Slike strani

the mastery of the seas; and then the united him. American Independence was then and force of all Europe will not be able to subdue there born." And he adds "Every man of us. [Here we see the first germ of the Ameri- an immense crowded audience appeared to me can Navy.] The only way to keep us from set- to go away as I did, ready to take arms against ting up for ourselves, is to disunite us. 'Divide writs of assistance." et impera.' Keep us in distinct colonies, and then some great men in each colony, desiring the monarchy of the whole, they will destroy each other's influence, and keep the country 'in equilibrio.' Be not surprised that I am turned politician; the 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, by laying things together, form some reflections pleasing to myself. The produce of one of these reveries you have read above."

Here we mark the political dawn of the mind of this great man. His country, her resources, her independence, her glory, were the first objects of his thoughts, as they were the last. Here, too, we see the earliest proof of that bold and adventurous turn for speculation, that sagacious flashing into futurity, and that sanguine anticipation, which became so conspicuous in his after life. He calls this letter a reverie; but, connecting it with his ardent character and his future career, there is reason to believe, that it was a reverie which produced in him all the effect of a prophetic vision, and opened to him a perspective which was never afterwards closed. An incident soon occurred to give brighter tinting and stronger consistency to this dream of his youth; and this may be considered as among the most efficient of those means, devised by the wisdom of Providence, to shape the character and point the energies of this highminded young man to the advancement of the great destiny that awaited his country. The famous question of writs of assistance was argued in his presence, in Boston, in February, 1761. These writs were a kind of general search-warrants, transferable by manual delivery from one low tool of power to another, and without any return; which put at the mercy of these vulgar wretches, for an indefinite period, the domestic privacy, the peace and comfort, of the most respectable inhabitants in the colony; and even the sanctuary of female delicacy and devotion. The authority of the British tribunals in the province, themselves the instruments of a tyrant's will, to issue such writs, was the precise question to be discussed. The champion in opposition to the power was the great Otis. Of the character of his argument, and its effect upon Mr. Adams, we are not left to conjecture: he has given it to us, himself, in his own burning phraseology. "Otis was a flame of fire! With a promptitude of classical allusion, a depth of research, a rapid summary of historical events and dates, a profusion of legal authorities, a prophetic glance of his eyes into futurity, and a rapid torrent of impetuous eloquence, he hurried away all before

The "immense crowded audience," it is probable, left the hall with no impressions beyond the particular subject of debate. They were ready to take arms against writs of assistance. Not so with Mr. Adams. In him the "splendid conflagration of Otis" had set fire to a mind whose action it was not easy to restrain within narrow limits; a mind already looking out on the wide expanse of the future, and apparently waiting only for the occasion to hold up to his countrymen the great revolving light of Independence, above the darkness of the coming storm. In him American Independence was then and there born; and, appealing to his own bosom, he was justified in saying, as he has done, on another occasion, in the most solemn terms, "that James Otis, then and there, first breathed into this nation the breath of life."

The flame thus given to his enthusiasm was never permitted to subside. The breach between the two countries grew wider and wider, until from being an excited spectator, he soon became a vigorous and most efficient actor. In his thirtieth year, he gave to his country that powerful work, "The Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law." It is but to read those extracts from this work which have been recently diffused among us from the north, to see that it was not limited in its purpose to the specific questions which had then arisen. The discussion travels far beyond these questions, and bears all the marks of a profound and comprehensive design, to prepare the country for a separation from Great Britain. It is a review of the whole system of the British institutions, and a most powerful assault upon those heresies, civil and religious, which constituted the outposts of that system. Besides the solid instruction which it conveys on the true theory of government, and the deep and impressive exhortation with which it urges the necessity of correct information to the people, it seems to have been the leading object of the work to disenchant his countrymen of that reverence for the institutions of the parent country which still lingered around their hearts, and to teach them to look upon these institutions, not only with indifference, but with aversion and contempt. Hence those burning sarcasms which he flings into every story of the citadel, until the whole edifice is wrapped in flames. It is, indeed, a work eminently fitted for the speedy regeneration of the country. The whole tone of the essay is so raised and bold, that it sounds like a trumpet-call to arms. And the haughty defiance which he hurls into the face of the oppres sors of his country, is so brave and uncompromising, as to leave no doubt that, whatever might

the temper of the rest of community, the author had already laid his hand upon the altar, and sworn that his country should be free.

