are alike interested in that brilliant episode, that organization of society on the Pacific Coast and in the Sierra foothills, from which the present State of California has developed. Only four years before the famous “gold rush,” there were but five hundred Americans in California ; only four years after that event the population of the new State was 300,000, and its miners had taken more than $260,000,000 from the auriferous gravel and quartz veins of the region. By common consent, the year 1849 is taken as that most typical of the entire era. The following account of some of its more important features is partly from studies made in the ancient mining camps during 1879, partly from letters of pioneers and evidence of travelers,

First, as regards the “rush ” to California. Dr. Stillman, in his “Seeking the Golden Fleece," says that at the close of January, 1849, “Sixty vessels had sailed from Atlantic seaports, carrying 8,000 men, and seventy more vessels were up for passage.” Bayard Taylor, speaking more particularly of the land journey, said that “it more than equaled the great military expeditions of the Middle Ages, in magnitude, peril, and adventure." John S. Hittell writes, “From Maine to Texas there was a universal frenzy." One of the “pilgrims” wrote a song, soon heard on every streetcorner from Boston to New Orleans, in which he declared :

“O, California, that's the land for me ;

I'm bound for the Sacramento,
With the wash-bowl on my knee."

There were many interesting features about the great onset, all the world seeming to be in haste to occupy this hitherto neglected region. Armies of emigrants were attracted by the magic of its name, and toiled wearily, in wavering lines across the continent. Many a mountain valley was thus settled long before it could have been reached in the natural course of agricultural progress, and the frontier line of the West was borne rapidly forward—the immemorial race impulse of the Aryan had reawakened with all its ancient force. In vain the elders of lonely Deseret tried to roll back or turn aside this dreaded and hated advance of American civilization. Some of the “latter-day saints " joined the current, but most of them were faithful to their shrine. Piercing the passes of the Rockies,

VOL. XII.-No. 5.—28

crossing the deserts of sage-brush, sand and alkali, the resistless human torrent surged on its way to the Pacific.

The mining camps, whose white tents and rude cabins rose so rapidly beside the rivers of “New Colchis” in early “ Forty-Nine," have found a place in literature; the Argonaut himself has become one of the heroic figures of the past, and is likely to become as strong a type in the romance of American history as Viking or Crusader are in that of Europe. But it is the place held by the Argonaut as an organizer of society that is of greatest historical importance. Literature has too often depicted him as a dialect-speaking rowdy, savagely picturesque, rudely turbulent; in reality he was a plain American citizen, cut loose from the authority, freed from the restraints and protections of law, and forced to make the defense and organization of society a part of his daily business. In its best estate the mining camp of California was a manifestation of the inherent capacities of the race for self-government. Here, in a new land, under new conditions, were associated bodies of freemen, bound together for a time by common interests, ruled by equal laws, and owning allegiance to no higher authority than their own sense of right and wrong. They held meetings, chose officers, decided disputes, meted out a stern and swift punishment to offenders, and managed their local affairs with entire success.

The gateway to the mines was San Francisco. In January, 1849, when Rev. Dwight Hunt, who had for several months preached to the returned miners thronging the streets, organized the“ First Congregational Church,” the population of the city was less than 1,500. A little later immigrants began to arrive, and by the close of the year the city had 15,000 inhabitants. A pioneer of “ 49" writes that, before the rowdy organization known as “ The Hounds" began to operate, “gold-dust, provisions and tools were safe without police.” When “The Hounds” became a public nuisance, the law-abiding citizens organized July 16, 1849, and suppressed them. The San Francisco harbor soon became crowded with ships of every nation. When Richard H. Dana, in 1835, had visited Yerba Buena harbor, while the Mexican eagle and nopal flag yet drooped from the presidio staff, there was not a single vessel in the harbor, not a single boat on the broad bay, and but one house where San Francisco now stands; the summer of 1849 saw no less than 549 sea-going vessels in the port, and a month later 400 were swinging idly at anchor, deserted by their crews, who had fallen victims to the “ gold-fever.” During the year 35,000 men came by sea, and 42,000 by land, nearly all proceeding to the mines, but many returning to the coast to engage in business. Society was masculine, and most of the men were under forty. Men often traveled miles to

« 上一頁繼續 »