« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
threaten; but do they not threaten from democracy? In the affairs of men there is no test of truth but experience; and experience proves that, whenever free governments have been lost, their loss is dated from the innovations of those who pronounce themselves patriots and friends of the people. Our republic is said to resemble that of Carthage more than any other of ancient times. Like us, its citizens cultivated letters, arms, and commerce. It flourished in remarkable splendor during five hundred years, and was that power which opposed the most formidable resistance to the dominion of Rome. The evils which arose
from popular turbulence at length enabled the Romans to enumerate among their triumphs the total destruction of the Carthaginian people. Such was the debasement which preceded their last days, that they were reproached with having wept for the loss of their jewels, while the loss of their honor and of their liberties could not command a sigh."
William Sullivan was the second son of Gov. James Sullivan, whose father, John, came from Ireland in 1730, as passenger in a ship which was driven by stress of weather into a port on the coast of Maine, and settled at Berwick, then a town of Massachusetts.
The subject of this sketch was born at Saco, in the District of Maine, Nov. 12, 1774; entered the Latin School in 1781, and was prepared for college under the instruction of Rev. Phillips Payson, D.D., of Chelsea, near Boston; and graduated at Harvard College in 1792, at which time he took part in a conference on law, physic, and divinity. He engaged in the study of law under the direction of his father, was admitted to the Suffolk bar at the July term of the Court of Common Pleas, in 1795, and married Sarah Webb, a daughter of Col. James Swan, of Dorchester, Mass., May, 1802. He soon became an eminent counsellor. At this period, it was his habit to rise at four o'clock in the morning, and closely engage in study. He thus acquired that taste for intense application which led him gradually into such sedentary practice that shortened his days. In the year 1803 he pronounced the oration on our national independence; and it is related that it effected such a strong impression, that it led to his election to the House of Representatives in 1804, and was afterwards elected to the Senate and Executive Council, until his withdrawal in 1830. In 1820 Mr. Sullivan was a delegate to the convention on the revision of the State constitution, and was appointed by the convention to draft an address to the people, which accompanied the amendments, and was published Jan. 9, 1821. He was major of the Independent Cadets, a member of the
Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, and brigadier-general of the Boston militia. In 1812 Mr. Sullivan pronounced the first oration for the Washington Benevolent Society; a zealous political effort, in which, remarking of Washington, he says: "If, from the abode which his virtues have acquired to him, he can behold the concerns of men,- if the hearts of this assembly are open to him, he sees that we have continued to deserve his praise and benedictions;" and, in 1814, he was elected president of this political institution, which was opposed to the war with Great Britain. In 1815 Gen. Sullivan, H. G. Otis, and Thomas H. Perkins, were appointed by the State Legislature as commissioners to the government at Washington, to present the resolves of the State in relation to the contest with Great Britain. Gen. Sullivan was one of the committee of the town of Boston who reported a city charter, and was the author of the sections on theatrical amusements, and of the bill providing for the establishment of a police court. He was elected to the city Council, on its institution, in 1822. He was president of the Social Law Library of Suffolk, originated by Hon. Judge Jackson; and in 1824 proposed the establishment of a Historical Law Library. When Lafayette dined with the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard College, August, 1824, Gen. Sullivan gave the sentiment herewith: "Minerva, Apollo, and the Muses, who have done themselves so much honor this day in their homage to Mars." He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and of the Pennsylvania Historical Society. Gen. Sullivan was an elegant belles-lettres scholar, an accomplished gentleman, remarkable for bland and affable manners, and persuasive oratory. His eloquence at Faneuil Hall was truly captivating, but not of so masterly stamp as that of his compeer, Otis. Mr. Sullivan once said, "A man may be a profound lawyer, yet no advocate; but he cannot be an advocate without being a lawyer:" and it may be fairly said of him, that he united both qualities in himself; for his eloquence at the bar and in political assemblies, and his sagacity as counsel, embodied as much effective power as did his rhetoric. What Justice Story remarked, in allusion to Samuel Dexter, may be with great propriety applied to William Sullivan, that no man was ever more exempt from finesse or cunning, in addressing a jury. He disdained the little arts of sophistry or popular appeal. It was in his judgment something more degrading than the sight of Achilles playing with a lady's distaff. Mr. Sullivan was about six feet in height, and well formed. He was
dignified and moderate in his gait; and rather reserved in manners, on the first approach, but very agreeable on acquaintance. His manners were those of olden time, and would more deeply wound with a formal bow, than many men, less dignified, with a blow. He used to say that dignified civility, founded on self-respect, was a gentleman's weapon and defence. He delighted to have his family about him, and see them happy. His son says of him, in a biographical sketch prefixed to an edition of his "Public Men of the Revolution," published since his decease: "Oftentimes he would steal an hour from his professional duties, to remain after dinner with his children at the table, where agreeable conversation, song and anecdote, softened the cold realities of life, and united more closely the natural ties of affection which bound his circle together. He was attentive to the education of his daughters, and many of his works were originally written with a particular view to their instruction."
