Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

if borne down by the weight of his subject, and, faltering through an impressive exordium, launched forth gradually into a recital of the colonial wrongs. The subject was great, the field was vast; but Mr. Henry's powers were equal to the occasion. His countenance, illuminated by the fire of that genius which burned within, shone with almost superhuman lustre. His eye was steady; his action noble; his diction commanding ; his enunciation clear and distinct; his mind, inspired by the greatness of his subject, glowed with its richest treasures ; and, as he swept proudly forward in his high argument, even that assemblage of mighty intellects were struck with astonishment and awe. He sat down amid murmurs of admiration and applause. The convention was nerved to the point of action; and as he had been proclaimed the greatest orator of Virginia, he was now admitted to be the first orator in America.

On the 20th of May, 1775, after the meeting of the first congress, and when the country was almost in open arms, Virginia held her second convention. Hitherto the opposition to the ministerial measures, in all public bodies, had been respectful, and had looked only to a peaceful adjustment of the questions which divided the two countries. But the quick eye of Mr. Henry had seen that there must be an end to this temporizing policy, and that the spirit of legislation should be made to keep pace with the movements of the public mind. When, therefore, the convention opened with propositions for new, and still more humble petitions, the blood of the patriot warmed in his veins, and he determined to meet these propositions at once and nip them in the bud. In pursuance of this determination, he offered a series of resolutions for arming and equipping the militia of the colony. This measure threw the convention into the utmost consternation, and it was hotly opposed from every side, by all the most weighty and influential members, as rash, precipitate, and desperate. Some of the firmest patriots in the house, and, among the number, several of the most distinguished members of the late congress, brought all the power of their logic, as well as the weight of their influence, against it. Indeed, Mr. Wirt informs us that the shock produced upon the house was so great as to be painful.

Under these circumstances most men would have quailed before the storm, and compromised with his opponents by withdrawing

VOL. 1.-40

the resolutions. Not so with Mr. Henry. If he had chafed the billows into commotion, they were the element of his glory, and he rode most proudly when the storm beat in its wildest fury. He entered upon the discussion clad in his heaviest armor. His words dropped not froin his lips like the dew, but they were poured forth like the mountain torrent, whirling, foaming, sparkling, leaping on, in their deep path of passion, and sweeping away in their course the feeble impediments which had been raised to obstruct his progress. He rolled along as if borne by some mighty and irresistible influence, now “dazzling, burning, striking down,” now bursting forth with such rhapsodies of patriotic feeling as set the house in a blaze, and fired their souls for action,

It was during this, his most masterly effort, that the fearful alternative of war was first publicly proclaimed. “If,” said the inspired statesman, "we wish to be free—if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending—if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight !-I repeat it, sir, we must fight!! An appeal to arms, and to the God of hosts, is all that is left us !"

And again—“It is vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry peace, peace, but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! the next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle ? What is it that gentlemen would have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery ? Forbid it, Almighty God !—I know not what course others may take; but as for me,” cried he, with both his arms extended aloft, his brows knit, and every feature marked with the resolute purpose of his soul, "give me liberty, or give me death."

He sat down, but no murmur of applause followed. It was evident that the deep feelings of patriotism were stirred in every breast. “ After the trance of a moment,” says Mr. Wirt, “ several members started from their seats. The cry, To arms, seemed to quiver on every lip and glance from every eye.” The resolutions were adopted-the colony was armed-the country was aroused to more vigorous action, and the next gale that swept from the north, brought, indeed, the clash of resounding arms. Blood had been poured out at Lexington, and the great drama of the revolution was opened, to close only with the freedom and independence of America.

Mr. Henry soon after this was appointed commander-in-chief of the Virginia troops, a place which he held, however, only for a short period. He was the first republican governor of his native state, and was elected to that high office for three successive years, when he became ineligible by the constitution. He was subsequently several times elevated to the same commanding station. He held a prominent place in the public councils during the whole of the war, and, indeed, through the greater part of his life. He was a most vigorous opponent of the federal constitution, and had well nigh prevented its adoption by the Virginia convention. The department of state was offered to him by President Washington, and he was appointed minister to France by President Adams, both of which places he declined to accept. He finished his useful and glorious career on the 6th of June, 1799, in the sixty-third year

of his age.

Mr. Henry was strict in his morals, and pure in his language. It is believed he was never known to take the name of his Maker in vain. He was amiable and modest in his deportmentan affectionate and indulgent parent—an amusing companion, and a faithful friend. During his last illness he said to a friend, stretching out toward him his hand, which contained an open Bible, “Here is a book worth more than all the other books that were ever printed; yet it is my misfortune never to have found time to read it with the proper attention and feeling, till lately. I trust in the mercy of Heaven that it is not yet too late.”

