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Signs of a revolution in the U. S.-The Presidential election
The pithy remark of Taylor, in Philip Van Artevelde, that the “ world knows nothing of its greatest men,” is so universally accepted in the present day, as to have passed into an axiom. And never has its force and beauty been more impressed upon my mind than when contemplating the life and character of the subject of this sketch. Of him it may be said that he was a great man in all that constitutes true greatness. A man of comprehensive ideas, deep sympathies and generous impulses, which took the form of noble deeds ;---à man of varied endowments, cultivated intellect, extensive learning, and refined tastes and affections, who wielded a powerful influence on the circle in which he moved, and upon all with whom he came in contact ;-a man always mentioned by his friends and acquaintances with
affectionate respect and as one gifted with the inspiration of genius. Yet few beyond the limits of his native state have heard his name or known ought of his life. To me the office of rescuing from unmerited oblivion the character of such a man is too grateful to be neglected. A higher motive, however, directs my course than the gratification of personal feelings. His character was singularly instructive, and, while the life of a good man cannot be written without pleasure, it is equally true that it cannot be read without improvement.
William Madison Peyton, of Roanoke, Virginia, was the only child of John Howe Peyton, of Montgomery Hall, by his first wife Susan, daughter of William Strother Madison * and was born September 4th, 1805, in Montgomery County, Virginia, where his mother was at the time on a chance visit. Descended from an ancient noble family on the father's side,t he had the good fortune to be related by blood through his mother to some of America's greatest men . At the period of
* William Strother Madison was the nephew of the Right Reverend James Madison, D.D., Bishop of Virginia, and cousin to the celebrated author of the “Constitution," James Madison, fourth President of the United States, and married Elizabeth Preston, daughter of William Preston, of Smithfield, Montgomery County, Virginia.
† See Appendix A.
I Among others, he was cousin to the celebrated Presbyterian Divine, Robert J. Breckenridge, of Kentucky; to Major-General John C. Breckenridge, late Vice-President of the United States; to the stern patriot, John Brown, of Kentucky, a member of the Continental Congress in 1787, and eighteen years United States Senator for Kentucky, after the Independence of his country was achieved ; to the eloquent governor James McDowell, of Virginia; to the great South Carolinian Orator, William Campbell Preston; to General James Patton Preston, Governor