Зображення сторінки

classes. Altogether, Benjamin Pierce But in reality the military period of was a remarkable character. He lost his life did not come to an end until his parents at an early age, and was his death; for in 1789 he was made brought up by his uncle, with strict General of Brigade in the militia corps economy, and after the severe fashion of his adopted country, and this post he which anciently prevailed in the continued to fill until he died, educating Northern States of the Union. Two in arms several generations of the young generations ago, we may remark in pas- | Americans of the County of Hillsbosing, the life of the Americans was very rough. Under the presidency of John different from what it is to-day. It was Adams he refused an important and lua life of hardship, labour, and priva- crative command in the army-raised tions ; simple, reserved, and without in consequence of the then existing fear show, as are always the lives of the of a war with the French Republicfounders of new states, and even new which was offered to him, because his houses, provided the latter be of any political opinions would not allow him power or importance.

to accept it. “No, gentlemen," he reIn 1775, at the commencement of the plied, to the deputation of senators, Revolution, Benjamin Pierce forsook which was sent to try to induce him to his plough, enrolled himself in the army, accept it, “No, gentlemen, I am poor, assisted at the battle of Bunker's Hill, it is true, and under other circumstances and was made commander of a com- your proposition might have been acpany. When the war was ended, inceptable; but rather than give my sup1785, be bought fifty acres of uncleared port, however bumble, to the design for land at Hillsborough, of which he which this army has been levied, I will formed one of the first settlers. There retire to the most distant mountains of he built himself a house, cleared' his my country, find myself a cabin, and ground, married, and gradually caused live solely upon potatoes !” He thus sterility and solitude to fly from the refused to make war upon a republican vicinity of his dwelling. Under his government, and against a country which roof grew up nine children, the fruit of had rendered aid to the United States at two successive marriages. Even in the their foundation. This occasion, howmidst of his rustic labours, he did not ever, was the sole one on which he rehowever, forget his ancient trade of a fused to serve bis country by the sword, soldier. The recollections of the military and he brought up both his two sons in the period of his life were always present army in which his son-in-law, General with him, and formed the pride of his MacNeil also served. The old patriot old age. He had the happiness of being died in 1839, after having been Goable to associate with a great human vernor of New Hampshire, and a memand patriotic interest, the emotions of ber of the legislature of his own State youth, the birth of the first strong sen- for thirty consecutive years. timents, and the first important episodes! This old Benjamin Pierce suggests to of life-in short all those things wbich us a reflection which does not apply only we look back upon in old age with so to the United States, but also to the · much gentle, pleasant sadness, or so whole of Europe ; it is that in several much deep regret, which are the eternal countries the generations of the eigh objects of our pride or our remorse. teenth century, with all their faults and Hawthorn, on this head, relates some comparitively deep ignorance, were far anecdotes which are truly touching. superior to those of the present century. We will speak here of but one. One We are not so fond of the men of the past day, the old Benjamin Pierce gathered century, as to be in the least degree round his table all his old brother-in- tempted to be unjust to others for their arms, who were then living, and, in the sake. They knew that they owed themevening, at the moment of separation, he selves to their country; that it was their addressed to them these pathetic words : duty to die for it, if necessary; and al** We are about to separate, after what ways to sacrifice to its welfare their own will probably be our last meeting upon private fortunes and interests. This earth. We shall all soon be called by was most especially the case in America, the rolling of druins, veiled with crape, and upon the Continent: alas! the idea to rejoin our beloved Washington, and was sometimes carried to such an exall the other noble comrades who once tent as to induce some individuals to fought and bled by our sides.”

