網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

124

THOMAS JEFFERSON.

were blessed with a handsome estate, and that portion of it called Monticello (little mountain), near the then hamlet of Charlottesville, fell to Thomas when he reached his majority. He was a student in William and Mary College, at Williamsburg, about two years, and then commenced the study of law with George Wythe, afterward Chancellor of Virginia. While yet a student, in 1765, he heard Patrick Henry's famous speech against the Stamp Act, and it lighted a flame of patriotism in young Jefferson's soul that burned brighter and brighter until the hour of fearless action arrived. In 1767, he commenced the practico of law; and in 1769, he first appeared in public life as a member of the Virginia Assembly. He was one of the most active workers in that body, until called to more influential duties as member of the Continental Congress, in 1775. He was always remarkable for his ready pen; and as a member of the committee of correspondence, and by pamphlets and newspaper paragraphs, from 1773, until the culmination of public sentiment in the Declaration of Independence, ho labored intensely and potentially. When Richard Henry Lee's resolution in favor of independence was under consideration, early in the Summer of 1776, and a committee of five were appointed to prepare a preamble in the form of a Declaration, Mr. Jefferson, the youngest of the committee, was chosen to make the draft, chiefly because of his facile use of the pen in elegant and appropriate expressions of sentiment. At his lodgings, in the house of Mrs. Clymer, in Philadelphia, that famous document was written, and after some modifications, it was adopted on the 4th of July, 1776. The author's name is appended to it, with fifty-five others. Soon afterward, Mr. Jefferson resigned his seat in Congress, and became a leading actor in the civil events of the Revolution in Virginia, from that time until the peace in 1783. He assisted in revising the laws of Virginia; and in June, 1779, he was elected governor of the State, as successor of Patrick Henry. From about the beginning of that year, until the close of 1780, the British and German troops, captured at Saratoga, were quartered in his vicinity, and he greatly endeared himself to them by his uniform kindness. During his administration, Arnold, the traitor, invaded Virginia, and Cornwallis and his active officers overran portions of the State along the James river, from Richmond to its mouth. The fiery Tarleton attempted the capture of Governor Jefferson, in June, 1781, and almost succeeded. It was a most trying time for Virginia, and Jefferson, sagaciously perceiving that a military man was needed in the executive office, declined a re-election, and was succeeded by General Nelson, of Yorktown.

Mr. Jefferson now sought the retirement of private life, to indulge in the genial pursuits of literature and science 3 He was not permitted to find happiness in repose there. His wife died, and his heart was terribly smitten. Then camo a call from his countrymen to represent them abroad, and at the close of 1782, he departed for Philadelphia, to sail for France, to assist the American commissioners in their negotiations for peace with England. Intelligence of the accomplishment of that duty reached him before his departure, and he returned home. He was at Annapolis when Washington resigned his commission, in December, 1783, and the Address of President Mifllin to the chief was from Mr. Jefferson's pen. In 1784, he went to France, as associate diplomatist with Franklin and Adams, and the same year he wrote his essay on a money-unit, to which we are mainly indebted for our convenient coins. He succeeded Dr. Franklin as minister at the French court, in 1785; and on his return to America, THOMAS CHITTENDEN.

1. His pamphlet entitled "A Summary View of the Rights of British America," was so much ad. mired, that Edmund Burke caused it to be reprinted in London, with a few alterations.

2. Jefferson was advised of the approach of Tarleton, when he was within half a mile of his house, and escared by fleeing to the dark recesses of Carter's Mountnin, lving southward of Monticello. Tarle. ton captured some members of the Virginia Legislature, then in session at Charlottesville.

3. His Notes on Virginia is the most important of the various productions of his pen.

125

in 1789, before he reached his home at Monticello, he received from Washington the appointment of Secretary of State. He resigned that office in 1793, and became the head of the republican party, in opposition to Washington's administration. In the Autumn of 1796, he was chosen vice-president of the United States, and in the Spring of 1801, he took his seat as chief magistrate of the nation. After eight years of faithful service in that exalted office, he retired forever, froin public life. With untiring perseverance he succeeded in establishing that yet flourishing institution, the University of Virginia; and until the last, his life was spent in pursuits of public utility. The latter years of his life were clouded by pecuniary embarrassment. The sold his library to the Federal Government, in 1815, consisting of six thousand volumes, for twenty-four thousand dollars. He survived that great sacrifice eleven years, and then his spirit took its flight, while his countrymen were celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the independence of the United States. Ile died on the 4th of July, 1826, at the age of eighty-three years.'

THOMAS CHITTENDEN.