As a statesman Mr. Henry wanted that patient industry which no genius can ever fully supply. Bright as was his career, it would have been vastly more glorious but for his unconquerable aversion to laborious study. When his mind was nerved up to its full strength, it seems to have been equal to any effort, however commanding; but when he had given any great enterprise its first impulse, his work was done, and he became "weak like another man." He could not bear the toil and drudgery of the great world. His light was that of the meteor which blazes through the darkness, and not the steady beams of the patient sun. He seems to have grasped his subject by intuition, and when once his stand was taken, there was no hesitation, no doubt, no wavering, but his convictions were settled principles, and he marched forward to his object with as much certainty as though he had worked it out by the rules of mathematics. This prescience gave him a most commanding advantage, and is the great secret of his success. With a modesty which was so great as to be a feature in his character, we behold him giving the first impulse to the revolution, sounding the first battle cry, and leading the first military expedition in Virginia. Had his industry been equal to the powers of his mind, he would have held no second place in the annals of his country. As it was, his career was one of dazzling brilliancy, and he justly ranks among the highest ornaments and noblest benefactors of his country.

Art. VII.-CRITICAL NOTICES.

1. The Life of the Rev. Charles Wesley, M. A., some time Student of

Christ's Church, Oxford: comprising a Review of his Poetry; Sketches of the Rise and Progress of Methodism; with Notices of contemporary Events and Characters. By Thomas JACKSON. In two volumes. London: Published by John Mason, at the Wesleyan Conference Office. 1841.

The above work from the official press of the Wesleyan Methodist connection has just been received. Though we have not yet had time to peruse these volumes, yet, from reading the preface, and a hasty glance at several leading and important topics, we are full of expectation that the work will exceed in interest any thing we have seen from the British Methodist press for a long time past.

Most of us have supposed that every thing calculated to throw light upon the history and character of the Wesleys had long since been used up. But to our no small surprise and gratification, we meet with two heavy octavos principally made up from the papers of Mr. C. Wesley, which had been carefully kept by his daughter, and strangely hid from the view of those only who were competent to do full justice to the memory of her sainted father. After the death of Miss Wesley, it seems, the conference purchased the papers, and through the fertile and powerful pen of Mr. Jackson these materials have been reduced to the order, and given to the world in the form, in which we now have them,

We shall immediately commence an examination of this great, and, as we suppose, truly interesting and instructive work, preparatory to the publication of an edition from the Methodist press in New York, which we have no doubt will be done with all convenient dispatch.

Those on the one hand who believe in the validity of Mr. Wesley's ordinations for America, and those on the other who denounce our episcopacy as "spurious," and have pressed Mr. Charles Wesley into their service, will wait with no little anxiety to see what light his private papers

reflect
upon

his real and mature views on that subject. Whether Mr. C. Wesley was in all respects a genuine high Churchman, we shall now probably be able to determine with certainty.

2. Delineation of Roman Catholicism, drawn from the authentic and ac

knowledged Standards of the Church of Rome : namely, her Creeds, Catechisms, Decisions of Councils, Papal Bulls, Roman Catholic Writers, the Records of History, etc., etc.: in which the peculiar Doctrines, Morals, Government, and Usages

of the Church of Rome are stated, treated at large, and confuted. By Rev. CHARLES ELLIOTT, D. D. Vol. II, 8vo. New-York: Published by G. Lane. 1841.

We are happy to have upon our table in time for notice in this number, the second volume of Dr. Elliott's work on Romanism. The work is one of great labor and of great merit. Any one who wishes to understand the controversy which has been in progress between Romanists and Protestants from the days of Luther to the present, and who wishes to see the evidence of the real character of the Romish heresy from the most authentic sources, cannot fail to be gratified by the perusal of Dr. E.'s volumes.

The present volume is divided into two books; the first treats of the “government of the Church of Rome,” and the second of " miscellaneous doctrines, usages," &c. In the first our author investigates the character of the church, the claims and prerogatives of general councils, and the supremacy of the pope. And in the second he treats of the celibacy of the clergy, and the worship of saints.

A leading object of the author is to show, from Romish authorities, what the real doctrine of the Church of Rome is on these points. This is most of all, in relation to Romanism, what we at the present want to know. Where the Bible is critically studied in the original languages by a multitude of scholars, and is circulated among the people without restraint, the anti-scriptural dogmas of Romanism only need to be seen and properly identified, to meet with the universal reprobation of all who are not stupified by the monster's poison.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »