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As a statesman he is intimately conversant with the laws and constitution of his country, and familiarly acquainted with its various interests, foreign and domestic; as a civilian, well read in the laws of nations; as an erudite classical scholar, both in ancient and modern literature, and as an elegant writer, and a consummate orator, he may be said to rank with the first of his cotemporaries. He died in April, 1827.
HENRY LAURENS, president of Congress, and a distinguished patriot, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in the year 1724. The superintendence of his education was first given to Mr. Howe, and afterwards to Mr. Corbett; but of the nature of his studies, or the extent of his acquirements, we are not told. He was regularly bred to mercantile pursuits, and was remarkable through life for his peculiar observance of business. In whatever he was engaged, he was distinguished for his extraordinary punctuality. He rose early, and devoting the morning to the counting-house, he not unfrequently finished his concerns before others had left their beds. Industrious almost to an extreme himself, he demanded a corresponding attention and labour on the part of those in his employ.
In the year 1771, on the death of his amiable wife, he relinquished business, and visited Europe, principally for the purpose of superintending the education of his sons.
He took an early part in opposing the arbitrary claims of Great Britain, and was one of the thirty-. nine native Americans, who endeavoured by their petition to prevent the British parliament from passing the Boston port bill.
Every exertion on the part of the colonies proving fruitless, he hastened home, with a determination to take part with his countrymen against Great Britain.
The circumstance of his leaving England at this important crisis, expressly to defend the cause of independence, served to confirm in the highest degree that unbounded confidence in his fidelity and patriotism, for which his friends, through the whole course of his career, had such an ample cause to entertain.
On his arrival in this country, no attentions were withheld which it was possible to bestow.
When the Provincial Congress of Carolina met in June, 1775, he was appointed its president, in which capacity, he drew up a form of association, to be signed by all the friends of liberty, which indicated a most determined spirit.
On the establishment of a regular constitution in South Carolina, in 1776, he was elected a member of Congress. On the resignation of President Hancock, he was appointed the president of that august body.
In 1780, he was appointed a minister plenipotentiary to Holland to solicit a loan, and to negotiate a treaty. On his passage to that country, he was captured by a British vessel, and sent to England. He was there impriso in the tower of London, on the 6th October, as a state prisoner, upon a charge of high treason. He was confined more than a year, and treated with great severity; being denied for the most part all intercourse with his friends, and forbidden the use of pen and ink.
Towards the close of the year 1781, his sufferings, which had by that time become well known, excited the utmost sympathy for himself, but kindled the warmest indignation against the authors of his cruel confinement. Every exertion to draw concessions from this inflexible patriot having proved more than useless, the ministry resolved upon his releasement. As soon as his discharge was known, he received from Congress a commission, appointing him one of their ministers for negotiating a peace with Great Britain.
In conjunction with Dr. Franklin, John Jay, and
John Adams, he signed the preliminaries of peace on the 30th November, 1782, and a short time after he returned to South Carolina. Although he could have commanded any office in the gift of his state, he declined every honour which was urged upon him by his countrymen, preferring to spend the remainder of his days in rural retirement and domestic enjoyment.
He expired on the 8th December, 1792. He directed his son to burn his body on the third day, as the sole condition of inheriting an estate of £60,000 sterling.
HORATIO GATES, a major-general in the army of the United States, was born about the year 1728.
In early life he entered the British army, and laid the foundation of his future military excellence. He was with Braddock, and a companion in arms with Washington, at the defeat of his army, in 1755.
When peace was concluded, he purchased an estate in Virginia, where he resided until the commencement of the American war, in 1775, when he was appointed by Congress, at the recommendation of General Washington, adjutant-general, with the rank of brigadier-general.
From this period he took a very active part in most of the transactions of the war, and his abilities and good fortune placed him in a rank inferior only to the commander-in-chief, and above any other general.
In July, 1775, he accompanied Washington to Cambridge, when he went to take command of the army in that place.
In June, 1776, he was appointed to the command of the army of Canada. He was superseded by General Schuyler in May, 1777; but in August following, he took the place of this officer in the northern department. The success, which attended his arms in the
capture of Burgoyne, in October, filled America with joy. This event may be considered as deciding the war of the revolution, as from that period, the British cause began rapidly to decline. Congress passed a vote of thanks, and ordered a medal of gold to be presented by the president. After General Lincoln was taken prisoner, he was appointed on the 13th of June, 1780, to the command of the southern department. On the 16th of August, he was defeated by Cornwallis, at Camden. He was superseded on the 3d of December by General Greene, but was, in 1782, restored to his command.
After the peace he retired to his farm, in Berkely county, Virginia, where he remained until the year 1790, when he went to reside at New York, having first emancipated his slaves, and made such pecuniary provision for such as were not able to provide for themselves. On his arrival at New York, the freedom of the city was presented to him.
In 1800, he accepted a seat in the Legislature, but he retained it no longer than he conceived his services might be useful to the cause of liberty, which he never abandoned. He died, April 10, 1806, in the seventyeighty year of his age. He was a scholar, well versed in history and the Latin classics.
HENRY KNOX, LL. D., a major-general in the army of the United States, was born at Boston, July 25, 1750. Among those of our country; who most zealously engaged in the cause of liberty, few sustained a rank more deservedly conspicuous, than General Knox. He was one of those heroes, of whom it may be truly said, that he lived for his country. The ardour of his youth, and the vigour of his manhood, were devotedly to acquiring its liberty and establishing its prosperity.
At the age of eighteen, he was selected by the young men of Boston to the command of an independent company; in this station, he exhibited those talents, which afterwards shone with lustre, in the most brilliant campaigns of an eight years' war.
In the early stages of British hostility, though not in commission, he was not an inactive spectator. At the battle of Bunker Hill he acted as a volunteer in reconnoitring the movements of the enemy.
Scarcely had we begun to feel the aggressions of the British arms, before it was perceived that we were destitute of artillery; and no resource presented itself, but the desperate expedient of procuring it from the Canadian frontier. At this crisis he generously offered his services to the commander-in-chief, to supply the army with ordnance from Canada, notwithstanding the obstacles and perils of the undertaking. Accordingly, in the winter of 1775, he commenced his operations, and in a few weeks, he had surmounted every difficulty and danger, and returned laden with ordnance and stores.
In consequence of this important service, he was appointed to the command of the artillery of which he had thus laid the foundation, in which command he continued with increasing reputation through the revolutionary war.
In the battles of Trenton and Princeton he gloriously signalized himself by his bravery and valour.
In the bloody fields of Germantown and Monmouth, he was no less distinguished for the discharge of the arduous duties of his command. In the front of the battle he was seen animating his soldiers, and pointing the thunder of their cannon. His skill and bravery were so conspicuous on the latter occasion, that he received the particular approbation of the commander-in-chief.
In every field of battle, where Washington fought, Knox was by his side. Honourable to himself as had been the career of his revolutionary services, new