Obrázky stránek

was admitted to practice at the age of twenty-one years, and fixed his residence in Lancaster, where he married a highly respectable young woman named Lawler.

Mr. Ross first appeared in public life in 1768, when he was elected a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly for Lancaster. He was much respected in that body, and was re-elected several successive years. And when the enactments of the British Cabinet for enslaving the Colonies were causing the public men of America to define their positions, Mr. Ross very readily took sides with the patriots, and heartily commended the proposed measure of calling a General Congress. He was chosen one of the seven delegates which represented Pennsylvania in that august Convention, and was present at the opening in September, 1774. And, strange as it may appear, Mr. Ross was directed by the Assembly of Pennsylvania, to draw


the instructions which were to govern himself and his colleagues in the Continental Congress. And so highly was he esteemed by his fellow-citizens, that during the whole time that he was in Congress, from 1774 to 1777, he was regularly elected a member of the Assembly of Pennsylvania, as a representative for Lancaster. Nearly his whole time was consumed by attention to public duties in one or the other of these legislative councils, yet he freely gave it " without money and without price."* He was a warm supporter of the resolution of Mr. Lee, proposing independence, and joyfully signed the Declaration thereof, on the second of August, 1776.

The benevolent attributes of Mr. Ross's character, led him early to exercise an active sympathy for the remnants of the Indian tribes in his vicinity, and through his influence their condition was ameliorated, and justice meted

* As a testimony of their appreciation of his services in the General Congress, it was voted that the sum of one hundred and fifty pounds sterling should be sent to him as a free gift, from the treasury of Lancaster county. But his stern patriotism made him courteously refuse the proffered donation.

out to them, and their just wrath was frequently appeased by his exertions, when it threatened to burst like a consuming fire


the frontier settlements.* Both his own State Legislature and the National Council, made him a mediator in difficulties which arose with the Indians, and he acted the noble part of a pacificator, and a true philanthropist. Nor did his humane sentiments flow out toward the oppressed red man alone, but wherever weakness was trodden down by strength, he fearlessly lent his aid. Thus, when Tories or adherents to the Crown, were persecuted and imprisoned, and it was esteemed next to treason to defend their cause, Mr. Ross, Mr. Wilson, and a few others, were ever ready to plead in their behalf.t

In April, 1799, Mr. Ross was appointed a Judge of the Court of Admiralty for Pennsylvania, in which office he would undoubtedly have greatly distinguished himself, had not death suddenly closed his active and highly useful life, in July, 1780, in the fiftieth year of his age.

* It cannot be denied that the treatment of the Indian tribes at the hands of the whites, in a large majority of cases, has been such that it is not to be wondered at that the untutored mind of the savage should, in its excited workings, elaborate schemes of revenge, a sentiment growing out of injuries received, and a jealous foreboding of future expulsion from their hunting grounds and the graves of their fathers. Although unchristian and savage, yet the Indian possesses the sentiment of patriotism, and reveres the land of his fathers; and among no people upon earth is veneration for the resting place of the dead more strongly exhibited than by him. No wonder, then, that the vision of expatriation, perhaps annihilation, which the future revealed, should have made him arise in his might, and by the tomahawk and torch attempt to stay the flood of white settlement, whose surges beat so strongly against the feeble barriers of his already contracted domain. Had the law of kindness and the principle of justice always prevailed, as they did under the mild and prosperous rule of William Penn, the Indian would have been the white man's friend, and those dark pictures of fire and blood would never have appeared among the delineations of our eventful history.

+ The tories of the Revolution were far more despised (and justly so) by the patriots, than the mercenary troops of Great Britain. They not only lifted their hands against their own brethren, but in many cases their treachery and cruelty exceeded the worst acts of the British soldiery. During the winter, when the American army was suffering every thing but death at Valley Forge, the interior of Pennsylvania swarmed with tories; and when Washington, by order of Congress, proceeded to take, by force, the grain and other food which the tory farmers refused to sell to the army, they, in some instances, burnt their produce, rather than have it feed the starving Americans !

besar honey

ÆSAR RODNEY was born at Dover, in the
Province of Delaware, in the year 1730.
He was descended from English ancestry.
His grandfather came from England soon

after William Penn commenced the settlement of Pennsylvania.* After remaining a short time in Philadelphia, and forming acquaintances with some of its most esteemed citizens, he went into the county of Kent, on the Delaware, and settled down upon a plantation. He was an active man, and becoming very popular, he held many posts of honor and distinction in that Province. He had several sons, but lost them all except his youngest, Cæsar, the father of the subject of this memoir. Unambitious of public honors, and preferring the quiet of domestic life to the bustle and turmoil of the political field, he declined all offices that were tendered to him; and in the midst of agricultural pursuits he enriched his mind by study, and prepared his children for the duties of life.

* In 1681, William Penn, a member of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, and son of the English Admiral of that name, obtained a grant of Charles II. of all the lands embraced in the present State of Pennsylvania. That region had been colonized by Swedes, nearly forty years before, and Penn issued a proclamation, guarantying to permanent settlers undisputed right to the lands they occupied. The great aim of that good man was to establish an empire in the new world, upon the sacred principles of peace and brotherly love, where men of all nations, creeds, and hues, might live together as one harmonious family. Had the po cy of Wil. liam Penn, in conciliating the Indians by uniform kindness of treatment, been followed in the other colonies, much bloodshed might have been prevented, and the settlements would sooner have become permanent and prosperous. During the entire time that William Pemu was proprietor of Pennsylvania, not a single dispute occurred with the natives.

He married the daughter of an esteemed clergyman, and, Cæsar being the first born, received their special attention in the matter of education of mind and heart.

On the death of his father, Mr. Rodney as the eldest male heir inherited the paternal estate, and with it, the distinguished consideration with which the family had ever been regarded. There are no records to show at what precise time he appeared in public life, but as he seems to have been a leader in the recorded proceedings of the Legislature of that Province in 1762, it is quite probable that he had done service there some years earlier.

When the Stamp Act excited the jealousy and alarm of the colonies, Mr. Rodney boldly proclaimed his sentiments in opposition to it and several antecedent acts of injustice which the British government had inflicted upon her colonies in America. He acted as well as thought and spoke, and when the “ Stamp Act Congress” met in New York, in 1765, Mr. Rodney, together with Mr. M'Kean and Mr. Rollock, was chosen delegate thereto by a unanimous vote.

Mr. Rodney was a member of the Provincial Assembly in 1769, and was chosen its Speaker. He continued a member, and the Speaker of that body until 1774, and as chairman of the corresponding committee, he was arduous in plying his pen in the interchange of political sentiments with his compatriots in other colonies. He was elected a delegate to the General Congress, by a convention of the people of the three counties of Delaware, in Au. guss, 1774, and took his seat at the opening of Congress, on the fifth of September following. His colleagues were Thomas M’Kean and George Read, and three more devoted and active men than these could hardly be found. He was one of a committee who drew up a Declaration of Rights and set forth, in an address, the causes for complaint, under which the colonists groaned.

Mr. Rodney was elected a delegate for 1775, and while attending to his duties in Congress, he was appointed Brigadier General of his province. This appointment imposed heavy additional duties upon him, yet he did not shrink from their performance, and he was alternately in Congress and at home, attending at the latter place to the duties of his military station. He was there during the closing debates upon the proposition for a Declaration of Independence in 1776, but was sent for by his colleague, Mr. MʼKean, so as to secure the vote of Delaware for that important measure. He arrived in time to give his voice for independence, and enjoyed the high privilege of signing the revered parchment. On his return to his constituents they approved, by acclamation, of his acts in the National Council.

In the autumn of 1776, the people of Delaware called a convention to frame a State Constitution, and to elect delegates to the next Congress. Through the machinations of tory members of that convention, whose principles to a great extent leavened it, Mr. Rodney and Mr. M’Kean were not re-elected. But this only tended to increase his ardor, and his pen was constantly busy in correspondence. He was also enabled by this defeat, to attend to his private affairs which had suffered much by his absence.

After the battle of Princeton at the beginning of 1777, in which Colonel Haslet, who belonged to General Rodney's brigade, was killed, the latter immediately started for the army, and meeting Lord Stirling at Philadelphia, received orders to remain at Princeton, and make it a sort of recruiting station. General Rodney remained there for about two months, when his services became no longer necessary and he returned to his family.

Soon after his return home, he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court. He, however, declined the honor, preferring the more active life of his military station. He

« PředchozíPokračovat »