In order to illustrate the narrative powers of Gen. Sullivan, we cite a reminiscence of Gen. Knox, in which he was concerned, to whom we have frequently alluded. The son gives this relation, as near as he can remember, in Sullivan's own language. "Generals Knox, Lincoln and Jackson, had been companions in the Revolution; had laughed, eaten and drank, fought and lived, together, and were on the most intimate terms. They loved each other to a degree but little known among men of the present day. After the struggle of the war, they retired to their homes, and were all comfortable in their worldly circumstances, if not rich; but Knox, possessing large tracts of land in the State of Maine, upon the rapid sales of which he confidently relied, imagined himself more wealthy than he was, and lived in luxurious style. He built himself a superb mansion at Thomaston, Me., where all his friends met with a cordial welcome, and enjoyed the most liberal hospitality. It was not an unusual thing for Knox to kill, in summer, when great numbers of friends visited him, an ox and twenty sheep on every Monday morning, and to make up an hundred beds daily in his own house. He kept, for his own use and that of his friends, twenty saddle-horses, and several pairs of carriages, in his stables. This expensive style of living was too much for his means, as he was disappointed in the sale of his lands; and he was forced to borrow sums of money on the credit, of his friends, Generals Lincoln and Jackson. He soon found himself involved to a large amount, and was obliged to acquaint his friends of his embarrassments, into which he
had unfortunately drawn them. Lincoln was at that time collector of the port of Boston, and occupied a house in State-street, now torn down, part of which he used for the custom-house, and part he occupied as his dwelling. It was agreed that the three should meet there, and a full exposition of Knox's affairs be made known. I was applied to as counsel on the occasion, and was the first one who came at the time appointed. Jackson soon entered; after him, Knox; and almost immediately, Lincoln came in. They seated themselves in a semicircle, whilst I took my place at the table, for the purpose of drawing up the necessary papers, and taking the notes of this melancholy disclosure. These men had often met before, but never in a moment of such sorrow. Both Lincoln and Jackson knew and felt that Knox, the kindest heart in the world, had unwittingly involved them. They were all too full to speak, and maintained for some minutes a sorrowful silence. At last, as if moved by the same impulse, they raised their eyes. Their glances met, and Knox burst into tears. Soon, however, Lincoln rose, brushed the tear from his eye, and exclaimed, 'Gentlemen, this will never do! We came hither to transact business; let us attend to it.' This aroused the others, and Knox made a full disclosure of his affairs. Although Lincoln and Jackson suffered severe losses, it never disturbed the feelings of friendship and intimacy which had existed between these generous-hearted men."
We will introduce another reminiscence related by Gen. Sullivan. "Soon after the war had been declared, I chanced to be at Saratoga Springs, where I met with the Hon. Calvin Goddard, of Norwich, Ct., and with Hon. Jon. Dwight, of Springfield, Mass. Gov. Griswold, of Connecticut, was also at the hotel, but confined to his chamber. It was the habit of these gentlemen and myself to pay the governor a daily visit; and, when he announced himself too ill to receive us, we strolled into the neighboring woods to talk over the state of the Union, respecting the welfare and durability of which we entertained serious and painful fears. On one of these occasions, it was concluded that a convention should be gathered at New York, during the following September, at which as many States should be represented as could be induced to send delegates. The object of this convention was to determine upon the expediency of Madison's reelection, by running De Witt Clinton as the opposing candidate for the presidency. Goddard was intrusted with the State of Connecticut, Dwight with New York, and I was to awaken Massachusetts to the importance of this convention,
while all three were to assist in rousing the other States. The convention met at New York, September, 1812; and eleven States were represented by seventy delegates. The convention during two days had been unable to come to any determination; and, on the third day, were about dissolving, without any fixed plan of operation. Hon. Rufus King had pronounced the most impassioned invective against Clinton, and was so excited, during his address, that his knees trembled under him. Governeur Morris doubted much the expediency of this measure, and was seconded in these doubts by Theo. Sedgwick, as well as by Judge Hopkinson. Many of the members were desirous of returning to Philadelphia by the steamboat, at two o'clock, P. M., of the third day. It was approaching the hour, and nothing had been determined, when Mr. Otis arose, apparently much embarrassed, holding his hat in his hand, and seeming as if he were almost sorry he had arisen. Soon he warmed with the subject, his hat fell from his hand, and he poured forth a strain of eloquence that chained all present to their seats; and when, at a late hour, the vote was taken, it was almost unanimously resolved to support Clinton. This effort was unprepared, but only proves how entirely Mr. Otis deserves the reputation he enjoys of being a great orator."
Mr. Sullivan will ever deserve the gratitude of the public for his excellent moral and political productions. The Political Class-book entitles him to the reputation of having first introduced the study of the nature and principles of our government into the schools of our land; and he was promptly followed by Judge Story and President Duer, with works of like nature. Such labors are indications of a return to the days of Socrates and Plato, of Cicero and Quintilian. The Moral Class-book, The Historical Class-book, Historical Causes and Effects, from the Fall of the Roman Empire, 476, to the Reformation, 1517. He published a discourse, delivered for the Pilgrim Society, at Plymouth, 1829; a Discourse on Intemperance, 1832. In 1837 he published a little treatise on "Sea Life: or what may or may not be done, and what ought to be done, by Shipowners, Shipmasters, Mates, and Seamen." He published a highly antiquarian address to the members of the bar of Suffolk, Mass., March, 1824, giving a view of legal practice from the earliest date.
During the last ten years of his life, Mr. Sullivan declined professional business, being only counsellor for a few institutions who were unwilling to lose the benefit of his advice. His last days were devoted