George Mason of Virginia the Father of the Declaration of Independence

GeorgeMason-paintingThe emancipation of the states of North America must ever be regarded as one of the most memorable events recorded in the annals of the human race. The revolutions, which have embroiled and desolated the great nations from which they sprang, are acknowledged to have received their first impulse from the principles and events of the American struggle. The grave has closed upon a great majority of the leaders in the American revolution; and the characters of the founders of our independence and freedom are beginning to be contemplated with the severe impartiality of a distant posterity. The passions which buoyed, annoyed, or infested their individual fame have subsided. Each is receiving a settled and mellow luster; and a just judgment is already busily engaged in assigning the decree of estimation and respect which a grateful posterity should continue to render to the memory of each of those whose efforts have obtained so many blessings and such everlasting glory for this nation.

Among the conductors of those important events, the name of George Mason, must always hold a distinguished place. An exhibition of character, in a public station, may be calculated to give an impression of the profoundest respect; but, the sincerest, and best affections of the heart can only be won by those traits, which are developed when the individual has been divested of the imposing forms and circumstances of place and office. It is for these reasons, as well as for the rays of light which they shed upon the most interesting portion of the history of our country, that I send you the following papers.

George Mason, their author, was an independent planter, resident in Fairfax county, Virginia, his native state, when the revolution commenced. He was a man endowed by nature with a vigorous understanding, which had been well cultivated by a liberal education. He was a sound constitutional lawyer, although he had not practiced or been bred to the profession. His mind had, evidently, been well stored from the best political writers of his time. In temperance he was, like the younger Cato, constitutionally stern, firm, and honest; and in all the affairs of life, in which he was engaged, as well private as public, he was habitually, minutely, and critically clear, punctual, exact, and particular. He was a member of the first conventions and assemblies elected by the people independently of the colonial authorities. He chose and valued most, the station of a representative of the people ; because he thought it most honorable, and one where he could be most useful; nor did he ever consent to accept of any other, but once, when he acted as a commissioner to adjust the navigation and boundary, between Maryland and Virginia. He was a man of the people in spirit and in truth; and every act of his life incontestibly evinces, that in their cause he never once, or for a single moment, trembled, hesitated, or wavered.

Many intelligent foreigners, and some of our own countrymen, whose judgments have been confused or perverted by aristocratic principles, entertain a belief, and propagate the opinion, that our liberties were principally established by the integrity, wisdom, and forbearance of our military leaders. To such it will be particularly instructive to attend to the first of the following letters from this venerable patriot; written at a time, and under circumstances singularly impressive and affecting. In a ripe old age, chastened by experience, when the hand of Providence had visited his household with such an affliction as to induce him to desire no more the return of hilarity to his heart, he seats himself in his closet to unbosom himself to his friend ; to tell him of his political opinions and principles and to speak of the sentiments, feelings, and probable fortunes of his country. This letter, which is so highly honorable to its author, furnishes conclusive proof, that all the chiefs, as well military as civil, were guided and qontroled by the people, and bears ample testimony to their virtue and their glory.

He was a member of the convention which formed the present constitution of the United States, and appears to have been deeply, and sincerely impressed with the magnitude of the undertaking. He was afterwards a member of the convention of Virginia by which it was ratified, which he actively and firmly opposed, without previous amendments. He was a most decided enemy to all constructive and implied powers. And it is remarkable, that he was the. author of some, and the warm advocate of every amendment since made to it. His friend and coadjutor, the illustrious Henry, poured forth the boundless wealth of his impassioned eloquence in opposition ; he charmed, enchanted, or won over many of his auditors to withhold their assent from the proposed plan of government. But, when Mason spoke, he seemed to cite his hearers severally to the bar of reason and truth, and imperatively to demand of them to produce the reason and grounds upon which they proposed to tolerate the pernicious principles he denounced. Henry delighted, astonished, and captivated. Mason stirred the house, and challenged every friend of the new constitution to stand forth; at the same time, that he made them feel, they would have to meet an antagonist whom it was difficult to vanquish, and impossible to put to flight; such was the clear, condensed, and dauntless vigor he displayed.

George Mason was a member of that convention of Virginia, which, on the fifteenth day of May, 1776, declared that state independent and formed the constitution by which it is still governed. And to him belongs the honor of having draughted the first declaration of rights ever adopted in America, of which the following is a copy. The few alterations made by the convention, which adopted it unanimously on the twelfth day of June, 1776, and made it a part of the constitution of Virginia, where it yet remains, are noted. This declaration contains principles more extensive, and much more perspicuously expressed than any then to be found in the supposed analogous instruments of any other age or country.

The English magna charta was, strictly speaking, a contract between an assemblage of feudal lords and a king, not a declaration of the rights of man, and the fundamental principles on which all government should rest. “It was not so much their intention to secure the liberties of the people at large, as to establish the privileges of a few individuals. A great tyrant On the one side, and a set of petty tyrants on the other, seem to have divided the kingdom; and the great body of the people, disregarded and oppressed on all hands, were beholden for any privileges bestowed upon them, to the jealousy of their masters; who, by limiting the authority of each other over their dependents, produced a reciprocal diminution of their power.”

The articles drawn up by the Spanish junta, in the year 1522, under the guidance of the celebrated Padilly, are much more distinct and popular in their provisions than those of the English magna charta. But, although it is admitted, that the principles of liberty were ably defended, and better understood, at that time in Spain, than they were for more than a century after, in England, the power of Charles Jth proved to be irresistible, the people failed in their attempt to bridle his prerogative, and their liberties were finally crushed.

The famous English bill of rights sanctioned by William and Mary on their ascending the throne, and which, under the name of the petition of rights, appears to have been projected many years before by that profound lawyer, sir Edward Coke, like magna charta, and the articles of the Spanish junta, is a contract with nobility and royalty, a compromise with despotism, in which the voice of the people is heard in a tone of disturbed supplication and prayer. But in this declaration of Mason’s, man seems to stand erect in all the majesty of his nature —to assert the inalienable rights and equality with which he has been endowed by his Creator, and to declare the fundamental principles by which all rulers should be controled, and on which all governments should rest. The contrast is striking, the difference prodigious. And when I read, at the foot of this curious original, the assertion of its author, that “This Declaration of Rights was the first in America;” I see a manly mind indulging its feelings under a consciousness of having done an act so permanently and extensively useful. And what feeling can be so exquisitely delightful? what pride more truly virtuous and noble?

The principles of liberty filled and warmed the bosom of this venerable patriot in that last hour, which is an awful, and an honest one to us all; in his last will, he speaks in his dying hour, and charges his sons, on a father’s blessing, to be true to freedom and their country. He was indeed and in truth one of the fathers of this nation. Therefore, let every son of free America, as he enters upon the busy scenes of life, hear and solemnly beseech Heaven to fortify him in the faithful observance of this sacred charge of one of the most worthy fathers of this country.

DECLARATION OF RIGHTS.

(Copy of the first draught by George Mason.)

A declaration of rights made by the representatives of the good people of Virginia, assembled in full and free convention ; which rights do pertain to them and their posterity, as the basis and foundation of government, unanimously adopted by the convention of Virginia, June 12th, 1776.

1. That all men are created equally free and independent, and have certain inherent natural rights of which, they cannot, by any compact, deprive, or divest their posterity; (a) among which are the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. – a. That all power is by God and nature vested in and consequently derived from the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.

3. That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people, nation or community. Of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best, which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of administration; and that whenever any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable indefeasible right, to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

4. That no man, or set of men, are entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services; which not being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate, legislator, or judge, to be hereditary.

5. That the legislative and executive powers of the state should be separate and distinct from the judicial; and that the members of the two first may be restrained from oppression, by feeling and participating the burdens of the people, they should, at fixed periods, be reduced to a private station, and return unto that body from which they were originally taken, and vacancies be supplied by frequent, certain and regular election, (a)—

6. That elections of members, to serve as representatives of the people in the legislature, ought to be free, and that all men having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to the community, have the right of suffrage; and cannot be taxed, or deprived of their property for public uses without their own consent, or that of their representatives so elected, nor bound by any law to which they have not, in like manner, assented for the common good.

7. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority, without consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.

8. That in all capital or criminal prosecutions, a man hath a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence in his favor, and to a speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage, without unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty, nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself; and that no man be deprived of his liberty, except by the law of the land, or the judgment of his peers.

9. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

10. (This article was inserted by the convention.)

11. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is preferable to any other, and ought to be held sacred.

12. That the freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.

13. That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state; that standing armies in time of peace, should be avoided, as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by the civil power.

14. (This article also was inserted by the convention.)

15. That no free government, or the blessing of liberty, can be preserved to any people,  but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence, and, therefore that all men should enjoy the fullest toleration in the exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience, unpunished and unrestrained by the magistrate; unless under color of religion, any man disturb the peace, the happiness, or the safety of society. And that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.

“This declaration of rights was the first in America; it received few alterations or additions in the Virginia convention, (some of them not for the better,) and was afterwards closely imitated by the other United States.”

georgemasonstatue2The foregoing was copied verbatim from the original, the hand-writing of the author, col. George Mason, of Virginia, left in the possession of his son, gen. John Mason of Georgetown. In order to facilitate the comparison of it with that which was adopted by the convention, and is still in force, it has been thought proper to number the articles as in the adopted declaration, omitting the tenth and fourteenth which were inserted entire by the convention; and to place those words in italics, which were either expunged or altered, and to put a caret where others were added.

Letter From George Mason.

“Virginia, Gunston-hall, 1778.

“My dear sir.—It gave me great pleasure, upon receipt of your favor of the 23d of April, (by Mr. Digges) to hear that you are alive and well, in a country, where you can spend your time agreeably; not having heard a word from you, or of you, for two years before. I am much obliged, by the friendly concern you take in my domestic affairs, and your kind enquiry after my family; great alterations have happened in it. About four years ago I had the misfortune to lose my wife: to you, who knew her, and the happy manner in which we lived, I will not attempt to describe my feelings: I was scarce able to bear the first shock, a depression of spirits, a settled melancholy followed, from which I never expect, or desire to recover. I determined to spend the remainder of my days in privacy and retirement with my children, from whose society alone, I could expect comfort. Some of them are now grown up to men and women; and I have the satisfaction to see them free from vices, good-natured, obliging and dutiful: they all still live with me, and remain single, except my second daughter, who is lately married to my neighbor son. My eldest daughter (who is blessed with her mother’s amiable disposition) is mistress of my family, and manages my little domestic matters, with a degree of prudence far above her years. My eldest son engaged early in the American cause, and was chosen ensign of the first independent company formed in Virginia, or indeed on the continent; it was commanded by the present general Washington as captain, and consisted entirely of gentlemen. In the year 1775, he was appointed a captain of foot, in one of the first minute-regiments raised here; but was soon obliged to quit the service, by a violent rheumatic disorder; which has followed him ever since, and, I believe will force him to try the climate of France or Italy. My other sons have not yet finished their education: as soon as they do, if the war continues, they seem strongly inclined to take an active part.

