Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

examined, the lot of each is seen to have its inconveniences and its advantages; and, perhaps, superiority cannot be asserted for either, on the whole.

With regard to relative mental powers, wild speculation and superfluous ingenuity have been lavished on both sides of the question. In endowing each, Providence has distinguished the share and quality, and separated the uses, in his general economy. We would refer to Hannah More's “Comparative View of the Sexes,” for a rational and discriminative discussion of this topic. In adducing cases of female scholarship, we have shown that females are at least capable of becoming learned in the ultimate degree, but we have not meant to recommend a classical education to our country women. The German professor, Meiners, well observes, that in the sixteenth, and first half of the seventeenth centuries, the modern languages were unpolished, and had produced very few masterpieces; and therefore, the women of genius, who were desirous of cultivating their understandings and their hearts, were obliged to learn the ancient languages, in whose works alone they could find the treasures of useful and ornamental knowledge. This necessity has disappeared; the literature of each of the modern tongues, is sufficiently refined and comprehensive. Our state of society, and the offices of an American wife and mother, are, moreover, such, that the time requisite for the proper acquisition of the Greek and Latin. cannot be afforded, and the application, or general usefulness of this knowledge, would be much more limited than it is in Europe. .

[merged small][ocr errors]

ART. IX.-Memoir of De Witt Clinton, with an Appendix,

containing numerous documents, illustrative of the principal events of his life. By David Hosack, M. D. F. R. S. 4to. New-York: 1$29.

When we first glanced at this volume, we were forcibly reminded of an article contained in the first number of the Edinburgh Review, on Dr. Parr's Spital sermon, in which a ludicrous comparison is instituted between that celebrated production, and its author's scarcely less celebrated wig. The similitude was said to consist in the immense “tail” which each possessed; the wig “swelling out behind into boundless convexity of frizz,” the sermon increased to the size of a formidable voJume, by an innumerable mass of notes, which " seem to concern

every learned thing, every learned man, and almost every unlearned man, since the beginning of the world.” Thus it is with Dr. Hosack's work, the body of which, that is the Memoir, is comparatively of inconsiderable dimensions, but the appendix to it is of formidable amplitude. For this disparity, however, our author has assigned an adequate reason in his preface. He states, that in endeavouring to ascertain the nature and extent of the services rendered by Governor Clinton in promoting the construction of canals, it became necessary to inquire, how far other persons had contributed, by their labours, to the accomplishment of the same great end:

“ These inquiries have, necessarily, led to a much more extensive investiga. tion of this subject, than was at first contemplated. In the course of this examination, to the great surprise of the author, numerous facts have been disclosed, and many valuable documents obtained, wbich have never hitherto been communicated to the world, and which will be found to illustrate, not only the highly important services rendered by Mr. Clinton, but those also by others who have not been before known and appreciated among the benefactors of the state, and to whom much praise is due, for the benefits which their talents and disinterested labours have conferred. The number and extent of these documents, have unavoidably enlarged the appendix to a very unexpected length, and have necessarily delayed the publication of the work. These circumstances, and the time occupied in procuring some of the materials, will account for the disproportion which will be found to exist between the original biography and the appended matter. Could these difficulties have been earlier foreseen, measures might have been adopted the better to have secured a more ample Memoir, and to have compressed the appendix within more moderate limits.”

It is the peculiar custom of our country to signalize the decease of each of our great men, by public discourses ; and these discourses form a large and quite respectable portion of our literature. Several tributes of the kind were quickly paid to the manes of the eminent De Witt Clinton. Dr. Hosack having been his most intimate friend, was summoned by the Literary and Philosophical Society of New York to lead, as it were, in the chorus of just eulogy. He has converted the panegyric which he pronounced in obedience to that call, into the Memoir which lies before us, and to which he has given a very imposing and beautiful form, worthy of the subject. It is our humble purpose to make an abstract of this biographical commemoration.

In his preface, Dr. Hosack has offered an apology for any omissions or errors which may be discovered, by stating that they may be accounted for by the fact of his having been denied access to the private papers of his friend, in consequence of the selection of the Hon. J. C. Spencer, by the family of the deceased, to be his biographer. This circumstance caused him to commence a correspondence with many of the personal friends of Governor Clinton, and from the information imparted in their communications, which are detailed in the appendix, and his own

knowledge of Mr. Clinton acquired by a long and uninterrupted friendship, he has compiled the present volume.

The ancestors of De Witt Clinton were of English origin, but for some generations antecedent to his father, they had resided in Ireland, which country his grandfather left in the year 1729, for the purpose of emigrating to America, and settling with his family in the province of Pennsylvania. But contrary winds forced the vessel in which they sailed upon the shore of Cape Cod, in the vicinity of which place they lived until the spring of 1731, when they removed, together with the friends by whom they were accompanied, to a part of Ulster, now Orange county, in New York. There they formed a flourishing and permanent settlement. The first Mr. Clinton died in 1773 on the 19th of November, leaving behind him four sons born in this country, and one daughter a native of Ireland.

James, the father of the late governor, married Miss Mary De Witt, and attained the rank of major-general in the army of the United States, having served with great distinction during the revolutionary war.