believe that it was also their duty to

sacrifice even their souls unto their private man.” He objected to the grant country, and that it was excusable for ing of these revolutionary pensions, not them to appear before God charged because he was ungrateful to the vetewith all manner of crimes, provided, rans of the war of independence, but they were only committed, as they be- upon ground which will be gathered lived, for the public good. No genera- from the following extract from his tions of men have ever been more at- speech :-“I am not insensible, Mr. tached to the things of this world, to President, of the advantages with which mundane pleasures, and to dreams of claims of this character always come perfect happiness, than those of the last before Congress. They are supposed to century; but none ever forsook them be based upon services for which no more nobly when it was necessary, man entertains a higher estimate than or exhibited less regret at parting with myself-services beyond all praise, and them. We have spoken in this last above all price, But, while warm and sentence more especially of the inhabi- glowing with tbe glorious recollections tants of continental Europe, for those which a recurrence to that period of our of America of that period were of history can never fail to awaken; while plain and simple habits, as befitted we cherish with emotions of pride, rethe first descendants of the founders verence, and affection, the memory of of a republic. There is a story told those brave men who are no longer of one of them-a contemporary of with us; while we provide with a liberal Benjamin Pierce- wbich illustrates hand, for such as survive, and for the the position we bave asserted. It is re- widows of the deceased; while we would lated by N. P. Willis, who tells us that accord to their heirs, whether in the he once encountered, living in the utmost second or third generation, every dollar poverty in a village of Massachusets, as to which they can establish a just claim centenarian who had been several times - I trust we shall not, in the strong offered a pension by the government in current of our sympathies, forget what reward of his past services—for he had become us as the descendants of such fought in nearly all the battles of the men. They would teach us to legislate revolution, and fought bravely too- upon our judgment, upon our sober which pension he had as often refused sense of right, and not upon our imto accept. People had never been able | pulses or our sympathies. No, sir; we to make him understand that he had any may act in this way if we choose, when right to any pension. “My country," dispensing our own means; but we are he used to say, “when I was younger, not at liberty to do it when dispensing claimed my services and my blood, and, the means of our constituents. in duty bound, I responded to its call. “If we were to legislate upon our It was simply natural and right that I sympathies—yet, more, I will admitif should do so, why, therefore, trouble we were to yield to that sense of just and with such offers the peace of my last grateful remuneration wbich presses day?" It is true that to-day, as of old, itself upon every man's heart, there we find great numbers of Americans would scarcely be a limit for our bounty. who are capable of devoting themselves The whole exchequer would not answer to their country; but how few are capa- the demand. To the patriotism, the ble of refusing all recompense for their courage, and the sacrifices of the people devotion!

of that day, we owe, under Providence, It was by a father imbued with such all that we now so highly prize, and principles that Franklin Pierce was / what we shall transmit to our children brought up; and, in truth, it is not dif- | as the richest legacy they can inherit. ficult to recognise in several acts of his The war of the revolution, it has been past life the traces of his early educa-ljustly remarked, was not a war of armies tion. The most memorable example merely-it was the war of nearly a which we are able to cite is that of his whole people, and such a people as the speech upon the subject of revolutionary world had never before seen, in a deathpensions, which, as Mr. Hawthorn says, struggle for liberty. * is a good exponent of his character; “The losses, sacrifices, and sufferings full of the truest sympathy, but, above of that period, were common to all all things, just, and not to be misled, classes and all conditions of life. Those on the public behalf, by those impulses who remained at home suffered hardly which would be most apt to sway the less than those who entered on the

active strife. The aged father and of states and kingdoms, family and love mother underwent not less than the son, of country, are brought in the presence who would have been the comfort and of each other, and in which private and stay of their declining years, now called domestic devotion are estimated at the to perform a yet higher duty-to follow same price as military and political the standard of his bleeding country. sacrifices. Such sentiments as those The young mother, with her helpless which inspire it are not common in the children, excites not less deeply our present day, at least in such a form, sympathies, contending with want, and and Franklin Pierce is undoubtedly indragging out years of weary and toil- debted for the possession of them to his some days and anxious nights, than the early education. husband in the field, following the for- Old Benjamin Pierce-like all illitertunes of our armies without the common ate men, who exaggerate, in some meahabiliments to protect his person, or the sure, the advantages derivable from requisite sustenance to support his intellectual culture-wished, in spite of strength. Sir, I never think of that his poverty, that his children should patient, enduring, self-sacrificing army, have the fullest benefits of that literary which crossed the Delaware, in 1777, instruction which he himself had never marching barefooted upon frozen ground enjoyed. Accordingly, be sent his son to encounter the foe, and leaving bloody Franklin-for with him alone is it that footprints for miles behind them—1 we have now to do-after he had undernever think of their sufferings during gone several years of preparatory study, that terrible winter without involun- to Bowdoin College, in the town of tarily enquiring where were then their Brunswick, state of Maine. There he families ? Who lit up the cheerful fire was the fellow pupil of the famous upon the hearths at home? Who spoke Nathaniel Hawthorne, who has since the word of comfort and encouragement? become his biographer. Mr. Hawthorne Nay, sir, who furnished protection from leaves us to suppose that the future the rigours of the winter, and brought president's progress in his studies was them the necessary means of subsist- slow and difficult, and that he was only ence ?