THERE are crises in the history of States, sometimes occurring in their infancy,

1 at other times in their maturity, when the concentration of influence in one man has made him instrumental in conferring great benefits upon the public. Thomas Chittenden, the first governor of the independent State of Vermont, was an illustration of this fact. He was born at East Guilford, Connecticut, on the 6th of January, 1729; received only the meagre rudiments of an English education, then furnished by the common schools, and married at the early age of twenty years. Then he made his residence at Salisbury; and his natural abilities, combined with a pleasing person and address, soon made himn popular. He was chosen commander of a militia regiment, and for several years he represented his district in the legislature of Connecticut. Unlearned as he was, he became a leading man; and by performing the duties of a justice of the peace for Litchfield county, for several years, he became acquainted with the laws and the proper manner of administering them. Agriculture was his delight, and every day spared from his official duties was devoted to a personal engagement in the affairs of his farm. His family had a rapid growth, and he emigrated to the borders of the Onion river, 2 in 1774, on what was known as the New Hampshire Grants, on the east side of Lake Champlain, for the purpose of laying the foundations of a fortune for his children. There, separated by an almost trackless wilderness from his early friends, he opened many fertile acres to the blessed sunlight, and invited settlers to come and form the nucleus of a State. Soon, political agitations disturbed his repose; and, in 1775, he was appointed one of a committee to visit the Continental Congress at Philadelphia, and ask political advice. The threatening aspect of affairs in the North, toward the close of the Summer of 1776, caused the settlers to flee southward, and Mr. Chittenden took up his abode in Arlington, in the present Bennington county, where he was made president of the committee of safety. He warmly espoused the cause of the people of the New Hampshire Grants, in their controversy with New York.3

1. See sketch of John Adams,

2. The Indian name of this river was Ouinooske, Ilis location was in the present town of Williston, Vermont, south-east from Burlington,

3. The State of New York claimed jurisdiction over the present territory of Vermont, then known as the New Hampshire (irants, and a very warm dispute arose. Bloodshed was often threatene', but the matter was finally settled by a purchase of the claims of New York for $30,000.

[blocks in formation]

He was one of the committee who drafted a declaration of the independence of Vermont,' adopted on the 15th of January, 1777. He also assisted in the formation of a State constitution, in July, 1777, and was elected the first governor under it. That office he held until his death, with the exception of one year. When, in 1780, the British authorities in Canada supposed the people of Vermont to be royally inclined (because they would not join the confederation of States), and appointed a commission to confer with the dissatisfied colonists, Governor Chittenden was chosen one of the committee on the part of the Vermont people. That whole matter was so adroitly managed by Chittenden, Allen, and others, for three years, that the authorities of both Canada and the United States were deceived. They thus secured Vermont from easy British invasion until peace was sure, when that State became a member of the great confederacy. The course of the Vermont leaders, though highly patriotic, was regarded with suspicion, until the mask was removed. At the close of the war, Governor Chittenden returned to Williston, with his family, where he passed the remainder of his days. He resigned the office of governor in the Summer of 1797, and on the 25th of August, of that year, he died, in the sixty-ninth year of his age.

PATRICK HENRY. " NIVE me Liberty, or give me Death !" were the burning words which fell

U from the lips of Patrick Henry, at the beginning of the War for Independence, and aroused the Continent to more vigorous and united action. He was the son of a Virginia planter in Hanover county, and was born on the 29th of May, 1736. At the age of ten years he was taken from school, and commenced the study of Latin in his father's house. He had some taste for mathematics, but a love of idleness, as manifested by his frequent hunting and fishing excursions, for sport, and utter aversion to mental labor, gave prophecies of a useless life. At twenty-one years of age, he engaged in trade, but neglect of business soon brought bankruptcy. He had married at eighteen, and passed most of his time in idleness at the tavern of his father-in-law, in Hanover, where he often served customers at the bar. As a last resort, he studied law diligently for six wecks, obtained a license to practice, but he was twenty-seven years of age before he was known to himself or others, except as a lazy pettifogger. Then lie was employed in the celebrated Parsons' cause, and in the old Hanover courthouse, with his father on the bench as judge, and more than twenty of the most learned men in the colony before him, his genius as an orator and advocate beamed forth in that awful splendor, so cloquently described by Wirt. From that period he rose rapidly to the head of his profession. In 1764, he mado Louisa county his residence, and his fame was greatly heightened by a noble defence of the right of suffrage, which, as a lawyer, he made before the House of Burgesses, that year. In 1765, he was elected to a seat in that house, and during that memorable session, he made his great speech against the Stamp

1. Partly owing to the troubles with New York, Vermont would not join the confederacy in 1777, but, &t a convention at Westminster. it was declared an independent State. It was admitted into the Union in February, 1791.

2. In the Virginia convention, held in St. John's church at Richmond, in March, 1775. It was one of the most powerful speeches ever made by the great orator, and ended with the words quoted above. They were afterward placed on flags, and adopted as a motto under many circumstances.

