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ample of the efficiency and stability of representative democracies, maintained by equal laws, flowing from the general will, instead of the interested and arbitrary dictation of one or of a few,—it is not for us to rest contented with drawing all our law from the troubled fountains of transatlantic jurisprudence. The codes of Europe, whether of Roman or Germanic origin,—under whatever denomination, civil or common, they are respectively to be ranked, at the same time, that they abound in reverend maxims of justice, which demand our profoundest respect, are not devoid of equally reverend abuses and corruptions, which require to be stamped with reprobation. If it be a settled principle of one of these systems, that the good pleasure of the prince has all the force of law, it is no less the settled principle of another, that the king can do no wrong, and that the powers of parliament are as boundless even as space or time. Novel and unlike in spirit to our parent institutions as are the principles of government and legislation so happily established in this country, there is the greater necessity that jurists of eminent abilities, whom long study and practice of our laws have enabled to appreciate their defects and excellencies, should bring forth the stores of their erudition to direct and enlighten their fellow citizens. To consummate our independence, we need that our laws should be sifted of the relics of feudal barbarism which continue mingled with them, and that a strong line of demarcation should be clearly and distinctly drawn between what is and what is not adopted from the English into the American codes, so that one and the same uncontaminated spirit of liberty should pervade and animate all our political institutions. While our tribunals of justice and legislative assemblies are gradually effecting this object, as occasions call for their interposition, by sage decisions and enactments, private individuals may usefully cooperate in promoting the same end by disseminating sound and lucid expositions of the constitutions and laws of the confederate states; and in this honorable field of exertion we feel authorized to anticipate many benefits from such publications as the United States Law Journal.
ART. XII.-Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence. By John Sanderson; vols. I. and II. Philadelphia.
WE feel it a kind of national duty to recommend to our readers any publication, of respectable claims, which has for its end to commemorate the great events in our history. To put in the most striking and impressive form, the record of some of those great actions, which have signalized our short political career, is of itself a praiseworthy object, and we do not feel 'ourselves called upon to enforce the rules of literary taste on publications of this nature, which are not sent forth as specimens of literary skill. We have now before us the two first numbers or volumes of the work of Mr Sanderson on the signers of the declaration of independence. They contain 'five lives:—those of Hancock, Franklin, Wythe, Hopkinson, and Paine. These are preceded by an introduction, which fills about two thirds of the first volume, and is intended as a historical memoir of the colonies in succession. It may be doubted, if by this arrangement the unity of the biographical plan, in itself well conceived, is not unnecessarily violated. Honesty also compels us to say, notwithstanding the author's apology in the outset, that this portion of the work is too long and too diffuse, the reasoning not very original, and the relation laboring occasionally under the vital disease of a barrenness of facts. There is also, we must be pardoned for saying, in point of mere literary execution, much false taste of every kind, in this part of the book. The arrangement of the subject is a division of the history of the colonies, into four parts. The character of the colonists, their civil institutions and political relations with England, the wars which preceded the revolution, and the immediate causes which produced it, occupy each a chapter. The first chapter includes a view of the religious, literary, and moral character of our ancestors. Some just and clear views of the opinions entertanied by the colonists on the subject of their relation to Great Britain, are comprised in the second division, though certainly not improved by the rhetoric, in which they are conveyed. The Indian wars in New England, Virginia, and North Carolina, of the seventeenth century, the defeat of Braddock, the capture of Louisbourg and Quebec, are described with some spirit in the third;
and finally, in the fourth, the measures of the British Parliament of 1773 and 1774, and the battles of Lexington and Bunker Hill, introduce the declaration of independence, and close the Introduction.
In the preface to this work the author alludes to an objection occurring to the plan, in the following words: By attempting to exhibit so numerous a combination of contemporary statesmen, engaged in the same transactions and enterprises, and in a corporate capacity, he is circumscribed in prospect, confined to a uniformity of scenery, and induced almost unavoidably into tedious and frequent repetitions.' The justice of this remark is apparent in the progress of the work. After reading the sketch of the events of the 5th of March, &c. in the introduction, we are immediately presented with another account of the same occurrences, in the life of Governor Hancock. This portion of the biography, therefore, though it could hardly be spared in its connexion, might have led the author perhaps to doubt the expediency of so long an introduction. Much is also said of Samuel Adams in this article, which, of course, must be repeated in that devoted to him. On the occasion of the anniversary of the Boston massacre,' we find the following among the extracts from Governor Hancock's oration, which certainly when considered as spoken in a place garrisoned by the very troops alluded to, is exceedingly bold and impressive.