In the summer of’ 75, I was, much against my inclination, drag’d out of my retirement, by the people of my county and sent a delegate to the general convention at Richmond; where I was appointed a member of the first committee of safety; and have since, at different times, been chosen a member of the privy-council, and of the American congress; but have constantly declined acting in any other public character than that of an independent representative of the people, in the house of delegates; where I still remain, from a consciousness of being able to do my country more service there, than in any other department, and have ever since devoted most of my time to public business; to the no small neglect and injury of my private fortune; but if I can only live to see the American union firmly fixed, and free governments well established in our western world, and can leave to my children but a crust of bread and liberty, I shall die satisfied; and say, with the psalmist, “Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.” —To show you that I have not been an idle spectator of this great contest, and to amuse you with the sentiments of an old friend upon an important subject, I enclose you a copy of the first draft of the declaration of rights, just as it was drawn and presented by me, to the Virginia convention, where it received few alterations; some of them I think not for the better: this was the first thing of the kind upon the continent, and has been closely imitated by all the states. There is a remarkable sameness in all the forms of government throughout the American union, except in the states of South Carolina and Pennsylvania; the first having three branches of legislature, and the last only one; all the other states have two: this difference has given general disgust, and it is probable an alteration will take place, to assimilate these to the constitutions of the other states. We have laid our new government upon a broad foundation, and have endeavored to provide the most effectual securities for the essential rights of human nature, both in civil and religious liberty; the people become every day more and more attached to it; and I trust that neither the power of Great Britain, nor the power of hell will be able to prevail against it.

There never was an idler or a falser notion, than that which the British ministry have imposed upon the nation, that this great revolution has been the work of a faction, of a junto of ambitious men against the sense of the people of America. On the contrary, nothing has been done without the approbation of the people, who have indeed outrun their leaders: so that.no capital measure hath been adopted until they called loudly for it: to any one who knows mankind, there needs no greater proof than the cordial manner in which they have cooperated, and the patience and perseverance with which they have struggled under their sufferings ; which have been greater than you, at a distance can conceive, or I describe. Equally false is the assertion that independence was originally designed here: things have gone such lengths, that it is a matter of moonshine to us, whether independence was at first intended, or not, and therefore we may now be believed. The truth is, we have been forced into it, as the only means of self-preservation, to guard our country and posterity from the greatest of all evils, such another infernal government (if it deserves the name of government) as the provinces groaned under, in the latter ages of the Roman commonwealth. To talk of replacing us in the situation of 1763, as we first asked, is to the last degree absurd, and impossible: they obstinately refused it, while it was in their power, and now, that it is out of their power, they offer it. Can they raise our cities out of their ashes? Can they replace, in ease and affluence; the thousands of families whom they have ruined? Can they restore the husband to the widow, the child to the parent, or the father to the orphan? In a word, can they reanimate the dead?—Our country has been made a scene of desolation and blood—enormities and cruelties have been committed here, which not only disgrace the British name, but dishonor the human kind, we can never again trust a people who have thus used us; human nature revolts at the idea !— The die is cast—the Rubicon is passed—and a reconciliation with Great Britain, upon the terms of returning to her government is impossible.

No man was more warmly attached to the Hanover family and the Whig interest of England, than I was, and few men had stronger prejudices in favor of that form of government under which I was born and bred, or a greater aversion to changing it; it was ever my opinion that no good man would wish to try so dangerous an experiment upon any speculative notions whatsoever, without an absolute necessity.

The ancient poets, in their elegant manner of expression, have made a kind of being of necessity, and tell us that the Gods themselves are obliged to yield to her. When I was first a member of the convention, I exerted myself to prevent a confiscation of the and although I was for putting the country immediately into a state of defence, and preparing for the worst; yet as long as we had any well founded hopes of reconciliation, I opposed to the utmost of my power, all violent measures, and such as might shut the door to it; but when reconciliation became a lost hope, when unconditional submission, or effectual resistance were the only alternatives left us, when the last dutiful and humble petition from congress received no other answer than declaring us rebels, and out of the king’s protection, I, from that moment, looked forward to a revolution and independence, as the only means of salvation; and will risk the last penny of my fortune, and the last drop of my blood upon the issue: for to imagine that we could resist the efforts of Great Britain, still professing ourselves her subjects, or support a defensive war against a powerful nation, without the reins of government in the hands of America (whatever our pretended friends in Great Britain may say of it) is too childish and futile an idea to enter into the head of any man of sense. I am not singular in my opinions; these arc the sentiments of more than nine tenths of the best men in America.

God has been pleased to bless our endeavors, in a just cause, with remarkable success. To us upon the spot, who have seen step by step the progress of this great contest, who know the defenseless state of America in the beginning, and the numberless difficulties we have , had to struggle with, taking a retrospective j view of what is passed, we seem to have been treading upon enchanted ground. The case is now altered. American prospects brighten, and appearances are strongly in our favor. The British ministry must and will acknowledge us independent states.”

georgemasonstatue3George Mason To A Friend.

Extract of a letter from colonel George Mason, of Virginia (while serving in the general convention), to a friend in that state.

Philadelphia, June, 1787.

“The idea I formerly mentioned to you, before the convention met, of a great national council, consisting of two branches of the legislature, a judiciary and an executive, upon the principle of fair representation in the legislature, with powers adapted to the great objects of the union, and consequently a control in these instances, on the state legislatures, is still the prevalent one. Virginia has had the honor of presenting the outlines of the plan, upon which the convention is proceeding; but so slowly, that it is impossible to judge when the business will be finished; most probably not before August—festina lente (Make Haste Slowly) may very well be called our motto. When I first came here, judging from casual conversations with gentlemen from the different states, I was very apprehensive that, soured and disgusted with the unexpected evils we had experienced from the democratic principles of our governments, we should be apt to run into the opposite extreme, and in endeavoring to steer too far from Scylla, we might be drawn into the vortex of Charybdis, of which I still think, there is some danger; though I have the pleasure to find in the convention, many men of fine republican principles: America has certainly, upon this occasion, drawn forth her first characters; there are upon this convention many gentlemen of the most respectable abilities; and, so far as I can yet discover, of the purest intentions; the eyes of the United States are turned upon this assembly, and their expectations raised to a very anxious degree.

“May God grant, we may be able to gratify them by establishing a wise and just government. For my own part, I never before felt myself in such a situation; and declare, I would not, upon pecuniary motives, serve in this convention for a thousand pounds per day. The revolt from Great Britain, and the formations of our new governments at that time, were nothing compared with the great business now before us; there was then a certain degree of enthusiasm, which inspired and supported the mind; but to view, through the calm sedate medium of reason, the influence which the establishments now proposed may have upon the happiness or misery of millions yet unborn, is an object of such magnitude, as absorbs, and in a manner suspends the operations of the human understanding.”

“P. S. All communications of the proceedings are forbidden during the sitting of the convention; this I think was a necessary precaution to prevent misrepresentations or mistakes; there being a material difference between the appearance of a subject in its first crude and indigested shape, and after it shall have been properly matured and arranged.”

An Extract From The Last Will And Testament Of Colonel George Mason, Of Virginia.

“I recommend it to my sons, from my own experience in life, to prefer the happiness of independence and a private station to the troubles and vexation of public business: but if either their own inclinations or the necessity of the times should engage them in public affairs, I charge them on a father’s blessing, never to let the motives of private interest or ambition induce them to betray, nor the terrors of poverty and disgrace, or the fear of danger or of death, deter them from asserting the liberty of their country, and endeavoring to transmit to their posterity those sacred rights to which themselves were born.”

Source: Principles and Acts of the Revolution in America. By Hezekiah Niles published 1822

The Life of Founder John Adams

adams_lgJohn Adams was born at Quincy, then part of the ancient town of Braintree, on the 19th day of October, old style, 1735. He was a descendant of the Puritans, his ancestors having early emigrated from England, and settled in Massachusetts. Discovering early a strong love of rending and of knowledge, proper care was taken by his father to provide for his education. His youthful studies were prosecuted in Braintree, under Mr. Marsh, a gentleman whose fortune it was to instruct several children, who in manhood were destined to act a conspicuous part in the scenes of the revolution.

He became a member of Harvard College, 1751, and was graduated in course in 1755: with what degree of reputation he left the university is not now precisely known; we only know that he was distinguished in a class of which the Reverend Dr. Hemmenway was a member, who bore honorable testimony to the openness and decision of his character, and to the strength and activity of his mind.

Having chosen the law for his profession, he commenced and prosecuted its studies under the direction of Samuel Putnam, a barrister of eminence at Worcester. By him he was introduced to the celebrated Jeremy Gridley, then attorney general of the province of Massachusetts Bay. At the first interview they became friends; Gridley at once proposed Mr. Adams for admission to the bar of Suffolk, and took him into special favor. Soon after his admission, Mr. Gridley led his young friend into a private chamber with an air of secrecy, and, pointing to a book case, said, “Sir, there is the secret of my eminence, and of which you may avail yourself as you please.” It was a pretty good collection of treatises of the civil law. In this place Mr. Adams spent his days and nights, until he had made himself master of the principles of the code.

AdamsArmsFrom early life, the bent of his mind was towards politics, a propensity which the state of the times, if it did not create, doubtless very much strengthened. While a resident at Worcester, he wrote a letter of which the following is an extract. The letter was dated October 12th, 1755. “Soon after the reformation, a few people came over into this new world for conscience sake: perhaps this apparently trivial incident may transfer the great seat of empire into America. It looks likely to me; for, if we can remove the turbulent Gallicks, our people, according to the exactest computations, will in another century become more numerous than England itself. Should this be the case, since we have, I may say, all the naval stores of the nation in our hands, it will be easy to obtain a mastery of the seas; and the united force of all Europe will not be able to subdue us. The only way to keep us from setting up for ourselves is to disunite us.

“Be not surprised that I am turned politician. This whole town is immersed in politics. The interests of nations and all the dira of war make the subject of every conversation. I sit and hear, and after having been led through a maze of sage observations, I sometimes retire, and lay things together, and form some reflections pleasing to myself. The produce of one of these reveries you have read.”

This prognostication of independence, and of so vast an increase of numbers, and of naval force, as might defy all Europe, is remarkable, especially as coming from so young a man, and so early in the history of the country. It is more remarkable that its author should have lived to see fulfilled to the letter, what would have seemed to others at the time, but the extravagance of youthful fancy. His early political feelings were thus strongly American, and from this ardent attachment to his native soil he never departed.

In 1758 he was admitted to the bar, and commenced business in Braintrce. He is understood to have made his first considerable effort, or to have obtained his most signal success, at Plymouth, in a jury trial, and a criminal cause. In 1765, Mr. Adams laid before the public his “Essay on the Canon and Feudal Law,” [A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law] a work distinguished for its power and eloquence. The object of this work was to show, that our New-England ancestors, in consenting to exile themselves from their native land, were actuated mainly by the desire of delivering themselves from the power of the hierarchy, and from the monarchical, aristocratical, and political system of the other continent; and to make this truth bear with effect on the politics of the times. Its tone is uncommonly bold and animated for that period. He calls on the people not only to defend, but to study and understand their rights and privileges; and urges earnestly the necessity of diffusing general knowledge.