All this fire, however, was tempered with | where the same, and requires only to be enjudgment, and guided by the keenest and most lightened, to assert the native dignity of his discriminating sagacity; and if his character character. was marked by the stubborn firmness of the Pilgrim, it was because he was supported by the Pilgrims' conscious integrity. Another incident soon occurred to place these qualities in high relief. In the progress of the quarrel, Great Britain had quartered an army in Boston, to supply the place of argument, and enforce that submission which she could not command. The immediate consequence was collision and affray between the soldiery and the citizens; and, in one of those affrays, on the 5th of March, 1770, the British captain, Preston, gave the fatal The time had now come for concerted action order to fire! Several were killed, and many among the Colonies; and, accordingly, on the more were wounded. It is easy to imagine the 5th September, 1774, the first Continental Constorm that instantly arose. The infuriated popu- gress met at Philadelphia. With what emotions lace were, with great difficulty, restrained by Mr. Adams witnessed this great movement of the leading men of the town, from sating their the nation, it is easy for those who know his vengeance upon the spot. Disappointed of this, ardent character to imagine. Nor are we left they were loud and even frantic, in their cry to our imaginations alone. He had been electfor the vengeance of law. Yet there was no ed a member of that body; and immediately on murder in the case: for, in this instance it had his election an incident occurred which relieves happened that they were themselves the assail- us from the necessity of conjecturing the state ants. Preston was arrested for trial: and Mr. of his feelings. His friend Sewall, the AttorAdams, then standing in the van of the profes-ney General, hearing of his election, sent for sion, as well as that of the patriots, was called him, and he came : when Sewall, with all the upon to undertake his defence. How was he to solicitude and importunity of friendship, sought act? It is easy to know how a little, time- to divert him from his purpose from taking his serving politician, or even a man of ordinary seat in Congress; he represented to him that firmness, would have acted: the one would Great Britain was determined on her purpose; have thrown himself on the popular current, that her power was irresistible, and would be and the other would have been swept along by destructive to him and all who should perseit, and joined in the public cry for the victim. vere in opposition to her designs. "I know," But Adams belonged to a higher order of char- replied the dauntless and high-souled patriot, acter. He was formed not only to impel and "that Great Britain has determined on her sysguide the torrent, but to head that torrent too, tem; and that very determination determines when it had taken a wrong direction, and "to me on mine. You know that I have been conroll it back upon its source." He was deter- stant and uniform in opposition to her designs. mined that the world should distinguish be- The die is now cast. I have passed the Rubitween a petty commotion of angry spirits, and con. Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perthe noble stand made by an enlightened nation ish with my country, is my unalterable deterin a just and noble cause. He was resolved that mination." He accordingly took his seat: and that pure and elevated cause should not be soiled with what activity and effect he discharged and debased by an act of individual injustice. its duties, the journals of the day sufficiently He undertook the defence, supported by his attest. younger, but distinguished associate, Josiah Quincy; and, far from flattering the angry passions around him, he called upon the jury, in their presence, 66 to be deaf, deaf as adders, to the clamors of the populace;" and they were So. To their honor, a jury drawn from the excited people of Boston, acquitted the prisoner: and to their equal honor, that very populace, instead of resenting the language and conduct of his advocate, loaded him immediately with additional proofs of their confidence. These were the people, who, according to some European notions, are incapable of any agency in their own government. By their systems, deliberately planned for the purpose, they first degrade and brutalize their people, and then descant on their unfitness for self-rule. The man of America, it seems, is the only man fit epublican government! But man is every

Of that august and venerable body, the old Continental Congress, what can be said that would not fall below the occasion? What that would not sound like a puerile and tumid effort, to exaggerate the praise of a body which was above all praise? Let me turn from any attempt at description to your own hearts, where that body lies entombed with all you hold most sacred. To that Congress let future statesmen look, and learn what it is to be a patriot. There was no self. No petty intrigue for power. No despicable faction for individual honors. None of those feuds, the fruit of an unhallowed ambition, which converted the revolution of France into a mere contest for the command of the guillotine; and which have now nearly disarmed unhappy Greece in the sacred war she is waging for the tombs of her illustrious dead. No: of our great fathers we may say with truth,

Mr. Adams was now among the most conspicuous champions of the colonial cause in Massachusetts. In the same year to which we have just adverted, 1770, he had been elected a member of the Provincial Legislature; and he thenceforth took a high and commanding part in every public measure; displaying on every occasion the same consistent character; the same sagacity to pierce the night of the future; the same bold and dauntless front; the same nerve of the Nemean lion.

what was said of the Romans in their golden | age; "With them the Republic was all in all; for that alone they consulted: the only faction they formed was against the common enemy: their minds, their bodies were exerted, sincerely, and greatly and nobly exerted, not for personal power, but for the liberties, the honor, the glory of their country." May the time never come, when an allusion to their virtues can give any other feelings than those of pleasure and pride to their descendants.

too, on a great scale; and so readily did he kindle the feelings that were playing around him, that he could no more have stood still while his country was agitated than the war-horse can sleep under the sound of the trumpet.