De Witt Clinton was born on the 2d day of March 1769, at Little Britain, the residence of his father, in Orange county. The rudiments of his education were imparted to him by the Rev. John Moffat, from whose care he was removed, in 1782, to that of Mr. John Addison, then the head of the academy at Kingston, where he prepared himself for college. In 1784 he was admitted to the junior class in Columbia University, and was the first student who entered that institution after the close of the war. He received his degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1786, on which occasion he delivered the Latin Salutatory, a sufficient proof of his proficiency, that duty being always assigned to the best scholar of the class. His talents for composition and debate, were early displayed in a society denominated the Urarian, formed by the students for the purpose of improvement in both of those exercises.

Immediately after his graduation, he commenced :he study of law with the late Hon. Samuel Jones, a counsellor of great eminence. After the customary noviciate, he was admitted to the bar, but before he had time to acquire a practice of any importence, he was made private secretary to his uncle George Clinton, then governor of the state, in which capacity he remained during that relative's administration, which terminated in 1795. In the interim, he had been honoured with the offices of secretary to the board of regents of the university, and to the board of fortifications of New York. These events, Dr. Hosack remarks, may be considered as the introduction of Mr. Clinton to public and political life; for from that period, he was devoted, with but a few intermissions, to the service of the state. VOL. V.--.10. 10.

61

About this time he married Miss Maria Franklin, the eldest daughter of Walter Franklin, Esq., an eminent and affluent merchant of New-York, and a member of the Society of Friends. By this union he had seven sons and three daughters, of whom four sons and two daughters are still in existence. His second wife, whom he espoused in 1819, was Miss Catharine Jones, the daughter of the late Dr. Thomas Jones of New York, to whose varied excellence our author pays a feeling and well-merited tribute.

When mentioning that Mr. Clinton early in life enrolled himself among the ancient fraternity of Freemasons, and after filling many of its most important offices was advanced, in 1816, to the highest masonic post in the United States, Dr. Hosack bestows a lofty encomium upon that order.

In 1797, Mr. Clinton was chosen a member of the legislature for the city of New York, the time when the two great parties which have since divided the country, were organized. He immediately embraced the republican or democratic side, which he was first induced to do for the purpose of vindicating his uncle, George Clinton, who was at that period assailed with great vehemence, by the leading men of the other party.

In the year 1800, difficulties having arisen between Governor Jay and the council of appointment, the controversy was supported on the part of the latter by Mr. Clinton, then a member of that body. It was finally settled by a convention which assembled at Albany in 1801, when a modification of the constitution was effected in accordance with the views entertained by him, as well as by the most eminent statesmen of both parties. Subsequently to that period, he was repeatedly elected to the senate of the state, where he distinguished himself by his support of every measure calculated to promote the cause of science and benevolence.

In 1901, he was chosen to supply the vacancy in the senate of the Union, occasioned by the resignation of General Armstrong, and remainel in possession of his seat for two sessions. Among his associates in that august body, were some of the most eminent men who have reflected lustre upon our national councils, but even there the genius of Mr. Clinton shone with unsurpassed brilliancy.

After he had relinquished his station as senator, he was placed in the mayoralty of New York, in which post he continued until 1807, when he was succeeded by Colonel Marinus Willett, a venerable and brave soldier of the revolution. In 1808, however, he was reappointed to that office and retained it, (with the intermission of one year during which he was superseded by Judge Radcliffe in consequence of a change in the political atmosphere,) until 1815, when the violence of party drove him into the retire

ment of private life. During that year, as well as 1816 and a portion of 1817, he employed his time in the cultivation of letters, and in devising plans of public improvement and philanthropy.

In 1817, Mr. Clinton was called, by the almost unanimous voice of the inhabitants of his state, to fill the chair of chief magistrate in the place of Daniel D. Tompkins, who had been elected Vice-President of the United States. The two great parties formed a coalition for the purpose of making him governor, so high was the sense entertained of his talents and exertions to promote the public welfare, although he had dissatisfied the republicans by opposing, some years before, the second elevation of Mr. Madison to the Presidency, and given great offence to the Federalists by certain sentiments which he had uttered. During the first years of his administration nothing disturbed the harmony of the state, but after the task of distributing offices was performed, discontent was excited, as might have been foreseen, and tranquillity destroyed. A systematic opposition was then commenced to his measures by persons of both parties, but especially of the republican, who accused him of having violated his faith with them, and declared they never would be satisfied until he had received the punishment, by being removed from office, of what they termed “his desertion of their standard.” By dint of great exertions, his adversaries succeeded in obtaining a majority first in the senate, and then in the assembly, and as the end of his term approached in 1820, every nerve was strained to prevent his reelection. In order to attain their object, they even induced Daniel Tompkins, at the time still Vice-President, who, from his great popularity in his native state, was emphatically styled “the man of the people,” to become their candidate.

The contest was one of the most warm and animated description, and for some time the issue was extremely problematical. But upon telling the votes, which amounted to 180,000, Mr. Clinton was found to have received a majority of from one to two thousand. “This,” observes Dr. Hosack, “ was considered by his friends a great triumph, because on his part there was nothing to urge but his talents and services; his partisans had not been well organized, whilst his opponents were mighty as a party, and had as their champion a man who had been deservedly popular during the war, and whose very misfortunes since that period had endeared him still more to his friends."

Their efforts to deprive him of his station having failed, the opposition proceeded to use every means of throwing difficulties in the way of his administration ; and as one of the most effectual modes of doing so, undertook to remove his friends from office, and substitute for them his most indefatigable enemies, which measure,

« ElőzőTovább »