Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

arrow. He was in all respects above suspicion. He was a kind hus. band, an affectionate father, a warm friend, and an open, honourable, but scarifying enemy. From the constitution of his nature and the vehemence of his feelings, he was calculated to gain strong friends and create violent enemies. His independence and decision were admired, but often roused animosity in others. His political opponents he handled with great severity, which accounts for the mighty eftort made to prostrate him.

He was a man of a noble and benevolent disposition—a friend to the poor and needy. A particular instance of his generosity was exhibited in 1783. Listening to the discussions of a debating club in Baltimore, he was forcibly struck with the talent exhibited by a youth, to him an utter stranger. On inquiry, he found that he was poor, and in the employment of an apothecary. He called upon him, advised him to study law; offered him a home at his house, the use of his library, and the aid of his instruction. His proposition was accepted; the youth arrived at manhood, rose to eminence, and became an ornament to America. This was the celebrated William Pinkney, who was minister to Russia, London, Naples, and attorney-general of the United States. He often recurred to his benefactor with feelings of the profoundest gratitude in after life.

Judge Chase was also a friend to education and religion. He was a member of St. Paul parish, and was active in promoting the best interests of practical piety, social order and purity of morals. His force, vigour, and decision of character and stern integrity, were admirably calculated for the period in which he lived; and if he sometimes offended by soaring above the non-committal system of technical politics, it must be attributed to the strong combination of conflicting circumstances that uniformly attend the period of a revolution, the formation of a new government, and the asperity of high-toned parties, operating as they did upon the sensitive feelings of an ardent, patriotic and independent mind.

WILLIAM HOOPER.

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. This ancient apothegm can never be controverted by the ingenuity of sophistry; it is based upon reason, justice, and sound philosophy. Its solution is brief. To be wise is to be good—to be good is to be happy. To avoid all vice and practise only virtue, is the great desideratum of earthly bliss. Virtue carries with it its own reward. Vanity and vain glory may be richly laden with blossoms, but they bear no fruit. We must look to the great Author of all good for substantial enjoyment; we must fear to offend the majesty of his laws to be truly wise. The greatest men who have ever figured upon the stage of action, fully recognised

the power of omnipotence, and feared to offend the great Jehovah. The sages of the American revolution were constantly under the influence of this salutary principle. This may be inferred from their writings, their examples, and the proceedings of the Continental Congress. Days of humiliation and prayer were frequently fixed and recommended by legislative proclamation, by the states and by the general government.

Among those of the signers who appears to have lived with the fear of God before his eyes, was WILLIAM HOOPER, a native of Boston, Massachusetts, born on the 17th of June, 1742. He was the son of the Reverend William Hooper, who came from Kelso, in the south of Scotland, and was for many years the pastor of Trinity church in Boston. He was a man of high accomplishments, a good scholar, an able and eloquent preacher, and a devoted christian. He was useful in life and lived in the affections of his people.

William, being of a slender constitution, received the first rudiments of his education from his father under the parental roof. At the age of seven years he was placed under the care of Mr. Lovell, and at the age of fifteen he entered Harvard University. His talents were of a high order and his industry untiring. His mind was moulded in wisdom, and averse to trifling amusements and fleeting pleasures. During vacation he repaired to his father's library and devoted himself to the acquisition of knowledge, instead of obtaining a relaxation from study by mingling in the convivial circle. He had a great taste for the classics and polite literature. He paid particular attention to composition and elocution. Refinement in every thing was his aim.

In 1760, he graduated with the degree of bachelor of arts, and commenced the study of law under James Otis, one of the most distinguished counsellors of that day. From the pious course of his life from his youth up, his father had indulged a hope that his inclination would have led him to the pulpit, but cheerfully submitted to the choice he had made. The same industry and correct deportment that carried him successfully through college, enabled him to master the intricate science of his election, and gain the esteem of all who knew him. After completing his course he was admitted to prastice, richly stored with theory for future use.

Manhood had now spread its dignified mantle over him. He was of the middle height, slender and elegant in form, gentlemanly and engaging in his manners, with strangers rather resewe, with his friends frank and familiar, free from affectation, of a selous turn, and at all times honest and sincere. His countenance badmed with intelligence and benignity, his powers of conversation wảre pleasing and instructive, chaste and classical. His mind was nvestigating, deliberative, analyzing and firm. His habits were strictly moral; his disposition was benevolent, hospitable and kind. As a public speaker he was eloquent, persuasive, logical and sometimes sarcastic. With qualities like these, Mr. Hooper repaired to Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1766, and commenced the practice of his profession. He was induced to locate there by several wealthy connexions residing in that place. He soon obtained a lucrative business; and to convince the people that he contemplated a permanent location among them, he married Miss Anna Clark, a lady of unusual accomplishments and strength of mind, and highly respectable in her character and connexions. She was the sister of General Thomas Clark.

His legal fame rose rapidly and was built upon a substantial basis. About the year 1768, he was employed to conduct several important public trials, which he managed with such skill and address, as to place him among the ablest advocates of the province. He was treated with marked attention by Governors Tryon and Martin, and by chief justice Howard.

These attentions from the king's officers arose, in a measure, from the superior talents and merit of Mr. Hooper, but had also an ulterior object-that of gaining his influence in favour of the designs of their royal master. This could not be accomplished. He had received his legal education in Boston, where the designs of ministers had been probed for years. He had imbibed liberal principles and was a friend to equal rights. Upon the firm basis of eternal justice he had planted himself, from which flattery could not decoy him nor threatening dangers drive him. · One peculiar circumstance may have caused a particular attachment for him on the part of the officers of government, that of having taken a bold stand against a class of desperadoes called regulators, who formed a dangerous association as early as 1766, in the interior of the province. They were composed principally of men who were ignorant, poor and savage, collected and led by men of more intelli. gence but of baser minds, who incited them to open rebellion by com. plaints against the civil authorities, and the promise of reward. They drove the judges from the bench and committed many personal outrages. They even set the military at defiance, and threatened to assume the entire rule. At that alarming crisis, Mr. Hooper was one who ame forward and dared to advise decisive measures. The number of the regulators had accumulated to three thousand. The plan of Mr. Hooper was carried into execution; a military force was raised, a severe baule ensued and the insurgents were dispersed. This occurred in 1770

In 1773, kr. Hooper was elected a member of the assembly of North Carolina, and discharged his duties so much to the satisfaction of his constituents, 'hat they returned him the ensuing year. It was then that the creatures of the crown attempted to throw a ministerial coil of oppression around tin people, and it was then that they found a bold, fearless, eloquent and incompromising opponent in William Hooper. He not only met them in the legislative hall with incontrovertible arguments, but he spread "heir designs before the public far and wide, by a series of essays over tin signature of Hampden. His course was in favour of liberal principles, but ruinous to his purse. The question before the asseinbly was the re-organization of the judiciary, which had become defunct by the expiration of the statute that created it. An attempt was made to model it in such a manner as to meet the designs of the British cabinet. So powerful was the in

fluence of Mr. Hooper, that he kept his opponents at bay, and the province was a year without any courts.

He was now fairly before the people, a champion for liberty. On the 25th of August, 1774, he was appointed a delegate to the Congress of Philadelphia. In that body he was placed on the important committee that prepared a statement of the rights of the colonies, the manner these rights had been infringed, and the most probable means of affecting their restoration. He was also one of the committee that reported the statutes that affected the trade and manufactures of the colonies. Upon the report of these two committees all the conclusive proceedings of that Congress were based, from which we may infer that the ablest and most active men were placed upon them. The ensuing year he was re-elected to the national assembly, and soon after he took his seat, he was appointed chairman of a committee to prepare an address to the people of Jamaica relative to British oppression. It was written by him, and is in a style bold, vigorous and classical. The following extract is a fair sample. Speaking of the plan of action laid and pursued by the British ministry, he writes: 6. That our petitions have been treated with disdain, is now become the smallest part of our complaint. Ministerial insolence is lost in ministerial barbarity. It has, by an exertion peculiarly ingenious, procured those very measures which it laid us under the hard necessity of pursuing, to be stigmatised in parliament as rebellious. It has plunged us in all the horrors and calamities of civil war. It has caused the treasures and blood of Britain, formerly exhausted and shed for far other ends, to be spilt and wasted in the execrable design of spreading slavery over British America. It will not, however, accomplished its aim; in the worst contingency a choice will still be left which it can never prevent us from taking.”

On the 12th of June, Mr. Hooper offered the following resolution in Congress, which demonstrates the position taken in the exordium of this sketch.

"It is at all times an indispensable duty devoutly to acknowledge the superintending providence of the great governor of the world, especially in times of impending danger and public calamity-to reverence and adore his immutable justice as well as to implore his merciful interposition for our deliverance; therefore,

“Resolved, that it is recommended by Congress that the people of the American colonies observe the twentieth day of July next as a day of public humiliation, fasting and prayer."

The zeal and exertions of this patriot were of the most vigorous character. He served on numerous committees and was highly esteemed by all the members. His constituents were so well satisfied with his course that he was returned a third time to the honourable post he had so ably filled. In the spring of 1776, he was a member of the conventions that convened at Hillsborough and Halifax, and was one of the leading and most eloquent speakers. He also prepared an address to the people of the British empire that was written with much nerve and energy. He then repaired to his place in Congress, and boldly supported the declaration of rights. "He had long been

convinced of its propriety, and when the thrilling moment arrived for the final decision he sanctioned it by his vote and signature. He was an unwavering friend to the cause he had espoused; patient, cheerful, persevering, prudent and firm under all circumstances.

In February, 1777, he obtained leave of absence from Congress and returned to his family. When the news of the defeat of Washington at Germantown reached him at Wilmington, he was surrounded by a circle of his friends, who seemed dismayed at the intelligence. He rose calmly from his seat and remarked, with great animation and cheerfulness, "We have been disappointed !--but no matter-now that we have become the assailants there can be no doubt of the issue.”

Before his return his property had suffered from royal vengeance; his personal safety now became endangered and he was compelled to fly into the interior for safety. His family had removed several times. He made arrangements, in the event of the subjugation of the colonies by the British, to remove to one of the French West India Islands, where, it is said, all the signers, with the French minister, would have went, had not the independence of the states been sustained. He did not return to Wilmington until it was evacuated in 1781, during which time his family was there, exposed to the insults of the enemy. He appears not to have returned to Congress again, but mingled with the people, rousing them to a sense of their duty, and was an active member of the state councils. In 1782 he removed to Hillsborough, and endeavoured to restore his long neglected private affairs to order. In 1786, he was appointed by Congress a judge of the court organized to settle the controversy between New York and Massachusetts relative to disputed territory, a delicate and important duty, from which he was relieved by an amicable settlement by the litigants before the court proceeded to act in the premises. · Mr. Hooper continued to take a conspicuous part in the legislation of North Carolina, and also pursued the practice of his profession until 1787, when bis health began to decline and he retired from public life and from the bar, to enjoy that repose in domestic felicity which had always been more congenial to his mind than public stations, however lofty. In his retirement he carried with him the esteem of his fellow citizens and the gratitude of a nation of freemen. Not a blemish could be found to tarnish the fair fame of his public career or private reputation. He had served his country faithfully and discharged the duties of friend, citizen, lawyer, patriot, husband and father, with fidelity. From the elevated eminence of conscious integrity he looked back upon his past life—with the eyes of faith he looked forward to a crown of unfading glory, and in October 1790, closed his eyes in death and resigned his soul to that God whom to fear is the beginning of wisdom.

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »