« PředchozíPokračovat »
Deservedly popular, a patriot of the first water, an officer of cool undaunted bravery and great skill-he exerted a large and salutary influence. He was very successful during the winter and reported himself to Gen. Washington early in April-receiving the hearty thanks of the commander-in-chief for his faithful services during the struggle for freedom. At West Point he closed his long and useful military career-took an affectionate leave of his companions in arms-urged upon his troops the propriety of returning to their homes in peaceful and dignified order and of preserving pure and untarnished the rich laurels that decked their manly brows. He was greeted with enthusiastic applause and tears of affection unknown to the present era. He returned to the warm embrace of his dear family and bid a last farewell to public life. His advice was often asked and wisely imparted in public affairs. Quietly and happily he passed down the current of time until the 8th day of May 1822 when his frail bark of earth was moored in the port of death-his immortal spirit in the haven of eternal rest.
In all the private relations of life Gen. Stark was pure beyond all suspicion. He was worthy, virtuous, amiable and honest in the fullest sense of these terms. In reviewing his life we are carried back to that eventful era when the pilgrim fathers held their lives by a slender tenure amidst the red men of the wilderness that they might enjoy that liberty of conscience which is the inalienable gift of God. If all could but faintly realize the value of the blood and treasure that our Liberty cost-the reckless party spirit that is now stripping that Liberty of its richest foliage, would be banished from the heart of every reflecting man-patriotism would revive like drooping plants after a summer shower-demagogues would find their proper level and disorganizers have permission to stay at home or make an excursion up salt river. Then we might more fondly hope for the perpetuity of our glorious UNION-the preservation of that FREEDOM which has been sacredly transmitted to our care.
DISCRETION is wisdom put in practice. It is the development of a sound judgment and good heart. It seeks a happy equilibrium in all things-aims at pure happiness in time and futurity-seeks to accom. plish noble ends by honorable means-shuns every appearance of evilmeets the ills flesh is heir to with Christian fortitude and resignatioi.
It applies the touch stone of plain common sense and Revelation to everything. The discreet man discerns what is clearly right and has moral courage and energy to pursue it. He is cool, deliberate, resolute, strong, efficient. He practices economy without parsimony, benevolence without ostentation, sincerity without dissimulation, goodness without affectation, religion without hypocrisy, power without abuse.
Parents should teach this sterling virtue to their children by precept and example. Teachers should enforce it upon their pupils as the helm of human action. It should be the bright morning star in the political arena-legislative halls-cabinet-executive chamber-international intercourse-courts of justice-seminaries of learning-pulpit-social meetings-domestic circle-family government-juvenile nursery-in shortdiscretion should regulate all our conduct for time and eternity.
So thought and so acted Richard Stockton, born near Princeton, New Jersey, in October 1730. His great grandfather of the same name came from England in 1670-purchased some 7000 acres of land near Princeton and in 1682 effected the first European settlement made in that part of the Province. On this estate the Stockton family continued to reside happily until driven off by the army of Lord Howe.
Under the instruction of the celebrated Rev. Dr. Samuel Finley, Principal of West Nottingham Academy in Maryland, the talents of Richard were rapidly and strongly developed in early youth. From that seminary he went to the college at Princeton and graduated at the first annual commencement of Nassau Hall in 1748. At the
of eighteen he commenced the study of law under David Ogden then at the head of the New Jersey bar. He studied closely for six years when he was admitted fully prepared for the practice of law. How different the course of law students now. Two years of superficial study is deemed a hardship by some young men. A mere smattering of the elementary principles is imprinted on their memories not on their understandings. A collegiate diploma and influential friends are thrown into the dangerous breach, a slight examination is made-the young men not the young lawyers, are admitted to the bar, fully prepared to create litigation and lead their clients into the vortex of error and trouble-perhaps ruin them.
Not so with Mr. Stockton. Years of toil had prepared him to become a safe and judicious adviser. He could clearly discern the right and wrong between litigants-then kindly enforce the one and correct the other by sound reasoning and a lucid exposition of the principles of law and equity applicable to the case. Such lawyers are peace makers-a blessing in community. The reverse are cancers upon
society-an annoyance to courts the sepulchres of their clients' moneyliving nuisances in the commoving mass.
Mr. Stockton opened an office at his paternal mansion and rose rapidly to the zenith of professional eminence. His fame expanded so widely that he was frequently employed to try important suits in other colonies. In 1763 he was honored with the degree of Sergeant at Law. In 1766, he closed his professional career richly rewarded for his faithful and arduous labors. He committed the settlement of his business and his practice to Elias Boudinot who had married his sister and who was well qualified to follow in the steps of his illustrious predecessor.
Anxious to further enrich his mind, in June of that year he embarked for Europe and arrived safely at London. His legal fame had been spread in that country-his visit was anticipated and he was received by the dignitaries of England with marked attention. He was presented at the Court of St. James by one of the Cabinet members and delivered to the King an address from the College of New Jersey, expressive of their joy at the repeal of the peace disturbing Stamp Act.
During his stay in Europe he rendered lasting service to this college by inducing Dr. Witherspoon to become its President pursuant to his recent election to that station-adding another brilliant star to the list of high minded talented patriots who nobly conceived, boldly prosecuted and gloriously consummated the emancipation of the colonies. During his visit he communicated freely with the statesmen of England who were friendly to the cause of constitutional rights and confirmed them more strongly in favor of the Americans.
In February following he visited Edinburgh where he received the kindest attention from those in commission who gave him the freedom of the city and a magnificent public dinner at which he delivered an eloquent and thrilling speech-fully sustaining his reported forensic fame-more than realizing their most sanguine anticipations. His company was courted by the most scientific of that ancient seat of learning. He was made the honored and welcome guest of every nobleman on whom he could call
He also visited Dublin and received the hearty Irish welcome so characteristic of that warm hearted nation. The oppressed situation of that down trodden people convinced him more strongly of the fate that awaited his native country if she yielded to the imperious and humiliating demands of the British ministry. His noble resolves were then and there made-he was prepared for future action. Mr. Stockton was surprised to find so few in England who under
stood the situation and character of the Americans-the English were astonished to find so great a man from the western wilderness. Misapprehension often produces disastrous consequences to individuals ana nations. The comprehensive mind of this philanthropist readily saw the result of this ignorance of the people of the mother country relative to the colonists and embraced every opportunity to dispel this dark mist that hung over the land of his ancestors like the mantle of night. With many he succeeded-but when those who wield the destiny of a nation are wading in corruption-breathing the atmosphere of tyranny-influenced by sordid avarice-thirsting for a stretch of power-delighting in cruelty and oppression-they dethrone reason-would dethrone Jehovah if they could-defy justice-trample on constitutions and laws-stop at nothing to accomplish their demoniac purposes. Thus acted the British ministers when they turned a deaf ear to the petitions and remonstrances of the Americans and the wise counsels and warning voices of the ablest statesmen in their Parliament. With untiring industry and determined perseverance they wove the web of our Independence and gave it an enduring and beautiful texture before unknown.
The mind of Mr. Stockton was enriched and embellished by his varied intercourse with the great men of the United Kingdom. He had listened to the forensic eloquence and powerful arguments of Blackstone and the other celebrated pleaders in Westminster Hall. He had treasured his mind with the clear and erudite decisions of the learned judges who then graced the English bench. He had witnessed the enrapturing rhetoric of Chatham-the logical genius of Burke-the fasci. nating manners of Chesterfield and saw Garrick on the flood tide of his glory.
After an absence of a little over a year he embarked for home and arrived in September 1767. He was received with demonstrations of the liveliest joy by his fellow citizens and with great kindness and affection by his relatives.
In consequence of the high opinion of his talents entertained by the king he appointed him to a seat in the Supreme Judiciary and Executive Council in 1769. In 1774 he was appointed an associate judge of the Supreme Court with David Ogden his law preceptor. Two better judges could not have been selected for the people-but to the king they ultimately became as obnoxious as a crown of thorns and plume of thistles.
The revolutionary storm was gathering. Dark clouds were rolling into a conglomerated mass. An awful crisis had arrived. The flames of revenge were spreading like fire on a prairie in autumn. Mr. Stock
ton was a favorite of the crown. It became necessary for him to choose whom he would serve. The immense influence he wielded made his decision of great importance to the king and Colonies. Now came the test of patriotism. Sordid self and inflated aristocracy could have had no difficulty in deciding. Nor had he, but came to a very different conclusion from most of the crown officers. He knew much of the mother country-he knew and loved his own better. The pomp of kings and pageantry of courts had no charms for him. He was a republican, a patriot, a friend of Liberty. In her cause he promptly enlisted-under her banner he took his stand willing to sacrifice kingly favor, property and life in defence of the sacred rights of his bleeding injured country. He carried with him his friend, Rev. Dr. Witherspoon, both of whom were elected to the Continental Congress in June 1776, just in time to immortalize their names by recording them on the Magna Charta of our rights. Mr. Stockton was among its boldest advocates, brandishing the amputating knife fearlessly in public and private circles. Nor did he stand alone. The members of that body soon acquired the art of cutting five and sir. They forged and finished a blade, pure as Damascus steel and placed it in the hands of their proscribed President. At one bold stroke the cords of parental authority were cut asunder. America was redeemed, regenerated and free. LIBERTY dipped her golden pen in the cerulean font of JUSTICE and recorded the names of the FIFTY-SEVEN upon the shining tablet of enduring fame. Heaven smiled its approbation-angels shouted for joy-nations gazed with admiring wonder-every patriot responded a loud-AMEN!!!
The rich store of information, matured experience, soaring talent and enrapturing eloquence of Mr. Stockton-rendered hiin one of the most useful members of that Congress. His acute knowledge of law, political economy, human nature, chartered rights and of men and things-commanded the respect and esteem of all his colleagues. He performed every duty with zeal, industry and integrity. In the autumn of 1776 he was sent with George Clymer to inspect the northern army, with power to supply its wants and correct any existing abuses. In the able discharge of this duty they had the approbation of Congress
and the army.
Soon after his return Mr. Siockton was called to remove his family to save his wife and children from the proverbial brutality of the approaching enemy. In the effort to do this he was taken prisoner and in the most inhuman manner taken to New York and consigned to the common prison. He was deprived of every comfort-kept twenty-four hours without any provision and then received a coarse and scanty