Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

ians!-Let no thought enter thy heart-let no word fall from thy tongue--unworthy of such an audience.

As to that hero, whose memory we are now met to celebrate as a Proto-Martyr* to our rightsfor through whatever fields I have strayed, he has never escaped my view—as to him, I say, if any thing human could now reach his ear, nothing but the great concerns of virtue, liberty, truth and justice would be tolerable to him; for to these was his life devoted from his early years.

He had received a liberal education in Ireland his native country, before he went into the army; and was indeed endued with talents which would have led him to eminence in any profession. His own he studied with a felicity which soon distinguished his military abilities. But war and conquest having no other charms to him than as the necessary means of peace and happiness to mankind, he still found lei. sure, in the midst of camps, to cultivate an excellent taste for philosophy and polite literature. To these he added a careful study of the arts of government, and the rights of mankind; looking forward to that time, when he might return into the still scenes of private life; and give a full flow to the native and acquired virtues of a heart rich in moral excellence.

Above eighteen years ago, he had attained the rank of captain in the 17th British regiment, under General Monckton, and stood full in the way of higher preferment; having borne a share in all the

• The author did not intend to appropriate this term so as forget the merit of Dr. Warren, and other brave men who fell before in the same cause.

labours of our American wars, and the reduction of Canada. Ill-fated region! short-sighted mortals! Little did he foresee the scenes which that land had still in reserve for him! Little did those generous Americans, who then stood by his side, think that they were assisting to subdue a country, which would one day be held up over us, as a greater scourge in the hands of friends, than ever it was in the hands of enemies!

Had such a thought then entered their hearts, they would have started with indignation from the deed of horror. Their heroism would have appeared madness and parricide! The lifted steel would have dropped from the warrior's arm! The axe and the hoe from the labourer's hand! America would have weeped through all her forests; and her well-cultivated fields refused to yield farther sustenance to her degraded sons!

But far different were our thoughts at that time. We considered ourselves as co-operating with our British brethren for the glory of the empire; to enable them to secure our common peace and liberty; to humanize, adorn, and dignify, with the privileges of freemen, a vast continent; to become strong in our strength, happy in our happiness; and to derive that from our affection, which no force can extort from a free people; and which the miserable and oppressed cannot give!

And these, too, were the sentiments of our lamented hero; for he had formed an early attachment, amounting even to an enthusiastic love, to this country! The woodland and the plain; the face of nature, grand, venerable, and yet rejoicing in her prime; our mighty rivers, descending in vast torrents through wild and shaggy mountains, or gliding in silent majesty through fertile vales; their numerous branches and tributary springs; our romantic scenes of rural quiet; our simplicity of manners, yet uncorrupted by luxury or flagrant vice; our love of knowledge ard ardor for liberty—all these served to convey the idea of primæval felicity to a heart which he had taught to beat unison with the harmony of Heaven!

He therefore chose America, as the field of his future usefulness; and as soon as the blessings of peace were restored to his country, and duty to his sovereign would permit, he took his leave of the army; and having soon connected himself, by marriage, with an ancient and honourable family, in the province of New-York, he chose a delightful retirement upon the banks of Hudson's river, at a distance from the noise of the busy world! Having a heart distended with benevolence, and panting to do good, he soon acquired, without courting it, from his neighbours, that authority, which an opinion of superior talents and inflexible integrity, never fails to create.

In this most eligible of all situations, the life of a country gentleman, deriving its most exquisite relish from reflection upon past dangers and past services, he gave full scope to his philosophic spirit, and taste for rural elegance. Self-satisfied and raised above vulgar ambition, he devoted his time to sweet domestic intercourse with the amiable partner of his heart, friendly converse with men of worth, the study of useful books, and the improvement of his favoured villa. Nor from that happy spot did he wish to stray,

until he should receive his last summons to happiness more than terrestrial.

But when the hand of power was stretched forth against the land of his residence, he had a heart too noble not to sympathize in its distress. From that fatal day—in which the first American blood was. spilt by the hostile hands of British brethren, and the better genius of the empire, veiling her face in anguish, turned abhorrent from the strife of death among her children-I

say,

from that fatal day, he chose his part.

Although his liberal spirit placed him above local prejudices, and he considered himself as a member of the empire at large; yet America, struggling in the cause of Liberty, henceforth became his peculiar country;—and that country took full possession of his soul; lifting him above this earthly dross, and every private affection! Worth like his could be no longer hid in the shades of obscurity; nor permit him to be placed in that inferior station with which a mind, great in humility and self-denial, would have been contented. It was wisely considered that he who had so well learned to obey, was fittest to command; and therefore, being well assured of his own heart, he resigned himself to the public voice, nor hesitated a moment longer to accept the important commission freely offered to him; and, with the firm. ness of another Regulus, to bid farewel to his peaceful retirement, and domestic endearments.

Here followed a scene of undissembled tenderness and distress, which all who hear me may, in some degree, conceive; but all cannot truly feel. You only

who are husbands and fathers-whose hearts have been intimately blended with the partners of your bliss, and have known the pangs of separation, when launching into dangers, uncertain of your fate You only would I now more directly address. Give a moment's pause for reflection! Recall your own former feelings, your inward struggles, your virtuous tears; even on a transient separation from a beloved family! Here bid them again freely flow while you listen to our hero's parting words

Ye scenes where home-felt pleasures dwell,
And thou, my dearer self, farewell!
" Perhaps the cypress, only tree
“ Of all these groves, shall follow me*"
But still, to triumph or a tomb,

Where Virtue calls, I come, I comet. “ I COME, I come!” Nor were these the words of disappointed ambition; nor dictated by any sudden start of party zeal. He had weighed the contest well, was intimately acquainted with the unalienable rights of freemen, and ready to support them at every peril! He had long foreseen and lamented the fatal issue to which things were hastening. He knew that the sword of civil destruction, once drawn, is not easily sheathed; that men, having their minds inflamed and the weapons of defence in their hands, seldom know the just point where to stop, even when they have it in their power; and often proceed to actions, the bare contemplation of which would at first have astonished them.

• Hor. B. 2. Ode. 14. L. 22. 24.

+ These lines were set and performed to music, which gave an oppor. tunity of a pause, in delivering the oration.

« VorigeDoorgaan »