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1794, when he bade a final adieu to his profession, and retired to the bosom of his family. He retired loaded with honours, public and professional; and carried with him the admiration, the gratitude, the confidence, and the love of his country.
No man had ever passed through so long a life of public service, with a reputation more perfectly unspotted.
In 1796, he was again called to the gubernatorial chair, but this office he almost immediately resigned.
In the year 1797, his health began to decline, and continued to sink gradually to the moment of his death.
In 1799, he was appointed by President Adams, envoy to France. This honour he declined, on account of his advanced age and increasing debility. He lived but a short time after this testimony of respect, in which his talents and patriotism were held, for he died at Red-Hill, Charlotte county, June 6, 1799.
Thus lived, and thus died, the celebrated Patrick Henry of Virginia; a man who justly deserves to be ranked among the highest ornaments, and noblest benefactors of his country. Had his lot been cast in the republics of Greece or Rome, his name would have been enrolled by some immortal pen among the expellers of tyrants and the champions of liberty: the proudest monuments of national gratitude would have risen to his honour, and handed down his memory to future enerations.
Robert Morris, one of the signers of the declaration of independence, and an eminent financier, was born January 20, 1734.
At the age of fifteen he lost his father. Soon after his death, he was taken into the counting-house of Charles Willing, Esq., of Philadelphia, where he served a regular apprenticeship. In a year or two after the expiration of his indentures, he entered into partnership with Mr. Thomas Willing. This connexion continued for the long period of thirty-nine years; and previously to the commencement of the American war, it was at the summit of commercial distinction.
Few men in the American colonies were more alive to the gradual encroachment of the British government upon the liberties of the people, and none more ready to remonstrate against them. His signature on the part of his mercantile house to the non-importation agreement, evinced the consistency of his principles and conduct, and at the same time was expressive of his willingness to prefer a sacrifice of private interest to the continuance of an intercourse which would add to the revenue of the government that oppressed them.
In consideration of his general intelligence, his high standing in society, and his patriotic exertions, he was appointed by the Legislature of Pennsylvania a member of the second Congress, which met at Phila, delphia in 1775.
A few weeks after he had taken his seat, he was added to the secret committee, and was employed in financial arrangements of the greatest importance to the operations of the army and navy.
He frequently obtained pecuniary and other supplies on his own account, which were most pressingly required, when at the time it would have been impos-. sible to have procured them on the account of government.
It was by his timely compliance on one of these occasions, which enabled General Washington to gain the important victory at Trenton. Many other similar instances occurred of this patriotic interposition of his own responsibility for supplies and money, which could not otherwise have been obtained.
On the 4th of July, 1776, he signed the ever memorable declaration of independence, that for ever separ.
rated us from England, and thus pledged himself to join heart and hand with the destinies of his country, while some of his colleagues, who possessed less firmness, drew back, and retired from the contest.
He was thrice successively elected to Congress, in 1776, '97, and '78, and was one of its most useful and indefatigable members.
The free and public expression of his sentiments upon all occasions, and the confident tone of ultimate success which he supported, served to rouse the desponding, to fix the wavering, and confirm the brave.
To trace him through all the acts of his political and financial administration, would be to make a hislory of the last two years of the revolutionary war. When the exhausted credit of the government threatened the most alarming consequences; when the soldiers were utterly destitute of the necessary supplies of food and clothing; when the military chest had been drained of its last dollar, and even the intrepid confidence of Washington was shaken ; upon his own credit, and from his own private resources, did he furnish those pecuniary means, but for which the physical energies of the country, exerted to their utmost, would have been scarcely competent to secure that prompt and glorious issue which ensued.
In the year 1781, he was appointed by Congress “ superintendent of finance," an office for the first time established.
One of the first acts of his financial government was the proposition to Congress, of his plan for the establishment of the Bank of North America, which was chartered forthwith, and opened on the 7th January,
1782. On his retirement from office, it was affirmed, by two of the Massachusetts delegates, that “it cost Congress at the rate of eighteen millions per annum, hard dollars, to carry on the war, till he was chosen financier, and then it cost them but about five mil. Lions !"
No man ever had more numerous concerns committed to his charge, and few to greater amount; and never did any one more faithfully discharge the various complicated trusts with greater despatch, economy, or credit, than the subject of this sketch.
By letter to the commissioners of the treasury board, he resigned his office of superintendent of finance, September 30, 1784.
The next public service rendered by Mr. Morris to his country, was as a member of the convention that formed the federal constitution in the year 1787. He also represented Philadelphia in the first Congress, that sat at New York after the ratification of the federal compact by the number of states required thereby, to establish it as the grand basis of the law of the land.
At length, worn down by public labour, and private misfortunes, he rapidly approached the mansion appointed for all living; the lamp of life glimmered in its socket; and that great and good man sunk into the tomb, on the 8th May, 1806, in the seventy-third year of his age.
The memory of a man of such distinguished utility cannot be lost; and while the recollection of his mula tiplied services are deeply engraven on the tablet of our hearts, let us hope that the day is not distant, when some public monument, recording the most momentous occurrences of his life, and characteristic of national feeling and gratitude, may mark the spot where rest the remains of Robert Morris.
John Jay, LL.D., chief justice of the United States, and a distinguished statesman, was born in the city of New York, December 1, 1745, (0.S.). At the age of fourteen, he was placed at King's college. After taking his bachelor's degree, he studied law, and in a few years rose to distinguished eminence in his profession.
The commencement of our struggles with Great Britain found him at an age, and with feelings and talents, to render him an ardent and able supporter of his country's rights, and a fit and worthy successor to his father, whose age and infirmities forbade him to take that part in the events of the time to which he was prompted by inclination. He, therefore, commenced his political career at a point which was justly considered the honourable goal of many an older patriot's ambition.
In 1774, he was elected by the citizens of New York, a delegate to the first general Congress which met at Philadelphia ; that Congress, of which to have been member, is a sufficient title to the gratitude of Americans.
In 1776, he was elected president of that august and enlightened body.
In 1777, he was a member of the convention of the state of New York, which met to deliberate and frame a new constitution; and drew the first draft of that instrument.
In 1778, he was appointed chief justice of that state. In the following year, he was appointed minister plenipotentiary to the court of Spain, and sailed for Cadiz in the beginning of December.
The object of this mission was to obtain from Spain an acknowledgment of our independence, to form a treaty of alliance, and to procure pecuniary aid : but on the two first points he failed.
Early in the summer of 1782, he was appointed one of the commissioners to negotiate a peace with England, and was authorized to continue the negotiation with Spain.
In September, 1783, he signed a definitive treaty of peace with the former, and soon after resigned his commission, and returned home.
On his arrival in the United States, he was placed at the head of the department for foreign affairs, in which office he continued till the adoption of the fedem