able to keep up with his companions The true and simple answer to these by the force of extra perseverance and questions would disclose an amount of tenacity. He appears still as not to be suffering and anguish, mental and phy- possessing any very brilliant mental sical, such as might not have been qualities, but as more than making up found in the ranks of the armies,--not for all he lacks in this respect, by the even in the severest trial of that forti- patient perseverance with which he entude which never faltered, and that deavours to counteract and make ир.

for power of endurance which seemed to his own deficiencies. He has neither know no limit. All this no man feels brilliant nor lofty faculties; everything more deeply than I do. But they were that he has done he has accomplished common sacrifices in a common cause, slowly, by means of his force of chaultimately crowned with the reward racter, perseverance, calculation, and of liberty. They have an everlasting exactitude. H qualities are th of claim upon our gratitude, and are des- an excellent man of business. He detined, I trust, by their heroic example, parted from College in the state of what to exert an abiding influence upon our the Americans call “ an excellent sublatest posterity.”

ject;" that is as one to whom it was The argument may appear strange, known that the performance of the most but it is the entertainment of such sen- wearisome duties or the most unintertiments by General Pierce-sentiments esting functions, might be confided with by which he attaches himself to the assurance.

He was at the time the tradition of the founders of the repub- president of an association named the lic—that have caused him to be es- * Athenian Society," and we are told he teemed worthy, and indeed made him not only performed the duties of his own worthy, of being elected to the impor- office, and performed them well, but he tant office of President of the United also fulfilled most of those of his colStates. The virtues which the universal leagues in the bargain. After he left tradition of the human race attributes college, Mr. Hawthorne tells us that to republicanism truly animate this fine every time he saw him he was struck oration, in which the two grand supports with the remarkable progress which his

mind had made since the period of his it may be said indeed created for-the last meeting him; and this we can very joys of the fireside and of domestic easily account for. This indefinite pro- life; that he is of a good and affectionate gression is precisely the quality which nature is evidenced by an anecdote distinguishes men of his character, who which is related of him by Hawthorne, do everything with slowness, but never who tells us that one day during his cease doing. They appear, too, to the return from the campaign of Mexico, observer, to rise higher than men of he travelled a distance of some miles genius, because we can always follow out of his road, in order to shake hands them with the eye. If we watch them, with a poor ploughman who had been an we see them marching onward patiently old friend of his father's. There are numand doggedly, sometimes forcing thepi-berless stories of a like nature told of selves to run, but not often, at last him, and the deeds which they record reaching a summit, but not lingering at could not have been with any view to it, but setting themselves to work to the attainment of popularity is proved escalade another without delay. They by the general tenour of his history and are always progressing, but they are character. never lost to view. It is not so with Having left college, and being face men of genius. They sometimes soar to face with the necessity of making out of the sight of common mortals. choice of a profession, in spite of many Moreover, whenever they make progress vagne inclinations towards a military life it appears but small, in consequence he decided to embrace that of the law, of their having leaped with their earli and in 1827, after several years of study, est effort, to the highest peak.

he was received as a member of the bar We do not wish these words to be mis- of Hillsborough. His debut was a comunderstood. In putting down Franklin plete failure, but the remark which he Pierce as a mere man of business, we made upon the occasion, is one worthy do not pretend to disparage him. Few of being recorded, and one which gives American, statesmen, not even exclud- us the key to his whole character. One ing their most passionate ones, as Henry of his friends expressed to him senti, Clay, Calhoun, and Daniel Webster, ments of condolence and encourageare, or have been, any thing more. But ment, thinking, without doubt, that this the qualities of a man of business are by first unsuccess would tend to abate his no means despicable; even among us courage and self-confidence. “I have they are of the most useful character, and no need of your encouragement," was with the Americans they almost touch on the reply of the future President; “I genius. American statesmen are pre- have failed this time, but I will succeed eminently practical. They have nothing in the end. I will make the attempt of that unpassioned temperament which nine hundred and ninety-nine times, has characterised the greatest of the and if I fail then, I will make it for the statesmen of the old world. They are sage thousandth.” Such is the man. He and calculating—very cold, even under knows how to wait, and has confidence à seeming heat of very high tempera- in time. Such knowledge and confi. ture. Their eloquence is often only dence are always excellent virtues, more exterior, and their enthusiasm and exal. especially in a statesman; but in the tation are not of the heart but of the case of Franklin Pierce, the chief of head. No American, from the founda- | the democrates, and head of a party tion of the Republic to the present hour, which is naturally most unquiet and has ever possessed any of those bril- impatient, this want of feverish imliant and poetic qualities, or any of that patience and inquietude is an invalureal passion which distinguished a Fox, able possession and a guarantee of a Sheridan, a Bolingbroke, or a Mira- | peace and conciliation. It was long bebeau. But is this fortunate or other-fore he was successful at the bar. But wise for the Union ? Those who know he succeeded at last, and when the pothe dangers of politcal life, will be best pular vote called him to fill the post of able to answer.

