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HARRISON GRAY OTIS.
DESCENDED from an honorable and distinguished ancestry, this eloquent man was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on the eighth of October, 1765. He was the nephew of James Otis, the orator and patriot of the early revolutionary period, and the son of Samuel Allyne Otis, an eminent civilian, who, besides occupying many other positions of trust and honor, was chosen, after the adoption of the Federal Constitution, Secretary of the Senate of the United States. His mother was a daughter of Harrison Gray, the royal treasurer of Massachusetts, an adherent to the cause of the Crown during the Revolution, and one of those loyalists, whose estates were confiscated, and who left Boston, with the British troops, on their evacuation of that place in 1776.
Young Otis was educated at the public Latin school in his native town, and at Harvard University; graduating from the latter institution, at the age of eighteen, and receiving the honors of his class. From college he returned to Boston, and entered the office of John Lowell, as a student at law. All his energies were now directed to the acquisition of his chosen profession. Early and late he was at the office of his preceptor, poring over the books with the intensest application. In 1786 he commenced practice, and soon became distinguished. His first year was a successful one, and his reputation of ability continued to increase. About this time military matters attracted his attention. He became captain of a volunteer company, and was aidde-camp to General Brooks, in the memorable insurrection in Massachusetts in the years 1786-1787.
In 1796 he was chosen to the legislature of his native State, the same year was elected to succeed Fisher Ames in the lower House of Congress, and there joined the opposition to the measures of Thomas Jefferson. From this time until the close of the war of 1812, he was constantly in public life, “the guide of popular opinion," says one of his ablest cotemporaries, “in. all the trying scenes of commercial restrictions, embargo, and war.” He was chosen speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, in 1803. Two years after he was transferred to the presidency of the State Senate, and, on his retirement from that station in 1814, was appointed to the bench of the Court of Common Pleas.
Amidst the duties of his several official stations, he took an active and prominent part in all the great questions of the day; was “the orator of all public assemblies," and, “the first among his equals, was alike ready, at all times, with his pen and tongue." The earliest of his rhetorical efforts that are preserved, is the oration delivered at the request of the authorities of the town of Boston, on the anniversary of independence, 1788. Although this does not evince that strength and brilliancy, purity of diction, and depth of pathos, so characteristic of his latter productions, it indicates great power and a high order of talent. His Eulogy on Hamilton, which is considered as the most finished of his published orations, gained him unqualified applause. “We love him," says one, "for he has frequently turned aside from his labors, and, with reverence and homage, sacrificed at the tomb of the immortal Hamilton. No envy, which disturbs little minds, chafed his breast; but penetrated with grief, he shed upon Hamilton's gravo such tears as genius weeps at the loss of kindred souls." * “ During its delivery," says another, "all hung with breathless admiration on his words, and, at the end, in that stillness indicative alone of the deepest sorrow, they returned to their homes, with the only consolation that such men as Ames and Otis remained." +
Another occasion on which Mr. Otis displayed the loftiest strains of eloquence, was at the convention in New York in the month of September, 1812. The object of the convention was to determine upon the expediency of defeating the re-election of Mr. Madison, by running De Witt Clinton as the opposing candidate for the Presidency. It was composed of some of the ablest men of the country. After sitting two days, unable to come to any determination, on the third day they were about dissolving without any fixed plan of operation. Rufus King had pronounced the most impassioned invective against Clinton, and was so excited during his address, that his knees trembled under him. Gouverneur Morris doubted much the expediency of the measure, and was seconded in these doubts by Theodore Sedgewick, as well as by Judge Hopkinson. Many of the members were desirous of returning to Philadelphia by the steamboat, at two o'clock, P.M., of the third day. It was approaching the hour, and nothing had been determined, when Mr. Otis arose, apparently much embarrassed, holding his hat in his hand, and seeming as if he was almost sorry he had arisen. Soon he warmed with his subject, his hat fell from his hand, and he poured forth a strain of eloquence that chained all present to their seats, and when, at a late hour, the vote was taken, it was almost unanimously resolved to support Clinton. This effort was unprepared, but only proves how entirely Mr. Otis deserved the reputation he enjoyed of being a great orator. I
