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FISHER AMEs was born at Dedham, in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, on the ninth of April, 1758. He was descended from one of the oldest families in the province. His father, Nathaniel Ames, was a physician of some eminence. To his skill in his profession he added a knowledge of astronomy and mathematics, and for several years published an almanac or An Astronomical Diary, which was “yearly sought for on account of the correct calculations, trite maxims, and the strict morality which filled its interstices."
At an early age Fisher Ames exhibited an ardent fondness for classical literature. When only six years old he commenced the study of Latin, and although experiencing great disadvantages from a frequent change of instructors, he made rapid improvement, and was admitted to Harvard College in the year 1770, shortly after the completion of his twelfth year. While at college he was remarkable for his application and industry during the hours devoted to study, and for his vivacity and animation during those set apart for relaxation and pleasure. From the geniality and modesty of his character, he soon acquired the friendship of all around him. He was a member of a society which had been formed by the students for improvement in elocution. "It was early observed that he coveted the glory of eloquence. In his declamation be. fore this society, he was remarked for the energy and propriety with which he delivered such specimens of impassioned oratory as his genius led him to select. His compositions at this time bore the characteristic stamp which has always marked his speaking and writing. They were sententious and full of ornament.” In 1774 Mr. Ames graduated, and for a short time devoted himself to teaching, occupying the hours in which he was relieved from that employment in reviewing the classics he had studied at college, and in reading ancient and modern history, as well as "some of the best novels." He was a great lover of poetry, and became familiar with all the principal English writers in that branch of literature. He dwelt with enthusiasm upon the beauties of Milton and Shakspeare, and held in memory many of their choicest passages. This course of reading helped to furnish “that fund of materials for speaking and writing which he possessed in singular abundance, his remarkable fertility of allusion, and his ability to evolve a train of imagery adapted to every subject of which he treated.”
Mr. Ames pursued a course of law under the care of William Tudor, * of Boston, and in the fall of the year 1781 commenced practice in his native town. The affairs of government soon attracted his attention. On the twelfth of October, 1786, appeared from his pen a speculation upon the state of politics in Massachusetts, under the title of Lucius Junius Brutus, and in March of the year following he published two more pieces touching upon the same points, under the title of Camillus. These productions gave Mr. Ames much renown; "the leading men of the State turned their eyes to him as one destined to render the most important services to the
• William Tudor, a son of John Tudor, was born at Boston, Massachusetts, on the 28th of March, 1750. IIo graduated * Harvard College in 1769, studied law with John Adams, and was admitted to practice in 1772. In the army of the Pevolation he held the commission of a colonel, and from 1775 to 1778 he was judge-advocate-general. He was a member the House and Senate, and in 1809 and 1810 the Secretary of State. Of the Massachusetts Historical Society he was one of the founders. He died in July, 1808.-Loring's Boston Orators: Mass. Hist. Collections.
country.” In 1788 he was chosen to the State legislature, in which assembly he advocated im portant educational measures, in view of elevating the character of the great mass of the people, and rendering them capable of higher enjoyments. In 1789 he was elected a member of the first Congress under the constitution, in which body he remained during the eight years of Washington's administration. He was a strong advocate of the federal policy, and on every question of importance took an active part. He opposed the commercial resolutions of Mr. Madison, because he thought " that commerce could not be served by regulations, which should oblige us to “sell cheap and buy dear,' and he inferred that the effect of the resolutions could only be to gratify partialities and resentments, which all statesmen should discard.” In April, 1796, he delivered his celebrated speech on the appropriation for Jay's Treaty, a production full of the deepest pathos and richest eloquence.* At the termination of the session of Congress, Mr. Ames travelled at the south for his health, which had for many months been gradually sinking. On his partial recovery, he took his seat at the next session, and entered upon the duties of his office. At the end of this session he returned to his home at Dedham, and declining a re-election, took upon himself the practice of his profession. He continued writing politi cal essays during the remainder of his life, all of which bear the mark of the statesman and ripe scholar. In the year 1804 he was called to the chair of the presidency of Harvard College, which honor he declined on account of failing health, and a consciousness that his habits were not adapted to the office. On the morning of the Fourth of July, 1808, he expired, having just completed the fiftieth year of his age.t
The House of Representatives, on the third | cases, on the manufactures and navigation of of January, 1794, resolved itself into a Com- foreign nations, employed in the commerce of mittee of the Whole, on the report of Mr. Jef- the United States, than those now imposed.? ferson, Secretary of State, “On the nature and On these resolutions Mr. Ames addressed the extent of the privileges and restrictions of the committee on the twenty-seventh of January, commercial intercourse of the United States as follows: with foreign nations, and the measures which Mr. CHAIRMAN : The question lies within this he thought proper to be adopted for the im- compass: is there any measure proper to be provement of the commerce and navigation of adopted by Congress, which will have the efthe ” when Mr. Madison introduced a se-footing? If there is, it is our undoubted right
fect to put our trade and navigation on a better same," ries of resolutions, proposing to impose “fur- to adopt it, (if by right is understood the power ther restrictions and higher duties, in certain of self-government, which every independent
nation possesses,) and our own as completely as * Dr. Charles Caldwell, in his autobiography, thus speaks of Ames's eloquence: “He was decidedly one of the most * Mr. Madison, in explanation of his motives and views, splendid rhetoricians of the age. Two of his speeches, in a spoke of the security and extension of our commerce as a special manner-that on Jay's treaty, and that usually called principal object for which the federal government was his Tomahawk speech' (because it included some resplen- formed. He urged the tendency of his resolutions to secure dent passages on Indian massacres)--were the most bril- to us an equitable share of the carrying trade; that they liant and fascinating specimens of eloquence I have ever would enable other nations to enter into competition with heard; yet have I listened to some of the most celebrated England for supplying us with manufactures; and in this speakers in the British Parliament-among others, to Wild way he insisted that our country could make her enemies berforce and Mackintosh, Plunket, Brougham, and Canning: feel the extent of her power, by depriving those who manu. and Dr. Priestley, who was familiar with the oratory of Pitt factured for us of their bread. He adverted to the measures the father and Pitt the son, and also with that of Burke and enforced by a cortain nation contrary to our maritime rights, Fox, made to myself the acknowledgment that, in his own and out of the proceeds of the extra impositions proposed, words, the speech of Ames, on the British treaty, was the he recommended a reimbursement to our citizens of their most bewitching piece of parliamentary oratory he had ever losses arising from those measures. He maintained that it listened to."
the nation cannot protect the rights of its citizens, it ought + In the preparation of this sketch, the editor has relied to repay the damage; and that we are bound to obtain mainly on Mr. Kirkland's chaste memoir of Mr. Ames, which reparation for the injustice of foreign nations to our citizens is attached to the published works of that eminent orator. I or to compensate them ourselves.-Ames's Works, page 24.