Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

heart, from sire to son, from parish to parish, at first slowly, but finally illuminating the horizon of liberty with cheering refulgence. The struggle of many of the more timid patriots in that province, between policy and duty, was long suspended on the pivot of indecision. Present self-interest and self-preservation influenced many to remain inactive for a season, who subsequently became the bold advocates of liberal principles. In January, 1775, the members of the assembly were so equally divided upon the all important subject of the revolution, then rolling upon them, that they adjourned without any definite action relative to it. The same wavering spirit was manifested at the public meetings and by the committee of safety. To restore the public mind from this political paralysis, was the province of Mr. Walton and a few other noble spirits. All the other colonies had united in the common cause against the common enemy and had sent delegates to the Congress convened at Philadelphia the previous year. That Georgia should be the last to hug the chains and kiss the rod of oppression, was to him a source of mortification and regret. But he determined not to desert his post. His exertions became equal to the herculean task before. His powers of mind rose with the inagnitude of the occasion; his eloquence and logic bore down all opposition, and when the cry of blood-of murder—from the heights of Lexington was heard, the people started from their reverie, rose in the majesty of their might, buckled on the armour of opposition, burst the cords that bound them, and bid defiance to British power. In May, 1775, the parish of St. Johns sent Lyman Hall to the Continental Congress, and in July, a convention of the province sanctioned his election, joined the confederacy, and sent four other delegates to aid him. The council of safety was re-organized, and vigorous measures adopted to aid the cause of rational liberty. In these measures Mr. Walton was one of the leading men. In January of the next year the legislature appointed Mr. Bullock, a bold and active patriot, president of the executive council by a large majority. British authority was at an end. Governor Wright threatened the members with bayonets, the next hour he was their prisoner, and permitted only the liberty of his own house on his parol of honour. This he violated, fled on board of the armed fleet in the harbour, commenced an attack upon the town, was shamefully defeated, and retired from the vengeance of an enraged, insulted, and injured populace.

In February, 1776, Mr. Walton was elected to Congress, and entered upon the important duties of legislation. He at once took his seat and proved a bold, energetic, and efficient advocate for every measure calculated to advance the cause of independence. He warmly supported the declaration of rights and most cheerfully gave it his vote and signature. He continued to be annually elected a member of the national legislature until 1781, excepting 1779, when he was governor of Georgia. He rendered essential service on various committees. When Congress was compelled to retire to Baltimore on the 13th of December, 1776, in consequence of the approach of the British army, Messrs. Morris, Clymer, and Walton, were left as a committee of superintendence with $200,000, to be expended for the

1

use of the army. Mr. Walton was also a member of the treasury board and marine committee, and ably discharged every duty that devolved upon him. In addition to his civil honours, his brow was decked with the epic wreath. In 1778, he was commissioned colonel of militia, and bravely sustained himself at the battle of Savannah between the American troops under General Howe and the British under Colonel Campbell. The battalion under his command made a desperate resistance until he received a shot in his thigh, fell from his horse, and was captured by the enemy. So long as his wound confined him he was held under a parol of honour; when he recovered, he was sent to Sunbury and confined with the other prisoners. He was soon after exchanged, and again entered into the service of Congress, having been absent during the session of 1778. In January, 1783, he was appointed chief justice of Georgia. He was subsequently again elected governor of the state, and also a member of the United States senate, and served several sessions in the state legislature. He was a judge of the superior court, when he closed his laborious life on the 2nd of February, 1803, which had been almost entirely devoted to the service of his country. He was also one of the commissioners that effected a treaty with the Cherokee Indians in Tennessee. His high reputation as an able and faithful public servant, imposed upon him numerous and onerous duties, all of which he discharged in a manner that did honour to his name and his country. The only difficulty in which he appears to have been involved during his public career, was as singular as it proved harmless, and lost none of its odd features in its final adjustment. During the war, a jealousy existed between the civil and military powers in Georgia. At the head of the first was Mr. Walton; at the head of the latter, General MIntosh. In 1779, when the former was first elected governor of the state, a forged letter, purporting to be from the legislature, then in session at Savannah, was forwarded to Congress, requesting the removal of the latter to some other field of action. The governor was charged with a knowledge of the transaction; but few, if any, believed it, and he declared himself ignorant of the whole matter. The documentary proofs were laid before the house in January, 1783, and whilsť under discussion, Mr. Walton was appointed chief justice of the state; the next day a vote of censure was passed upon him for participating in the forged letter, and the attorney-general directed to institute proceedings against him in the very court over which he presided, and the only one that had cognisance of the charge against him. The vote of censure may have healed the wounded feelings of General M'Intosh; it certainly never injured chief justice Walton, and was never afterwards agitated. It was more like a political compromise of the present day than any revolutionary farce that has come under my notice.

During the latter part of his life, Judge Walton confined his public duties to the bench of the superior court; and during the intervals of its session, enjoyed the comforts of domestic life with his family, consisting of one son, and his amiable and accomplished companion, the daughter of Mr. Chamber, whom he had married in 1777. He was

not wealthy, was free from avarice, and was contented with a competence which was afforded by his public emoluments and the produce of a small plantation. He indulged in good living, and suffered much from the gout at various times. He was a close student during his whole life. He continued to add to his experience a general knowledge of the sciences, and became an ornament to the judiciary of his state. He was also a ready writer, and possessed a peculiar talent for satire, which he occasionally resorted to as a correction of error and folly. He was of a warm temperament, easily excited, resenting every indignity, but highly honourable and just, moving within the orbit of propriety under all circumstances, showing clearly that the inflammable passions may be governed and controlled by a wise discretion. He was open and frank, a stranger to disguise, ardent in his attachments, firm in his purposes, stern and reserve in his manners in general society, but very familiar in the private circle with his friends. He was an indignant but manly opponent; his enemies knew just where to find him. He was fond of brevity and despatch in conversation and in business, and systematic in all his proceedings and arrangements both public and private. Taken as a whole, he was one of the most useful men of his day and generation, and has left examples worthy of the imitation of the apprentice, the student, the lawyer, the judge, the magistrate, and the statesman. By the force of industry and perseverance he rose from the humblest walks of life to the most dignified stations in the community. Let every youth whose eyes meet this brief sketch, be stimulated to embrace every opportunity for improvement, and drink often and freely at the crystal fountain of knowledge now accessible and open to all. Soon the affairs of a mighty nation will devolve upon you; without intelligence you cannot be prepared to guard its dearest interests and counteract the corrupting and baneful evils that are often put in motion by wild ambition, sordid selfishness, and dark intrigue.

«O

GEORGE CLYMER.

The mental powers of man are as diversified as the soils of the earth. Upon the minds of some we pour the classic stream in vain; like the desert of Sahara, they are barren of fruit or flower. Upon the minds of others, laborious efforts produce an improvement, but never enrich them. Their substance is too light and their substratum too porous to long retain the fructifying substances lavished upon

Others, by good culture, yield a liberal harvest and become valuable by use. Others again, like the alluvial prairie, are adorned with spontaneous fruits, and only require the introduction of seed to afford all the rich varieties that may be desired. Expose them to the genial rays of the sun of science and the germs of genius will im

mediately spring up, the embryo forms will bud and blossom like the

rose.

The mind of GEORGE CLYMER was composed of a prolific and deep mould, capable of producing the richest foliage. Fortunately for our country, it was not appropriated entirely to ornamental flowers and blooming shrubbery, but to the substantial fruits that invigorate and support life.

He was born in Philadelphia in 1739. His father removed from Bristol, England, to that city, and died when this son was but seven years of age. George Clymer was then taken under the guardian care of William Coleman, his uncle, who treated him as a son and made him heir of most of his property. Himself a literary man, Mr. Coleman conferred upon his nephew a good education. He possessed a splendid library, and had the gratifying consolation of seeing it often and fully explored by George Clymer, who manifested an early taste for reading, and investigated critically every subject that came before him, never leaving it until he traced it through all its meanderings to its primeval source. This trait in his character rendered him vastly useful in the momentous concerns that occupied his subsequent life. It is of the first importance to dig deep and lay firmly the foundations of an education, that the superstructure may rest upon a substantial basis.

