Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

heship; and the goverobtained a pa ose, by surdministrator. Colden Junty of On river, and

honoured with a seat in the king's council of the province, to the head of which board, he afterwards rose, by survivorship; and, in that station, succeeded to the administration of the government, in 1760.

Previous to this, Mr. Colden had obtained a patent for a tract of land in the then county of Ulster, about nine miles from Newburgh, on the Hudson river, and to this place, which, in his patent, is called Coldingham, he retired, with his family, about the year 1755. There he undertook to clear and cultivate a small part of the tract as a farm, and his attention was divided between agricultural and philosophical pursuits, and the duties of his office of surveyor general.

The spot, which he had selected for his retirement, is entirely inland, and has nothing remarkably pleasant in it. The grounds are rough and of no very superior quality. At the time he chose it for a residence, it was solitary, uncultivated, and the country around it absolutely a wilderness, without even roads, or, it any, such as were hardly passable. It was besides, a frontier to the Indians, who were often in a state of hostility, and committed frequent barbarities. Yet no entreaties of his friends, when they thought him in danger, from his savage neighbours, could en. tice him from his favourite home. He chose rather to guard and fortify his house, and amidst dangers, which would have disturbed the minds of most men, he appears uninterruptedly to have gone on, in his pursuit of knowledge.

In 1761, the king of Great Britain appointed him his lieutenant governor of New-York, which commission he held till the time of his death, the administration of government repeatedly falling on him by the death or absence of several Governors in chief.

His political character was rendered very conspicuous, by the firmness of his conduct as governor, during the violent commotions, which preceded the late revolution. He had the administration when the

[ocr errors]

paper, to be distributed in New York, under the Bri. tish stamp act arrived, and it was put under his care in the fortification called Fort George, which was then standing on the battery point. The attempt of the British parliament, to raise a revenue, by taxing the colonies, had, in every stage, excited a spirit of indignation and resentment, which had long since risen above the controul of government. This step to carry the project into execution, at once, gave activity to the malecontents; and, as the authors of the plan were out of their reach, they determined to let their agents and servants feel the weight of the resentment, which was at first directed against those who held any office under the act. At length, a multitude, consisting of many thousand people, assembled under leaders, who have since been conspicuous revolutionary characters, and determined to make the Lieutenant Governor deliver up to them the stampt paper, to be destroyed. Mr Colden had received an intimation of their design, and prepared to defend, with fidelity, the trust which had devolvá ed upon him. He required the engineers under his command, in the fort, to put it in the best possible state of defence. But, after doing this, they report. ed to him, that the fortress was not competent to resist the force by which it was threatened; that it was commanded by many circumjacent buildings; that it afforded no cover to the defenders, and that the walls might every where be surmounted and carried by escalade. In the evening of the 15th February, 1766, a vast concourse of people assembled round the fort; a few, who appeared to act as a committee, handed in a paper, signed “ New-York,” by which they demanded the surrender of the staniped paper, and threatened, that if it was not yielded to them, the governor and his adherents should be massacred; but the venerable magistrate remained inflexible, and tho' he was surrounded by a terrified family, and those whose safety was most dear to him, and who, every

moment, expected to find themselves at the mercy of an exasperated mob, he preserved his equanimity and was unmoved, either by the tears and entreaties of those within, or the threats and railings he heard fron) without That kind of firmness, which, though it sometimes maintains wrong actions, yet is seldom observed, but in those who think they are right, was, in lir, a distinguished characteristic. The mob having remained together the greatest part of the night, without proceeding to extremities, and finding that they could not, by those means, obtain the papers, at length dispersed. They assembled again several times, till, in the sequel, the papers, for their security were put on board a British man of war, then in the port. In the mean time, the populace gratified their resentment, by burning the effigy of the Lieutenant Governor, and destroying his carriages under his view.

