« AnteriorContinuar »
gunpowder. The manufacture of salt petre, one of its constituents, was but imperfectly understood. Congress appointed a committee, of which Mr. Paine was chairman, to introduce the manufacture of it. In this particular, he rendered essential service to his country, by making extensive inquiries into the subject, and by inducing persons in various parts of the provinces to engage in the manufacture of the article. The following is among the letters which he wrote on this subject, which, while it shows his indefatigable attention to the subject, will convey to the present generation some idea of the multiform duties of the patriots of the revolution. Mr. Paine also rendered himself highly useful, as a member of a committee for the encouragement of the manufacture of cannon, and other implements of war.
Philadelphia, June 10th, 1775. My very dear Sir, - I cannot express to you the surprise and uneasiness I received on hearing the congress express respecting the want of gunpowder; it was always a matter that lay heavy on my mind; but the observation I made of your attention to it, and your alertness and perseverance in everything you undertake, and your repeatedly expressing it as your opinion that we had probably enough for this summer's campaign, made me quite easy. I rely upon it that measures are taken in your parts of the continent to supply this defect. The design of your express will be zealously attended to, I think. I have seen one of the powder mills here, where they make excellent powder, but have worked up all the nitre ; one of our members is concerned in a powder mill at New-York, and has a man at work making nitre. I have taken pains to inquire into the method. Dr. Franklin has seen salt-petre works at Hanover and Paris; and it strikes me to be as unnecessary, after a certain time, to send abroad for gunpowder, as for bread; provided people will make use of common understanding and industry; but for the present we must import from abroad. Major Foster told me, at Hartford, he suspected he had some land that would yield nitre; pray converse with him about it. Dr.
Franklin's account is much the same as is mentioned in one
Of the congress of 1776, Mr. Paine was also a member; and to the declaration of independence, which that body published to the world, he gave his vote, and affixed his name. In the December following, the situation of congress became justly alarming. The British army were, at this time, making rapid advances through New-Jersey, towards Philadel phia. The troops of Washington, amounting to scarcely one third of the British force, it was thought would not be able to resist their progress, or prevent their taking possession of Philadelphia. During the alarm excited by an approaching soe, congress adjourned to Baltimore. Of the state of congress, at this time, the following letter of Mr. Paine gives an interesting account.
“Our public affairs have been exceedingly agitated since I wrote you last. The loss of fort Washington made way for that of sort Lee; and the dissolution of our army happening at the same time, threw us into a most disagreeable situation. The interception of an express gave the enemy full assurance of what they must have had some knowledge of before, the state of our army; and they took the advantage of it. In two days after the possession of fort Lee, on the 20th of November, where we lost much baggage, and the chief of our battering cannon, they marched to the Hackensack, and thence to Newark, driving General Washington before them, with his 3000 men; thence to Elizabethtown. General Washington supposed, from the best information he could get, that they were 10,000 strong; marching with a large body of horse in front, and a very large train of artillery. We began to be apprehensive they were intended for Philadelphia; and congress sat all Sunday in determining proper measures on the occasion. I cannot describe to you the situation of this city. The prospect was really alarming. Monday, 9th ; yesterday, General Washington crossed the Delaware, and the enemy arrived at Trenton on this side, thirty miles from this place; close quarters for Congress It obliges us to move; we have resolved to go to Baltimore.” For the years 1777 and 1778, Mr. Paine was a member of congress, during the intervals of whose sessions, he filled several important offices in the state of Massachusetts. In 1780, he was called to take a part in the deliberations of the convention, which met for the purpose of forming a constitution for the commonwealth. Of the committee which framed that excellent instrument, he was a conspicuous member. Under the government organized according to this constitution, he was appointed attorney general, an office which he continued to hold until 1790, when he was transferred to a seat on the bench of the supreme judicial court. In this situation he remained till the year 1804, at which time he had attained to the advanced age of 73 years. As a lawyer, Mr. Paine ranked high among his professional brethren. His legal attainments were extensive. In the discharge of his duties as attorney general, he had the reputation of unnecessary severity; but fidelity in that station generally provokes the censure of the lawless and licentious. Towards the abandoned and incorrigible he was indeed severe, and was willing that the law in all its penalties should be visited upon them. But where crime was followed by repentance, he could be moved to tenderness; and while, in the discharge of his official duty, he took care that the law should not fall into disrespect through his inefficiency, he at the same time was ever ready to recommend such as might deserve it to executive clemency. The important duties of a judge, he discharged with honour and great impartiality for the space of fourteen years. During the latter part of this time, he was affected with a deafness, which, in a measure, impaired his usefulness on the bench. Few men have rendered more important services to the literary and religious institutions of a country, than did Judge Paine. He gave them all the support and influence of his office, by urging upon grand jurors the faithful execution of the laws, the support of schools, and the preservation of a strict morality. The death of Judge Paine occurred on the eleventh of May, 1814, having attained to the age of 84 years. Until near the close of life, the vigour of his mental faculties continued unimpaired. In quickness of apprehension, liveliness of imagination, and general intelligence, he had few superiors. His memory was of the most retentive character, and he was highly distinguished for a sprightly and agreeable turn in conversation. A witty severity sometimes excited the temporary disquietude of a friend; but if he was sometimes inclined to indulge in pleasant raillery, he was willing to be the subject of it in his turn. As a scholar, he ranked high among literary men, and was distinguished for his patronage of all the useful institutions of the country. He was a founder of the American Academy established in Massachusetts in 1780, and active in its service until his death. The honorary degree of doctor of laws was conferred upon him by Harvard University. Judge Paine was a firm believer in the divine origin of the Christian religion. He gave full credence to the scriptures, as a revelation from God, designed to instruct mankind in a knowledge of their duty, and to guide them in the way to eternal happiness.
o ELBRIDGE GERRY. ELBRIDGE GERRY was born at Marblehead, in the state of Massachusetts, on the seventeenth day of July, 1711. His father was a native of Newton, of respectable parentage and connexions. He emigrated to America in 1730, soon after which, he established himself as a merchant in Marblehead, where he continued to reside until his death, in 1774. He was much esteemed and respected, as a man of judgment and discretion. Of the early habits or manners of young Elbridge, little is known. He became a member of Harvard College before he had completed his fourteenth year; and of course was too young at the university to acquire any decided character. Mr. Gerry was originally destined to the profession of medicine, to which his own inclination strongly attached him. But soon after leaving college, he engaged in commercial affairs, under the direction of his father, and for some years followed the routine of mercantile business in his native town. Great success attended his commercial enterprise; and within a few years, he found himself in the enjoyment of a competent fortune. It is natural to suppose that the superior education of Mr. Gerry, added to the respectable character he sustained, as a man of probity and judgment, gave him influence over the people among whom he resided. In May, 1772, the people of Marblehead manifested their respect and confidence by sending him a representative to the general court of the province of Massachusetts. In May of the following year, Mr. Gerry was re-elected to the same office. During the session of the general court that year, Mr. Samuel Adams introduced his celebrated motion for the appointment of a standing committee of correspondence and inquiry. In accordance with this motion, committees of correspondence were appointed throughout the province, by means of which intelligence was freely circulated abroad, and a spirit of patriotism was infused through all parts of the country.