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Freneau for some years held the office of Commissioner of Loans for the State of South Carolina; and was several times member of the State Legislature, in which his services were said to be alike creditable to himself and useful to the State. Desirous of knowing how long he filled the position of Secretary of State, we applied to the corresponding secretary of the South Carolina Historical Society, and received in reply: "Concerning Peter Freneau, once an honored citizen of this State, I gather that he was Secretary of State in the years from 1788 to 94 inclusive; there is no list of State officers for 1795, and a new name appears in the office for 1796. So long a tenure of office as was that of your honored relative Peter Freneau is very uncommon," etc.
Peter's inability to say no, and his readiness to oblige his friends, frequently got him into serious difficulties, as he too often went security for them and was thereby the loser. It was owing to this virtue, or fault, according to the different ways of viewing it, that he for the first time in his life was known to lose his wonted cheerfulness. An old and dear friend had indorsed his paper, and he became alarmed lest this friend should suffer on his account. He called upon an intimate acquaintance and informed him that the note would go to protest that day, as he was unable to meet it unless the former could loan him the money for the present. His friend, not having the amount on hand, promised it the next day and invited Peter to dine with him, which invitation Freneau refused. Something in his manner attracted the attention of the other, and he shortly after called at Freneau's office. Entering softly, he was not perceived until he laid his hand upon Peter's shoulder. The latter was absorbed in his writing, and, starting, looked up into his visitor's face. Four notes lay folded upon the desk, the upper
1 Freneau held the office eight years altogether.
one being addressed to the visitor. In a moment the intention of Freneau flashed upon his friend, but he pretended not to notice anything, saying quietly, "Freneau, give me your word of honor that I shall find here one hour hence," adding, "I am on my way to the notary's." Peter's face evinced how a mighty mind could be shaken and even overcome by the tempest of adversity, but he gave the desired promise. The friend hastened to the bank and had the note delayed until the next day, and hurried back to Freneau's office. The note had disappeared, and in a slight degree the old cheerfulness had returned. His friend remained with him till late, avoiding any allusion to what had happened, merely saying that all would be satisfactorily arranged in the morning; and the serious danger with which his friend was threatened was never known, and he adds, "he lived to be the delight of his friends for several years.'
With talents fitted for any station, his friend tells us, he nevertheless wished to retire from active life that he might be able to enjoy seclusion and the society of his books and friends in peace; consequently he began to build a cottage in the interior of the State, intending to spend there the remainder of his days. Desirous of visiting the workmen, although dissuaded by his friends, he went there, trusting to the perfect condition of his health to insure him against the dangers of the miasma, so fatal at that time of the year. He remained there over a week, and returned apparently in perfect health, and with his usual flow of spirits, but was soon after taken very ill. The devoted attention of his friends and the best medical advice were of no avail; he was constantly watched by the daughter of one of his old friends, but Death had marked him for his prey, and on the fifth day he succumbed. His strong constitution was so completely exhausted that for some time before his death he did
not utter a groan or even sigh, and scarcely seemed to breathe; and "thus ended the life of a man, who, to transcendent talents united that amiability of temper and benevolence of heart that made him the friend of his race."
"This all who knew him know,
This all who loved him tell,
Whose like we ne'er shall look upon again."
In appearance, Freneau resembled to such a remarkable degree the great British statesman Fox that a friend purposely brought a portrait of the latter with him on his return from England to deceive his acquaintances; who, knowing Freneau's aversion to sitting for his portrait, would exclaim upon seeing it on the mantelpiece, "How did you come by Freneau's portrait?" and not alone in physique did Peter resemble the great statesman, but in his mental calibre also. In height he was six feet two inches, and of such perfect proportions and beauty of countenance that one would say "every god did seem to set his seal to give the world assurance of a man."
Mr. Thomas, his devoted friend, took charge of his funeral, which was largely attended, and he was buried in the French Huguenot church in Charleston. His epitaph reads:
"Whatever Omnipotence decides is right.
"Below this marble are deposited the remains of Peter Freneau, Esq. A native of New Jersey, but for more than thirty years past a citizen of South Carolina. He was the second son of Peter Freneau and Agnes Watson, born April 5th, 1757. Died Nov. 9th, A. D. 1813, æ. fifty-six years seven months and four days. His upright and benevolent character is in the memory of many, and will remain when this inscription is no longer legible. He was Secretary of State of South Carolina eight years."
HE year 1789 was an important one in Freneau's life, as during that period there occurred two events that covered the entire course of his future, the one shaping his private, and the other his political life.
The first of these events was that of his marriage with Eleanor, daughter of Samuel and Helen Denise Forman, a prominent and wealthy family of New Jersey, which had, and has since that time, given to the country a galaxy of names which have reflected honor on the land of their birth, and occupied prominent places on its roll of honor, in military as well as civil affairs.
Eleanor's two brothers and cousin served in the Revolutionary War, the latter, General David Forman, being familiarly known as "Black David," on account of his excessive severity towards those who did not favor the Revolution. This officer ably commanded the New Jersey militia in the battle of Germantown, which engagement, in reality a defeat, was considered as advantageous to the Americans as a victory. In it the genius of Washington and the bravery and discipline of the army showed to such advantage as to rank it in the eyes of all Europe as nearly on an equality with the surrender of Burgoyne, and as to cause Frederic of Prussia to acknowledge the formidable power the American army might become, as well as to decide the French Court to consider us as allies.1 After the war General Forman 1 John Fiske, in Atlantic Monthly.
was a member of the Council of State, and Judge of the County Court. He was also one of the original members of the Order of The Cincinnati.
Eleanor's eldest brother, Colonel Jonathan Forman, married a sister of Colonel William Ledyard, of whom we have spoken in the preceding chapter; their grandchildren were Horatio Seymour, who married into the Bleecker family, and was several times Governor of New York State, and a candidate for the Presidency, and John Seymour, who married in the Tappan family; his granddaughters married, the one, Judge Miller of Utica; another, Roscoe Conkling; and, a third her cousin, Ledyard Lincklaen, whose daughter married Charles S. Fairchild, Secretary of the Treasury during Cleveland's first administration.
Eleanor Freneau's second brother, Captain Denise Forman, married into the Kearny family to which Philip's step-father belonged. This family, trebly related to Freneau, gave Major-General Philip Kearny 2 to the country. The daughter of Eleanor's third brother, Major Samuel Forman, married General Rensselaer Van Rensselaer, and her eldest sister, Catherine, married Colonel William Ledyard, thus forming a double connection with that family. Catherine's eldest son, Major Benjamin Ledyard, married the daughter of Freneau's old college-mate, Brockholst Livingston, and consequently the niece of John Jay's wife; and his son 3 married a daughter of General Cass. Catherine's other grandchildren formed double rela
1 Governor Thomas Seymour of Connecticut was also a relative.
2 Philip Kearny married Susan, daughter of John Watts and Jane Colden a sister of Cadwallader Colden. This John Watts was son of John Watts senior and Ann Delancey; Philip was father of General Philip Kearny.
A son of this gentleman is now President of the Michigan Central Railroad, viz., Mr. Henry Ledyard, father of the Baroness Von Kettler, whose husband was killed in China, when minister to that country from Germany.