His administration is rendered memorable amongst other things, by several charters of incorporation, for the most useful and benevolent purposes. The corporation for the relief of distressed seamen, called « The Marine Society;" that of the “Chamber of Commerce," and one for the relief of widows and children of Clergymen, will transmit his name with approbation to the remotest posterity.

Though he quitted the practice of medicine at an early day, yet he never lost sight of his favorite study, being ever ready to give his assistance to his neighborhood, and to thosc, who from his reputation of knowledge and experience, applied to him from more distant quarters.

About the year 1743, a malignant fever then also called the Yellow-Fever, had raged for two summers in the city of New York, and appears to have been in all respects similar to that disorder, the fatality of which, we have of late years so dreadfully experienced. He communicated his thoughts to the public, on the most probable cure ot the calamity, in a little treatise on the occasion, in which he collected the sentiments of best authority, on the bad effects of stagnating waters, moist air, damp cellars, filthy stores and dirty streets. He shewed how much these nuisances prevailed in many parts of the city, and pointed out the remedies. The corporation of the city gave him their thanks, and established a plan for draining and cleaning the city, which was attended with the most happy effects.

He also wrote and published a treatise “ On the cure of the cancer”; and another essay of his, on the virtues of the Bortanice, or great water dock a spe. cies of the rumex introduced him to an acquaintance with the great Linnæus. In the year 1753, he published some observations on an epidemical sore throat, which had appeared over a great part of Norih America,

When he became acquainted with Linnæus's sys. tem of botany, he applied himself with new delight to that study. His description of between three and four hundred American plants, according to that sy stem are published in the “ Acta Upsaliensia. One of his daughters took so large a share in his botanical amusements, that she became a proficient in the science. She not only described a great number of plants but took impressions of their foliage. One of her descriptions of an American plant, till then undiscribed, is published in the second volume of the Edinburgh Physical and Literary essays : from whence it has found its way into other books on the science of botany, and is met with in the Encyclopædia, under the head Coldenia, a name given to the plant by Linnæus, as a compliment to the daughter of Mr. Colden.

While Mr. Burnet was governor of New York, Mr. Colden published “The history of the Five Indian nations,” and dedicated it to the governor, who had applied himself with great wisdom and success to the management of the Indians. The book was printed at London, in 1747, with the original dedication in

tended for Governor Burnet, directed to General Oglethorp, which Mr. Colden justly complains of as an unpardonable absurdity of the printer, who took the further liberty of adding several Indian treaties and other papers without bis knowledge or approbation.

But the subject, which drew Mr. Colden, at one time of his life, from every other pursuit, was what he first published under the title of “ The cause of Gravitation," and being much enlarged; appeared in 1751, under the title of “ The Principles of Action in matter," to which he added a “ Treatise on Fluctions." The bounds to which this publication is necessarily limited, will not admit of an attempt to give an idea of a work which cost the author many years close and severe study. He died in a firm persuasion, that however he might have erred in the deductions, the grand fundamental principles of his system were true, and that they would, one day or other, be received as such in the world. He prepared a new edition of his book, with large additions and elucidations of such parts as had been subjected to objections. At the time that this work was ready for the press, he was so far advanced in years, that he despaired of living to see it published. He, therefore, transmitted his MS. to his friend and correspondent, Dr. Whittle, of the Royal College of Physicians, and professor of Medicine, in the university of Edinburgh. Their fate, since that time, is not known.

Though Mr. Colden's principal attention, after the year 1760, was directed from philosophical to political matters, yet he maintained, with great punctuality, his literary correspondence, particularly with Linnæus of Upsal, Gronovius of Leyden, Dr. Pottersfield and Dr. Whittle, of Edinburgh, and Mr. Peter Collinson, F. R.S. of London, who, though he never saw Mr. Colden, was a most useful and affectionate friend, and to him Mr. Colden owed an introduction to many other of the most literary characters of Europe. There are several communications between

Vol. II. No. 11.

S

« ElőzőTovább »