« PreviousContinue »
reading a volume with so many claim- which "beacon the rocks on which high ants on our attention, it is important to hearts are wrecked”—which bear meskeep in view the character and spirit of sages of measureless import to thrill our the originating intellects, in order rightly souls with gladness, or awe them into to dispose the others in the sliding scale meekness—which teach us the awful of merit. In reviewing so many poets significance of God's hand-writing on the in succession, a critic must consider their heart. All grades of beauty are hererelative as well as intrinsic excellence; from the sylvan quiet of pastoral scenery and in doing this he is ever liable to dis- to the “tempestuous loveliness of terappoint the admirers of each.
ror,”—all aspects of sorrow, from the With all abatements, however, no one most pensive melancholy to that agony can glance at Mr. Griswold's volume, and anguish which cries aloud in bitterwithout being impressed with the fertiliiy ness of spirit. The veil which conceals of the present century, in original poetry. the workings of powerful but perverted There is one view in which the editor of hearts, is rent; and we gaze with shuda work like the present may be consider- dering interest into the chaotic depths of ed fortunate. Through his diligent labors passion, wrought into consuming intenlarge bodies of people, who could not or sity by maddening calamities. That a would not read extensively, are enabled poetry so various, so “rammed with to obtain an image of the imaginative life,” must contain much exaggerated reliterature of a great age.
And what a presentation, much false and morbid feelworld of thought and feeling does its con- ing, much varnishing of vice and beautitemplation reveal to us! Here are gar- fying of corruption, is true; but then it nered up chronicles of the insight and contains much more to purify and exalt; experience of highly-gifted natures, many to give us knowledge and power; to inof them sorely tried hy sorrow and temp- fuse into our souls a thirst to promote tation, and uttering words of profoundest human liberty and happiness; to make meaning, while bending beneath the us feel the holiness of disinterested affecburden of actual life. Here flame the tion; to kindle in our hearts a passionate woes and wrongs that stung their spirits; love for all that is beautiful and good; here shine the majestic and ennobling to lift our thoughts into serener regions thoughts by which calamity was conse of existence than actual life furnishes ; crated. Here Passion revels in fantasies to fill our imaginations with images of of maddening beauty; here the unselfish loveliness and grandeur, which shall soaffections beam on our souls in the soft. lace disappointment and people solitude ; est and most witching hours of fancy; to enable us to interpret aright the subhere imagination illumines the page with lime language, written all over the unilight from heaven, and sheds on the hut verse, in which nature teaches her lesand the palace, a glory not of earth; sons of wisdom and power; and to penehere Religion beckons to the skies. trate our wbole being with an intense Love is here, Love, « whose familiar enthusiasm for virtue and truth, which voice wearies not ever,” speaking a lan- shall bear the soul bravely up amid the
coldness and baseness of ihe world, and “Trembles and sparkles as with ecstasy ;” eternal realities, before which all the
inspire it with a lofty confidence in those and here are suffering and pain and world's games and gauds, shrivel into death. Wise words are here, words ashes.
SKETCH OF THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF JOHN JAY.
BY WILLIAM H. Y. HACKETT.
The American Revolution, all im- lation which it had occasioned, and the portant events, formed or developed extra. debt which it had cost; when, with the ordinary characters. The country has not country convulsed by the jealousies of yet compared and rightly estimated all great men, and discontent scattered broadthese characters. It has not done this, be. cast among the people, an attempt was cause the country has not yet fully un made to form a national goverment, a cri. derstood the Revolution itself. Even at sis impended more fearful than that inthis period it is too much surrounded by volved in the declaration of Independence. the smoke and din of the contest. Our And the events which followed-no one attention is too exclusively directed to the can read them, without trembling, though results of the Revolution, to admit a just knowing how they terminated. understanding of the relative importance When a people whose only bond of of particular events, or the moral involved union was sympathy, flowing from comin them. The period is approaching, mon suffering and common resistance of when its history will be written, and authority, voluntarily adopted a form of when the country will understand all the government which made them one nation, principles involved in the Revolution, and combined liberty with security-when estimate at its true value every important the discontented avoided anarchy, and the event, and assign to each prominent actor ambitious yielded up their schemes of inin those events, his appropriate distinc- dividual power, seeking and finding a retion.
