« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
der nor the breath of detraction have attempted to cast a stain upon his reputation as a patriot, a statesman, a lawyer, or a private citizen. He was a rare specimen of discretion, propriety and usefulness-a true specimen of the very salt of the body politic, rendering efficient services to his country without pomp or show, and without the towering talents of a Cicero or a Demosthenes. Such men are always valuable, and may be relied upon in the hour of danger as safe sentinels to guard the best interests of our nation.
A MILITARY depotism is a national curse. Laws that require the bayonet to enfore them upon a civilized and enlightened people, are of doubtful efficacy. Moments of excitement may occur in the best organized communities, arising from some sudden local impulse, that require a show of military power and even its force; but when a little time is afforded for reflection, reason resumes her sway, the spirit of mobocracy subsides, the soldier again becomes the peaceful citizen and rests for security upon the arm of civil power. Quartering the military among the citizens of a community, is calculated to produce numerous and serious evils. Let that military, after having enjoyed the bounty and hospitality of the citizens, be directed to force the execution of laws upon these citizens, oppressive in their nature and ruinous in their effects, and an indignation is roused that is increased tenfold from the circumstance of previous familiarity. Intimate friends often become the most bitter enemies. Favours forgotten and ingratitude displayed, add to the desperation of revenge.
Thus, previous to the American revolution, the military were often quartered upon, or drew their support directly from the people. The colonies had also contributed largely in money and blood to aid the mother country in conquering her most inveterate foe in America the French in Canada. No return was asked but the enjoyment of privileges granted and secured by the British constitution. This was eventually denied. Petitions were treated with contumely-remonstrances were laughed to scorn. Then it was that a band of sages rose to vindicate the rights of their country, whose achievements have no parallel in ancient or modern history.
Among the boldest of the bold was LEWIS MORRIS, who was born at Morrisania, in the vicinity of the city of New York, in 1726. The family documents of this Morris family trace their genealogy back to Rhice Fitzgerald. Rhys or Rhice Fitzgerald was a Cambrian chieftain, who carried his military operations and conquests into Ireland during the reign of Henry the second. By his valour and success he obtained the name Maur (great) Rhice, and the penultimate
Fitzgerald was dropped, and we now find the name as we have it above. In tracing genealogy, we often find names as greatly changed as this. From this original down to the present time, the various branches of the family have been highly respectable, and have honourably filled many important stations.
Lewis was the son of Judge Morris, of the same christian name, who appears to have retained possession of the paternal estate formerly purchased by his grandfather, Richard Morris, who was a leader under Cromwell, and immigrated from Barbadoes about 1663, and purchased a large tract of land near Haarlem, on York Island. He died in 1773. He left an only son, Lewis, who was chief justice of New York, and subsequently governor of New Jersey.
After passing through his preparatory studies, Lewis entered Yale College at the age of sixteen. He became a good scholar and imbibed from the president, Dr. Clap, a permanent relish for moral and religious principles. In 1746, he took the degree of bachelor of arts, returned to his estate and became extensively engaged in agriculture. At that period the colonies were prosperous, free and happy. The mother country had not yet contemplated the imposition of burdens upon her distant children, and they were left to pursue their own course without annoyance or molestation. Then they enjoyed the fruits of their labours and reposed in peace.
In this happy retirement Mr. Morris continued to improve his farm and his mind, and by his suavity and urbanity of manners, united with moral rectitude and an honourable course, gained the confidence and esteem of all who knew him. He became the nucleus of a circle of friends of the highest attainments and respectability and was emphatically the people's favourite. His appearance was in every way commanding. A noble and graceful figure, a fine and intelligent face, an amiable and agreeable disposition, a warm and ardent temperament, a benevolent and generous heart, an independent and patriotic soul, crowned with virtue, intelligence and refinement, he was in all respects to be admired and beloved.
The time approached rapidly when colonial repose was to be plucked by the roots and wither beneath the scorching rays of British oppression. The treasury of England had been drained by extravagance and war, and her national debt had swollen to an enormous amount. The story of prosperity and wealth in America was told to Mr. Grenville. The plan of imperious taxation was devised. The stamp act was passed. The sons of the pilgrim fathers were astonished and amazed. They loved their king, but loved their country more. Legal remedies were resorted to. A Congress was convened at New York. Able addresses to the throne and the people of Great Britain followed, breathing the purest allegiance conditioned on the restoration of constitutional rights. The stamp act was repealed, but only to give place to a more voracious and obnoxious family. In all these concerns of his country, Mr. Morris took a deep interest, and from the beginning, opposed even the approach of oppression, not at first as a leader but as an adviser. Although Massachusetts took the lead in opposition, New York made a strong show of resistance. In 1767,
an act was passed by parliament compelling the people of that province to furnish the British soldiers that were quartered among them with provisions. By this order the burden fell upon certain portions of the inhabitants exclusively and not pro rata upon the whole. It was a direct invasion of personal rights and was most severely felt by the citizens of the city of New York and its vicinity. This measure brought Mr. Morris out. He publicly proclaimed it unconstitutional and tyrannical, and contributed largely towards influencing the legislature to place a veto upon it. Superior might eventually overpowered this opposition and enforced the contribution from the citizens. But spirits like that of Lewis Morris were not to be subdued. An unquenchable fire was only smothered to gather strength beneath the volcanic surface that then covered it. It was kept alive by fresh fuel added by Mr. Grenville and his more subtle successor Mr. North. The statute of Henry the eighth was revived, which doomed malecontents to be sent to England for trial; the Boston port bill, its bandmaid, was passed and the cords of slavery were drawn more tightly. The last petitions and remonstrances in the magazine of patience were finally exhausted, and then it was that it was replenished with more potent materials. Mr. Morris had now become a prominent man, a bold and substantial whig, rather too ardent to send to the conciliatory Congress of 1774. But the time soon arrived when the people required just such a man, and in April, 1775, he was elected to the Continental Congress. Even then the inajority attributed their sufferings to the ministers and not to the king, and still hoped he would cease to be an automaton and prove himself a man worthy of the high station he occupied. But hopes were vain, the juices of the olive branch became absorbed by the sponge of venal power, and the virtues of the sword were next to be tried. Already had the purple current stained the streets of Boston and the heights of Lexington-already had the groans of dying Americans, slain by the hands of those whom they had fed, pierced the ears of thousands already were widows and orphans weeping for husbands weltering in blood and fathers covered with gore. Vigorous measures of defence followed—legions of foreign troops flooded the land—a dark and gloomy hour had arrived. Soon after his appearance in Congress, Mr. Morris was placed upon a committee of which the illustrious Washington was chairman, appointed to devise measures to obtain a supply of the
munitions of war. This was a desideratum not readily acquired. Comparatively a sling and a few smooth stones were all the patriots had with which to commence the combat with the British Goliah. But with all these disadvantages, the battle of Bunker Hill convinced the veterans of Europe that men determined on liberty or death were not to be tamely subdued.
Mr. Morris became an active and efficient member of the national legislature, and advocated strong measures. Although his enthusiastic patriotism bordered on what was then considered rashness, in some instances, the very path marked out by him in 1775 was the one eventually followed. He became early convinced that an honourable peace could not be obtained under Great Britain, and was satisfied that
nothing but a triumph over her would restore the equilibrium of justice and chartered rights. During the interim between that and the ensuing session, Mr. Morris was one of a committee appointed to visit the frontier Indian tribes, to deter them, if possible, from enlisting under the blood-stained banner of the mother country. He also visited the assemblies of the New England states, in order to perfect plans to raise supplies and prepare for a vigorous defence. In 1776 he again took his seat in Congress, and was animated to find a spirit more congenial with his views-a determination to sever the gordian knot and proclaim an eternal separation from a nation that had held power only to abuse it. He was placed on many and important committees, and was active in and out of the house. In his native neighbourhood Mr. Morris had no easy task to perform in rousing the people to an efficient opposition. Governor Tryon, who was as wise and poisonous too as a serpent, affected to be as harmless as a dove, and exerted a powerful influence over the people of the city of New York in favour of the crown. The commercial interests would be prostrated by a war, the inequality of the two powers rendered the success of the whigs problematical, and self interest, which was construed into self preservation, operated for a long time against the cause of liberty in that section. It required great exertions to surmount these obstacles. Mr. Morris and his friends put forth their noblest energies in the mighty work, and what they could not effect, British oppression and the powder and ball of General Howe soon accomplished. The able addresses that he aided in preparing and circulating among the people do great credit to his head and heart as a patriot, a statesman and a scholar. They are chaste, forcible and luminous. When the declaration of independence was proposed Mr. Morris became one of its ardent supporters. At that very time his vast estate was within the power of the enemy, and he well knew that if he signed the instrument proposed, should it be adopted, it was giving to them a deed of sale, alias of destruction, of all his property that was to them tangible. Most rigidly did they use the delegated authority. Even his extensive woodlands, of a thousand acres, were subjected to axe and fire, his family driven from their home, and every species of destruction resorted to that malice could invent, ingenuity design and revenge execute.
But liberty was dearer to this determined patriot than earth and all its riches. He boldly sanctioned and fearlessly affixed his name to the great certificate of our national birth, and rejoiced in freedom illumined by the conflagration of Morrisania. His family and himself suffered many privations during the remainder of the war, but suffered patiently, without regret for the past and with brighter hopes for the future.
In 1777 he resigned his seat in Congress and repaired to his native state, in the legislature of which he rendered important services. He also served in the tented field and rose to the rank of major-general of militia. He was an excellent disciplinarian and contributed essentially in the organization of the state troops. In every situation he ably and zealously discharged all his duties, and never left the post of service until the American arms triumphed in victory, and the inde
pendence of his country was firmly established and acknowledged by the mother country. Then he retired to his desolated plantation, converted his sword into a pruning hook, his musket into a ploughshare, and his farm into a delightful retreat, where his friends from the city often visited him to enjoy his agreeable society, talk of times gone by, and rejoice in the consolations of blood-bought liberty. Peacefully and calmly he glided down the stream of time until January 1798, when his immortal spirit left its frail bark of clay and launched upon the ocean of eternity in a brighter and more substantial vessel. 'He died serene and happy, surrounded by an affectionate family and kind friends. His remains were deposited in the family vault upon
his farm, under the honours of epic fame and civic glory.
The examples of Mr. Morris illustrate the patriotism that impelled to action during the revolution in a more than ordinary degree. He had every thing that could be destroyed to lose, if the colonies succeeded in the doubtful struggle; and if they did not, the scaffold, or death in some shape, was his certain doom. He was, previous to the revolution, a favourite with the English; and, what was more, his bro. ther Staats was a member of the British parliament and a general officer under the crown. But few made so great a personal sacrifice, and no one made it more cheerfully. Like Marion, he preferred a morsel of bread, or even a meal of roasted potatoes, with liberty and freedom, to all the trappings and luxuries of a king without them. So long as this kind of disinterested patriotism finds a resting place in the bosoms of Columbia's sons, our union is safe let this be banished and the fair temple of our liberty will perish in flames kindled by its professed guardians and sentinels.
AGRICULTURE, of all occupations, is the one best calculated to rivet upon the heart a love of country. No profession is more honourable, but few are as conducive to health, and, above all others, it insures peace, tranquillity and happiness. A calling more independent in its nature, it is calculated to produce an innate love of liberty. The farmer stands upon a lofty eminence and looks upon the bustle of mechanism, the din of commerce, and the multiform perplexities of the literati, with feelings of personal freedom unknown to them. He acknowledges the skill and indispensable necessity of the first, the enterprise and usefulness of the second, and the unbounded benefits flowing from the last; then turns his thoughts to the pristine quiet of his agrarian domain and covets not the fame that accumulates around the other professions. His opportunities for intellectual improvement are superior to the two former, and, in many respects, not inferior to the latter. Constantly surrounded by the varied beauties of nature