« PředchozíPokračovat »
supply-the British violating the laws of humanity-of nations and all rules of civilized warfare. This base treatment impaired his health and laid the foundation of disease that hastened his death. His çapture was effected by the information of a Tory who was subsequently indicted and punished for his perfidy.
This abuse of one of its members roused the indignation of Congress. Gen. Washington was directed to send a flag of truce to Gen. Howe and through great exertions finally obtained the release of Mr. Stockton. Simultaneous with his capture the demoniac enemy committed to the flames his extensive library, papers and everything combustible-leaving his highly ornamented plantation a blackened waste.
Oppressed by want and disease he was unable again to take his seat in Congress but continued to be a consulted counsellor in public affairs at his residence near Princeton. His opinions had great weight and provea a national blessing. Among his complicated diseases he had a painful cancer upon his neck. He endured his severe affliction with Christian fortitude up to the 28th of February 1781 when death relieved him from pain and consigned hirn to the peaceful kingdom of the dead. At his exit to the world of spirits many warm hearts were sad-thousands dropped the sympathetic tear-our nation mourned the loss of a valued
Thus prematurely closed the brilliant career of one of the bright luminaries of that eventful period. His science and knowledge were unusually extensive. He was the first Chief Justice of his state under the new constitution. He acquitted himself nobly in all the relations of lifelawyer, judge, statesman, patriot, gentleman, citizen, friend, husband, father, Christian and man. He was an ornament to society-an honor to his country and a blessing to mankind.
The man who has a just sense of the responsibilities of a high public office is the last to seek it. The more clearly a sensible unassuming man perceives the magnitude of a public trust the more he mistrusts his capacity to discharge its duties-yet such a man is the very one to be trusted. It was with great diffidence that Washington assumed the command of the American armies. No one can be pointed out who possessed as fully all the requisites to meet the times that tried the souls and bodies of men. John Hancock quailed under his appointment to the Presidential Chair of Congress. No one manifested more firmness in the cause of freedom-no one could have filled that chair with more dignity.
It is only in times of danger that men of the greatest worth become most conspicuous. They are then sought for by the virtuous portion of community. In times of peace and prosperity the same men may be called to the councils of a nation without exciting great applause whilst the names of noisy demagogue politicians are carried over the world on the wings of venal partisan prints and held up as the conservators of the body politic. It is at such times that our best men shrink from the public gaze.
It is at such times that the canker worm of political intrigue carries on the work of death. It is at such times that peculation stalks abroad at noon day with hideous form and unblushing impudence. It is at such times that the conclave caucusers consume the midnight oil to concoct plans to dupe the dozing people and secure to themselves the loaves and fishes. It is only in times of strong commotion and certain peril that men of sterling merit become most prominent and are duly appreciated. This fact was fully demonstrated during the American Revolution. Many were then called to deliberate in the solemn assemblies who had not been previously known as public men and who retired when the mighty work of Independence was completed. They were selected for their discretion, honesty, wisdom, firmness and patriotism.
Of this class was Thomas Stone, a descendant of William Stone who was governor of Maryland during the reign of Cromwell. He was born at Pointon Manor, Charles County, Maryland in 1743. He was well educated under the instruction of a Scotch clergyman and read law with Thomas Johnson of Annapolis. He commenced a successful practice at that place and was held in high estimation by the community in which he lived. Modest, unassuming, industrious, a close student, a judicious counsellor and an honest man-he was admired and beloved for his substantial worth and sterling merit. He possessed a clear head, sound judgment and good heart. His mind was vigorous, analyzing, investigating and philosophical. He was a friend to equal rights and delighted in seeing every one happy. He detested oppression in all its various shades from the abuse of a worm up to the capstone of the climax of creation-Man. He was patriotic, kind, noble, benevolent, generous.
With such feelings he could not carelessly look upon the oppressions of the Grenville administration. When the Stamp Act was passed he was a youth in politics but the discussions upon its odiousness deeply interested him. He was an attentive listener and a thorough investigator. His opposition to such encroachments became firm. A holy indignation was awakened in his manly bosom and prepared him for future action. Still he avoided the public gaze. In private circles he conversed freely, lucidly and understandingly upon the subject of American rights and British wrongs. But just previous to his being called by his country to deliberate in her councils could he be induced to mount the rostrum in the forum and display his very respectable forensic powers. When the Boston Port Bill was proclaimed Mr. Stone surmounted the barriers of diffidence and came out boldly against abused power. His example had a salutary influence upon those around him. All knew there must be something radically wrong-that some portentous cloud hung over the Colonies if Thomas Stone was roused to public action. In times of peril the influence of such men is of the highest value. The declaimer who is always on hand at public meetings charged with a Niagara cataract of words must be a Demosthenes or Cicero to long keep a strong hold upon the hearts of the people. And if he does so his influence is only popular-not of that deeptoned kind that moves the living mass only from a deliberate conviction of imperative duty. The cool, the reflecting, the calculating, the timid and the wavering are operated upon magically when they see such a man as Thomas Stone go boldly forward and advocate a cause that they at first believed problematical.