medy in a peaceable submission to authorWhen this is done, it will appear that ity, the crowning glory of the Revolution the true glory of the Revolution does not was consummated. As “ he who ruleth rest upon the successful issue of the con his own spirit is greater than he who test with the mother country. We find taketh a city,” so was the adoption of the the seeds of the Revolution in the circum- Federal Constitution a greater event than stances and character of the early colo- the renowned declaration of rights, or the nies. Events that occurred from time to great victory which terminated the contime, during the whole of that forming test. period, were singularly prophetic of ali The country will ultimately take this that was to come. After the colonies be- view of the subject, and draw from it came united in resistance, the conflict those sober and practical views of duty could hardly have terminated otherwise which it is suited to inculcate. It will than with success. England was too much then learn that there is much to imitate, divided and distracted at home, was too as well as to praise. It will learn to venerfar from the theatre of the war, and ate those extraordinary men who gave a withal too much in the wrong, to conquer right direction to public opinion ; who a sparsely settled, but united country, de- subdued local and individual jealousies ; fended with the enthusiasm which char- and from the chaos of jarring elements, acterised that protracted struggle. The formed and established a government suitcontest ended in triumph. A victorious ed to their country. and unpaid soldiery, were disbanded to When great men are estimated by what seek their homes of poverty. The “ Re- they do for others, rather than what they bellion ” had given birth to a nation with- accomplish for themselves, the country out a national government. A people will then have advanced to his standard, exhilarated by the successful resistance of and will appreciate the character and acauthority and law, were called upon to be tions, of John Jay. When the country a law unto themselves, while both the learns to consider, as it ought-and as it glory and poverty incident to war con will—its duties as well as its rights, and spired to distract them. Then it was that discovers, as it will, that its internal pasthere was danger such as had depended sions need more guards than its external upon no battle of the Revolution. When enemies when it learns to bear, and the war and its excitement had passed, rightly to improve the trials of prosperity, leaving no perceptible fruits but the deso. Mr. Jay will enjoy a popularity, not bois
terous and assuming, but quiet like the Mr. Jay graduated at Columbia Colcurrent of his life, and deep like the prin- lege, in 1764, and immediately entered ciples which guided it. When the world upon the study of the Law in the City of shall have sickened, and it is beginning to New York. He was admitted to the Bar do so, of those great men who have sport. in 1768, and almost immediately acquired ed with the passions, hopes and wants of an extensive and lucrative practice. He humanity, and analyzes before it com soon formed a partnership with Robert R. mends-when it seeks a model to live by, Livingston, afterwards Chancellor of the rather than a hero to worship, and bra. State. This connection continued but for zen-faced intellectual selfishness shall a short time. In 1774, he married the have given place to public spirit, and daughter of William Livingston, Goverstatesman and christian shall have become nor of New Jersey. In May of the same synonymous terms, then will the country year, upon the receipt of the news of the be grateful for the example, as well as passage of the Boston Port Bill, the citithe services, of John Jay. It does not lie zens of New York held a meeting, and within the range of our plan to consider chose Mr. Jay and others, a committee to the political opinions, but simply to nar- correspond with the sister colonies, upon rate some of the incidents in the life, and that subject. This committee was the first to sketch some of the traits in the charac- organized body in New York Colony, ter of this eminent man.
chosen in opposition to those measures John Jay was born in the City of New which resulted in the Revolution. York, on the 12th of December, 1745. In July following Mr. Jay was elected Mr. Jay's ancestors were Protestants, and a member of the Continental Congress, and prominent enough to attract the persecu was the writer of the address from that ting spirit of Popery, and firm enough in Congress to the people of Great Britain. their principles to abandon their country, From this time to 1778 he was constantly rather than their religion. His grand-fa- either a member of the Continental Conther, Augustus Jay, was born in France, gress, or in some prominent station in his and came to this country in the latter part native state, exchanging the one for the of the 17th century. Just before he em- other, as the exigencies seemed to reigrated, he had made a voyage to Africa. quire. In 1778 he was a member of the During his absence, his father had been New York Convention to form a State compelled, on account of religious perse. Constitution, and made the draught which cutions, to abandon his property in France, was adopted. He was immediately apand seek shelter in England. Augustus pointed Chief Justice, and his former Jay, when he reached France, and learned partner, Livingston, Chancellor. Mr. the fate of his father, had the good for- Jay was at the same time a prominent tune to find a ship bound to Charleston, member of the Committee of Safety, a S. C. On reaching this country, he set Committee which exercised nearly untled at New York, where he married in controlled and undefined executive func1697, Miss Bayard, one of whose ances tions. The latter part of this year he tors had been a Protestant professor of was elected to Congress, resigned his of. theology, in Paris, in the reign of Louis fice of Chief Justice of New York, the XIII., and who was driven from France Governor attempting unsuccessfully to by the Jesuit persecutions. Peter Jay, persuade him to hold both offices. He was the son of Augustus, and the father of soon after elected President of Congress. John, married in 1728, Miss Van Cort- When the Governor of New York wrote land, whose ancestors had been driven by to Jay requesting him to recall his resigthe same persecutions, from Bohemia. nation of the office of Chief Justice, he reThe infatuation of those times, forced to plied, adhering to the resolution which he this country many good men, of whom had taken, and added “the legislature the old world was not worthy, and whom may perhaps in consequence of this step the new world so much needed. These be induced to keep me in Congress. On men brought with them their principles, this head I must inform you that the sitdearer for the sufferings which they occa uation of my father's family is such that sioned ; and from them sprung the Insti- I cannot reconcile it to my ideas of filial tutions of this country.
duty to be absent from them, unless my Such were the high-principled ances- brother should be so circumstanced as to tors of John Jay, and this short sketch of pay them the necessary attention.” them, furnishes the key to his own char At the same time he wrote to his brother acter-well grounded principles stronger as follows: than power, stronger than temptation. “ I am now to inform you that I have
resigned the office of Chief Justice, and if no duties in patriotism inconsistent with the state should incline to keep me here, the demands of christainity. I shall consent to stay, provided either In September, 1779, Mr. Jay was apyou or James will undertake to attend con- pointed minister plenipotentiary to Spain. stantly to our good old father and his un. During his residence in Spain he was apfortunate family; otherwise I shall, at all pointed one of the Commissioners to neevents, return for that purpose. Make gotiate peace with Great Britain. This up your mind on this matter : if you appointment caused him to remove to cannot pay the necessary attention, pre- Paris. He remained in Paris five years, vent my election, and let me know your and until 1784, bore an important part in intention by the first opportunity." "Ar- negotiating, and ultimately signed the derangements were made to render the step finative treaty of peace with England. which he had determined to take unneces. When he reached Paris he found only sary and he remained President of Con- one of the Commissioners, Dr. Franklin, gress. This determination more unequi- on the ground. As soon as the negotiavocably attests the true greatness of the tion opened, Jay discovered that his duty man, than his appointment to all the im- to his country would require him to disportant offices he ever filled. Aspiring obey the instructions of Congress, and to politicians, under such circumstances, resist the intrigues of the French Court: would have regarded infirm and unfortu. that the American Commissioners, if they nate parents as clogs on their hasty feet, would preserve the real independence and and looked on their homes as the last thea- dignity,of their country, would be obliged tre for the exhibition of a lofty character. to meet England not only without the aid It is time we had learned to think and to but in opposition to the influence of feel that it is what we are, and not where France. All this he did without the aid we are, that elevates or degrades us. and in opposition to the opinion of Dr.
No man ever filled so high and varied Franklin. Mr. Adams subsequently artrusts, or passed through exciting and try. rived, and concurred in the course which ing scenes, more entirely anchored upon Jay had adopted ; and Dr. Franklin ultihis own principles than John Jay. Al- mately came into the same view. This ways acting from well considered and was a trying emergency. Jay alone was firmly fixed opinions, his life exhibits no to give a direction to the negotiation inconsistencies. The zealous performance which was of the first importance to his of one duty was never allowed to interfere country, then struggling for independence. with another
. Though one of the earli. He had the instructions of his country, est and most constant friends of the Revo- and these he was obliged to disobey. He lution, he exerted himself to moderate the had but one associate, and his opinionresentment of the people against those and that a weighty one-he was obliged who took up arms against the colonies, to disregard. In this crisis, suited to raise and to meliorate the condition of such of a great man, and crush a feeble one, Jay them as were suffering imprisonment. stood unmoved. In resisting the intrigues One instance of this kind is so character- of France, in piloting his country through istic of the man, and in such contrast the dangers which surrounded it, in with the times, that it may be well to men- snatching it from the attitude of being the tion it. A gentleman of New York hav- foot-ball of European belligerents, in preing accepted a royal commission was, af- serving the independence of his nation terwards, by the casualties of war, made from the intrigues of diplomacy more dana prisoner and confined in the jail of Hart- gerous to it than the arms of England : ford. During his imprisonment Mr. Jay in securing the blessings of peace
without wrote him as follows: “ How far your planting the seeds of future irritation and situation may be comfortable and easy I wars—his directness and honesty were know not. It is my wish and shall be my more than a match for the artful diplomaendeavor that it be as much so as may be cy by which he was opposed. He baffled consistent with the interest of that great the Courts of France and Spain, simply cause to which I have devoted everything because he did not use their instruments. I hold dear in this world. I have taken They were prepared to meet and vanquish the liberty of requesting Mr. Samuel an intriguing negotiator. But they were Broome immediately to advance you $100 unprepared to resist a frank one, who on my account.”
