« ElőzőTovább »
We have procured a very beautiful portrait of Fisher Ames, Esq. whose biography, from the pen of an eloquent and enthusiastic admirer, occupies the succeeding pages of this number. But the various occupations of the engraver have prevented him from furnishing it for the present month; and we, therefore, substitute an interesting view on the Hudson. That river after its escape from the mountains, winds between rich banks and beautiful islands, till within about a hundred miles from its mouth, when it expands into an ample surface, to which the boldness of its shores, and the long reaches, terminated by high promontories, give the character of what is called Lake Scenery. The annexed plate represents the bluff point opposite Coxsackie landing, about twenty miles below Albany, and may be considered as the limit between the two last divisions of lake and river
AMERICAN BIOGRAPIIY-FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
LIFE OF FISHER AMES.
On the illustrious and much lamented subject of the present article, we feel most sensibly how difficult it is to think without emotion, or to speak with that coolness and self control, that temperance and impartiality, which become the biographer. If, however, on any point of history, it be admissible to indulge in the language of sensibility, it is when attempting to portray the virtues and talents, the dispositions and achievements, of so excellent, so amiable, and so distinguished an individual. He was one of those extraordinary characters, which, at long intervals, a benificent Providence calls into existence, to instruct, delight, and astonish mankind. Had he been a citizen of Greece, when in the zenith of her glory, or of Rome, during the period of her fairest renown, he would have been preeminent in the ranks of statesmen and legislators, patriots and orators. In modern times, few men, devoted exclusively to civil pursuits, have moved in a sphere more elevated and radiant. From the commencement till near the close of his public career, which, alas! was almost as transient as it was brilliant, although associated with the ablest men of the nation, his wisdom in council, and his eloquence in debate, imposed on him the arduous and responsible office of a leader, in many of the most intricate concerns of legislation. As long as the state of his health enabled him to persevere in the exertions necessary for maintaining the station he had acquired, his ascendency in the house of representatives of the United States was as sensibly felt and as generally acknowledged, as that of Fox or Pitt, Burke or Chatham, in the British parliament.
When, in obedience to the decrees of heaven, a statesman, so preeminent in wisdom and eloquence, and so exalted by all the moral virtues, descends to the tomb, to suffer his services to be forgotten, and his fame to sink in the general wreck of common reputation, would argue, in the public mind, the most culpable degree of inattention and ingratitude. To perpetuate, in the broadest and most durable shape, the excellencies and achievements of such a character, becomes the duty of those
who survive him. Influenced as these sentiments, which we hold to be correct, and under the impulse of impressions to which we are proud to yield a willing obedience, we have ventured to prepare a biographical notice of Fisher Ames.
This distinguished personage was the youngest of a family consisting of five children. He was born on the 9th of April 1758, in the old parish of Dedham, a pleasant country town, situated in the county of Norfolk, about nine miles from the city of Boston. Descended from one of the oldest families in the state of Massachusetts, he was, in the strictest sense of the word, an American. In this respect, his blood was as pure from foreign admixture, as his spirit was free from foreign partialities. Although by far the most able and eminent of his line, he was not the only one of them who aspired to and attained distinction in letters. His father, a man of uncommon wit, acuteness, and worth, was a practitioner of medicine, high in reputation. In addition to the extent of his professional attainments, he was well versed in natural philosophy, astronomy, and mathematics. He died in July, 1764, when the subject of this notice had but little more than completed the sixth year of his age. He also numbered in the line of his ancestry, the rev. William Ames, who flourished about the beginning of the seventeenth century, and was the author of a very able work, denominated Medulla Theologiæ, and several smaller tracts in polemical divinity. That celebrated English divine, unable to submit to the spirit of domination and intolerance by which he was assailed, under the authority of Christ's College in Cambridge, emigrated to the State of Friesland, where he was afterwards chosen a professor in their university. He was an active member in the synod of Dort, in the year 1618. That he might be still farther removed from that most galling of tyrannies, which interferes with the rights of conscience and the forms of devotion, he had made definitive arrangements for emigrating to Newengland, but was prevented by death in the month of November 1633. We mention these facts to show, that the family of Ames had been long distinguished by their love of freedom.
On the death of young Ames's father, his mother was left to experience the anxieties, and to struggle with the difficulties incident to the rearing of a family, in a widowed condition, and under straightened circumstances. As if inspired, however, with a presentiment of the future destinies of her son, she de. termined to bestow on him a liberal education. She accomplished her task, lived to rejoice in his prosperity and eminence, to witness the manifestations of his filial piety, and to weep, alas! over his untimely grave.
In a notice like the present, much that is important must be necessarily omitted. It is scarcely allowable, therefore, to exhibit even a transient view of the scintillations of genius in the morning of life, when they are so completely obscured by the lustre of its meridian. Were such a step admissible, it would be easy to show the early and rapid development of the faculties of young Ames-that he surpassed, in vigour and activity of intellect, the companions of his childhood, no less than the associates of his riper years.
At the age of six, he commenced the study of the Latin language. Here, the incompetency of teachers, and the frequent interruptions he experienced in his scholastic pursuits, were serious barriers in his career of improvement. The energy of his own mind, however, aided by a degree of industry, exemplary for his years, supplied the want of every thing else, and hurried him along in the road to knowledge. In the spring of 1770, his twelfth year being just completed, he was received as a student into Harvard College. Preparatory to his admission, he was examined by one of the ablest scholars of the country, who had long been a teacher of the learned languages. On this occasion, such was the readiness and accuracy he manifested, and such his acquaintance with the principles of language, even at so early a period, that his acquirements excited admiration and applause. From that time he was considered as a youth of exalted promise.
During the years that are spent in college, the character usually begins to unfold itself. To young Ames, this development was highly honourable. Persevering in his studies, conciliating in his manners, gentlemanly in his deportment, and amiable in his disposition, he was equally the ornament and delight of the institution. From his strict subordination to dis