In conclusion, he exclaims, “let the pulpit resound with the doctrines and sentiments of religious liberty. Let us hear the danger of thraldom [One who is intellectually or morally enslaved; slave, serf] to our consciences, from ignorance, extreme poverty and dependence, in short, from civil and political slavery. Let us see delineated before us, the true map of man—let us hear the dignity of his nature, and the noble rank he holds among the works of God! That consenting to slavery is a sacrilegious breach of trust, as offensive in the sight of God, as it is derogatory from our own honor, or interest, or happiness; and that God Almighty has promulgated from heaven, liberty, peace, and good will to man.

John-Adams-Poster-Principles-of-FreedomLet the bar proclaim the laws, the rights, the generous plan of power delivered down from remote antiquity; inform the world of the mighty struggles and numberless sacrifices made by our ancestors in the defence of freedom. Let it be known that British liberties are not the grants of princes or parliaments, but original rights, conditions of original contracts, coequal with prerogative, and coeval with government. That many of our rights are inherent and essential, agreed on as maxims and established as preliminaries even before a parliament existed. Let them search for the foundation of British laws and government in the frame of human nature, in the constitution of the intellectual and moral world. There let us see that truth, liberty, justice, and benevolence, are its everlasting basis; and if these could be removed, the superstructure is overthrown of course.

Let the colleges join their harmony in the same delightful concert. Let every declamation turn upon the beauty of liberty and virtue, and the deformity, turpitude, and malignity of slavery and vice. Let the public disputations become researches into the grounds, nature, and ends of government, and the means of preserving the good and demolishing the evil. Let the dialogues and all the exercises become the instruments of impressing on the tender mind, and of spreading and distributing far and wide the ideas of right, and the sensations of freedom.”

In 1766, Mr. Adams removed his residence to Boston, still continuing his attendance on the neighboring circuits, and not infrequently called to remote parts of the province.

In 1770 occurred, as has already been noticed, the “Boston massacre.” Mr. Adams was solicited by the British officers and soldiers to undertake their defence, on the indictment found against them, for their share in that tragical scene. This was a severe test of his professional firmness, He was well aware of the popular indignation against these prisoners, and he was at that time a representative of Boston in the general court, an office which depended entirely upon popular favor. But he knew that it was due to his profession, and to himself, to undertake their defence, and to hazard the consequences. “The trial was well managed. The captain was severed in his trial from the soldiers, who were tried first, and their defence rested in part upon the orders, real or supposed, given by the officer to  his men to fire. This was in a good measure successful. On the trial of Capt. Preston, no such order to fire could be proved. The result was, as it should have been, an acquittal. It was a glorious thing that the counsel and jury had nerve sufficient to breast the torrent of public feeling. It showed Britain that she had not a mere mob to deal with, but resolute and determined men, who could restrain themselves. Such men are dangerous to arbitrary power.”

The event proved, that as he judged well for his own reputation, so he judged well for the interest and permanent fame of his country. The same year he was elected one of the representatives in the general assembly, an honor to which the people would not have called him, had he lost their confidence and affection.

In the year 1773, and 1774, he was chosen a counselor by the members of the general court; but was rejected by Governor Hutchinson, in the former of these years, and by Governor Gage, in the latter.

In this latter year, he was appointed a member of the continental congress, from Massachusetts. “This appointment was made at Salem, where the general court had been convened by Governor Gage, in the last hour of the existence of a house of representatives, under the provincial charter While engaged in this important business, the governor having been informed of what was passing, sent his secretary with a message, dissolving the general court. The secretary finding the door locked, directed the messenger to go in, and inform the speaker that the secretary was at the door, with a message from the governor. The messenger returned, and informed the secretary that the orders of the house were, that the doors should be kept fast; whereupon the secretary soon after read a proclamation, dissolving the general court, upon the stairs. Thus terminated, forever, the actual exercise of the political power of England in or over Massachusetts.”

On the meeting of congress in Philadelphia, 1774, Mr. Adams appeared and took his seat. To talents of the highest order, and the most commanding eloquence, he added an honest devotion to the cause of his country, and a firmness of character, for which he was distinguished through life. Prior to that period he had, upon all occasions, stood forth openly in defence of the rights of his country, and in opposition to the injustice and encroachments of Great Britain. He boldly opposed them by his advice, his actions, and his eloquence; and, with other worthies, succeeded in spreading among the people a proper alarm for their liberties. Mr. Adams was placed upon the first and most important committees. During the first year, addresses were prepared to the king, to the people of England, of Ireland, Canada, and Jamaica. The name of Mr. Adams is found upon almost all those important committees. His firmness and eloquence in debate, soon gave him a standing among the highest in that august body.

john-adams-on-the-american-revThe proceedings of this congress have already passed in review. Among the members, a variety of opinions seem to have prevailed, as to the probable issue of the contest, in which the country was engaged. On this subject, Mr. Adams, a few years before his death, expressed himself, in a letter to a friend, as follows: “When congress had finished their business, as they thought, in the autumn of 1774, I had with Mr. Henry, before we took leave of each other, some familiar conversation, in which I expressed a full conviction that our resolves, declaration of rights, enumeration of wrongs, petitions, remonstrances, and addresses, associations, and non-importation agreements, however they might be viewed in America, and however necessary to cement the union of the colonies, would be but waste water in England. Mr. Henry said, they might make some impression among the people of England, but agreed with me, that they would be totally lost upon the government. I had but just received a short and hasty letter, written to me by Major Joseph Hawley, of Northampton, containing a few broken hints, as he called them, of what he thought was proper to be done, and concluding with these words, ‘after all, we must fight.’ This letter I read to Mr. Henry, who listened with great attention, and as soon as I had pronounced the words, ‘after all, we must fight,’ he raised his head, and, with an energy and vehemence that I can never forget, broke out with, ‘I am of that man’s mind.’ I put the letter into his hand, and when he had read it he returned it to me, with an equally solemn asseveration, that he agreed entirely in opinion with the writer.

“The other delegates from Virginia returned to their state in full confidence that all our grievances would be redressed. The last words that Mr. Richard Henry Lee said to me, when we parted, were, ‘we shall infallibly carry all our points. You will be completely relieved; all the offensive acts will be repealed; the army and fleet will be recalled, and Britain will give up her foolish project.’

“Washington only was in doubt. He never spoke in public. In private, he joined with those who advocated a non-exportation, as well as a non-importation agreement. With both, he thought we should prevail; without either, he thought it doubtful. [Patrick] Henry was clear in one opinion, Richard Henry Lee in an opposite opinion, and Washington doubted between the two.”

On the 15th day of June, the continental congress appointed General Washington commander in chief of the American armies. To Mr. Adams is ascribed the honour of having suggested and advocated the choice of this illustrious man. When first suggested by Mr. Adams, to a few of his confidential friends in Congress, the proposition was received with a marked disapprobation. Washington, at this time, was almost a stranger to them; and, besides, to elevate a man who had never held a higher military rank than that of colonel, over officers of the highest grade in the militia, and those, too, already in the field, appeared not only irregular, but likely to produce much dissatisfaction among them, and the people at large. To Mr. Adams, however, the greatest advantage appeared likely to result from the choice of Washington, whose character and peculiar fitness for the station he well understood. Samuel Adams, his distinguished colleague, coincided with him in these views, and through their instrumentality this felicitous choice was effected. When a majority in congress had been secured, Mr. Adams introduced the subject of appointing a commander in chief of the armies, and having sketched the qualifications which should be found in the man to be elevated to so responsible a station, he concluded by nominating George Washington, of Virginia, to the office.

To Washington, himself, nothing could have been more unexpected. Until that moment he was ignorant of the intended nomination. The proposal was seconded by Samuel Adams, and the following day it received the unanimous approbation of congress.

When Mr. Adams was first made a member of the continental congress, it was hinted that he, at that time, inclined to a separation of the colonies from England, and the establishment of an independent government. On his way to Philadelphia, he was warned, by several advisers, not to introduce a subject of so delicate a character, until the affairs of the country should wear a different aspect. Whether Mr. Adams needed this admonition or not, will not, in this place, be determined. But in 1776, the affairs of the colonies, it could no longer be questioned, demanded at least the candid discussion of the subject. On the 6th of May, of that year, Mr. Adams offered, in committee of the whole, a resolution that the colonies should form governments independent of the crown. On the 10th of May, this resolution was adopted, in the following shape: “That it be recommended to all the colonies, which had not already established governments suited to the exigencies of their case, to adopt such governments as would, in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and Americans in general.”

Vigilance-2“This significant vote was soon followed by the direct proposition, which Richard Henry Lee had the honor to submit to congress, by resolution, on the 7th day of June. The published journal does not expressly state it, but there is no doubt that this resolution was in the same words, when originally submitted by Mr. Lee, as when finally passed. Having been discussed on Saturday the 8th, and Monday the 10th of June, this resolution was, on the last mentioned day, postponed for further consideration to the first day of July , and at the same time it was voted, that a committee be appointed to prepare a Declaration, to the effect of the resolution. This committee was elected by ballot on the following day, and consisted of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston.”

It is usual when committees are elected by ballot, that their members are arranged in order, according to the number of votes which each has received. Mr. Jefferson, therefore, probably received the highest, and Mr. Adams the next highest number of votes. The difference is said to have been but a single vote.

Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Adams, standing thus at the head of the committee, were requested by the other members, to act as a sub-committee to prepare the draft; and Mr. Jefferson drew up the paper. The original draft, as brought by him from his study, and submitted to the other members of the committee, with interlineations in the hand writing of Dr. Franklin, and others in that of Mr. Adams, was in Mr. Jefferson’s possession at the time of his death. The merit of this paper is Mr. Jefferson’s. Some changes were made in it, on the suggestion of other members of the committee, and others by Congress, while it was under discussion. But none of them altered the tone, the frame, the arrangement, or the general character of the instrument. As a composition, the declaration is Mr. Jefferson’s. It is the production of his mind, and the high honor of it belongs to him clearly and absolutely.

“While Mr. Jefferson was the author of the declaration itself, Mr. Adams was its great supporter on the floor of Congress. This was the unequivocal testimony of Mr. Jefferson. ‘John Adams,’ said he, on one occasion, ‘was our Colossus on the floor; not graceful, not elegant, not always fluent in his public addresses, he yet came out with a power, both of thought and of expression, that moved us from our seats;” and at another time, he said, ‘John Adams was the pillar of its support on the floor of Congress; its ablest advocate and defender against the multifarious assaults, which were made against it.'”

On the second day of July, the resolution of independence was adopted, and on the fourth, the declaration itself was unanimously agreed to. Language can scarcely describe the transport of Mr. Adams at this time. He has best described them himself, in a letter written the day following, to his wife. “Yesterday,” says he, “the greatest question was decided that was ever debated in America; and greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided among men. A resolution was passed, without one dissenting colony, ‘ That these United States are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.’ The day is passed. The 4th of July, 1776, will be a memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward, forever. You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states; yet through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means; and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.”

