Page images

chusetts convention for the ratification of the constitution of the United States. He had some objections to it in its reported form; the principal of which was to that article which rendered the seyeral states amenable to the courts of the nation. He thought that this would reduce them to mere corporations. There was a very powerful opposition to it, and some of its most zealous friends and supporters were fearful that it would not be accepted.

Mr. Adams had not then given his sentiments upon it in the convention, but regularly attended the debates.

Some of the leading advocates waited upon Mr. Adams to ascertain his opinions and wishes, in a private manner. Mr. Adams stated his objections, and stated that he should not give it his support, unless certain amendments were recommended to be adopted. These he enumerated. Mr. Adams prepared kis amendments, which were brought before the convention, and referred to a committee, who made some inconsiderable alterations, with which the constitution was accepted. Some of these were afterwards agreed to as amendments, and form, at present, a part of that instrument.

In 1789, he was elected lieutenant governor of the state of Massachusetts, and continued to fill that office till 1794, when he was chosen governor of that state. He was annually re-elected till 1797, when, oppressed with years and bodily infirmities, he declined being again a candidate, and retired to private life.

After many years of incessant exertion, employed in the establishment of the independence of America, he died on the 3rd October, 1803, in the 82d year of his age, in indigent circumstances.

Though poor he possessed a lofty and incorruptible spirit, and looked with disregard upon riches, if not with contempt; while at the same time he

did not attempt to disguise that reputation and popular influence were the great objects of his ambition.

His private morals were pure, his manners grave and austere, and his conversation, which generally turned on public characters and events, bold, decided, and sometimes coarse. Besides the occurrences of the passing day, he is said to have had three topics of conversation on which he delighted to expatiate, and to have always dwelt upon with great earnestness ; British oppression, the manners, laws, and customs of New England, and the importance to every republican government, of public schools for the instruction of the whole population of the state.

The person of Samuel Adams was of the middle size. His countenance was a true index of his mind, and possessed those lofty and elevated characteristics, which are always found to accompany true greatness.

He was a steady professor of the Christian religion, and uniformly attended public worship.His family devotions were regularly performed, and his morality was never impeached.

In his manners and deportment, he was sincere and unaffected'; in conversation, pleasing and instructive ; and in his friendships, steadfast and affectionate.

His revolutionary labours were not surpassed by those of any individual. From the commencement of the dispute with Great Britain, he was incessantly employed in public service ; opposing at one time, the supremacy of “ parliament in all cases;" taking the lead in questions of controverted policy with the royal governors; writing state papers from 1765 to 1774; in planning and organizing clubs

and committees ; haranguing in town meetings, or filling the columns of public prints adapted to the spirit and temper of the times. In addition to these occupations, he maintained an extensive and laborious correspondence with the friends of American freedom in Great Britain and in the provinces.

His private habits, which were simple, frugal, and unostentatious, led him to despise the luxury and parade affected by the crown officers ; and his detestation of royalty, and privileged classes, which no man could have felt more deeply, stimulated him to persevere in a course, which he conscientiously believed to be his duty to pursue, for the welfare of his country.

The motives by which he was actuated, were not a sudden ebullition of temper, nor a transient impulse of resentment, but they were deliberate, methodical and unyielding. There was no pause, no hesitation, no despondency; every day and every hour, was employed in some contribution towards the main design, if not in action, in writing; if not with the pen, in conversation; if not in talking, in meditation. The means he advised were persuasion, petition, remonstrance, resolutions, and when all failed, defiance and extermination sooner than submission. With this unrelenting and austere spirit, there was nothing ferocious, or gloomy, or arrogant in his demeanor. His aspect was mild, dignified and gentlemanly. In his own state, or in the congress of the union, he was always the advocate of the strongest measures, and in the darkest hour he never wavered or desponded.

No man was more intrepid and dauntless, when encompassed by dangers, or more calm and unmoved amid public disasters and adverse fortune. His bold and daring conduct and language, subjected him to great personal hazards. Had any fatal event occurred to our country, by which she had fallen in her struggle for liberty, Samuel Adams would have been the first victim of ministerial vengeance.

His blood would have been first shed as a sacrifice on the altar of tyran

ny, for the noble magnanimity and independence, with which he defended the cause of freedom. But such was his firmness, that he would have met death with as much composure, as he regarded it with unconcern.

His writings were numerous, and much distinguished for their elegance and fervour; but unfortunately the greater part of them have been lost, or so distributed, as to render their collection impossible.

He was the author of a letter to the earl of Hillsborough; of many political essays directed against the administration of governor Shirley; of a letter in answer of Thomas Paine, in defence of Christianity, and of an oration published in the year 1776. Four letters of his correspondence on government, are extant, and were published in a pamphlet form in 1800.

Mr. Adams's eloquence was of a peculiar character. His language was pure, concise, and impressive. He was more logical than figurative, His arguments were addressed rather to the understanding, than to the feelings; yet he always engaged the deepest attention of his audience. On ordinary occasions, there was nothing remarkable in his speeches; but, on great questions, when his own feelings were interested, he would combine every thing great in oratory. In the language of an elegant writer, the great qualities of his mind were fully displayed, in proportion as the field for their exertion was extended; and the energy of his language was not inferior to the depth of his mind. It was an eloquence admirably adapted to the age in which he flourished, and exactly calculated to attain the object of his pursuit. It may well be described in the language of the poet, “ thoughts which breathe, and words which burn." An eloquence, not consisting of theatrical gesture, or with the sublime enthusiasm and ardour of patri

otism; an eloquence, to which his fellow-citizens listened with applause and rapture; and little inferior to the best

models of antiquity, for simplicity, majesty, and persuasion.

The consideration of the character of Samuel Adams, when taken in connexion with the uncommon degree of popularity which his name has obtained in this country, may suggest an important moral lesson to those of our youth, whom a generous ambition incites to seek the temple of glory through the thorny paths of political strife. Let them compare him with men confessedly very far his superiors in every gift of intellect, of education, and of fortune : with those who have governed empires, and swayed the fate of nations, and then let them consider how poor and how limited is their fame, when placed in competition with that of this humble patriot. The memory of those men, tarnished as it is by the history of their profligacy, their corruption, and their crimes ; is preserved only among the advocates and slaves of legitimacy, while the name of Samuel Adams is enrolled among the benefactors of his country, and repeated with respect and gratitude by the lowest citizens of a free state.

ALLEN, ETHAN, a brigadier general in the revolutionary war, was born in Salisbury, Connecticut. While he was young, his parents emigrated to Vermont. At the commencement of the disturbances in this territory, about the year 1770, he took a bold and active part in favour of the Green Mountain Boys, as the settlers were then called, in opposition to the claims of the government of the state of New York. So obnoxious had he rendered himself, that an act of outlawry against him was passed by the government of that colony, and 500 guineas were offered for his apprehension ; but his party was too numerous and too faithful, to permit him to be disturbed by any apprehensions for

« PreviousContinue »