On the 8th of December 1774 he was elected to the Continental Congress and took his seat on the 15th of the ensuing May. The meeting had been deeply solemn and imposing the year before but at that time increased responsibilities rested upon the members. The cry of bloodwas ringing in their ears-the fury of the revolutionary storm was increasing the clash of arms and mortal combat had commenced-the vials of British wrath were unsealed-civil government was at an end. To meet such a crisis required the wisdom of Solon, the patriotism of Cincinnatus, the acuteness of Locke, the eloquence of Demosthenes and Cicero, the caution of Tacitus, the learning of Atticus, the energy of Virginius, the honesty of Socrates, the justice of Aristides, the boldness of Cæsar, the perseverance of Hannibal, the concentrated and harmonious action of all the colonies. These qualities were all represented by the members of the Continental Congress to a degree that has no parallel in history. Mr. Stone commenced his legislative duties with vigor and prosecuted them with zeal. He was at first trammelled by instructions from the Maryland Assembly the members of which hoped for peace without recourse to arms. Increasing oppressions soon removed this injunction and enabled him to join in all measures calcu
lated to promote the cause of Independence. When the millennial sun of Liberty rose upon the new world on the 4th of July 1776 Mr. Stone was at his post and became a subscribing witness to the dissolution of that unequal partnership where the labor had been performed by one party and the profits consumed by the other.
Mr. Stone retired from Congress in 1777. He had been a faithful laborer in the committee rooms-an influential member in the House.
He had bestowed much time and thought upon the Articles of Confede· ration and felt bound to remain until they were perfected and adopted.
That important work completed he left the national Council carrying with him the esteem of his co-workers in the cause of freedom, the approbation of a good conscience and the gratitude of his constituents. In 1778 he was elected to the Maryland legislature and became an important and influential member. During that session the Articles of Confederation that he had aided in framing at the preceding Congress were submitted for consideration. At first they met with strong opposition. Better understanding them Mr. Stone was able to meet every objection and was largely instrumental in their adoption. In 1783 he again took his seat in Congress and fully sustained his high reputation for usefulness. Devoted to the best interests of his country, free from political ambition, sincere in his profession of republican principles, frank in his intercourse, honest in his purposes-he was safely entrusted with every station he was called to fill. He was present when Washington resigned his commission and retired from the field of epic glory to the peaceful shades of Mount Vernon amidst the loud plaudits of admiring millions and the mingled tears of joy and gratitude that stood like pearly dew-drops in the eyes of his countrymen and compatriots in arms.
The ensuing year Mr. Stone closed his labors in Congress and retired from the public arena. During the last session of his services he frequently presided and was esteemed highly as President pro tempore by all the members for his ability, dignity and impartiality. As a further mark of esteem he was elected to the convention in 1787 that framed the Federal Constitution but declined any further public service and did not attend. On the 5th of October the same year he was suddenly called from the judicial Bar of Port Tobacco, Maryland, to the Bar of the Judge of quick and dead to render an account of his stewardship. His decease was deeply lamented by his numerous friends, a grateful nation and millions of freemen.
Mr. Stone was cut off in the prime of life, in the midst of a brilliant career of usefulness with the prospect of future honors opening brightly
before him. He lived long enough to be extensively useful and earnei a rich fame-imperishable as the pages of history-lasting as human intelligence. From the moment he first took his place in society to the present-the tongue of slander or the breath of detraction have never attempted to cast a slur upon his reputation as a public man or private citizen. He was a rare model of discretion, propriety and usefulnessa true specimen of the Simon pure salt of the body politic, rendering efficient services to his country without noise or parade and without the towering talents of a Henry. Such men are above all price and can be relied upon in the hour of danger as safe sentinels to guard the best interests of our nation. We have more of the same sort who are living in retirement. Let the people break them in and bring them out that our UNION may be preserved.
A PURELY republican government is enrapturing in theory. To reduce this beautiful theory to successful operation the body politic must be sound and healthful in all its parts. It must be wielded by enlightened rulers whose hearts are free from guile, whose judgments are strong and matured, whose characters are without reproach, whose conduct is always consistent, whose patriotism extinguishes all self, whose virtue lifts them above all temptation to digress from the most exalted honesty and rigid morality, whose minds are stored with useful knowledge-large experience and whose souls are imbued with wisdom from above.
In such a condition and in such hands this kind of government is calculated to bring out and elevate the intellectual powers of man, unfold to the mind correct and liberal principles, promote social order and general happiness by diffusing its radiant light, its refulgent rays, its benign influence to the remotest bounds of the human family. In such a condition and in such hands it would become the solar fountain of mental improvement, the polar star of soaring genius, the brilliant galaxy of expanding science, the prolific field of religious enterprise, a shining light to benighted man. Its sunbeams of living light would warm into mellow life the ignorant, the oppressed, the forlorn. Its harmonious links would form a golden chain that would encircle earth and reach to heaven. It would be a messenger of peace inviting the weary pilgrims of bondage in every clime to a reposing asylum of peaceful, quiescent rest. This is the kind of government the Sages