About the time of the declaration of independence, occurred the disastrous battle of Flatbush on Long Island. The victory thus gained by the British, was considered by Lord Howe as a favorable moment for proposing to congress an accommodation; and for this purpose, he requested an interview with some of the members. In the deliberations of congress, Mr. Adams opposed this proposal, on the ground that no accommodation could thus be effected.

john_adams_constitutionA committee, however, was appointed to wait on Lord Howe, consisting of himself, Dr. Franklin, and Mr. Rutledge. On being apprised of their intended interview, Lord Howe sent one of his principal officers as a hostage, but the commissioners taking him with them, fearlessly repaired to the British camp. On their arrival, they were conducted through an army of twenty thousand men, drawn up for the purpose of show and impression. But the display was lost on the commissioners, who studiously avoided all signs of wonder or anxiety. As had been predicted by Mr. Adams, the interview terminated without any beneficial result. On being introduced, Lord Howe informed them that he could not treat with them as a committee of congress, but only as private gentlemen of influence in the colonies; to which Mr. Adams replied, “You may view me in any light you please, sir, except that of a British subject.”

During the remainder of the year 1776, and all 1777, Mr. Adams was deeply engaged in the affairs of congress. He served as a member of ninety different committees, and was chairman of twenty-five committees. From his multiform and severe labors he was relieved in December of the latter year, by the appointment of commissioner to France, in the place of Silas Deane.

In February, 1778, he embarked for that country on board of the frigate Boston. On his arrival in France, he found that Dr. Franklin, and Arthur Lee, who had been appointed commissioners the preceding year, and were then in France, had already concluded a treaty with the French government. Little business, therefore, of a public nature was left him to do. In the summer of 1779, he returned to America.

About the time of his arrival, the people of Massachusetts were adopting measures for calling a convention to form a new state constitution. Of this convention he was elected a member, and was also a member of the committee appointed by the convention to report a plan for their consideration. A plan which he drew up was accepted, and was made the basis of the constitution of that state.

In the August following, in consequence of an informal suggestion from the court of St. James, he received the appointment of minister plenipotentiary for negotiating a treaty of peace, and a treaty of commerce, with Great Britain. A salary of twenty-five hundred pounds sterling was voted him. In the month of October, he embarked on board the French ship La Sensible, and after a tedious voyage was landed at Ferrol, in Spain, whence he proceeded to Paris, where he arrived in the month of February. He there communicated with Dr. Franklin, who was at that time envoy of the United States at the court of France, and with the Count de Vergennes, the French prime minister. But the British government, it was found, were not disposed to peace, and the day seemed far distant when any negotiation could be opened with a hope of success. Mr. Adams, however, was so useful in various ways, that towards the close of the year, congress honored him by a vote of thanks, “for his industrious attention to the interest and honor of these United States abroad.”

In June, 1780, congress being informed that Mr. Laurens, who had been appointed to negotiate a loan in Holland for the United States, had been taken prisoner by the English, forwarded a commission to Mr. Adams to proceed to Holland, for the above purpose. To this, soon after, was added the new appointment of commissioner to conclude a treaty of amity and commerce with the States General of Holland; and, at the same time, authority was given him to pledge the faith of the United States to the “armed neutrality” proposed by the Russian government.

Mr. Adams repaired with promptitude to Holland, and engaged with great zeal in the business of his commission. From this station he was suddenly summoned by the Count de Vergennes, to consult, at Paris, with regard to a project for a general peace, suggested by the courts of Vienna and St. Petersburgh.

Adams-2-waysThis was one of the most anxious periods in the eventful life of Mr. Adams. France was, indeed, ready to fulfill her guaranty of independence to the United States; but it was the politic aim of the Count de Vergennes, to secure important advantages for his own country, in the settlement of American difficulties. Hence, no effort was spared to make Mr. Adams, in this important matter, the subordinate agent of the French cabinet. He, on the other hand, regarded solely the interests of the United States, and the instructions of congress; and his obstinate independence, unshaken by the alternate threats and blandishments of the court of Versailles, occasioned an effort by the Count de Vergennes to obtain, through the French minister in Philadelphia, such a modification of the instructions to Mr. Adams, as should subject him to the direction of the French cabinet.

The effect of this artful and strenuous measure was, a determination on the part of congress, that Mr. Adams should hold the most confidential intercourse with the French ministers; and should “undertake nothing in the negotiation of a peace, or truce, without their knowledge and concurrence.

Under these humiliating restrictions, the independent and decisive spirit of Mr. Adams was severely tried. The imperial mediators proposed an armistice, but without any withdrawal of troops from America. Mr. Adams firmly opposed this stipulation; and the negotiation proceeded no farther at that time.

It was, obviously, the policy of the French minister, not to facilitate the peace between Great Britain and the United States, without previously securing to France a large share in the fisheries; and at the same time so establishing the western boundary, as to sacrifice the interests of the United States to those of Spain.

Finding all attempts at negotiation unavailing, Mr. Adams returned to Holland.

Meantime, the apprehensions of congress being much excised by the insinuations of the French minister in Philadelphia, they added to the commission for forming a treaty with Great Britain, Dr. Franklin, then plenipotentiary at Paris; Mr. Jay, the minister at Madrid; Mr. Henry Laurens, who had recently been appointed special minister to France; and Mr. Jefferson. The whole were instructed to govern themselves by the advice and opinion of the ministers of the king of France. This unaccountable and dishonorable concession, in effect, made the Count de Vergennes minister plenipotentiary for the United States.

But the indefatigable exertions of Mr. Adams in Holland, had a most important bearing upon the proposed negotiations. By a laborious and striking exhibition of the situation and resources of the United States, he succeeded in so far influencing public opinion, as to obtain a loan of eight millions of guilders, on reasonable terms. This loan, effected in the autumn of 1782, was soon followed by a treaty of amity and commerce with Holland, recognizing the United States as independent and sovereign states.

The disposition towards peace, on the part of the English ministry, was wonderfully quickened by the favorable negotiation of this loan. During Lord Shelburne’s administration, the independence of the states was unconditionally acknowledged, and the first effectual steps were taken to put an end to the war.

During the negotiations that followed, the disposition of France again evinced itself, to cut off the United States from a share of the fisheries, and to transfer a portion of the American territory to Spain. The American commissioners, therefore, were not a little embarrassed by their instructions from congress, to govern themselves by the opinion and advice of the French minister. But, as Mr. Adams had, on a former occasion, found it necessary to depart from instructions of a similar import; the other commissioners now joined with him, in the determination to secure the best interests of their country, regardless of the interference of the French minister, and of the inconsiderate restrictions imposed on them by congress.

Accordingly, provisional articles were signed by them, on the 30th of November, 1782; and this measure was followed by an advantageous definitive treaty in September, 1783.

Mr. Adams spent a part of the year 1784 in Holland, but returned eventually to Paris, on being placed at the head of a commission, with Dr. Franklin and Mr. Jefferson as coad jutors, to negotiate several commercial treaties with different foreign nations.

Near the commencement of the year 1785, congress resolved to send a minister plenipotentiary to represent the United States at the court of St. James. To this responsible station, rendered peculiarly delicate by the fact that the United States had so recently and reluctantly been acknowledged as an independent nation, Mr. Adams was appointed. It was doubtful in what manner and with what spirit an American minister would be received by the British government. On leaving America, Mr. Jay, the then secretary of state, among other instructions, used the following language: “The manner of your reception at that court, and its temper, views, and dispositions respecting American objects, are matters concerning which particular information might be no less useful than interesting. Your letters will, I am persuaded, remove all suspense on those points.”

In accordance with this direction, Mr. Adams subsequently forwarded to Mr. Jay the following interesting account of his presentation to the king.

“During my interview with the marquis of Carmarthen, he told me it was customary for every foreign minister, at his first presentation to the king, to make his majesty some compliments conformable to the spirit of his credentials; and when Sir Clement Cottrel Dormer, the master of ceremonies, came to inform me that he should accompany me to the secretary of state, and to court, he said, that every foreign minister whom he had attended to the queen, had always made an harangue to her majesty, and he understood, though he had not been present, that they always harangued the king. On Tuesday evening, the Baron de Lynden (Dutch ambassador) called upon me, and said he came from the Baron de Nolkin, (Swedish envoy,) and had been conversing upon the singular situation I was in, and they agreed in opinion that it was indispensable that I should make a speech, and that it should be as complimentary as possible. All this was parallel to the advice lately given by the Count de Vergennes to Mr. Jefferson. So that finding it was a custom established at both these great courts, that this court and the foreign ministers expected it, I thought I could not avoid it, although my first thought and inclination had been to deliver my credentials silently and retire. At one, on Wednesday the first of June, the master of ceremonies called at my house, and went with me to the secretary of state’s office, in Cleveland Row, where the marquis of Carmarthen received me, and introduced me to Mr. Frazier, his under secretary, who had been, as his lordship said, uninterruptedly in that office through all the changes in administration for thirty years, having first been appointed by the earl of Holderness. After a short conversation upon the subject of importing my effects from Holland and France, free of duty, which Mr. Frazier himself introduced, Lord Carmarthen invited me to go with him in his coach to court. When we arrived in the antechamber, the œil de bœuf [Oeil-de-boeuf, French literally means, ‘eye of the steer’] of St. James’s, the master of the ceremonies met me, and attended me, while the secretary of state went to take the commands of the king. While I stood in this place, where it seems all ministers stand on such occasions, always attended by the master of ceremonies, the room very full of courtiers, as well as the next room, which is the king’s bed chamber, you may well suppose, that I was the focus of all eyes.

“I was relieved, however, from the embarrassment of it by the Swedish and Dutch ministers, who came to me and entertained me in a very agreeable conversation during the whole time. Some other gentlemen whom I had seen before came to make their compliments too, until the marquis of Carmarthen returned, and desired me to go with him to his majesty: I went with his lordship through the levee room into the king’s closet; the door was shut, and I was left with his majesty and the secretary of state alone. I made the three reverences, one at the door, another about half way, and the third before the presence, according to the usage established at this and all the northern courts of Europe, and then addressed myself to his majesty in the following words:

“Sir, the United States have appointed me their minister plenipotentiary to your majesty, and have directed me to deliver to your majesty this letter, which contains the evidence of it. It is in obedience to their express commands, that I have the honor to assure your majesty of their unanimous disposition and desire to cultivate the most friendly and liberal intercourse between your majesty’s subjects and their citizens, and of their best wishes for your majesty’s health and happiness, and for that of your royal family.

“The appointment of a minister from the United States to your majesty’s court, will form an epoch in the history of England and America. I think myself more fortunate than all my fellow citizens, in having the distinguished honor to be the first to stand in your majesty’s royal presence in a diplomatic character; and I shall esteem myself the happiest of men, if I can be instrumental in recommending my country more and more to your majesty’s royal benevolence, and of restoring an entire esteem, confidence, and affection, or in better words, ‘the old good nature, and the old good humor,’ between people who, though separated by an ocean, and under different governments, have the same language, a similar religion, and kindred blood. I beg your majesty’s permission to add, that although I have sometimes before been entrusted by my country, it was never, in my whole life, in a manner so agreeable to myself.’

“The king listened to every word I said, with dignity, it is true, but with an apparent emotion. Whether it was the nature of the interview, or whether it was my visible agitation, for I felt more than I did or could express, that touched him, I cannot say, but he was much affected, and answered me with more tremor than I had spoken with, and said:

“Sir, the circumstances of this audience are so extraordinary, the language you have now held is so extremely proper, and the feelings you have discovered so justly adapted to the occasion, that I must say, that I not only receive with pleasure the assurances of the friendly disposition of the people of the United States, but that I am very glad the choice has fallen upon you to be their minister. I wish you, sir, to believe, and that it may be understood in America, that I have done nothing in the late contest but what I thought myself indispensably bound to do, by the duty which I owed to my people. I will be very frank with you. I was the last to conform to the separation; but the separation having been made, and having become inevitable, I have always said, as I say now, that I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States, as an independent power. The moment I see such sentiments and language as yours prevail, and a disposition to give this country the preference, that moment I shall say, let the circumstances of language, religion, and blood, have their natural and full effect.’

“I dare not say that these were the king’s precise words, and it is even possible that I may have, in some particular, mistaken his meaning; for although his pronunciation is as distinct as I ever heard, he hesitated sometimes between his periods, and between the members of the same period. He was, indeed, much affected, and I was not less so; and, therefore, I cannot be certain that I was so attentive, heard so clearly, and understood so perfectly, as to be confident of all his words or sense; this I do say, that the foregoing is his majesty’s meaning, as I then understood it, and his own words, as nearly as I can recollect.”

The year following, 1788, Mr. Adams requested permission to resign his office, which, being granted, after an absence of between eight and nine years, he returned to his native country. The new government was, at that time, about going into operation. In the autumn of 1788, he was elected vice president of the United States, a situation which he filled, with reputation for eight years.

On the retirement of General Washington from the presidency, in 1796, Mr. Adams was a candidate for that elevated station. At this time, two parties had been formed in the United States. At the head of one stood Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Adams, and at the head of the other stood Mr. Jefferson. After a close contest between these two parties, Mr. Adams was elected president, having received seventy-one of the electoral votes, and Mr. Jefferson sixty-eight. In March, 1797, these gentlemen entered upon their respective offices of president and vice president of the United States.

Of the administration of Mr. Adams we shall not, in this place, give a detailed account. Many circumstances conspired to render it unpopular. An unhappy dispute with France had arisen a little previously to his inauguration. In the management of this dispute, which had reference to aggressions by France upon American rights and commerce, the popularity of Mr. Adams was in no small degree affected, although the measures which he recommended for upholding the national character, were more moderate than congress, and a respectable portion of the people, thought the exigencies of the case required. Other circumstances, also, conspired to diminish his popularity. Restraints were imposed upon the press, and authority vested in the president to order aliens to depart out of the United States, when he should judge the peace and safety of the country required. To these measures, acts were added for raising a standing army, and imposing a direct tax and internal duties. These, and other causes, combined to weaken the strength of the party to whom he owed his elevation, and to prevent his re-election. He was succeeded by Mr. Jefferson, in 1801.

On retiring from the presidency he removed to his former residence at Quincy, where, in quiet, he spent the remainder of his days. In 1820, he voted as elector of president and vice president; and, in the same year, at the advanced age of 85, he was a member of the convention of Massachusetts, assembled to revise the constitution of that commonwealth.

Mr. Adams retained the faculties of his mind, in remarkable perfection, to the end of his long life. His unabated love of reading and contemplation, added to an interesting circle of friendship and affection, were sources of felicity in declining years, which seldom fall to the lot of any one.

“But,” to use the language of a distinguished eulogist Webster, “he had other enjoyments. He saw around him that prosperity and general happiness, which had been the object of his public cares and labours. No man ever beheld more clearly, and for a longer time, the great and beneficial effects of the services rendered by himself to his country. That liberty, which he so early defended, that independence, of which he was so able an advocate and supporter, he saw, we trust, firmly and securely established. The population of the country thickened around him faster, and extended wider, than his own sanguine predictions had anticipated; and the wealth, respectability, and power of the nation, sprang up to a magnitude, which it is quite impossible he could have expected to witness, in his day. He lived, also, to behold those principles of civil freedom, which had been developed, established, and practically applied in America, attract attention, command respect, and awaken imitation, in other regions of the globe; and well might, and well did he exclaim, ‘Where will the consequences of the American revolution end!’

“If any thing yet remains to fill this cup of happiness, let it be added, that he lived to see a great and intelligent people bestow the highest honor in their gift, where he had bestowed his own kindest parental affections, and lodged his fondest hopes.

“At length the day approached when this eminent patriot was to be summoned to another world; and, as if to render that day forever memorable in the annals of American history, it was the day on which the illustrious Jefferson was himself, also, to terminate his distinguished earthly career. That day was the fiftieth anniversary of the declaration of independence.

“Until within a few days previous, Mr. Adams had exhibited no indications of a rapid decline. The morning of the fourth of July, 1826, he was unable to rise from his bed. Neither to himself, or his friends, however, was his dissolution supposed to be so near. He was asked to suggest a toast, appropriate to the celebration of the day. His mind seemed to glance back to the hour in which, fifty years before, he had voted for the declaration of independence, and with the spirit with which he then raised his hand, he now exclaimed, ‘Independence forever.‘ At four o’clock in the afternoon he expired. Mr. Jefferson had departed a few hours before him.”

We close this imperfect sketch of the life of this distinguished man in the language of one who, from the relation in which he stood to the subject of this memoir, must have felt, more than any other individual, the impressiveness of the event. “They, (Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson,) departed cheered by the benediction of their country, to whom they left the inheritance of their fame, and the memory of their bright example. If we turn our thoughts to the condition of their country, in the contrast of the first and last day of that half century, how resplendent and sublime is the transition from gloom to glory! Then, glancing through the same lapse of time, in the condition of the individuals, we see the first day marked with the fulness and vigor of youth, in the pledge of their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, to the cause of freedom and of mankind. And on the last, extended on the bed of death, with but sense and sensibility left to breathe a last aspiration to heaven of blessing upon their country; may we not humbly hope, that to them, too, it was a pledge of transition from gloom to glory; and that while their mortal vestments were sinking into the clod of the valley, their emancipated spirits were ascending to the bosom of their God!”

See also:
Eulogy of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams by Daniel Webster
The Wisdom of Founder John Adams Part 1: Novanglus Papers
The Consequence of Bad Legal Precedent in American Legislation
THE COST OF POPULAR LIBERTY by Brooks Adams July 4th 1876
 PATRIOT SONS OF PATRIOT SIRES by Rev. Samuel Francis Smith 1808-1895
RISE OF CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY by Dr. Richard Salter Storrs July 4 1876
THE FIRST CENTURY OF THE REPUBLIC by Judge Isaac W Smith 1876
Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation
WHAT HISTORY TEACHES US ABOUT AMERICAN DIPLOMACY Addressed in 1876
THE SOURCE AND SECURITY OF AMERICAN FREEDOM AND PROGRESS by Courtlandt Parker 1876

The Life of Founder Samuel Adams

Samuel-Adams-LevelingAmong those who signed the declaration of independence, and were conspicuous in the revolution, there existed, of course, a great diversity of intellectual endowments; nor did all render to their country, in those perilous days, the same important services. Like the luminaries of heaven, each contributed his portion of influence; but, like them, they differed, as star differeth from star in glory. But in the constellation of great men, which adorned that era, few shone with more brilliancy, or exercised a more powerful influence, than Samuel Adams.

This gentleman was born at Quincy, in Massachusetts, September 22nd, 1722, in the neighborhood afterwards rendered memorable as the birth place of Hancock, and as the residence of the distinguished family which has given two presidents to the United States. His descent was from a respectable family, which emigrated to America with the first settlers of the land.

In the year 1736, he became a member of Harvard University, where he was distinguished for an uncommon attention to all his collegiate exercises, and for his classical and scientific attainments. On taking the degree of master, in 1743, he proposed the following question, “Whether it be lawful to resist the supreme magistrate, if the commonwealth cannot be otherwise preserved V He maintained the affirmative; and in this collegiate exercise furnished no dubious evidence of his attachment to the liberties of the people.

On leaving the university, he began the study of law, for which profession his father designed him; but at the solicitation of his mother, this pursuit was relinquished, and he became a clerk in the counting house of Thomas Cushing, at that time a distinguished merchant. But his genius was not adapted to mercantile pursuits; and in a short time after commencing business for himself, partly owing to the failure in business of a friend, and partly to injudicious management, he lost the entire capital which had been given him by his father.

The genius of Adams was naturally bent on politics. It was with him an all engrossing subject. From his earliest youth, he had felt its inspiration. It occupied his thoughts, enlivened his conversation, and employed his pen. In respect to his private business, this was an unfortunate trait of character; but most fortunate for his country, since he thus acquired an extensive knowledge of those principles of rational liberty, which he afterwards asserted with so much energy, in opposition to the arbitrary conduct of the British government.

In 1763 it was announced, that the British ministry had it in view to ” tax the colonies, for the purpose of raising a revenue, which was to be placed at the disposal of the crown.” This news filled the colonies with alarm. In Massachusetts, a committee was appointed by the people of Boston to express the public sentiment in relation to this contemplated measure, for the guidance of the representatives to the general court. The instructions of this committee were drawn by Mr. Adams. They formed, in truth, a powerful remonstrance against the injustice of the contemplated system of taxation ; and they merit the more particular notice, as they were the first recorded public document, which denied the right of taxation to the British parliament. They also contained the first suggestion of the propriety of that mutual understanding and correspondence among the colonies, which laid the foundation of their future confederacy. In these instructions, after alluding to the evils which had resulted from the acts of the British parliament, relating to trade, Mr. Adams observes:—” If our trade may be taxed, why not our lands? Why not the produce of our lands, and every thing we possess, or use? This we conceive annihilates our charter rights to govern and tax ourselves. It strikes at our British privileges, which, as we have never forfeited, we hold in common with our fellow subjects, who are natives of Britain. If taxes are laid upon us in any shape, without our having a legal representation, where they arc laid, we are reduced from the character of free subjects, to the state of tributary slaves. We, therefore, earnestly recommend it to you, to use your utmost endeavors to obtain from the general court, all necessary advice and instruction to our agent, at this most critical juncture.” “We also desire you to use your endeavors, that the other colonies, having the same interests and rights with us, may add their weight to that of this province; that by united application of all who are agreed, all may obtain redress I”

The deep interest which Mr. Adams felt and manifested for the rights of the colonies, soon brought him into favor with the patriotic party. He became a leader in their popular assemblies, and was bold in denouncing the unjust acts of the British ministry.

In 1765 he was elected a representative to the general court of Massachusetts, from the town of Boston. From this period, during the whole revolutionary struggle, he was the bold, persevering, and efficient supporter of the rights of his oppressed country. As a member of the court, he soon became conspicuous, and was honored with the office of clerk to that body. In the legislature, he was characterized for the same activity and boldness which he had manifested in the town. He was appointed upon almost every committee, assisted in drawing nearly every report, and exercised a large share of influence, in almost every meeting, which had for its object the counteraction of the unjust plans of the administration.

But it was not in his legislative capacity alone, that Mr. Adams exhibited his hostility to the British government, and his regard for rational freedom. Several able essays on these subjects were published by him; and he was the author of several plans for opposing, more successfully, the unjust designs of the mother country. He has the honor of having suggested the first congress at New-York, which prepared the way for a Continental Congress, ten years after ; and at length for the union and confederacy of the colonies.

The injudicious management of his private affairs, already alluded to, rendered Mr. Adams poor. When this was known in England, the partisans of the ministry proposed to bribe him, by the gift of some lucrative office. A suggestion of this kind was accordingly made to Governor Hutchinson, to which he replied in a manner highly complimentary to the integrity of Mr. Adams. “Such is the obstinacy and inflexible disposition of the man, that he never can be conciliated by any office or gift whatever.” The offer, however, it is reported, was actually made to Mr. Adams, but neither the allurements of fortune or power could for a moment tempt him to abandon the cause of truth, or to hazard the liberties of the people.

He was indeed poor; but he could be tempted neither by British gold, nor by the honors or profits of any office within the gift of the royal governor. Such patriotism has not been common in the world; but in America it was to be found in many a bosom, during the revolutionary struggle. The knowledge of facts like this, greatly diminishes the wonder, which has sometimes been expressed, that America should have successfully contended with Great Britain. Her physical strength was comparatively weak; but the moral courage of her statesmen, and her soldiers, was to her instead of numbers, of wealth, and fortifications.

Allusion has been made, both in our introduction, and in our notice of Hancock, to the Boston massacre, in 1770, an event which Will long remain memorable in the annals of the revolution, not only as it was the first instance of bloodshed between the British and the Americans, but as it conduced to increase the irritation, and to widen the breach between the two countries.

Our limits forbid a more particular account of this tragical affair ; and it is again alluded to only for the purpose of bringing more distinctly into view, the intrepid and decisive conduct of Samuel Adams on that occasion.

On the morning following this night of bloodshed, a meeting of the citizens of Boston was called. Mingled emotions of horror and indignation pervaded the assembly. Samuel Adams first arose to address the listening multitude. Few men could harangue a popular assembly with greater energy, or exercise a more absolute control over their passions and affections. On that occasion, a Demosthenes, or a Chatham, could scarcely have addressed the assembled multitude with a more impressive eloquence, or have represented in a more just and emphatic manner, the fearful crisis to which the affairs of the colonies were fast tending. A committee was unanimously chosen to wait upon Governor Hutchinson, with a request that the troops might be immediately removed from the town. To the request of this committee, the governor, with his usual prevarication, replied, that the troops were not subject to his order. Mr. Adams, who was one of this committee, strongly represented to the governor the danger of retaining the troops longer in the capital. His indignation was aroused, and in a tone of lofty independence, he declared, that the removal of the troops would alone satisfy his insulted and indignant townsmen; it was, therefore, at the governor’s peril, that they were continued in the town, and that he alone must be answerable for the fatal consequences, which it required no gift of prophecy to predict must ensue.

It was now dark. The meeting of the citizens was still undissolved. The greatest anxiety pervaded the assembly and scarcely were they restrained from going in a body to the governor, to learn his determination. Aware of the critical posture of affairs, aware of the personal hazard which he encountered by refusing a compliance, the governor at length gave his consent to the removal of the troops, and stipulated that the necessary preparations should commence on the following morning. Thus, through the decisive and spirited conduct of Samuel Adams, and a few other kindred spirits, the obstinacy of a royal governor was subdued, and further hostilities were for a still longer time suspended.

The popularity and influence of Mr. Adams were rapidly increasing, and the importance of his being detached from the popular party became every day more manifest. We have already noticed the suggestion to Governor Hutchinson to effect this, by the gift of some lucrative office. Other offers of a similar kind, it is reported, were made to him, at different times, by the royal authorities, but with the same ill success. About the year 1773, Governor Gage renewed the experiment. At that time Colonel Fenton was requested to wait upon Mr. Adams, with the assurance of Governor Gage, that any benefits would be conferred upon him which he should demand, on the condition of his ceasing to oppose the measures of the royal government. At the same time, it was not obscurely hinted, that such a measure was necessary, on personal considerations. He had incurred the royal displeasure, and already, such had been his conduct, that it was in the power of the governor to send him to England for trial, on a charge of treason. It was suggested that a change in his political conduct, might save him from this disgrace, and even from a severer fate; and might elevate him, moreover, from his circumstances of indigence, to the enjoyment of affluence.

To this proposal, Mr. Adams listened with attention; but as Col. Fenton concluded his communication, with all the spirit of a man of honor, with all the integrity of the most incorrupted and incorruptible patriotism, he replied; “Go tell Governor Gage, that my peace has long since been made with the King of kings, and that it is the advice of Samuel Adams to him, no longer to insult the feelings of an already exasperated people.”

The independence and sterling integrity of Mr. Adams, might well have secured to him the respect, and even confidence of Governor Gage; but with far different feelings did he regard the noble conduct of this high minded patriot. Under the irritation excited by the failure of a favorite plan. Governor Gage issued a proclamation, which comprehended the following language: “I do hereby,” he said, ” in his majesty’s name, offer and promise his most gracious pardon to all persons, who shall forthwith lay down their arms, and return to the duties of peaceable subjects: excepting only from the benefits of such pardon, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock, whose offenses are of too flagitious [criminal, felonious]  a nature to admit of any other consideration but that of condign [just, deserved] punishment.”

Thus these independent men were singled out as the objects of peculiar vengeance, and even their lives endangered, for honorably resisting a temptation, to which, had they yielded, they would have merited the reproach of their countrymen, and the scorn of the world.

Samuel-Adams-Virtuous-People-Cannot-Be-SubduedMr. Adams was a member of the first continental congress, which assembled in Philadelphia on the 5th of September, 1774; and continued a member of that body until the year 1781. During this period, no delegate acted a more conspicuous or manly part. No one exhibited a more indefatigable zeal, or a firmer tone of character. He early saw that the contest would probably not be decided without bloodshed. He was himself prepared for every extremity, and was willing that such measures should be adopted, as should lead to an early issue of the controversy. He was accordingly among the warmest advocates for the declaration of American independence. In his view, the die was cast, and a further friendly connection with the parent country was impossible. “I am perfectly satisfied,” said he, in a letter written from Philadelphia, to a friend in Massachusetts, in April, 1776, “of the necessity of a public and explicit declaration of independence. I cannot conceive what good reason can be assigned against it. Will it widen the breach? This would be a strange question, after we have raised armies, and fought battles with the British troops; set up an American navy; permitted the inhabitants of these colonies to fit out armed vessels, to capture the ships, &c. belonging to any of the inhabitants of Great Britain; declaring them the enemies of the United Colonies; and torn into shivers their acts of trade, by allowing commerce, subject to regulations to be made by ourselves, with the people of all countries, except such as are subject to the British king. It cannot surely, after all this, be imagined that we consider ourselves, or mean to be considered by others, in any other state, than that of independence.”

The independence of America was at length declared, and gave a new political character, and an immediate dignity to the cause of the colonies. But notwithstanding this measure might itself bear the aspect of victory, a formidable contest yet awaited the Americans. The year following the declaration of independence, the situation of the colonies was extremely gloomy. The stoutest hearts trembled within them, and even doubts were expressed, whether the measures which had been adopted, particularly the declaration of independence, were not precipitate. The neighborhood of Philadelphia became the seat of war; congress, now reduced to only twenty-eight members, had resolved to remove their session to Lancaster. At this critical period, Mr. Adam? accidentally fell in company with several other members, by whom the subject of the state of the country was freely and confidentially discussed. Gloomy forebodings seemed to pervade their minds, and the greatest anxiety was expressed as to the issue of the contest.

To this conversation, Mr. Adams listened with silent attention. At length he expressed his surprise, that such desponding feelings should have settled upon their hearts, and such desponding language should be even confidentially uttered by their lips. To this it was answered, “The chance is desperate.” “Indeed, indeed, it is desperate,” said Mr. Adams, “if this be our language. If we wear long faces, others will do so too; if we despair, let us not expect that others will hope; or that they will persevere in a contest, from which their leaders shrink. But let not such feelings, let not such language, be ours.” Thus, while the hearts of others were ready to faint, Samuel Adams maintained his usual firmness. His unshaken courage, and his calm reliance upon the aid and protection of heaven, contributed in an eminent degree to inspire his countrymen with a confidence of their final success. A higher encomium could not have been bestowed on any member of the continental congress, than is expressed in relation to Mr. Adams by Mr. Galloway, in his historical and political reflections on the rise and progress of the American rebellion, published in Great Britain, 1780. “He eats little,” says the author, ” drinks little, sleeps little, thinks much, and is most indefatigable in the pursuit of his object. It was this man, who by his superior application, managed at once the factions in congress at Philadelphia, and the factions of New-England.”

SAdams1In 1781, Mr. Adams retired from congress; but it was to receive from his native state, additional proofs of her high estimation of his services, and of the confidence which she reposed in his talents and integrity He had already been an active member of the convention that formed her constitution; and after it went into effect, he was placed in the senate of the state, and for several years presided over that body. In 1789, he was elected lieutenant governor, and held that office till 1794; when, upon the death of Hancock, he was chosen governor, and was annually re-elected till 1797, when he retired from public life. This retirement, however, he did not long enjoy, as his death occurred on October 1803, at the advanced age of 82.

From the foregoing sketches of Mr. Adams, it will not be difficult for the reader to form a tolerably correct opinion of his character and disposition. In his person, he is said to have been only of the middle size, but his countenance indicated a noble genius within, and a more than ordinary inflexibility of character and purpose. Great sincerity and simplicity marked his manners and deportment. In his conversation, he was at once interesting and instructive; and those who shared his friendship had seldom any reason to doubt his affection and constancy. His writings were voluminous, but unfortunately, as they generally related to the temporary politics of the day, most of them are lost. Those which remain furnish SAdams2abundant proof of his superiority as a writer, of the soundness of his political creed, and of the piety and sincerity of his character. As an orator, he was eminently fitted for the stormy times in which he lived. His elocution was concise and impressive, partaking more of the logical than the figurative, and rather calculated to enlighten the understanding, than to excite the feelings. Yet no man could address himself more powerfully to the passions, than he did, on certain occasions. Asa statesman, his views were broad and enlightened; what his judgment had once matured, he pursued with inflexible firmness, and patriotic ardor. While others desponded, he was full of hope; where others hesitated, he was resolute ; where others were supine, he was eager for action. His circumstances of indigence led him to habits of simplicity and frugality; but beyond this, he was naturally averse to parade and ostentation.

“Mr. Adams was a christian. His mind was early imbued with piety, as well as cultivated by science. He early approached the table of the Lord Jesus, and the purity of his life witnessed the sincerity of his profession. On the christian sabbath, he constantly went to the temple, and the morning and evening devotions in his family proved, that his religion attended him in his seasons of retirement from the world. The last production of his pen was in favor of Christian truth. He died in the faith of the SAdams3gospel.”

In his opposition to British tyranny, no man was more conscientious; he detested royalty, and despised the ostentation and contemptible servility of the royal agents ; his patriotism was of a pure and lofty character. For his country he labored both by night and by day, with a zeal which was scarcely interrupted, and with an energy that knew no fatigue. Although enthusiastic, he was still prudent. He would persuade, petition, and remonstrate, where these would accomplish his object; but when these failed, he was ready to resist even unto blood, and would sooner have sacrificed his life than yielded with dishonor. “Had he lived in any country or epoch,” says his biographer, “when abuses of power were to be resisted, he would have been one of the reformers. He would have suffered excommunication, rather than have bowed to papal infallibility, or paid tribute to St. Peter; he would have gone to the stake, rather than submit to the prelatic ordinances of Laud; he would have mounted the scaffold, sooner than pay a shilling of illegal ship money; he would have (led to a desert, rather than endure the profligate tyranny of a Stuart; he was proscribed, and would sooner have been condemned as a traitor, than assent to an illegal tax, if it had been only a sixpenny stamp or an insignificant duty on tea; and there appeared to be no species of corruption by which this inflexibility could have been destroyed.”

Samuel-Adams-Quotes-4In the delegation of political power, he may be said to have been too cautious, since our constitutions, as he would have modeled them, would not have had sufficient inherent force for their own preservation. One of his colleagues thus honorably described him: “Samuel Adams would have the state of Massachusetts govern the union; the town of Boston govern Massachusetts; and that he should govern the town of Boston, and then the whole would not be intentionally ill governed.”

With some apparent austerity, there was nothing of the spirit of gloom or arrogance about him. In his demeanor, he combined mildness with firmness, and dignity with condescension. If sometimes an advocate for measures which might be thought too strong, it was, perhaps, because his comprehension extended beyond ordinary minds, and he had more energy to effect his purposes, than attaches to common men. In addition to these qualities, he manifested an uncommon indifference to pecuniary considerations; he was poor while he lived, and had not the death of an only son relieved his latter day poverty, Samuel Adams, notwithstanding his virtues, his patriotism, his unwearied zeal, and his acknowledged usefulness, while he lived, would have had to claim a burial at the hand of charity, or at the public expense.

Patrick Henry "Lion of Liberty" addresses House of Burgesses in 1765 about the Stamp Act

Patrick Henry greatest American Statesman

Patrick Henry “Lion of Liberty” addresses House of Burgesses in 1765 about the Stamp Act

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great
nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on
religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ! For this very reason
peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and
freedom of worship here.” -Patrick Henry

Delivered before the Faculty and Students of Randolph-Macon College 
December 9th, 1901 
Hon. James Alston Cabell, of Richmond Virginia. 
PATRICK HENRY.- 
That generous and public-spirited gentleman, who is too 
modest to have his name made known, and too disinterested 
and unselfish to receive any public praise for his noble and 
patriotic act, has permitted me to say that this portrait of Patrick 
Henry, which he has given, and I have the honor of presenting, 
has been placed in your college halls in order that your young 
men. on the threshold of life, some of whom, doubtless, are to 
play a conspicuous part in the arena of life, and, may be for 
good or evil, influence the course and destiny of this land, may 
have continually before them the face of this great American as 
an example of pure and exalted manhood, of devotion to country, 
and consecration to duty. The habit of recalling examples will 
soon produce the habit of imitating them. We are told that 
the citizens of Rome placed the images of their ancestors in the 
vestibules of their houses, so that whenever they went in or out, 
those venerable statues met their eyes and recalled the glorious 
actions of the dead, to fire the living, to excite them to imitate 
and even to emulate their great forefathers. The success, says 
Bolingbroke, answered the design. The virtue of one generation 
was transmitted by the magic of example, into several ; and a 
spirit of heroism was maintained through many ages of that 
commonwealth. 
Unequal as I am to the duty assigned me, if what I have to say 
tonight shall help to lead the young,- men of this college to a 
higher appreciation of the simple grandeur, the rugged beauty, 
and the unaffected nobility of the character of Patrick Henry, and
some may be excited by the magic of his example, to imitate or 
even emulate the great patriot, I shall have accomplished a great 
object. 
All men have two ways of improvement — one arising from 
their own experience, and one from the experience of others. In 
following the course of great men remember while you may not 
rise to the full measure of their greatness, yet you must determine 
not to fall below their standard of duty and obligation. Mr. 
Henry's career may be studied as a guide for private life as well 
as public station. We have no need to throw the mantle of 
charity over personal defects which might otherwise mar the 
brilliancy of his fame. His private life was as pure as his public 
achievements were, brilliant and illustrious. 
Patrick Henry was born in this grand old county of Hanover, 
at Studley. His youth gave no presage of his future greatness. 
Indeed, the few advantages his parents were able to offer him 
were sadly neglected. At an early age his father set him up in 
a little mercantile business, and he promptly made a failure of 
it. A year after, when he was only 18 years of age, and out of 
employment, he married a girl as impecunious as himself. 
By the joint assistance of their parents, however, the young 
couple were settled on a small farm, where Henry proceeded to 
demonstrate as positively and as rapidly as possible, that he was 
no farmer, and, by the method of reduction, that his talents, if 
he had any, must lie in some other direction. For a second 
time he went into merchandise. This experiment was still more 
unfortunate than the first, and in a few years it left him a 
bankrupt. "Every atom of his property was now gone," is the 
description we have of his condition ; "his friends were unable to 
assist him any further; he had tried every means of support, of 
which he could suppose himself capable, and every one had 
failed ; ruin was behind him ; poverty, debt, want, and famine 
before ; and, as if his cup of misery were not already full enough, 
here were a suffering wife and children to make it overflow." 
The pressure of such overwhelming misfortune would have 
crushed the life and spirit out of any but the strongest character. 
It was under such trials that Henry showed what great 
native firmness of character he possessed. "He was not one of 
those," as Dr. Johnson had said of Swift, "who, having lost one 
part of life in idleness are tempted to throw away the remainder 
in despair." The manliness of his character not only kept his 
mind from being clouded by despondency, but even gave him 
a cheerfulness of spirit under the most severe reverses of fortune, 
and showed that he was fitted to endure the buffetings of the 
rudest storms. As a last effort, we are told, after he had failed 
at everything else, he determined to make a trial of the law. 
Nothing but failure, dire and certain failure, was predicted ; but 
having passed as a lawyer, Henry was a conspicuous success from 
the first, and he was ready when opportunity came to him. 
It came in the shape of what is known as the famous "Parsons 
Cause." You all know, or ought to know, about that celebrated 
controversy. It is a part of the history of Virginia, and was 
fought out here in this old county. The power and the intelligence 
of the Colony, as well as law and justice and right, were 
on the side of the Parsons. It seemed a desperate — a hopeless —  
measure for any one to undertake ; even the most learned and 
skillful advocate. The case had been virtually decided in favor 
of the Parsons, and at that time, it appeared to be only a ques- 
tion of arithmetic to determine how much was due them. The 
distinguished counsel for the defendants withdrew from the case, 
saying he could do nothing more, and the case was hopeless. 
In this situation they turned, with their desperate case, 
to the plucky young lawyer who never lost hope and never despaired. 
There were a combination of circumstances surrounding the case 
which appealed to the selfish passions of the people. 
Could these passions be fanned into a storm, all considerations of 
law and equity would be swept out of sight. Henry saw his 
opportunity. "The man and the hour had met." The description 
of that day's triumph reads as if it were from the pen of some 
poet. The young attorney, through the beginning of his speech, 
faltered and stammered, but by degrees his attitude became erect 
and lofty; the spirit of genius began to awake in all his features; 
his countenance shone with a nobleness and grandeur which it 
never before exhibited; his action became graceful, bold, and 
commanding, and the tones of his voice exercised a magical 
charm, which baffles the description of narrators. They can only 
say "that it struck upon the ear and upon the heart in a manner 
which language cannot tell." In short, "now was first witnessed 
that mysterious and almost supernatural transformation of 
appearance, which the fire of his own eloquence never failed to 
work in him." 
When the verdict came in. the old court-house at Hanover 
witnessed a sight forever memorable in its history. The excited 
multitude, in defiance of the Court and the resistance of the 
officers, seized their hero, bore him aloft out of the court-house, 
and around the court green with shouts of triumphant joy. 
Never was success at the bar more sudden or more complete, 
and he at once took a place at the head of his profession. But 
Mr. Henry was destined for greater work and more exalted ser- 
vice. King George and the British ^Ministry did not intend to let 
him expend his transcendent eloquence on law cases in Hanover 
and Louisa. The great political arena was to be the field of his 
glory, and there was the dazzling brilliance of his genius to be 
displayed. Henry entered the House of Burgesses about the 
time that the British Ministry sent them a copy of the Stamp Act, 
as the only reply to their petitions and remonstrances against 
such a high-handed violation of the ancient constitutional rights 
of the Colonies. The question of the hour was, what was to be 
done about it. It was now the law of the land, and was soon to 
go into effect. The time for remonstrance had passed. To submit 
to it quietly would be to reduce the colony to a state of 
slavery, but those who had guided the course of Virginia, when 
the}' considered her weak and defenseless condition, were unwilling 
to think of resistance. It was at such a time that Patrick 
Henry, a new member and an almost unknown man, introduced 
his ever-memorable resolutions, and dictated the policy of Virginia.
Mr. Jefferson says that by these resolutions Mr. Henry took 
the lead out of the hands of those who had hitherto guided the 
proceedings of the House, and after the debate, which he says 
was "bloody," there was no longer a question among' the body 
of the people as to Mr. Henry's being the first statesman and 
orator of Virginia. Indeed, from that time he became the idol 
of the people. 
Mr. Henry, who was more indifferent to the preservation of the 
records and credentials of his career than any of our public men, 
in the final survey of his career, regarded the introduction of 
these resolutions as the one most important thing he ever did. 
Along with his will was found a copy of these resolutions, sealed 
up, and directed to his executors. He seemed to care for the 
preservation of no other evidence of his public service. After de- 
scribing the circumstances of their preservation and adoption, 
and stating that they established the point of resistance to British 
taxation and brought on the war which established American 
independence, he added these memorable words, which cannot 
be too often recalled by every American citizen: Whether this 
will prove a blessing or a curse, will depend upon the use our 
people make of the blessings which a gracious God hath bestowed 
on us. If they are wise, they will be great and happy. If 
they are of a contrary character, they will be miserable. 
Righteousness alone can exalt them as a nation. Reader! whoever 
thou art, remember this, and in thy sphere practice virtue thy- 
self and encourage it in others." 
A Northern historian, Moses Coit Tyler, speaking of these 
resolutions and their consequences, says : "Meanwhile, on the 
wings of the wind, and on the eager tongues of men, had been 
borne past recall, far northward and far southward, the fiery 
unchastised words of nearly the entire series to kindle in all the 
colonies a great flame of dauntless purpose." And after setting 
forth the effects produced by them, continues : "All these facts, 
and many more that might be produced, seem to point to the 
Virginia resolutions of 1765 as having come at a crisis of the 
Revolution — and as having then uttered, with trumpet voice, the 
very word that was fitted to the hour and that gave to men's 
minds clearness of vision and to their hearts a settled purpose." 
On the 24th of May, 1774, the House of Burgesses received 
the alarming news of the passage of the Boston port bill. They 
designated the day on which it was to take effect — June 1st — as 
a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, devoutly implored the 
Divine interposition for averting the heavy calamity which 
threatened destruction to their civil rights and the evils of civil 
war, to give them one heart and one mind firmly to oppose, by 
all just and proper means every injury to American rights, etc. 
Lord Dunmore was so incensed at their action that he immediately 
dissolved the House. The members, however, met at the Raleigh 
Tavern, passed resolutions, and set on foot plans for the 
establishment of an annual Congress of all the colonies. During 
the conferences held at this period we are told "Patrick Henry 
was the leader." George Mason wrote of him at the time: "He 
is by far the most powerful speaker I ever heard. *** But 
his eloquence is the smallest part of his merit. He is, in my 
opinion, the first man upon this Continent, as well in abilities as 
public virtues." 
In the Continental Congress which assembled at Philadelphia 
on the 5th of September, 1774, Mr. Henry at once sprang to the 
front as a leader. "Even those who had heard him in all his 
glory in the House of Burgesses of Virginia, were astonished at 
the manner in which his talents seemed to swell and expand them- 
selves to fill the vaster theatre in which he was now placed, and 
as he had been before proclaimed the greatest orator in Virginia, 
he was now on every hand admitted to be the first orator in 
America." It was not as an orator alone that Mr. Henry made a 
reputation in that distinguished body. After more than seven 
weeks spent in the closest intellectual intimacy with fifty of the
ablest men in America, his fame spread throughout the colonies, 
and his distinguished associates were impressed not only with his 
eloquence, but also with his intelligence, integrity, and power. 
But the most brilliant act in his wonderful career was yet to 
come. 
When the Virginia delegates assembled in convention on 
March the 20th, 1775, in the Old Church in Richmond, the 
sentiments which still influenced many of the leading members 
were strongly loyal. They recited with great feeling the series of 
grievances under which the colonies had labored, and insisted 
with great firmness on their constitutional rights, but they were 
most explicit in pledging their faith and allegiance to King 
George III., and avowing their determination to support him 
with their lives and fortunes in the legal exercise of all his just 
rights and prerogatives. They sincerely wished for a return of 
friendly intercourse with Great Britain and were averse to any 
means of violence. It was not so with Patrick Henry. He had 
long since read the true character of the British Court, and saw 
that no alternative remained, but abject submission or heroic 
resistance. The convention, which was dominated by the delegates 
from the lower counties, opened very mildly, and bid fair 
to be a session of earnest remonstrance and humble supplication 
but the delegates from the upper country were fired with quite 
a different spirit, and they found a leader in Henry around which 
they could rally. Like a thunderbolt he hurled his ringing 
resolutions into the convention. He was, indeed, infused with the 
bold spirit of the patriotic representatives of the upper country 
The time for supplication and remonstrance had passed. A militia 
must be established, said the resolutions, for the protection and 
defense of the country, and to secure our inestimable rights and 
liberties from the further violations with which they have been 
threatened. The Colony must be immediately put into a state of 
defense and a committee appointed to prepare a plan for 
embodying, arming, and disciplining such a number of men, as 
would be sufficient for the purpose. 
The men who had been all powerful and had hitherto shaped 
the course of the colony were dumbfounded, the wealthy land- 
owners on the seaboard were filled with alarm and consternation, 
and even men of such well-known patriotism as Richard 
Bland, Benjamin Harrison, and Robert C. Nicholas violently 
opposed the resolutions. They insisted that filial respect demanded 
the exercise of patience. Urged the conciliatory temper 
that had lately been professed by the King and his Ministers, 
the endearing character of the ties that had hitherto connected 
Virginia with the Mother Country, the strength and lustre we 
derived from our connection with her, the utter hopelessness of 
a contest, and that it would be time enough to resort to measures 
of despair when hope had entirely vanished. 
Mr. Wirt says of Patrick Henry: "His was a spirit fitted to 
raise the whirlwind, as well as to ride in and direct it." If his 
resolutions had startled the convention by their daring and 
defiant tone, the wonderful speech with which he supported them 
was able to lift his hearers to the heights from which he viewed 
the situation and fire their souls for action. He rose with a 
majesty unusual to him in an exordium, and with all that self- 
possession by which he was so invariably distinguished. But 
with him it was no time for ceremony. The question before the 
House was one of awful moment to the country. It was nothing 
less than a question of freedom or slavery. He wished the people 
to know the whole truth — to know the worst and to provide for 
it. He pointed to the warlike preparations of Great Britain, 
which could be intended only to bind and rivet upon the colonies 
those chains which the British Ministry had been so long forging. 
Entreaty and humble supplication had been exhausted. It was 
vain to indulge in the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. 
Unless they meant basely to abandon the noble struggle in which 
they had been so long engaged, "We must fight!" he exclaimed 
with all the power of his impassioned eloquence. "I repeat it, 
sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts 
is all that is left us!" But I need not repeat here how he met the
arguments of the peace party, nor attempt to recite his flaming 
words, that rang like a trumpet call-to-arms swept the convention 
like a whirlwind, gaining in strength and power as its tones 
vibrated beyond the borders of Virginia, until they thrilled every 
heart in the remotest part of the Colonies. "Is life so dear, or 
peace so sweet," he ended, "as to be purchased at the price of 
chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what 
course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give 
me death!"
He took his seat, said Wirt. No murmur of applause was 
heard. The effect was too deep. After the trance of a moment, 
several members started from their seats. The cry, "To arms!" 
seemed to quiver on every lip, and gleam from every eye! His 
supernatural voice still sounded in their ears, and shivered along 
their arteries. They heard in every pause the cry of liberty or 
death. They became impatient of speech — their souls were on 
fire for action. 
Henry was not the man to content himself with urging a resort 
to arms and then leave it to others to carry on the conflict, or to 
shrink from dangers to which he deemed it necessary to expose 
his fellow-countrymen. He at once threw himself, heart and 
soul, into the movement he had set on foot by his eloquence. 
"We find him assuming the character of a military leader," says 
Everett, "and discharging its duties with a spirit and efficiency 
which seemed to show that, if circumstances of a wholly accidental 
nature had not checked his progress, his energies would 
probably have taken this direction, and given him as high a 
rank among the warriors of his country as he has in fact obtained 
among her orators and statesmen." 
The first overt act of war in Virginia, as Jefferson testifies, 
was committed by Patrick Henry. The first armed resistance 
to a Royal Governor was made in Virginia under his direction 
and inspiration almost as early as that made by the "embattled 
farmers" at Lexington and Concord. In the first organization 
of the Revolutionary army in Virginia the chief command was 
given to him. Why he did not retain this command involves a 
discussion we cannot go into here. It is sufficient to say that 
no blame or discredit ever attached to him. Instead, however, of 
showing discontent and resentment at the treatment he received, 
he used all his influence with his troops to repress their contem- 
plated demonstrations in his favor and to make them, as he said 
to them himself, the glorious instruments of saving their country. 
He showed then, as at all times in his career, his exalted 
character and his unselfish devotion to his country. 
For any passing mortification he may have been occasioned, 
he soon received ample satisfaction from his grateful fellow- 
countrymen. As a signal-mark of public favor he was designated 
as the first Chief Executive of Virginia, an office which he three 
times filled. In fact, there was no office or post of honor that 
could be conferred by his people that was not at his disposal. As 
Governor, as a member of the Conventions, as a member of Congress, 
in every position in which he was placed, and at all times and 
under all circumstances, he was. as he, indeed, said he considered 
himself to be, in his speech before the Convention of 
1788, "the servant of the people of this Commonwealth; as a 
sentinel over their rights, liberty, and happiness." 
What he might have achieved as a soldier, had he continued 
in the service, we can never know; but as Mr. Grigsby said: 
"That he would not have made a better fighter than Jay, or 
Livingston, or the Adamses; that he might not have made as dashing 
a partisan as Tarleton or Simcoe. his friends might readily afford 
to concede; but that he evinced what neither Jay, nor Livingston, 
nor the Adamses did evince — a determined resolution to 
stake his reputation and his life on the issue of arms — and that 
he resigned his commission when the post of imminent danger 
was refused him, exhibited a lucid proof that, whatever may have 
been his ultimate fortune, he was not deficient in two grand 
elements of military success — personal enterprise and unques- 
tioned courage." 
When George Rogers Clark, "the Hannibal of the West." laid 
his plans before Mr. Henry, then Governor, his sagacious mind 
at once grasped the vast benefit it would be to the future of the 
country, if the campaign should prove successful, and the assistance 
he rendered Clark must always be remembered in connection 
with the conquest of the Northwestern Territory by the gallant 
young Virginian.
It was Patrick Henry, indeed, who lit the fires of the Revolution, 
and called armies up from the valleys and down from the 
mountains' heights to battle for the birthrights of man. Such 
was the spirit of the times, and such the very atmosphere itself, 
that no true man could live without being infused with an ardent 
love of liberty and a high conception of duty and responsibility. 
But with Henry the love of liberty was a passion. It was to him 
what "alone gives the flower of fleeting life its lustre and per- 
fume." His high spirit "could endure chains nowhere patiently; 
and chains at home where he was free by birthright, not at all." 
It is well with any land when her great men are sincere in 
their faith, devoted and unselfish in their love of country, and 
pure in their lives. It is said of Patrick Henry: "His morals 
were strict. As a husband, a father, a master, he had no superior. 
He was kind and hospitable to the stranger and most friendly 
and accommodating to his neighbors. In his dealings with the 
world, he was faithful to his promises, and punctual in his con- 
tracts to the utmost of his power." "Keep justice, keep truth,'' 
was his injunction to John Randolph. "Righteousness alone can 
exalt them as a nation," was his declared belief. "virtue, 
morality, and religion alone renders us invincible," he wrote to a 
friend. Well might Virginia point with pride to such a son 
and say, "Imitate my Henry." 
His last act was in response to a call from his great chief, and, 
as he believed, from his country. 
The one great passionate love of Richelieu was France. In a 
dramatic part of the play that bears his name, the old Cardinal 
is on the stage - dying. In a few moments death will bring rest 
and quiet to the tired, wearied, old man, whose life has been one 
long scene of strife and warfare, and peace at last is settling 
upon him. Alarming news suddenly arrives ; the helpless Prince 
rushes to the death-bed of the great man and begs him to live 
for the sake of France! At that name he arouses himself and 
struggles with death, as did Hercules over the body of Alcestis, 
and comes out the victor. In Mr. Henry's old age, long after 
he had retired from the active pursuits of life, and but one week 
after he had written Mr. Blair that he was too old and infirm ever 
again to undertake public concerns, he received an earnest appeal 
begging him to come forward as a candidate for the next General 
Assembly, where he would have to face a stupendous task. The 
appeal was from General Washington, who believed the country 
was in great danger. He at once declared himself a candidate 
for the Legislature, old and infirm as he was. He was elected, 
but death claimed him before he took his seat. 
"Thus lived, and thus died, the celebrated Patrick Henry, of 
Virginia — a man who justly deserves to be ranked among the 
highest ornaments and noblest benefactors of his country. Had 
his lot been cast in the republics of Greece or Rome, his name 
would have been enrolled by some immortal pen among the expellers 
of tyrants and the champions of liberty; the proudest 
monuments of national gratitude would have arisen in his honor, 
and handed down his memory to future generations."