Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

in a profession, which is conversant with danger, when its threatenings are too far distant to produce any sensible effect; they are hurried through the field of death by that excitement and enthusiasm, which render them for the moment insensible of personal peril. By a wise ordinance of nature the instinct of self preservation ceases on those awful fields of carnage, where mountains of the slain show to how little purpose it could operate, and a new feeling more of frenzy than of reason produces prodigies of valour by men, who have no interest in the result; who seem destined to equal suffering, whether the battle be lost or won.

The educated and intelligent mind in the exercise of moral courage has harder and nobler duty. Life to a man of this character is not the mere fact of animal existence, but the manner of it. It is fame, honour, renown. To him it is not a question, whether he shall court danger and die nobly, but whether the conduct, which may terminate life, will not sacrifice reputation. The prospect before him is not glory in the field, but ignominy on the scaffold ; not the honour which is never denied to a brave man beaten in battle, but the shame which attaches to the convicted traitor, whose misfortunes imply false calculation, and are registered as crimes. No impulse but judgment, no enthusiasm but duty contributes to this moral firmness. It is cool, calculating and deliberate. It decides in the calmness of reflection, when duty and danger, or defection and safety are not concealed by any parade of circumstance.

[graphic]

Men of this description composed the American congress. Posterity will be generous to their fame. Every year has increased the brightness of their glory. The signers of the declaration of independence will receive the admiration of a grateful country through all the coming ages

of the American republic.

The news was received every where with joy and festivity, and especially by the patriots of Massachusetts,* who had so earnestly urged the consummation of independence.

MAJOR HAWLEY TO MR. GERRY.

NORTHAMPTON, JULY 17, 1776. DEAR SIR, I have often said that I supposed a declaration of independence would be accompanied with a declaration of high treason : most certainly it

* It was announced in Boston with military pomp. Gunpowder was plenty enough to allow of a grand national salute of thirteen guns. The public officers partook of a collation in the council chamber.

Success is more rarely borne with equanimity than misfortune. “ In the evening the king's arms, and every other sign with any resemblance to it, whether Lion and Crown, Pestle, Mortar and Crown, Heart and Crown, &c., together with every sign that belonged to a tory were taken down, and the latter made a general conflagration of in King's Street."

must immediately and without the least delay follow it. Can we subsist ? Did any state ever subsist without exterminating traitors? I never desire to see high treason extended here further than it is now extended in Britain. But an act of high treason we must have instantly. The colonies have long suffered inexpressibly for want of it. No one thing made the declaration of independence indispensably necessary more than cutting off traitors. It is amazingly wonderful, that having no capital punishment for our intestine enemies, we have not been utterly ruined before now. For God's sake, let us not run such risks a day longer. It appears to me, sir, that high treason ought to be the same in all the United States ; -saving to the legislature of each colony or state the right of attainting individuals by act or bill of attainder. The present times show most clearly the wisdom and sound policy of the common law in that doctrine, or part thereof, which consists in attainting by an act of the whole legislature. Our tories (be sure the learned of them) knew very well the absurdity of punishing as high treason any acts or deeds in favour of the government of the king of Great Britain so long as we all allowed him to be king of the colonies. Dear sir, this matter admits of no delay ; and when the act declaratory of high treason is passed, the strongest recommendation for a strict execution of it, I humbly conceive, ought to accompany it. Our whole cause is every moment in amazing danger for want of it. The common understanding of the people (like unerring instinct) has long declared this; and from the clear discerning which they have had of it, they have been long in agonies about it: they expect that effectual care will now be taken for the general safety, and that all those who shall be convicted of endeavouring by overt act to destroy the state, shall be cut off from the earth.

The levying an army for the war after the first of January next lies heavy upon me. The present levies for reinforcing the armies are by order of congress only till the first of December next. It appears to me high time to set seriously and in the greatest earnest about it. I observe, sir, that you charge the miscarriages in Canada partly to the short time for which the troops were raised. You know that nothing will detain our people after the expiration of the' term for which they were engaged. It will be in vain to attempt to enlist New-England people for a longer term than two years. No bounties will induce them to engage for a longer time; I fear for no longer time than one year.

I have not time to add a word more. Too early or earnest care cannot be taken for the providing good barracks and covering for our northern army or armies against the cold season of the year: they suffered much last campaign when about Boston, for want of seasonable covering and firing.

We are apt to delay. Let us strain every nerve. Don't let us hesitate a moment at any necessary expense. We will conquer or die. Amen.

If you judge any thing in this confused epistle worth communicating to your brethren of this colony, (to whom I present my sincerest respects) you are at liberty to communicate it.

And I am, dear sir,
Your true friend,
And faithful humble servant,

JOSEPH HAWLEY. Mr. Gerry.

MR. DALTON* TO MR. GERRY.

NEWBURYPORT, JULY 19, 1776. DEAR SIR, I wish you joy on the late full declaration,—an event so ardently desired by your good self and the people you particularly represent. We are no longer to be amused with delusive prospects. The die is cast. All is at stake. The way is made plain. No one can now doubt on which side it is his duty to act. We have every thing to hope from the goodness of our cause. The God of justice is omnipotent. We are not to fear what

* Mr. Dalton was speaker of the house of representatives of Massachusetts, and afterwards a member of the senate of that state, from which he was elected to the first senate of the United States under the present constitution.

« PředchozíPokračovat »