'I have, from the earliest recollections of youth, rejoiced in the felicity of my fellow men, and have considered it as the indispensable duty of every member of society to promote, as far as in him lies, the prosperity of every individual of his species, but more especially of the community to which he belongs; and also, as a faithful subject of the state, to use his utmost endeavors to detect and defeat every traitorous plot, which its enemies may devise for its destruction.'
'Some boast of being friends to government; I am a friend to righteous government, to a government founded upon the principles of reason and justice; but I glory in publicly avowing my eternal enmity to tyranny; and here suffer me to ask what tenderness, what regard, have the rulers of Great Britain manifested in their late transactions, for the security of the persons or property of the inhabitants of these colonies? Or rather, what have they omitted doing to destroy that security? They have usurped the right of ruling us, in all cases whatever, by arbitrary laws; they have exercised this pretended right, by imposing a tax upon New Series, No. 13.
us without our consent; and, lest we should show some reluctance at parting with our property, their fleets and armies are sent to enforce their mad and tyrannical pretensions. The town of Boston, ever faithful to the British crown, has been invested by a British fleet, the troops of George III. have crossed the Atlantic, not to engage an enemy, but to assist a band of traitors in trampling on the rights and liberties of his most loyal subjects; those rights and liberties, which, as a father, he ought ever to regard, and, as a king, he is bound in honor to defend from violations, even at the risk of his own life.'
'But I gladly quit the theme of death,-I would not dwell too long upon the horrid effects, which have already followed from quartering regular troops in this town; let our misfortunes instruct posterity to guard against these evils. Standing armies are sometimes (I would by no means say generally, much less universally) composed of persons, who have rendered themselves unfit to live in civil society; who are equally indifferent to the glory of a George or a Louis; who, for the addition of one penny a day to their wages, would desert from the christian cross, and fight under the crescent of the Turkish sultan; from such men as these what has not a state to fear? With such as these, usurping Cæsar passed the Rubicon. With such as these he humbled mighty Rome, and forced the mistress of the world to own a master in a traitor. These are the men, whom sceptered robbers now employ to frustrate the designs of God, and render vain the bounties which his gracious hand pours indiscriminately upon his creatures.' pp. 12-17.
In the character' of Governor Hancock too much and too frequent qualification seems to be employed in giving him the praise due to his liberality and patriotism. The writer indeed appears to entertain a just veneration for his virtues, but to think it necessary, perhaps, in point of historical accuracy, to allude pretty frequently to the various opinions entertained of Governor Hancock's merit by his contemporaries. It is, however, too well known how entirely 'censure is the tax paid for eminence,' to need that such circumstances as the current, popular dissensions of the day should be minutely examined, in regard to their effect on the reputation of men of worth. The various authorities of contemporaries are indeed the most valuable elements of biography in many points of fact, but when the vague opposition of party is alone in question, little necessity exists of combatting it, in the case of such men as Governor Hancock, and at this distance of time. The following are extracts from the close of this article :
'These are but few of the many particulars I might enumerate, did the subject require a further illustration: for there are, indeed, few lives, either ancient or modern, that afford, of disinterested generosity, more frequent and illustrious examples. Charity was the common business of his life. From his private benevolence a thousand families received their daily bread; and there is, perhaps, no individual mentioned in history, who has expended a more ample fortune in promoting the liberties of his country. Of this element of his character, as it is perhaps the most godlike virtue of human nature, a few examples may be permitted in its illustration.
'Previous to the demise of his paternal uncle, whom I have already mentioned as his patron and benefactor, the hall of the university had been destroyed by fire. The deceased, it was said, had expressed the intention of leaving five hundred pounds for the reparation of its library. No such appropriation was, however, made by his will; yet the sum was paid without hesitation by his heir.
The salary allowed by the constitution to the chief magistrate of the commonwealth of Massachusetts had occupied, for several years, the debates of the legislature. It was declared to be exorbitant, and was enumerated amongst the various grievances that had occasioned riot and insurrection in the state. An act for its reduction from eleven to eight hundred pounds had passed both houses of the legislature, but was negatived by the governor; and the subject being resumed under the administration of Mr Hancock, he intercepted all farther discussion of it, by a voluntary remission of the sum.
In 1775 it was proposed by the American officers who carried on the siege of Boston, that they might procure the expulsion of the enemy, to bombard or destroy the town. The entire wealth
of Mr Hancock was exposed, by the execution of this enterprise, to inevitable ruin; and whilst he felt for the sufferings of others with a very generous compassion, he required that no regard to his personal interests should obstruct the operations of the army.' pp. 38-40.
The life of Franklin begins the second volume, and of course must suffer from comparison with the delightful memoir of the early years of his life, by himself. It is well known that the first editions of this charming biography were retranslations from the French to the English. Nothing but the great simplicity and beauty of Franklin's style could have preserved, under similar circumstances, a manner so attractive as that of the little portion of his autobiography originally thus published.