supreme magistrate of the Union, it Besides the distinguishing qualities found bim the most renowned of all the of an American statesman, General lawyers of New Hampshire. During Pierce possesses others which are per- his life as a simple lawyer the confidence haps more valuable. He is religious and of his compatriots often drew him into tolerant, and capable of tasting-nay, the political arena; and at the time of


the candidature for the presidency of opinion he has never since varied. SinGeneral Jackson, he supported his gularly enough, too, Hawthorne himself cause with ardow, and was himself has praise for him there, notwithstandelected member of the legislature of ing his ex-membership of the Association New Hampshire, of which he was also of Brook Farm, for two years the president. At the In 1837, Franklin Pierce was elected expiration of his governorship, the con- a member of the Senate, before which fidence which was placed in him rising assembly he delivered his famous speech daily higher, he was elected one of the respecting revolutionary pensions. In representatives of that state in Congress. 1810, fortune seemed to have abandoned

Some of his opinions and votes res- the democratic party. Power passed pecting questions long since solved, into the hands of the Whigs, after the have been recorded by Mr. Hawthorne, presidency of Van Buren; and their only from whose "Life of Pierce," we learn, idea was that of endeavouring to undo that he supported the vote of General everything that had been done by the Jackson relating to the celebrated Democrats during the last ten or twelve ** Mayorville Road Bill." During the years. The Whigs did that which they presidency of Quincy Adams, the Whigs repeated, very impolitically, in 1848%; had attempted to establish the prin- namely, they deprived of their offices all ciple, that all great works of public the functionaries who had been named utility ought to be constructed at the by the two last Presidents. The subject expense of the general treasury. It was was brought before the Senate, and against this system of centralization Franklin Peirce was inspired to make a that General Jackson protested, and noble speech upon it, in which he proFranklin Pierce, in the Chamber of Re-tested against the deprivations which presentatives, was his constant defender. | had been made in the name of the public With regard to public works and com- good and the necessities of the country. merce, General Pierce has, in general, | This hateful practice, which, under the had little confidence in governmental pretence of being only made use for interference. He doubts the power of the furtherance of the public prosperity, legislation in this respect, and the effi- is, in reality, merely a weapon in the cacy of any governmental measures, hands of a triumphant party, and the even in instances in which it would seem instrument of political vengeance and that good laws and regulations would be reprisals, was attacked by him with very of the greatest service. Here we have extraordinary force and vigour. In the the secret of the power which the demo- course of his speech he resumed the hiscratic party possesses in America. It tory of the whole world, and showed by the eares less than the Whigs for mere poli- example of all the nations of the earth, tical abstractions and legal formulas, that the doctrine he condemned, the docand has more confidence than they have trine by which the Whigs justified their in the free movements and spontaneous actions, had never resulted in anything instincts of mankind. The Democratic but oppression and violence, and that it system, however, carried to the extreme, was only the doctrine of hypocrisy and produces as many ill effects as does the deception. To prove this, he adduced opposite one, as Mr. Pierce has had op- such examples as those which he conportunities of learning from experience. ceived to be afforded by the Romish InThus he opposed, in Congress, a bill for quisition, the massacre of the Indians the creation of a military academy; but by the English, the silent executions of afterwards, seeing the services which the Venetians, the beheading of Strafthis academy rendered in the course of ford, the reign of terror in France, etc. the Mexican war, he publicly acknow. His speech, though remarkably powerful, ledged that he saw he had been mistaken was not entirely hors de propos. The in the course which he had pursued in "doctrine" it protested against has prothis respect. Shortly afterwards, he duced in all countries incalculable evils; declared his belief that he had been but what have the excesses committed hitherto mistaken with regard to another by the Inquisition, or during the French far more important and interesting sub- Reign of Terror, in common with the ject, namely, the great question of expulsion from office of a few American slavery. He began to see, he said, that functionaries? T'he fault which Franklin the Union must not be put in peril by a Pierce committed in this speech, is one question of philanthropy; and from this which few Americans are free from,

« НазадПродовжити »