Mr. Otis's connection with the convention which arose out of the internal difficulties produced by the war with Great Britain, and which met at Hartford in the winter of 1814, hardly requires notice here. After the legislatures of Massachusetts and Connecticut had received the report of the convention, the former deputized Mr. Otis, Mr. Thomas H. Perkins, and Mr. William Sullivan ; the latter, Mr. Nathan Terry and Mr. Calvin Goddard, to repair to Washington city, "and make earnest and respectful application to the Government of the United States requesting their consent to some arrangement, whereby the State of Massachusetts, separately, or in concert with neighboring States, may be enabled to assume the defence of their territories against the enemy; and that to this end, a reasonable portion of the taxes collected within the said States, may be paid into the respective treasuries thereof, and appropriated to the payment of the balance due to the said States, and to the future defence of the same; the amount so paid into the treasuries to be credited, and the disbursements so made to be charged to the United States." The commissioners were further required to consult with, and to solicit the assistance and co-operation of the senators and representatives of this Commonwealth in the Congress of
* Samuel L. Knapp, LL.D.
+ George Cabot. # This anecdote is recorded by John T. S. Sullivan in a note, at page 350 of his father's “Familiar Letters on Public Characters."
$ The Hartford Convention was composed of some of the ablest men of New England. George Cabot was its president. He was a native of Salem, Massachusetts, where he was born in 1752. Before he attained the age of twenty-six, he was a member of the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, and distinguished himself in that body, by an opposition to the plan of establishing by law a maximum of prices, and by his strong advocacy for the freedom of commerce. In 1787-8 he was a prominent member of the Federal Convention of Massachusetts, and for many years a Senator in Congress In 1798, he was appointed Secretary of the Navy, but declined to serve. During the latter portion of his life, he was sometimes in the State legislature and in the executive council. His death occurred at Boston, on the eighteenth of April, 1928.
Mr. Cabot was a self-taught man, and for tho distinction he attained he was indebted to his own cultivation of the ex traordinary powers of his mind. In conversation, he was unusually eloquent. Dr. Kirkland, one who had the best opportunities to know him, thus describes his qualities. “His mind was at once comprehensive and discriminating; full, yet accurate. He was sagacious and acute in disentangling involved and difficult subjects; knowing how to separate appearances from realities; to distinguish the probable, the true, the practical. The materials that constituted his intellectual store, lay in his mind in methodical arrangement, ready to be applied to their proper uses, for argument, persuasion, colloquial communication, or the conduct of life.” In personal appearance, he is described as a tall man, of courteoug and elegant manners, and refined aspect; his complexion was light, his eyes blue.
He was a decided federalist; and the friend of Gore, Ames and Hamilton. He also enjoyed the confidence of Washington. His course in the convention at Hartford, is fully explained in Dwight's history of that body. See Sud vipan's Familiar Letters.
the United States. The commissioners arrived at Washington about the middle of February, 1815, at which time the news of the conclusion of the treaty of Ghent was received by the government. This rendered the object of their mission futile, and they returned to their homes. Mr. Otis published a defence of the convention in a series of eloquent and spirited letters, in 1824.
In 1817 Mr. Otis was elected to the United States Senate, where he remained until 1823, discharging with great ability and high patriotism, the most important functions, and always devoted to the interests of his State and country. In the celebrated discussion which arose in the Senate, at the time the Missouri question was before that body, he displayed the greatest power and eloquence. His speech on that occasion is among the few preserved of that extraordinary debate. On leaving Congress, he returned to Boston, and became a candidate for governor of Massachusetts, in opposition to William Eustis, but was defeated in the election. In 1829 he was elected mayor of Boston. This was the last public station he occapied. At the close of his mayoralty, he retired to private life; and on the twenty-eighth of October, 1848, retaining his mental vigor to the last, he died, in the eighty-fourth year of his age.