He was a republican and a philanthropist from the earliest dawn of his character. He read with a sort of poetic illusion, which identified him with every scene that his author spread before him. Enraptured with the brighter ages of republican Greece and Rome, he had follow

Having, in this imperfect manner, fellow-ed, citizens, touched rather than traced the incidents by which Mr. Adams was prepared and conducted into the scenes of the Revolution, let us turn to the great luminary of the South.

with an aching heart, the march of history which had told him of the desolation of those fairest portions of the earth; and had seen, with dismay and indignation, that swarm of monarchies, the progeny of the Scandinavian hive, under Virginia, as you know, had been settled by which genius and liberty were now every where other causes than those which had peopled Mas- crushed. He loved his own country with a sachusetts; and the Colonists themselves were passion not less intense, deep and holy, than of a different character. The first attempts at that of his great compatriot; and with this love settlement in that quarter of the world had been he combined an expanded philanthropy which conducted, as you remember, under the auspices encircled the globe. From the working of the of the gallant Raleigh, that "man of wit and strong energies within him, there arose an early man of the sword," as Sir Edward Coke taunt- vision, too, which cheered his youth and acingly called him, and certainly one of the bright-companied him through life-the vision of est flowers in the Courts of Elizabeth and James. emancipated man throughout the world. Nor He did not live to make a permanent establish- was this a dream of the morning, that passed ment in Virginia; but his genius seems, never- away and was forgotten. On the contrary, like theless, to have presided over the State, and to the heaven-descended banner of Constantine, have stamped his own character on her distin- he hailed it as an omen of certain victory, and guished sons. Virginia had experienced none girded his loins for the onset, with the omnipoof those early and long-continued conflicts which tence of truth. had contributed to form the robust character of the North; on the contrary, during the century that Massachusetts had been buffeting with the storm, Virginia, resting on a halcyon sea, had been cultivating the graces of science, and literature, and the genial elegancies of social life. But her moral and intellectual character was not less firm and vigorous than that of her northern sister: for the invader came, and Athens as well as Sparta was found ready to do her duty, and to do it too, bravely, ably, heroically.

At the time of Mr. Jefferson's appearance, the society of Virginia was much diversified, and reflected, pretty distinctly, an image of that of England. There was, first, the landed aristocracy, shadowing forth the order of English nobility: then the sturdy yeomanry, common to them both; and last, a "fœculum" of beings, as they were called by Mr. Jefferson, corresponding with the mass of the English plebeians. Mr. Jefferson, by birth, belonged to the aristocracy; but the idle and voluptuous life which marked that order had no charms for a mind like his. He relished better the strong, unsophisticated and racy character of the yeomanry, and attached himself of choice to that body. Born to an inheritance then deemed immense, and with a decided taste for literature and science, it would not have been surprising if he had devoted himself exclusively to the luxury of his studies, and left the toils and the hazards of public action to others. But he was naturally ardent, and fond of action, and of action VOL. II.-29

On his early studies we have already touched. The study of the law he pursued under George Wythe; a man of Roman stamp, in Rome's best age. Here he acquired that unrivalled neatness, system, and method in business, which, through all his future life, and in every office that he filled, gave him, in effect, the hundred hands of Briareus; here, too, following the giant steps of his master, he travelled the whole round of the civil and common law. From the same example, he caught that untiring spirit of investigation which never left a subject till he had searched it to the bottom, and of which we have so noble a specimen in his correspondence with Mr. Hammond, on the subject of British debts. In short, Mr. Wythe performed for him, what Jeremiah Gridley had done for Mr. Adams; he placed on his head the crown of legal preparation; and well did it become him. Permit me, here, to correct an error which seems to have prevailed. It has been thought that Mr. Jefferson made no figure at the bar: but the case was far otherwise. There are still extant, in his own fair and neat hand, in the manner of his master, a number of arguments which were delivered by him at the bar, upon some of the most intricate questions of the law; which, if they shall ever see the light, will vindicate his claim to the first honors of the profession. It is true he was not distinguished in popular debate; why he was not so, has often been matter of surprise to those who have seen his eloquence on paper, and heard it in conversation. He had all the attributes of the mind, and the heart, and the

soul, which are essential to eloquence of the highest order. The only defect was a physical one; he wanted volume and compass of voice for a large deliberative assembly; and his voice, from the excess of his sensibility, instead of rising with his feelings and conceptions, sunk under their pressure, and became guttural and inarticulate. The consciousness of this infirmity repressed any attempt in a large body, in which he knew he must fail. But his voice was all sufficient for the purposes of judicial debate; and there is no reason to doubt that, if the service of his country had not called him away so soon from his profession, his fame as a lawyer would now have stood upon the same distinguished ground which he confessedly occupies as a statesman, an author, and a scholar.