avowed his object, and set to work to No man more distinctly admitted the reach it by direct means. None but a claims which country had upon him, or pure man could, or would have taken the more fully met them. But he recognized bold step which Jay adopted. The mere
politician would have faltered and left his who feared that the Constitution confided country to be the plaything of Europe. too much in the people, and those who But the exigency was suited to such a thought that too much discretion was character as Jay's. He saw the line of given to the Government; of those who duty which the good, in opposition to the deemed it more important that they should instructions, of his country required him to be great men, than that their country pursue; and he adopted it as calmly as he should be happy, and of those who gave an order to relieve a royalist in jail. thought freedom and security in some de
Having accomplished the objects of his gree incompatible—the adoption of the appointment abroad, he returned from Constitution is the most wonderful as well Europe in 1784, and upon his return he as the important event in our history. found that Congress, the body whose in- Mr. Jay's agency in producing this result structions he had disobeyed, had appoint- alone would be sufficient to establish his ed him Secretary of Foreign Affairs—an claims to the affectionate respect and exoffice corresponding to the present De- alted estimation of his countrymen. Real partment of State. This appointment in- greatness in a man lies largely in an undicates the fact that Congress saw and derstanding of truth and duty, and a rigid appreciated the propriety of Jay's conduct adherence to them. And the same traits abroad ; that if they could have foreseen of character which made Mr. Jay devoted the exigency, there would have been no to duty, gave him the confidence in man, conflict between their instructions and his by which he put trust in a federate repubproceedings. Jay was at the same time lican government--not that confidence solicited to be Governor of New York. which would deify the passions of men, This he declined, and accepted the first but which saw in man the image of the named appointment. In this situation he Diety in spite of them. soon felt and saw the inefficiency of the Mr. Jay used to remark that if men old confederation, and he soon after open- would never forget that the world was ed a correspondence with Washington and under the guidance of a Providence which other leading men of the country upon the never erred, it would save much useless subject of forming a national government. anxiety, and prevent a great many misThe Convention soon followed, and a takes. This trust was the foundation of Constitution was proposed. Mr. Jay's his faith and success. He never feared attendance upon Congress as Secretary of or doubted. During the revolution, his Foreign Affairs, prevented his being a difficult negotiations for peace, the condelegate to the Convention which formed flicts upon the Constitution, and the conthe Constitution. As soon as the Con- troversy about his Treaty with England, stiution was formed and proposed to the he never for a moment distrusted the repeople, a contest coinmenced more impor- sult. All his letters, conversation and tant, as we have said, than the war of conduct, indicate a consciousness of hav. the Revolution, and upon the issue of ing stood by the right, and a confidence which more doubt was suspended. Mr. that right would prevail. Jay's efforts to procure the adoption of the The Federal Constitution being adoptConstitution were uninterrupted and ef- ed, and Washington elected President, he ficient, and felt in every State. His agen- requested Jay to select the situation in cy with Hamilton and Madison in writing the General Government which he might the Federalist, and the influence of those prefer. This offer could be given to no Essays, are well known. But in addition other man in the country, and it indicates to his general efforts for the benefit of the the estimate which a keen discerner of whole country, which was then vibrating character placed upon Jay. He selected upon the question of adopting the pro- the office of Chief Justice of the United posed Constitution, Mr. Jay and a few States. He accepted this place rather as others were relied upon to bring the im- the post of duty, than honor. His charac portant State of New York to adopt it. ter was suited to this station. It accords The exertions necessary to this result may with all our notions of fitness to see such be inferred from the fact that when the a man in the highest seat of justice. We New York delegates to decide upon the almost tremble for his purity in the conConstitution were elected, eleven were in flict of parties and the intrigues of courts, favor of adopting it, forty-six against it. until he teaches us how to feel and act in Hamilton and Jay were among the for- them. But we feel that all is safe when mer, and in the end New York adopted he is upon the bench. In this office he the Constitution by a majority of three. effected much in allaying opposition to
Encountering the prejudices of those the Constitution and infusing among the