A short time previous to his death, he addressed a spirited and effective letter to the public, advocating the support of General Taylor for the presidency. This was published on the second of October, and was probably the latest work of his pen.
No formal biography of Mr. Otis has yet appeared. The most extended account of his life and services is given by Mr. Loring, in The Hundred Boston Orators ; but the greater part of his history is to be found in the occasional productions of his time, and the few manuscript letters of his cotemporaries
EULOGY ON HAMILTON.
Mr. Otis pronounced this eulogy, at the request | heroes which had been spared from thy fatal of the citizens of Boston, on the twenty-sixth of grasp! Could not our Warren, our Montgomery,
our Mercer, our Greene, our Washington appease July, 1804:
thy vengeance for a few short years! Shall none
of our early patriots be permitted to behold We are convened, afflicted fellow-citizens, to the perfection of their own work in the stability perform the only duties which our republics of our government and the maturity of our inacknowledge or fulfil to their illustrious dead; stitutions! Or hast thon predetermined, dread to present to departed excellence an oblation King of Terrors ! to blast the world's best hope, of gratitude and respect: to inscribe its virtues and by depriving us of all the conductors of our on the urn which contains its ashes, and to glorious revolution, compel us to bury our liberconsecrate its example by the tears and sympathy ties in their tombs! O Hamilton! great would of an affectionate people.
be the relief of my mind, were I permitted to Must we, then, realize that Hamilton is no exchange the arduous duty of attempting to more! Must the sod, not yet cemented on the portray the varied excellence of thy character, tomb of Washington, still moist with our tears, for the privilege of venting the deep and unbe so soon disturbed to admit the beloved com- availing sorrow which swells my bosom, at the panion of Washington, the partner of his dan- remembrance of the gentleness of thy nature, of gers, the object of his confidence, the disciple thy splendid talents and placid virtues! But, my who leaned upon his bosom! Insatiable Death! | respected friends, an indulgence of these feelings Will not the heroes and statesmen, whom mad would be inconsistent with that deliberate recital ambition has sent from the crimsoned fields of of the services and qualities of this great man, Europe, suffice to people thy dreary dominions! which is required by impartial justice and your Thy dismal avenues have been thronged with expectations, princely martyrs and illustrious victims. Crowns In governments which recognize the distincand sceptres, the spoils of royalty, are among tions of splendid birth and titles, the details of thy recent trophies, and the blood of innocence illustrious lineage and connections become inteand valor has flowed in torrents at thy inexora- resting to those who are accustomed to value ble command. Such have been thy ravages in those advantages. But in the man whose loss the old world. And in our infant country how we deplore, the interval between manhood and small was the remnant of our revolutionary | death was so uniformly filled by a display of the energies of his mighty mind, that the world | the American garrison, at New London, would has scarcely paused to inquire into the story of have justified and seemed to demand an exerhis infant or puerile years. He was a planet, cise of the rigors of retaliation. This was the dawn of which was not perceived; which strongly intimated to Colonel Hamilton, but we rose with full splendor, and emitted a constant find, in his report to his commanding officer. stream of glorious light until the hour of its in his own words, that, “incapable of imitating sudden and portentous eclipse.
examples of barbarity, and forgetting recent At the age of eighteen, while cultivating his provocations, he spared every man who ceased mind at Columbia College, he was roused from to resist." the leisure and delights of scientific groves by Having, soon afterwards, terminated his mili the din of war. He entered the American tary career, be returned to New York, and army as an officer of artillery, and at that early qualified himself to commence practice as a period familiarized himself to wield both his counsellor at law. But the duties and emolusword and his pen in the service of his country. | ments of his profession were not then permitted He developed at once the qualities which com- to stifle his solicitude to give a correct tone to mand precedency, and the modesty which con- public opinion, by the propagation of principles ceals its pretensions. Frank, affable, intelligent worthy of adoption by a people who bad just and brave, young Hamilton became the favorite undertaken to govern themselves. He found of his fellow-soldiers. His intuitive perception the minds of men chafed and irritated by the and correct judgment rendered him a rapid recollection of their recent sufferings and danproficient in military science, and his merit gers. The city of New York, so long a garri silenced the envy which it excited.
son, presented scenes and incidents, which A most honorable distinction now awaited naturally aggravated these dispositions, and too him. He attracted the attention of the com- many were inclined to fan the flame of discord, mander-in-chief, who appointed him an aid, and mar the enjoyment and advantages of and honored him with his confidence and friend- peace, by fomenting the animosities engendered ship. This domestic relation afforded to both | by the collisions of war. To soothe these angry frequent means of comparing their opinions passions; to heal these wounds; to demonstrate upon the policy and destinies of our country, the folly and inexpediency of scattering the upon the sources of its future prosperity and bitter tares of national prejudice and private grandeur, upon the imperfection of its existing rancor among the seeds of public prosperity, establishments; and to digest those principles, were objects worthy of the heart and head of which, in happier times, might be interwoven Hamilton. To these he applied himself, and by into a more perfect model of government. a luminous pamphlet, assuaged the public reHence, probably, originated that filial venera- sentment against those whose sentiments had tion for Washington and adherence to his led them to oppose the Revolution; and thus maxims, which were ever conspicuous in the preserved from exile many valuable citizens, deportment of Hamilton; and hence the exalted who have supported the laws and increased the esteem and predilection uniformly displayed by opulence of their native State. the magnanimous patron to the faithful and From this period he appears to have devoted affectionate pupil.
himself principally to professional occupations, While the disasters of the American army, which were multiplied by his increasing ceand the perseverance of the British ministry, lebrity, until he became a member of the conpresented the gloomy prospect of protracted vention, which met at Annapolis, merely for warfare, young Hamilton appeared to be con- the purpose of devişing a mode of levying and tent in his station, and with the opportunities collecting a general impost. Although the obwhich he had of fighting by the side, and exe-ject of this convention was thus limited, yet so cuting the orders of his beloved chief. But the manifold, in his view, were the defects of the investment of the army of Cornwallis suddenly old confederation, that a reform, in one par. changed the aspect of affairs, and rendered i: ticular, would be ineffectual; he, therefore, first probable that this campaign, if successful, woald suggested the proposal of attempting a radical be the most brilliant and decisive of any that change in its principles; and the address to the was likely to occur. It now appeared that his people of the United States, recommending a heart had long panted for an occasion to signal- | general convention, with more extensive powers, ize his intrepidity and devotion to the service which was adopted by that assembly, was the of his country. He obtained, by earnest en- / work of his pen.* treaties, the command of a detachment destined To the second convention, which framed the to storm the works of Yorktown. It is well constitution, he was also deputed as a delegate known with what undaunted courage he pressed from the State of New York. on to the assault, with unloaded arms, pre- In that assemblage of the brightest jewels of sented his bosom to the dangers of the bayonet, | America, the genius of Hamilton sparkled with carried the fort, and thus eminently contributed pre-eminent lustre. The best of our orators to decide the fate of the battle and of his country. But even here the impetuosity of them This information is derived from a respectable member youthful conqueror was restrained by the clem- | of that convention, from the State of New York.--Author of ency of the benevolent man: the butchery of the Eulogy.
were improved by the example of his eloquence. the Secretary was called upon to elicit the ele The most experienced of our statesmen were ments of a regular system, adequate to the im instructed by the solidity of his sentiments, and mediate exigencies of a new and expensive all were convinced of the utility and extent of establishment, and to an honorable provision his agency in framing the constitution.
for the public debt. His arduous duty was not When the instrument was presented to the to reform abuses, but to create resources; not people for their ratification, the obstacles inci- to improve upon precedent, but to invent a dent to every attempt to combine the interests, model. In an ocean of experiment, he had views and opinions of the various States, threat- neither chart nor compass but those of his own ened, in some of them, to frustrate the hopes invention. Yet such was the comprehensive and exertions of its friends. The fears of the vigor of his mind, that his original projects timid, the jealousies of the ignorant, the arts possessed the hardihood of settled regulations. of the designing, and the sincere conviction of His sketches were little short of the perfection the superficial, were arrayed into a formidable of finished pictures. In the first session of alliance, in opposition to the system. But the Congress, he produced a plan for the organizamagic pen of Hamilton dissolved this league. tion of the Treasury Department, and for the Animated by the magnitude of his object, he collection of a national revenue; and in the enriched the daily papers with the researches second, a report of a systern for funding the of a mind teeming with political information, national debt. Great objections were urged In these rapid essays, written amid the avoca- against the expediency of the principles, astions of business, and under the pressure of the sumed by him for the basis of his system; but occasion, it would be natural to expect, that no doubt remained of their effect. A dormant much would require revision and correction. capital was revived, and with it commerce and But in the mind of Hamilton nothing was super- agriculture awoke as from the sleep of death. ficial but resentment of injuries; nothing fugi- By the enchantment of this "mighty magitive, but those transient emotions which some- cian," the beauteous fabric of public credit rose times lead virtue astray. These productions of in full majesty upon the ruins of the old conhis pen are now considered as a standard com- federation; and men gazed with astonishment mentary upon the nature of our government; upon a youthful prodigy, who, at the age of and he lived to hear them quoted by his friends thirty-three, having already been the ornament and adversaries, as high authority, in the tribu- of the camp, the forum and the Senate, was nals of justice, and in the legislature of the now suddenly transformed into an accomplished nation.
financier, and a self-taught adept, not only in When the constitution was adopted, and the general principles, but the intricate details, Washington was called to the presidency by his of his new department. grateful country, our departed friend was ap- It is not wonderful that such resplendent pointed to the charge of the treasury depart- powers of doing right should have exposed him ment, and of consequence became a confidential to the suspicion of doing wrong. He was susmember of the administration. In this new pected and accused. His political adversaries sphere of action, he displayed a ductility and were his judges. Their investigation of his extent of genius, a fertility in expedients, a conduct and honorable acquittal added new faculty of arrangement, an industry in applica- lustre to his fame, and confirmed the national sention to business, and a promptitude in despatch; timent, that in his public character he was indeed but beyond all, a purity of public virtue and “a man without fear and without reproach." disinterestedness, which are too mighty for the To his exertions in this department, we grasp of my feeble powers of description. In-are indebted for many important institutions, deed, the public character of Hamilton, and his Among others, the plan of redeeming the public measures from this period, are so intimately debt, and of a national bank to facilitate the connected with the history of our country, that operations of government, were matured and it is impossible to do justice to one without de- adopted under his auspices; and so complete voting a volume to the other. The Treasury were his arrangements, that his successors, of the United States, at the time of his entrance though men of undoubted talents, and one of upon the duties of his office, was literally a them a political opponent, have found nothing creature of the imagination, and existed only in susceptible of material improvement. name, unless folios of unsettled balances, and But the obligations of his country, during bandles of reproachful claims were deserving this period, were not confined to his merit as a the name of a treasury. Money there was financier. none; and of public credit scarcely a shadow The flame of insurrection was kindled in the remained. No national system for raising and western counties of Pennsylvania, and raged collecting a revenue had been attempted, and with such violence, that large detachments of no estimate could be formed, from the experi- military force were marched to the scene of the ments of the different States, of the probable disturbance, and the presence of the great result of any project of deriving it from com- Washington was judged necessary to quell the merce. The national debt was not only unpaid, increasing spirit of revolt. He ordered the but its amount was a subject of uncertainty and Secretary to quit the duties of his department, conjecture. Such was the chaos from which and attend him on the expedition. His versa