It was not until 1764, when the Parliament of Great Britain passed its resolutions preparatory to the stamp act, that Virginia seems to have been thoroughly startled from her repose. Her legislature was then in session; and her patriots, taking the alarm, remonstrated promptly and firmly against this assumed power. The remonstrance, however, was, as usual, disregarded, and the stamp act came. But it came to meet, on the floor of the House, an unlookedfor champion, whom Heaven had just raised up for the good of his country and of mankind. I speak of that untutored child of nature, Patrick Henry, who had now, for the first time, left his native forests to show the metal of which he was made, and "give the world assurance of a man."

come almost too familiar for quotation: "Cæsar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third-('Treason!' cried the Speaker. 'Treason! treason!' echoed the House ;) may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it."

While I am presenting to you this picture of Mr. Jefferson in his youth, listening to the almost superhuman eloquence of Henry on the great subject which formed the hinge of the American Revolution, are you not forcibly reminded of the parallel scene which had passed only four years before, in the Hall of Justice in Boston: Mr. Adams catching from Otis, "the breath of life?" How close the parallel, and how interesting the incident! Who can think of these two young men, destined themselves to make so great a figure in the future history of their country, thus lighting the fires of their own genius at the altars of Henry and of Otis, without being reminded of another picture, which has been exhibited to us by a historian of Rome: the younger Scipio Africanus, then in his military noviciate, standing Q youthful spectator on a hill near Carthage, and looking down upon the battle-feld on which those veteran Generals, Hamilcar and Massanissa, were driving with so much glory, the car of war! Whether Otis or Henry first breathed into this nation the breath of life, (a question merely for curious and friendly speculation,) it is very certain that they breathed into their two young hearers, that breath which has made them both immortal.

The Assembly met in the city of Williams- From this day forth, Mr. Jefferson, young as burg, where Mr. Jefferson was still pursuing the he was, stood forward as a champion for his study of the law. Mr. Henry's celebrated reso- country. It was now, in the fire of his youth, lutions against the stamp act were introduced in that he adopted those mottos for his seals, so May, 1765. How they were resisted, and how well remembered in Virginia: "Ab eo libertas, maintained, has been already stated to the a quo spiritus," and "Resistance to tyrants is world, in terms that have been pronounced obedience to God." He joined the band of the extravagant by those who modestly consider brave who were for the boldest measures; and themselves as furnishing a fair standard of Revo- by the light, the contagious spirit and vigor of lutionary excellence. The coldest glow-worm his conversation, as well as by his enchanting in the hedge, is about as fair a standard of the and powerful pen, he contributed eminently to power of the sun. To the present purpose, it lift Virginia to that height which placed her by is only necessary to remark, that Mr. Jefferson the side of her northern sister. It is a historical was present at this debate, and has left us an fact well known to us all, that these two great account of it in his own words. He was then, States, then by far the most populous and pow he says, but a student, and stood in the door of ful in the Union, led off, as it was natural and fit communication between the House and the that they should do, all the strong measures that lobby, where he heard the whole of this magni- ended in the Declaration of Independence. Toficent debate. The opposition to the last reso-gether, and stroke for stroke they breasted the lution was most vehement; the debate upon it, angry surge, and threw it aside "with hearts to use his own strong language, "most bloody; of controversy," until they reached that shore but, he adds, torrents of sublime eloquence from from which we now look back with so much Henry, backed by the solid reasoning of John- pride and triumph. son, prevailed; and the resolution was carried by a single vote. I well remember, he continnes, the cry of "treason," by the Speaker, echoed from every part of the House, against Mr. Henry: I well remember his pause, and the admirable address with which he recovered himself, and baffled the charge thus vociferated. He here alludes, as you must perceive, to that memorable exclamation of Mr. Henry, now be


It was in his thirtieth year, as you remember, that Mr. Adams gave to the world his first great work, the Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law; and it was about the same period of his life, that Mr. Jefferson produced his first great political work, "A Summary View of the Rights of British America." The history of this work is somewhat curious and interesting, and I give it to you on the authority of Mr.

Jefferson himself. He had been elected a member of that State Convention of Virginia which, in August, 1774, appointed the first Delegates to the Continental Congress. Arrested by sickness on his way to Williamsburg, he sent forward, to be laid on the table, a draught of instructions to the Delegates whom Virginia should send. This was read by the members, and they published it, under the title of "A Summary View of the Rights of British America." A copy of this work having found its way to England, it received from the pen of the celebrated Burke such alterations as adapted it to the purposes of the opposition there, and it there reappeared in a new edition; an honor which, as Mr. Jefferson afterwards learned, occasioned the insertion of his name in a bill of attainder, which, however, never saw the light. So far Mr. Jefferson. Let me add, that the old inhabitants of Williamsburg, a few years back, well remembered the effect of that work on Lord Dunmore, then the royal governor of the State. His fury broke out in the most indecent and unmitigated language. Mr. Jefferson's name was marked high on his list of proscription, and the victim was only reprieved until the rebellian should be crushed; but that rebellion came revolution, and the high priest of the meditated sacrifice was sent to howl his disappointment to the hills and winds of his native Scotland. In the next year, 1775, Mr. Jefferson, young as he was, was singled out by the Virginia legislature, to answer Lord North's famous "conciliatory proposition," called, in the language of the day, his "olive branch." But it was an olive branch that hid the guileful serpent, or, in the language of Mr. Adams, "it was an asp in a basket of flowers." The answer stands upon the records of the country. Cool, calm, close, full of compressed energy and keen sagacity; while, at the same time it preserves the most perfect decorum, it is one of the most nervous and manly productions even of that age of men.

The plot of the awful drama now began to thicken. The sword had been drawn. The battles of Lexington and Concord had been fought; and Warren, the rose of American chivalry, had been cut down, in his bloom, on that hill which his death has hallowed. The blood which had been shed in Massachusetts cried from the ground, in every quarter of the Union. Congress heard that cry, and resolved on war. Troops were ordered to be raised. A Commander-in-Chief came to be appointed, ar.d General Ward, of Massachusetts, was put in nomination. Here we have an incident in the life of Mr. Adams most strikingly characteristic of the man. Giving to the winds all local prepossessions, and looking only to the cause that filled his soul, the cause of his country, he prompted and sustained the nomination of that patriot hero whom the Almighty, in his goodness, had formed for the occasion. Washington was elected, and the choice was ratified in heaven. He accepted his commission on the very day on which the soul of Warren winged its flight from Bunker Hill, and well did he avenge the death of that youthful hero.

Five days after General Washington's apbe-pointment, Mr. Jefferson, for the first time, took his seat as a member of Congress; and here. for the first time, met the two illustrious men whom we are endeavoring to commemorate. They met, and at once became friends-to part no more, but for a short season, and then to be re-united, both for time and eternity.

There was now open war between Great Britain and her colonies. Yet the latter looked no farther than resistance to the specific power of the parent country to tax them at pleasure. A dissolution of the union had not yet been contemplated, either by Congress or the nation; and many of those who had voted for the war, would have voted, and did afterwards vote, against that dissolution.

The second Congress met on the 10th of May, 1775. Mr. Adams was, of course, again a member. Mr. Jefferson having been deputed, contingently, (to supply the place of Peyton Randolph,) did not take his seat at the commencement of the session. Of the political works of this Congress, as well as of the preceding, their petitions, memorials, remonstrances, to the throne, to the parliament, to the people of England, of Ireland, and of Canada, I have forborne to speak, because they are familiar to you all. Let it suffice to say, that, in the estimation of so great a judge as Lord Chatham, they were such as had never been surpassed even in the master States of the world, in ancient Greece and Rome; and although they produced no good effect on the unhappy monarch of Britain; though Pharaoh's heart was hardened so that they moved not him, they moved all heaven and all earth besides, and opened a passage for our fathers through the great deep.

Such was the state of things under which the Congress of 1776 assembled, when Adams and Jefferson again met. It was, as you know, in this Congress, that the question of American Independence came, for the first time, to be discussed; and never, certainly, has a more momentous question been discussed, in any age or in any country for it was fraught, not only with the destinies of this wide extended continent, but, as the event has shown, and is still showing, with the destinies of man all over the world.

How fearful that question then was, no one can tell but those who, forgetting all that has since past, can transport themselves back to the time, and plant their feet on the ground which those patriots then occupied. "Shadows, clouds, and darkness" then covered all the future, and the present was full only of danger and terror. A more unequal contest never was proposed. It as, indeed, as it was then said to be, the shepherd boy of Israel going forth to battle against the giant of Gath; and there were yet among us, enough to tremble when

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