3. This was a contest between the clergy and the State legislature, on the question of an annual stipend claimed by the former, A decision of the court had left nothing undetermined but the amount of damago. Henry's eloquence electrified judge, jury, and people. The jury brought in a verdict of one penny damages, and the people took Henry upon their shoulders, and carried him in triumph about the court-house yard.

[merged small][merged small][graphic]

Act. In 1769, he was admitted to the bar of the general court, and was recognized as a leader, in legal and political matters, until the Revolution broke out. He was a member of the first Continental Congress, in 1774, and gave the first impulse to its business; and when, in 1775, Governor Dunmore attempted to rob the colony of gunpowder, by having it conveyed on board a British war-vessel, Patrick Henry, at the head of resolute armed patriots, compelled him to pay its value in money. In 1776, Henry was elected the first republican governor of Virginia, and was reëlected three successive years, when he was succeeded by Thomas Jefferson. During the whole struggle, he was one of the most efficient public officers of the State; and in 1784, he was again chosen governor.

Patrick Henry was a consistent advocate of State Rights, and was ever jealous of any infringement upon them. For that reason, he was opposed to the Fed

1. He had introduced a series of resolutions, highly tinctured with rebellious doctrines, and supported them with his wonderful eloquence. The house was greatly excited, and when, at length, he alluded to tyrants, and said, "Cæsar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third-" there was a cry of " Treason ! treason !” He paused a moment, and then said, "may profit by their example. If that be Treason, make the most of it."

2. When all was doubt and hesitation at the opening of the session, and no one seemed ready to take the first step, a plain mnan, dressed in ministers' grey, arose and proposed action. "Who is it? who is it " asked several members. "Patrick Henry," replied the soft voice of his colleague, Peyton Randolph.

[blocks in formation]

eral Constitution, and in the Virginia convention, called in 1788, to consider it, he opposed its ratification with all the power of his great eloquence. He finally acquiesced, when it became the organic law of the Republic, and used all his efforts to give it a fair trial and make it successful. Washington nominated him for the office of Secretary of State, in 1795, but Mr. Henry declined it. In 1799, President Adams appointed him an envoy to France, with Ellsworth and Murray, but feeble health and advanced age compelled him to decline an office he would have been pleased to accept. A few weeks afterward, his disease became alarmingly active, and he expired at his seat, at Red Hill, in Charlotte county, on the 6th of June, 1799, at the age of almost sixty-three years. Governor Ilenry was twice married. By his first wife he had six children, and nine by the second. His widow married the late Judge Winston, and died in Halifax county, Virginia, in February, 1831.

ETHAN ALLEN. TIIE name of Green Mountain Boys is always associated with ideas of personal

I valor and unflinching patriotism; and Ethan Allen has ever been regarded as the impersonation of the proverbial independence of character, of the early settlers along the eastern shores of Lake Champlain. He was born in Litchfield county, Connecticut, near the borders of New York, and at an early age emigrated to the region above alluded to, known as the New Hampshire Grants, now Vermont. At about the year 1770, a violent controversy arose between the settlers of this tract and the civil authorities of New York, respecting territorial claims. Ethan Allen took an active part in the controversy, and became a leader of the Green Mountain Bous, as the settlers were called. against the alleged usurpations of the New York government. The latter finally declared Allen and his associates to be outlaws, offered fifty pounds colonial currency for his apprehension, and contemplated an armed invasion of the territory. Allen believed himself in the right, and boldly maintained his position, until a common danger alarmed all the colonies, and made them unite as brethren for common defence. When the news of the affair at Lexington reached those remote settlers, they were electrified with zeal for the maintenance of freedom; and in less than thirty days afterward, we find Colonel Allen and some of his Green Mountain boys and Massachusetts militia, in concert with Colonel Benedict Arnold and some Connecticut men, wresting the strong fortresses of Ticonderoga and Crown Point from the British.3 Early in the following Autumn, Colonel Allen was sent to Canada, to ascertain the temper of the people there; and in an attempt, with Colonel Brown, to capture Montreal, with a small force, he was made a prisoner, put in irons on board a vessel, and sent to England, with the assurance that he would be hanged. Great crowds flocked to see him, on his arrival, for the fame of his exploits had reached England. His grotesque garb attracted great attention. He was regarded almost as a strange wild beast of the forest, and for more than a year he was kept a close prisoner.

In January, 1776, Colonel Allen was sent, in a frigate, to Halifax, where he

1. See Note 3, p. 125.

2. He came very near being captured by a party of New Yorkers, while on a visit to his friends in Salisbury. They intended to scize him, and convey him to the jai! at Poughkeepsie.

3. When Allen thundered at the door of The commander of the garrison of Ticonderoga, after the soldiers were subdued, and that allrighted ofliciul asked by what anthority he demanded a surrender, the colonel's reply was. By the Grent Jehovah anrihe (ontiacutal Congress !" It was on the morning of the day when Congress was to assemblo at Philadelphia,

« 上一頁繼續 »