From the seminary, Mr. Clymer went into the counting-house of his uncle, and made himself acquainted with the mercantile business, in which he subsequently embarket. The precariousness and uncertainty of this calling rendered it unpleasant to him. He was opposed to sudden gains or losses, because the one was calculated to elate the mind too much, and the other to depress it too low, thus destroying the equilibrium calculated to impart the most happiness to a man and render him most useful to himself, to his family, and to the community. He contended that a virtuous equality in life is more conducive to the comfort and prosperity of a nation, than to have a majority of the wealth wielded by a favoured few. He was the friend of equal rights and free principles. He was a republican of the Roman school, a patriot of the highest order, a philanthropist of the noblest cast, and opposed to all monopolies. His genius was of that original order, that, like some comets, illuminate our world only at long intervals. It seemed to traverse the circuit of human nature, of metaphysics, of philosophy, and of general science, without an apparent effort, drawing from each conclusions peculiarly its own. He was a virtuoso, an amateur, and at the same time a deep logician and mathematician. A love of liberty and equal rights was with him an innate quality. His mind was richly stored with the history of other times and nations; he was well versed in the principles of law and government, and understood well the chartered rights of his country, and felt most keenly the increasing infringements upon them by the very power that was bound by the laws of nature, of man, and of God, to protect them. His course at the commencement of the revolution can readily be imagined. True, his entire property was vested in commercial business; Reese Meredith, his father-in-law, was

his partner in trade, and for him to oppose the interests of the crown, seemed certain destruction to his own, so far as pecuniary matters were concerned. But his mind moved in an orbit limited only by the confines of freedom. He was among the first to resist the oppressors of his country and proclaim to his fellow citizens the principles of liberty. At the "tea meeting," held by the citizens of Philadelphia on the 16th of October, 1773, his reasoning, sincerity, zeal and enthusiastic patriotism, commanded great attention and admiration. Free from pedantry and naturally retiring his powers of mind were known only to his friends. From that time they were claimed as public property. He was compelled to surrender possession to the rightful owners, without certiorari or appeal, and was engaged in all the important measures of the day. When the final crisis arrived for action; when forbearance had ceased to be a virtue; when the warcry resounded from the heights of Lexington, Mr. Clymer took command of a company under General Cadwalader and repaired to the tented field. He was at the same time a member of the council of safety, and had served on all or most of the preliminary committees of his native city appointed to prepare petitions, remonstrances and measures of defence. He was soon called from the field of epic glory, and appointed by Congress, on the 29th of July, 1775, in conjunction with Michael Hillegas, to take charge of the public treasury. subscribed liberally to the loan raised for the public service, and poured all the specie he could raise into the government chest and took in return paper, which was virtually ephemeral in its value. His examples and his patriotic enthusiasm had a powerful influence upon his friends, many of whom came boldly to the rescue.

In July, 1776, he took his seat in the Continental Congress after the adoption of the declaration of rights, to which he most cheerfully subscribed. A part of the preceding delegation from Pennsylvania when they found their colleagues were in favour of cutting loose, left their station and retired, perhaps that they might avoid the wrath of the king on the one hand and the indignation of the patriots on the other, or believing the time had not yet arrived for so bold a step. The people promptly filled their places with men who dared to be free, by men who had already nobly resolved on liberty or death.

In September of that year, Messrs. Clymer and Stockton were sent by Congress to regulate the northern army and to confer with Washington in making arrangements for future action. In December of the same year Congress retired to Baltimore in consequence of the threatened approach of the British army, then spreading consternation, destruction and death through New Jersey. Mr. Clymer was one of the committee left in Philadelphia to superintend the public interests and brave the perils that were rolling onward like a tornado. He was faithful in the discharge of every duty, devoting his time and fortune to the advancement of the glorious cause he had espoused. He was returned to Congress the next year, and in April was again appointed upon a committee to repair to the army and confer with Washington upon all subjects that required their attention, which were neither few nor small. In the autumn of that year an

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »