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Full text of "American biography"

THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 













WILLIAM PINKNEY 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

EDITED BY 

JARED SPARKS 



JOHN STARK 

By 
EDWARD EVERETT 

WILLIAM PINKNEY 

By 
HENRY WHEATON 

Vol. 5 




HARPER & BROTHERS 

PUBLISHERS 
NEW YORK AND LONDON 1902 



A d. 4 8 G. C Q 

GIFT 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

LIFE OF JOHN STARK 3 

LIFE OF WILLIAM PINKNEY 119 

iii 



LIFE 



JOHN STARK 



EDWARD EVERETT 



JOHN STARK 



THE great political consequences of the war of 
the Revolution have thrown into comparative ob 
scurity the previous military history of the British 
North American Colonies. In reality, however, 
the military efforts made by those Colonies, not 
only in the Seven Years War, but in that of 1744, 
were of great importance. Large forces were 
kept on foot; distant and important expeditions 
were undertaken with success ; valuable con 
quests were achieved ; and, on more than one 
occasion, a very decisive influence on the politics 
of Europe was exercised by the colonial govern 
ments. Great importance would have been at- 
tuched to these transactions, but for the greater 
importance and interest of those, which followed 
so close upon them, in the war of the Revolution. 
Hut it is not the least of the reasons, why we 
ought to study the hisiury of these earlier wars, 
that they formed in reality the great school, in 
which the military leaders of the Revolution were 
trained 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Among ifc emifjBni: pupils of this school, John 
Stark, was^by. no .means, the least distinguished. 
His- eh aru tftft r: -is- ans. . pf .original strength and 
resource. He would have risen to consequence 
and authority, however rude and uncivilized the 
community in which he had been thrown ; and 
had he been trained in the discipline, and enjoyed 
the opportunities, of the great armies of Europe, 
his name would have reached posterity, as a mili 
tary chieftain of the first rank. In the peculiar 
social and political condition of the country, 
allowing an almost indefinite scope for the pecu 
liarities of individual character, the temperament 
of General Stark prevented his rising decidedly 
above the sphere of the partisan leader ; but he 
was unquestionably a partisan of the highest 
character, and rendered services of an importance 
not easily surpassed, those of Washington out of 
the question, by any achievements of any other 
leader in the army of the Revolution. An account 
of the life of General Stark has been published, 
as it would appear, by his family, from authentic 
materials.* This will be our authority for every 

* " Reminiscences of the French War, containing 
Rogers s Expeditions with the New England Rangers 
ander his command, as published in London in 1765; 
with Notes and Illustrations ; to which is added an Ac 
count of the Life and Military Services of Major-General 
John Stark, &c. Concord, N. H., 1831." 



JOHN STARK. 5 

thing which belongs to personal history in the 
following Memoir, and for many matters relative 
to the military and public career of its subject ; 
an acknowledgment which we wish to make in 
the amplest terms, in the outset, to avoid the 
necessity of repetition and marginal reference. 

JOHN STARK was born at Nutfield, now London 
derry, in New Hampshire, on the 28th of August, 
in the year 1728. His life began in hardship. 
His father, Archibald Stark, was a native of 
Glasgow in Scotland, and emigrated while young 
to Londonderry in Ireland. In the year 1720, 
he embarked with a numerous company of adven 
turers for New Hampshire. These emigrants 
were descended from the Scotch Presbyterians, 
who, in the reign of James the First, were estab 
lished in Ireland, but who professing with national 
tenacity a religious belief, neither in accordance 
with the popular faith in Ireland, nor with that of 
its English masters, and disliking the institutions 
of tithes and rent, determined to seek a settle 
ment in America. The first party came over in 
1718, and led the way in a settlement on the 
Merrimac river. They were shortly succeeded 
by a large number of their countrymen, who 
brought with them the art of weaving linen, and 
first introduced the culture of the potato in this 
part of America ; and furnished from their fami 
lies a large number of the nioneers of civilization 



6 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, and 
some of the most useful and distinguished citizens 
of all these States. 

The vessel, winch brought over Archibald 
Stark and his party, arrived in Boston, about the 
time of the alarm of the prevalence of the small 
pox. The account we follow, places it in 1720, 
and states that the vessel, in consequence of hav 
ing the smallpox on board, was not allowed 
an entry in Boston. As 1721 was the year, 
when the smallpox committed the most formida 
ble ravages in Boston, having been brought in a 
vessel from the West Indies, it is not unlikely, 
that the party of Stark arrived in Boston Bay, 
while the panic produced by the ravages of the 
disease was at its height. At all events, they 
were refused permission to land in Boston ; and 
they passed the winter on the banks of the Ken- 
nebec in Maine, and near the spot where Wiscas- 
set was afterwards settled. The following year 
they removed to Nutfield, where they had been 
preceded by the first emigrating company of their 
countrymen. Here a permanent and flourishing 
settlement was founded, which took the name of 
Londonderry in 17*22, in memory of the plare 
ol their abode in Ireland. 

This place was in advance of the compact 
settlements, and consequently was exposed to the 
brunt of Indian warfare, which precisely at. this 



JOHN STARK. 



period was commencing for the fourth time since 
the first establishment of the English Colonies. 
A tradition is preserved, that the settlers at Lon 
donderry were occasionally preserved from savage 
violence, by the interposition of Father Rasles, 
a French Missionary, established among the 
Norridgewock tribe of Indians. The particular 
motive, which prompted the tenderness of this 
French Catholic toward a settlement of Scotch 
Covenanters, has not been handed down with the 
tradition. 

John Stark was the second of four sons. In 
1736 his father removed from Londonderry to 
Derryfield, now Manchester. Here John re 
mained in the family of his father till the year 
1 752. In this year he went upon a hunting ex 
cursion to Baker s River in Rumney, in the north 
western quarter of the State, and a spot at that 
time far beyond the range of the English settle 
ments. The party consisted, besides himself, of 
his elder brother William, and of David Stinson, 
and Amos Eastman. On the S8th of April, they 
were surprised by a party of ten Indians of the 
tribe established at St. Francis. Stark s party 
iiad discovered the trail of the Indians two days 
before ; arid were preparing, in consequence, to 
leave the ground. John had separated from his 
companions to collect the traps ; and while thus 
employed was surprised by the Indians. On 



8 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

being questioned about his companions, he pointed 
in the direction opposite to that which they had 
taken, and thus succeeded in leading the Indians 
two miles out of the way. His companions un 
fortunately, becoming alarmed at his absence, and 
ignorant of its cause, fired several guns as a signal 
to him. This betrayed them to the savages ; 
who, proceeding down the river below the en 
campment, lay in wait to intercept their boat, as 
it should descend. The hunters, suspecting what 
had happened, were moving down the river, 
William Stark and Stinson in the canoe, and 
Eastman on the bank. At sunrise in the morn 
ing, Eastman fell into the hands of the savages, 
who, at the same time, ordered John to hail his 
brethren in the boat, and thus decoy them to the 
shore. Instead of obeying this command, John 
had the courage, after explaining his own situation 
to his brother and Stinson, to advise them to pull 
for the opposite shore. They did so, and were 
immediately fired upon by four of the Indians. 
At the moment of the discharge, Stark knocked 
up the guns of two of the Indians ; and did the 
same when the rest of the party fired a second 
volley, calling to his brother William to make his 
escape, as the guns were all discharged. This 
his brother succeeded in doing ; but Stinson was 
killed. For his boldness on this occasion, Stark 
was severely beaten by the Indians, who, taking 



JOHN STARK. 9 

possession of the furs collected by the hunting 
party, retreated to Coos, near where Haverhill, 
New Hampshire, now is, and where two of their 
party had been left to collect provisions against 
their return. Having passed one night here, 
they proceeded to the upper Coos (Lancaster), 
from which they despatched three of their num 
ber with Eastman to St. Francis. The remainder 
of the party spent some time in hunting upon a 
small stream in this neighbourhood. Stark, con 
fined at night and closely watched by day, was 
permitted by his new companions to try his for 
tune at hunting, and, having trapped one beaver 
and shot another, received the skins as his reward. 
On the 9th of June, the party returned to St. 
Francis, where Stark rejoined his companion 
Eastman. They were compelled to undergo 
what is called the ceremony of running the gant 
let ; a use of that term, which modern effeminacy 
would hardly admit. It was the universal prac 
tice of the North American Indians, to compel 
their captives to pass through the young warriors 
of the tribe, ranged in two lines, each furnished 
with a rod, and, when highly exasperated, with 
deadly weapons, to strike the prisoners as they 
passed. In the latter case, the captive was fre 
quently killed, before he could reach the council- 
house, at which the two lines of Indians termi 
nated On the present occasion, Eastman was 



10 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

severely whipped, as he passed through the lines 
Stark, more athletic and adroit, and better com 
prehending the Indian character, snatched a club 
from the nearest Indian, laid about him to the 
right and left, scattering the Indians before him, 
and escaped with scarcely a blow ; greatly to the 
delight of the old men of the tribe, who sat at 
some distance, witnessing the scene, and enjoying 
the confusion of their young warriors. 

Stark and his companion remained some time 
among the St. Francis Indians, by whom he was 
kindly treated. He possessed opportunities, which 
he did not allow to pass unimproved, of studying 
their manners and customs, particularly in their 
military excursions. At the end of six weeks, 
Captain Stevens of Number Four (Charlestown, 
New Hampshire), and Mr. Wheelwright of Bos 
ton, were sent by the General Court of Massa 
chusetts to redeem some of the citizens of that 
province, who had been carried into captivity 
Not finding those of whom they were in search 
from Massachusetts, they liberally paid the ransom 
of Stark and Eastman, the former being redeemed 
for one hundred and three dollars, the latter for 
sixty. Ma^Rchusetts was in the habit of redeem 
ing, from t..e treasury of the province, her citizens 
who wers carried away captive ; but Stark and 
Eastman were never repaid by New Hampshire, 
the sums advanced to them by the Massachpsetts 



JO UN STARK 11 

Commissioners. They returned by the way of 
Albany to Derry field in New Hampshire, after 
an absence of about four months. 

The unhappy want of political concert between 
the Colonies at this period is curiously illustrated 
by the fact, that the party of Indians, who had 
plundered and captured Stark and his compan 
ions, travelled with them to Albany, and there, 
without molestation, made sale of the very furs, 
which they had taken from these citizens of a 
sister province in time of peace ; for this adven 
ture preceded by four years the breaking out of the 
war of 1756. 

Stark was accustomed, throughout his life, to 
attach no small importance to this incident in 
his youthful history. During the three or four 
months, which he passed among the Indians, he 
carefully observed their manners and character * 
and acquired a practical knowledge on these 
points, of great value to a frontier partisan. He 
appears to have caught the humor of the Indians, 
and to have known how to approach them on the 
side of their prejudices. He was ordered by 
them u hoe their corn. Well aware that they 
regarded labor of this kind as fit only for squaws 
and slaves, he took care to cut up the corn and 
spare the weeds, in order to give them a suitable 
idea of his want of skill in unmanly labor. As 
this experiment upon their #ood nature did not 



12 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

answer its desired object, he threw his hoe into 
the river, declaring " it was the business, not of 
warriors, but of squaws to hoe corn." This spirit 
ed deportment gained him the title of young 
chief, and the honor of adoption into the tribe. 
He never ceased to recur with pleasure to the 
incidents of his captivity among the St. Francis 
Indians, and to maintain, that he received more 
genuine kindness from them, than he ever knew 
prisoners of war to receive from any civilized 
nation. The practice of ransoming the captives 
had already taken much from the horrors of In 
dian warfare. Before this practice had rendered 
the lives of prisoners valuable to the savages, the 
cruelties inflicted by them on those, who fell into 
their hands, are known to have been of the most 
revolting character. 

The ill success of this expedition furnished new 
reasons for undertaking another, the next year, 
to the head waters of the Androscoggin, in 
order to raise from the proceeds of his hunting 
a sum of money to enable him to discharge his 
debt to the Massachusetts Commissioners. The 
report, which he brought back from this and his 
former excursion to the upper Coos country, de 
termined the General Court of New Hampshire 
to explore it. A company was enlisted for this 
purpose, under Colonel Lovell, and John Stark 
was engaged as the guide. They commenced 



JOHNSTARK. 13 

their march from Concord, on the I Oth of March, 
reached Piennont on the 17th, and, after passing 
one day in making observations upon the country, 
returned to Concord on the 23d. This country, 
however, was claimed by the Indians, and had 
oever been brought within the acknowledged 
limits of the English governments. Foreseeing 
the mischiefs which would result to the Colonies 
by a forcible occupation of it, on the part of the 
people of New Hampshire, the Governor of Mas 
sachusetts used his influence with the Governor of 
New Hampshire, to obtain a postponement of the 
measure. In the year 1754 a report reached the 
English settlements, that the French were build 
ing a fort in this coveted region. A party of 
thirty men was despatched by the Governor of 
New Hampshire, with a flag of truce, to remon 
strate against this proceeding. John Stark was 
selected as the guide of the expedition, and con 
ducted the party to the upper Coos, by way of 
the Little Ox-Bow, being the same route which 
he had travelled before, as a captive of the Indians 
They found no traces of the French in the coun 
try, and were the first party from the Colonies, 
which explored the fertile meadows on the banks 
of the Connecticut, where the flourishing towns of 
Haverhill and Newbury are now situated. 

In the year 1754, the great Seven Years War 
in reality commenced. It grew out of the strug- 



14: AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

gle between the British and the French for the 
possession oi North America. The British hav 
ing preceded the French in occupying the better 
portions of the coast, the French turned their 
attention to the interior ; and made it their object, 
by means of the St. Lawrence, the Lakes, the 
Ohio, and Mississippi, and a chain of posts 
judiciously established along this line of water 
communication, to prevent the progress of the 
English westward. The Ohio Company was 
formed in 1749, and was the first link in the chain 
of causes, which brought on the rupture. In the 
year 1754 the memorable project of a union of 
the Colonies with a view to their defence against 
the French and Indians was matured at Albany, 
and signed on the 4th of July ; and on the same 
day Colonel Washington was obliged to capitulate 
to the French and Indians at Fort Necessity. A 
very extensive plan of campaign was projected 
for the year 1755, consisting of three parts. The 
first was an expedition against Fort Duquesne, 
to be conducted by General Braddock with troops 
from England ; the second was an attempt upon 
Fort Niagara, to be made by the regular forces 
raised in the Colonies, and Indians ; and the third 
was an expedition against Crown Point, to be 
carried on exclusively by New England trocps, 
raised for that purpose. 



JOHN STARK. la 

A corps of rangers was enlisted in New 
Hampshire for service in trie last expedition, by 
Robert Rogers, who acquired great reputation as 
a partisan officer in the progress of the war. 
Stark s experience on scouting parties obvkusly 
fitted him for this service ; and his character was 
already so well established, that he received a 
commission as a lieutenant in the regiment, which 
was commanded by Colonel Blanchard. This 
regiment was first ordered into the Coos country, 
and directed to burn the meadows, preparatory tc 
building a fort. But at Governor Shirley s in 
stance, before reaching their place of destination, 
the order was countermanded, and they were di 
rected to repair to the army assembled against 
Crown Point, by fhe way of Number Four and 
Albany. At the time the troops arrived at head 
quarters, General Johnson was encamped on Lake 
George. The New Hampshire regiment was 
stationed by him at Fort Edward, a positior 
which had been taken up by General Lyrnan, at 
the landing-place on the east side of the Hudson. 
It was the design of General Johnson, about the 
beginning of September, to move against Crown 
Point and Ticonderoga, a post about fifteen miles 
south of Crown Point, which, he had understood, 
had been fortified by the French. The move 
ment of the Anglo-American army was, however, 
anticipated by the advance of the Baron Dieskau, 
the French general . 



16 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

This officer had lately arrived at Montreal, 
with a body of French troops. His instructions 
directed him to reduce the English post at Os- 
wego ; but the news of the movement against 
Crown Point having reached Montreal about the 
time of the Baron Dieskau s arrival, and having 
produced alarm there, the Baron was importuned 
to pass up Lake Champlain with his forces, to 
resist the advancing Anglo-American army. This 
was accordingly done ; the Baron transported his 
troops to Fort Frederic (Crown Point), and, hav 
ing waited there for some time the approach of 
the English army, resolved to march against them 
He accordingly embarked two thousand men in 
boats from Crown Point, and landing at South 
Bay marched on towards Fort Edward, where the 
New Hampshire rangers were stationed. When 
within two miles of the fort, he communicated his 
design of assaulting it to his troops. The Cana 
dians and Indians in his army, dreading the effects 
of the cannon of the fort, were unwilling to make 
the attempt, but expressed their readiness to 
march against the main body encamped at the 
Lake, and, as it was understood, without lines or 
artillery. On this representation, the Baron 
changed his course and marched against the camp. 

Intelligence meantime had reached the camp, 
that the French had landed at South Bay, and 
were marching upon Fort Edward. Two mes- 



JOHNSTARK. 17 

sengers were despatched by General Johnson to 
the Fort with this intelligence One of these 
messengers was intercepted and killed ; and the 
other returned to the camp with information, that 
he had discovered the French about four miles to 
the northward of the Fort. It was resolved, in 
council of war, to send a strong detachment to 
the relief of the Fort. A thousand men were 
detached from the army, with two hundred In 
dians, for this service, and placed under the com 
mand of Colonel Ephraim Williams, a brave 
Massachusetts officer. Baron Dieskau had posted 
his troops advantageously in a defile. Deceived 
by the small number of men apparently opposed to 
him, the ardor of Colonel Williams and his troops 
betrayed him into an ambuscade. Baron Dies 
kau had reserved his regular troops in the centre 
for the main attack, and ordered the Canadians 
and French to enclose the Anglo-Americans on 
the flanks. The Baron, with a view to a com 
plete surprise, had ordered the Canadians and 
Indians to reserve their fire, till they should hear 
the attack of the main body in the centre. Hen- 
dricks, the Mohawk chief, attached to Colonel 
Williams s party, perceived the approaches of the 
Canadian Indians, and brought on the engage 
ment. It was severe, and bravely contested ; 
but the French force being nearly double of the 
Anglo-American, the latter was obliged to retreat, 
v. 2 



18 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHf. 



with the loss of Colonel Williams, the gallant offi 
cer in command, and of Hendricks, the Mohawk 
chief. M. de St. Pierre, the French officei in 
command of the Canadian Indians, was also killed. 
The loss was considerable on both sides. 

We trust we shall be pardoned for pausing ? 
moment in the narration, to pay a deserved trib 
ute to the memory of Colonel Ephraim William? 

He was a native of Newton, near Boston ; but 
his father, Colonel Ephraim Williams the elder 
was one of the earliest settlers of Stockbrid^e 

O 

Colonel Williams the son, being of an adventu 
rous disposition, for several years in early life 
followed the seas. In his different voyages to 
Europe, he visited England, Spain, and Holland, 
and acquired the information and accomplishments 
of an observant traveller. Having, at the request 
of his father, determined to establish himself at 
home, and possessing a decided military taste, he 
entered the army enlisted for the war (that of 
1744), then raging between England and France, 
and commanded a company raised in New En 
gland on what was called the Canada service. 
He was afterwards placed in command of the 
line of Massachusetts forts, on the w r est side of 
Connecticut river While he held this command, 
his principal station was Fort Hoosac, on the bank 
of the Hoosac river, in the present town of 
Adams, about three miles and a half east of 



JOHN STARK. 

Williamstown. There was also a small fort at 
Williamstown, under his command. The first 
settlements, in this part of the country, grew up 
under the protection of these forts. Colonel 
Williams was the witness of the efforts, the hard 
ships, and the perils of the early settlers ; and, 
forming a just anticipation of the future impor 
tance of this part of the country, he conceived 
the design of making provision for the means of 
education in this quarter of the Commonwealth. 
After the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, 
Colonel Williams resided chiefly at Hatfield, in the 
county of Hampshire. On the breaking out of 
the war in 1755, his high military character ob 
tained him the command of a regiment, which was 
attached to the army under General Johnson, des 
lined against Crow r n Point. While at Albany, on 
his way to head-quarters, a presentiment of his ap 
preaching fate seems to have taken possession of 
him, and on the 22d of July, 1755, he made his will 
He fell by a musket-shot through his head, on the 
memorable 8th of September, in the engagement 
already spoken of. He was at this time scarcely 
passed forty years of age. His person was large 
and commanding. He had a strong taste for books 
and habitually lamented the want of an academical 
education. His address and manners were remark 
ably engaging. In the general Court of Massachu 
setts, he possessed a greater personal influence thar 



20 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

any other individual, and in the army he was be 
loved by the soldiers. Having no family, he ap 
propriated, with wise liberality, the greater part of 
his property to the foundation of " a Free School 
in a township west of Fort Massachusetts." The 
property bequeathed was not very large ; but, by 
judicious management, by legislative aid, and pri 
vate subscriptions, it proved adequate to the estab 
lishment of the Free School, subsequently the Col 
lege, situated in Williamstown ; which has long 
enjoyed a high character among the institutions 
for education in the country, and will transmit 
the name of its gallant, patriotic, and unfortunate 
founder, in grateful and enduring remembrance. 

The fortune of the day, disastrous at first to the 
Anglo-American army, by the loss of Colonel Wil 
liams and the repulse of his detachment, was soon 
reversed. The retreating troops were met by a 
party sent out to their aid, and, falling back with 
them on the main body, awaited the approach of 
the enemy on the borders of the Lake. Johnson 
was advantageously posted. A deep, woody swamp 
covered his flanks, and in front, behind a breast 
work of trees, he had mounted several cannon, 
opportunely received from Fort Edward two days 
before. This fact had escaped the observation of 
the French spies. The army of Baron Dieskau 
came to a halt ; the retreating Provincials recover 
ed their spirits, and opposed a manful resistance to 



JOHN STARK. 21 

the approaching enemy. The Canadians and In 
dians were dismayed at the appearance of artillery 
within the breastwork, and, at the first discharge 
of the cannon, fled to the swamps. They were 
soon followed by the main body in a disorderly re 
treat. The American army instantly pursued, and 
completed the rout of the enemy. The Baron 
himself, wounded in the leg, was found leaning on 
the stump of a tree entirely alone, on the field 
where, but a few hours before, he had commanded 
an army flushed with success. While feeling in 
his pocket for his watch, to surrender it to the sol 
dier who had surprised him, the latter, supposing 
him to be in search of a pistol, discharged his 
musket at him, and gave him a wound, which 
eventually proved mortal. He lived however to 
reach England. This soldier is believed to have 
been General Seth Pomroy of Northampton. 

Baron Dieskau was conducted a prisoner to the 
English camp ; and, the pursuit not being contin 
ued, the remains of his army rallied upon the pre 
cise spot, where the party of Colonel Williams had 
been defeated in the morning. At this juncture 
a detachment of the New Hampshire troops at 
Fort Edward, about two hundred strong, on their 
march to the relief of the main body, fell in with 
the remnants of the French army and put them 
completely to rout. Captain McGinnis, the brave 
commander of the party, unfortunately lost his life 
in the moment of victory. 



Z- A :.l K 14. 1 C A N El G U A 1* H I . 

Thus were fought on the same day. and upou 
the same field, three several battles, with the loss 
of three commanders, and an Indian chief. Gen 
eral Johnson himself was wounded. The hill over- 
looking the defile, where Colonel Williams met 
his fate, is still called French Mountain ; and the 
spot on which he fell is known as Williams s Rock. 
Close by the road, and on its north side, is a circu 
lar pond, two or three hundred feet in diameter, 
shaped like a bowl, into which the dead bodies of 
both parties w r ere thrown in undistinguished con 
fusion. From that day to the present, it has 
borne the name of the Bloody Fund. 

Such was the introduction of Stark to the per 
ils of regular warfare ; and with the momentous 
events of this day the campaign began and closed. 
The advantages gained by General Johnson, who 
w 7 as created a baronet for his success, were not 
followed up by the pursuit of the original objects 
of the expedition ; and with the exception of six 
hundred men who were retained to garrison Fort 
Edward and Fort William Henry, which was built 
on the shore of Lake George and near the site of 
Johnson s encampment, the army was discharged. 
Colonel Blanchard s regiment was among those 
disbanded, and, with the other officers composing 
it, Lieutenant Stark returned home. 

It was, however, but for a brief enjoyment of 
the repose of private life. Although the leading 



JOHN STARK. 23 

operations of the war were suspended by the sea 
son, it was judged expedient, that a full company 
of rangers should be attached to the garrisons, left 
at the forts between Lake George and the Hudson. 
Major Rogers was employed by Governor Shirley 
to recruit such a company, which he did princi 
pally in New Hampshire ; and such was his confi 
dence in Stark, that he bestowed on him again the 
commission of second lieutenant. By the express 
directions of Governor Shirley, none were to be 
enlisted in this corps, but men accustomed to travel 
ling and hunting in the woods, and men in whose 
courage and fidelity entire confidence could be pla 
ced. The Journal of his service with these rang 
ers was published by Major Rogers in 1765, at 
London, and presents an exceedingly interesting 
view of their severe and perilous warfare. Their 
duty was to reconnoitre the hostile posts and ar 
mies, to surprise straggling parties, and obtain pris 
oners, to effect diversions by false attacks, to serve 
as guides and couriers. They acted in a corps 
independent of the line of the army, under their 
own officers, and with their own regulations, as 
prescribed by their gallant leader, and still preserv 
ed in his Journal alluded to. It was made their 
duty, by their instructions, " from time to time, to 
use their best endeavours to distress the French and 
their allies, by sacking, burning, and destroying their 
houses, barns, barracks, canoes, and batteaux, and 



24 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

oy killing their cattle of every kind ; and at al 
times to endeavour to wayiay, attack, and destroy 
their convoys of provision by land and water, in any 
part of the country where they could be found." 

Majors Rogers divided his corps. A part of it 
marched under Lieutenant Richard Rogers to Al 
bany, and the other half, under his own immediate 
command, directed their line of march by the way 
of Number Four. Shaping their course from this 
place toward Crown Point, they pursued their 
way " through vast forests and over lofty moun 
tains." On the second day of the march, Lieu 
tenant Stark fell sick, and was obliged, with a 
guard of six men, to repair to Fort Edward. On 
their way to the fort, they fell in with and eluded 
a scouting party of four hundred hostile Indians. 

The Journal of Major Rogers above mentioned, 
details the operations and adventures of his corps 
during the season, and cannot be perused without 
lively interest ; but our limits compel us to pass 
briefly over them. So important were the servi 
ces of the corps of rangers, that it was judged 
expedient by General Abercromby, who superse 
ded Governor Shirley in the command, to double 
its numbers. A new company was accordingly 
raised, and placed under the command of Richard 
Rogers brother of the Major. The place of first 
lieutenant in the old company, being thus vaca 
ted, was filled by the promotion of Second Lieu- 



JOHN STARK. 25 

tenant Stark. In the month of August, a company 
of Stockbridge Indians, led by officers of their own 
tribe, commissioned by Governor Shirley, was ta 
ken into the service and acted occasionally in con 
nexion with the rangers, whose skill as woods 
men was in no degree inferior to that, which was 
possessed by these natives of the forest. Early in 
August, the Earl of Loudoun took the command. 
By his direction, the rangers departed on a scout 
ing expedition in two parties, one headed by 
Rogers and the other by Stark, in which they as 
cended Lake Champlain a considerable distance 
reconnoitring the enemy s positions, and lying in 
wait for straggling parties. They did not return to 
the fort, till the end of September. From this 
time to the close of the season, the rangers were 
on continual service, exploring the woods, pro 
curing information, and bringing in prisoners 
On the 19th of November they made an excur 
sion for six days, down the lake. Captain Aber- 
cromby, aid-de-camp and nephew of the General, 
had the curiosity, notwithstanding the severity of 
the season in this high latitude, to accompany the 
party. Nothing was effected in a military way, 
beyond obtaining a sight of the French garrison at 
Crown Point ; but the young officer was delighted 
with the novelties of the scout, and with the ro 
mantic and noble scen-ery, through which the ran 
gers conducted him. At the Hose of the season 



20 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the troops were principally drawn off to Albany ; 
but the rangers remained on duty at Forts William 
Henry and Edward. They were joined, at the 
end of the year, by two additional companies of 
rangers from Halifax, under Captains Hobbs arid 
Spikeman. 

Early in January, 1757, a party of the rangers 
was detached on an expedition down the Lake, 
which ended in an engagement of great severity, 
in which we behold clear indications of the future 
hero of Bennington. On the 15th of January, a 
party consisting of Major Robert Rogers, his 
Lieutenant, John Stark, Ensign Page of Richard 
Rogers s company, and fifty privates, marched from 
their station at Fort Edward to Fort William Hen 
ry, where they were employed two days in prepar 
ing snow-shoes and provisions for their excursion 
They were joined on the 17th by Captain Spike 
man, and sixteen officers and men from his com 
pany ; by Ensign Rogers, with two men of Cap 
tain Hobbs s company, and a volunteer of the 44th 
Regiment. The party proceeded down Lake 
George on the ice, and at night encamped on the 
east side of the First Narrows. Some of the men, 
lamed by the exertions of the first day, were 
obliged to turn back ; and the party was thus 
reduced to seventy-four mem, officers included. 
The march was continued for the three succeeding 
days, on the Lake, and on the land by means of 



JOHN STARK. 



27 



snow-shoes. On the twentieth they encamped at 
night, within three miles of Lake Charnplain. On 
the twenty-first day they marched in an easterly 
direction, till they reached the Lake, halfway be 
tween Crown Point and Ticonderoga, when they 
discovered a sled, passing on the ice from the for 
mer to the latter. Lieutenant Stark, with twenty 
men, was ordered to intercept the sled in front. 
Major Rogers, with another party, threw himself 
in the rear, to cut off its retreat, leaving Captain 
Spikeman with the centre. Rogers from his posi 
tion soon discovered ten other sleds, passing down 
the Lake, of which he endeavoured to apprize 
Stark, before he should show himself on the ice, 
but without success. The moment Stark was 
seen, the sleds hastily turned back toward Ticon 
deroga. Rogers s party pursued them, took seven 
prisoners, three sleds, and six horses ; the rest es 
caped. From their prisoners they learned, that 
there was a large body of French troops, Canadi 
ans and Indians, at Ticonderoga, who were amply 
supplied with provisions, and equipped for service 
at a moment s warning. 

Not doubting, from this information, that the 
news of their presence in the neighbourhood would 
be carried by those who had escaped, and would 
cause them to be immediately pursued, Majoi 
Rogers gave orders to his party to retreat with 
all expedition to the station they had occupiec 



28 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the night before, where their fires were still burn 
ing, and to prepare for battle by drying their guns, 
as it was a rainy day. They commenced this 
march in the rangers manner, single file, the 
Major in front and Lieutenant Stark in the rear. 

In this manner they passed a mile over broken 
ground and crossed a valley fifteen rods in breadth, 
when the front, having gained the summit of the 
opposite hill on the west side, fell in with the en 
emy drawn up in the form of a crescent, with a 
view to surround the party of rangers. At the 
moment of making the discovery, Major Rogers s 
party received the discharge of the enemy at least 
two hundred strong, and at a distance of not more 
than five yards from the nearest and thirty yard* 
from the rear of the party. The first fire proved 
fatal to Lieutenant Kennedy and a private, and 
wounded several, among others Major Rogers him 
self in the head. Major Rogers ordered his party 
to retreat to the opposite hill, where Lieutenant 
Stark and Ensign Brewer, who commanded the 
rear, had already posted themselves, to cover the 
retreat. Rogers was closely pursued ; Captain 
Spikernan and some others were killed, and severaj 
were made prisoners. But the steady fire, kept 
up by Lieutenant Stark and his men from the hill, 
by which a number of the enemy were killed, en 
abled Rogers and the survivors of his party to 
place themselves to advantage. A hasty disposi 



JOHN STARK. 29 

tion was then made, by the reduced band cf rang 
ers. Stark with Ensign Rogers took a position in 
the centre ; Sergeants Walker and Phillips, (the 
atter a half-breed,) acting on the reserve, to pro 
tect the flanks, and watch the enemy s motions. 
They were scarcely formed, before the French at 
tempted to flank them ; but a prompt and vigorous 
fire from the reserve drove back the flanking party 
with loss. A formidable assault was then made in 
front ; but the rangers, having the advantage of 
the ground, and being sheltered by large trees, 
from which they kept up a continual fire, repelled 
the attack. Another attempt was made to surround 
the rangers, but without success. 

In this manner the action, which began at two 
o clock in the afternoon, was kept up till sunset, 
when Major Rogers received a wound through his 
wrist, which prevented him from holding his gun. 
It is related, on the authority of Eastman of Con 
cord, New Hampshire, who was a private in 
Stark s command in the action, that when Major 
Rogers received his second wound, he was in 
clined to order a retreat. Lieutenant Stark, then 
almost the only officer not wounded, declared that 
he would shoot the first man who fled, that they 
hai a good position, and he would fight till dark 
and then retreat ; and that in this course lay theii 
only chance for safety. At this moment, the lock 
of his gun was broken by a shot from the enemy ; 



30 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

but, seeing a Frencnman fall at the same time, 
he sprang forward, seized his gun, and continued 
the action. Shute, another private in the party, 
of Concord, New Hampshire, lately deceased, 
was struck by a ball in the head and made 
senseless, about the time that Rogers was wound 
ed in the wrist. On coming to himself, he per 
ceived one of the party engaged in rather a 
singular operation of surgery. He was cutting off 
Major Rogers s queue to stop the hole in his 
wrist, through which the ball had passed. 

The enemy used every artifice to induce the 
rangers to submit. He assured them, at one 
time, that large reinforcements were at hand, by 
whom they would be cut to pieces without mercy, 
and that if they surrendered they should be treat 
ed with kindness. He called on Rogers by name, 
and assured him of his esteem and friendship, and 
expressed his regret that his brave companions in 
arms should persist in maintaining the contest, at 
the hazard of certain death. But these blandish 
ments were as unavailing as the superior physical 
power of the enemy ; and, after Major Rogers s 
second wound had disabled him. the contest wa 
kept up by Lieutenant Stark with equal braver) 
and conduct, till at the approach of night the fire 
of the enemy ceased, and the rangers were able 
to take up their retreat in safety. 



JOHN STARK. 



31 



The rangers were much weakened by the loss 
of men killed, and they had a great number too 
severely wounded to travel without extreme diffi 
culty and the assistance of their comrades. Still, 
however, they were so near the French fort, that 
t was deemed absolutely necessary to make the 
oest of their way during the night. Perceiving 
a large fire in the woods, which they supposed to 
be that of a hosthe party, they made a long cir 
cuit in the night, and found themselves in the 
morning six miles south of the advanced guard 
of the French, on Lake George. The wounded 
were unable to advance farther on foot, and they 
were still forty miles from Fort William Henry. 

In this distressing state of affairs, Lieutenant 
Stark volunteered with two of his men, to proceed 
to the fort and return with sleighs for the wounded. 
The snow was four feet deep on a level, and could 
be traversed only in snow-shoes. Notwithstand 
ing their efforts and exhaustion the preceding day 
and night, Stark and his companions reached the 
fort, at a distance of forty miles, by evening. 
They got back to their companions with a sleigh 
and a small reinforcing party by the next morning. 
The party, reduced to forty-eight effective and 
six wounded men, with the prisoners they had 
taken from the convoy, reached the fort in safety 
the same evening. 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Before the sleigh came to their relief, the party, 
looking back upon the ice, saw a dark object fol 
lowing them. Supposing it might be one of their 
stragglers, the sleigh, on its arrival, was sent for 
him. It proved to be one of their party (Joshua 
Martin of GofFstown, New Hampshire), whose hip- 
joint had been shattered by a ball, which passed 
through his body. He had been left for dead on 
the field of battle, but recovering himself, he had 
kindled a fire in the night ; and, thus being kept 
from freezing, was enabled to drag himself after 
them to the Lake. This was the fire, which the 
retreating rangers had supposed to belong to a 
hostile camp. The loss of time occasioned by 
the circuitous line of their retreat enabled Martin, 
badly wounded as he was, to overtake them. He 
was so exhausted, that he sunk down the moment 
the relief reached him. He was transported, 
with his disabled comrades, to the fort, recovered 
from his wounds, served through the war, and 
died at an advanced age at GofFstown. 

In this severe affair, the rangers, out of seventy- 
eight men, had fourteen killed, six wounded, and 
six taken prisoners. The force of the enemy en 
gaged amounted to two hundred and fifty, of which, 
according to a statement subsequently made by 
the enemy to Major Rogers, one hundred and six 
teen were killed or mortally wounded. A large 
share of the honor of the day unquestionably be- 



JOHN STARK. 

longs to Stark. After the first partial success 
against the convoy, it was recommended by the 
council of officers to retreat, by a different route 
from that by which they came ; a settled practice 
of warfare borrowed by the rangers from the 
Indians. Had they pursued this prudent course, 
they would have escaped the battle. Rogers, how 
ever, rendered confident by a long series of suc 
cessful adventures, and relying on the terrors, with 
which his rangers had inspired the enemy, declar 
ed that they would not dare pursue him, and took 
the same route back. The valor and resolution of 
Stark and his division of the little party evidently 
saved the whole band from destruction, when they 
fell in with the overwhelming force of the enemy 
After Captain Spikeman was killed and Rogers 
was disabled by his wounds, Stark s fortitude and 
perseverance prevented the party from throwing 
away their lives, in a panic flight before a victori 
ous enemy ; and, by volunteering to travel forty 
miles on snow-shoes and accomplishing the jour 
ney in a day, after the toils of the preceding days 
and nights, he brought off the wounded in safety 
On the reorganization of the corps, Stark received 
the justly merited promotion to the rank of Cap 
tain, in the place of Spikeman, who was killed. 
The whole party were honorably noticed by the 
tommander-in-chief. 



34 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

In the month of March, 1757, Fort William Heu- 
ry was saved by the forethought and vigilance of 
Captain Stark, then, in the absence of Major Rog 
ers, acting commander-in-chief of the rangers. 
While going the rounds on the evening of the 
16th, he overheard some of his rangers, planning 
a celebration of St. Patrick s (the following; day 
A large portion of this corps were, like himself, 01 
Irish origin. Knowing that there were also a 
great many Irish among the regular troops, he 
justly foresaw the danger, to which the post would 
be exposed, at the close of a day to be spent in ex 
cess and intoxication. He accordingly gave direc 
tions to the sutler that no spirituous liquors should 
be issued, except by authority of written orders 
from himself ; and when applied to for these 
orders, he pleaded the lameness of his wrist, pro 
duced by a wound, as an excuse for not giving 
them. In this way he kept the rangers sober 
The Irish troops of the regular army, forming a 
part of the garrison, celebrated the day with the 
usual license and excess. The French, acquaint 
ed with the Irish custom, and calculating upon 
the consequent disability of the garrison, planned 
an attack for that night. They were, however, 
repulsed by Stark s sober rangers, while the stu - 
pefied regulars were coming to their senses. 

In the month 01 April, Stark s company of 
rangers, with several others, was ordered from 



JOHN STARK. o5 

the position on the lakes, to Albany and ?<( -.\\ 
York, whence it was embarked for Halifax, as 
a part of the expedition, against that place, under 
the Earl of Loudoun. Captain Stark himself, 
being on a scouting party at the time the troops 
broke up from their quarters, did not rejoin IKS 
company till it reached New York. He was there 
seized with the smallpox, and thus prevented from 
proceeding to Halifax. At the close of the sea 
son, his company was again ordered to its old 
position on the lakes, and was rejoined by him 
at Albany. During the winter, he was stationed 
at Fort Edward. Fort William Henry had capit 
ulated to the French in the course of the summer, 
and many of the unhappy prisoners of war expe 
rienced the fate, too often attending capitulation 
to an army composed in part of savages. They 
were dragged from their ranks and tomahawked, 
in the sight of the French officers 

The force of rangers was vi-i\ much increased 
for the year 1758, by the enlistment of four new 
companies of a hundred men each, and a company 
of Indians to be employed in the ranging service 
The four companies were promptly enlisted in 
New England. This increase of force formed a 
part of the prodigious military effort, made both by 
the British government and the Colonies for the 
approaching campaign. Bent on tho acquisition 
of Canada, at whatever cost, the government* 



36 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

on both sides of the Atlantic made exertions un 
paralleled in former wars. Massachusetts resolved 
to raise seven thousand men, Connecticut five 
thousand, and New Hampshire three thousand ; 
a force which, in proportion to the population, 
would have been deemed very great in France, 
under the government of Napoleon. The Earl 
of Loudoun having returned to England, General 
Abercromby was intrusted with the command-in- 
chief of the entire forces in the field, amounting 
in troops of all descriptions to fifty thousand men, 
the largest army, which had ever been arrayed 
in America. 

Captain Stark remained with his company of 
rangers at or near Fort Edward, actively engaged 
in the arduous duties of that service. A severe 
action was fought on the 13th of March, by a 
detachment of about one hundred and eighty men 
under Major Rogers, against six hundred French 
and Canadians. A portion of Captain Stark s 
Company was detached on this unequal service, 
but he himself was not included in it. On the 
retreat of the remnant of the brave but over 
matched party, he was sent out with a small band, 
to aid their return. 

The force collected for the expedition against 
Ticonderoga was about sixteen thousand men, and 
on the morning of the 5th July, 1758, it was put 
in motion, in batteaux, to descend Lake George. 



JOHN STARK. 37 

The order of march," says Major Rogers, in his 
Journal, " exhibited a splendid military show." 
The regular troops occupied the centre, and the 
provincials the wings. For the advanced guard, 
the light infantry flanked the right, and the rangers 
the left, of Colonel Broadstreet s batteau men. 

In this order the army proceeded until dark, 
down Lake George, to Sabbath-day Point. Here 
it halted to refresh. On this momentous evening, 
in expectation of the impending battle, Lord Howe 
invited Captain Stark to sup with him in his tent. 
With that amiable familiarity which endeared him 
to the army, this gallant and lamented nobleman, 
reposing upon a bear-skin (his camp-bed), with the 
brave partisan from the wilds of New Hampshire, 
conversed with him on the position of the fort and 
the mode of attack. The imagination of the voung 
and high-bred officer, fresh from the gay circles 
of the British court, could not but be impressed 
with the grandeur and solemnity of the scene, as 
they moved with their mighty host, beneath the 
darkness of night, across the inland waters of this 
untrodden wilderness. After a few hours of repose, 
the march was resumed. Lord Howe led the van 
in a large boat, accompanied with a guard of 
rangers and boat-men. Lieutenant Holmes was 
sent forward to reconnoitre the landing-place, and 
ascertain if the enemy were posted there. He 

eturned at daybreak to the army, then off the 



38 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

ttlue Mountain, within four miles of the landing 
place, which he reported to be in possession of the 
French, as he discovered by their fires. At day 
Dieak, Lord Howe proceeded with a few officers 
to within a quarter of a mile of the landing, to 
make a personal reconnaissance. He found it in 
ocssession of the enemy, and returned to aid in 
lie Banding of the troops below. 

The landing was effected by noon of the 6th , 
nd the rangers were posted on the left wing. 
After the fatal lesson of Braddock s defeat, the 
."British generals learned trie necessity of clearing 
the woods before the main body, by throw 
ing out the rangers as a flank or advanced 
guard. On the present occasion Major Rogers 
was directed to open the way from Lake 
George to the plains of Ticondtroga. This 
route was intersected by a creek, crossed by a 
bridge, which was to be passed by the advancing 
army. Rogers led the van of the rengers, 
and Stark their rear, two hundred strong. On 
approaching the bridge, Rogers perceived it to 
be occupied by Canadians and Indians. He 
came to a halt, for a few moments, by which 
the rear, in full march under Stark, was ihrown 
upon the front. Stark, not comprehending or heed 
ing the cause of the halt, declared " it was no lime 
for delay," and pushed forward to tne nridgo 
The ^nemy fled before him, and the passage wu; 



JOHN STARK. o9 

eft free to th(j advancing columns. Lord Howe 
commanded the centre. At the head of his col 
umns, he fell in with a part of the advanced 
guard of the enemy, which had lost its way in 
th 3 woods, on the retreat from Lake George. He 
immediately attacked and dispersed it ; but, ex 
posing himself with too much eagerness, he fell 
at the first fire of the enemy. 

This gallant nobleman was in the thirty-fourth 
year of his age, of the most promising military 
talents, and greatly endeared by his estimable 
qualities, to both the British and provincial 
troops. The General Court of Massachusetts, 
from respect to his memory, appropriated two hun 
dred and fifty pounds sterling, for the erection of 
his monument in Westminster Abbey. He was 
the brother of Sir William Howe, who command 
ed the British army, in the war of the Revolution. 
Stark was warmly attached to Lord Howe ; and 
had attracted no little of his notice. They were 
nearly of an age, and Lord Howe had occasion 
ally joined the midnight scouts of the rangers, 
to learn their modes of warfare and acquire a 
knowledge of the country. His death was deep 
ly felt in the army, and by none more truly 
deplored than by Stark ; who lived, however, to 
find a consolation for the untimely fate of his 
noble friend, in the reflection, during the pro 
gress of the revolutionary war, that, had he lived 



40 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

his talents would have been exerted against the 
patriotic cause. 

With this inauspicious event commenced a 
series of disasters to the British arms. No fur 
ther progress was made on the 6th ; the advanced 
parties of the American army were called in, 
and the French kept themselves within theii 
intrenchments. On the morning of the 7th, the 
American army was again in motion. The ran 
gers were ordered to the post which they had 
occupied the day before, and Captain Stark, with 
a strong detachment from the corps, was sent 
forward, with the aid of the general-in-chief and 
the chief engineer, to reconnoitre the fort. In 
the course of the day, the whole army was moved 
up to the Saw-Mills, the advanced post of the 
rangers. The party of Captain Stark returned 
from their reconnaissance in the evening, and the 
whole army passed the night on their arms. All 
the accounts, as well of the reconnoitring party, as 
of the prisoners, agreed in representing the force 
of the French, commanded by the Marquis de 
Montcalm, as greatly inferior to the English. It 
consisted of six thousand men, of which eight 
battalions were regular troops ; the rest Canadians 
and Indians. They were encamped before the 
fort, and were busily occupied in intrenching 
themselves behind a breast-work of large trees, 
felled and piled together to the height of eight or 



JOHN STARK. 41 

nine feet, so as to present a front of sharpened 
branches and interwoven limbs, almost impervi 
ous to an advancing enemy. Three thousand 
men, principally Canadians and French, had been 
detached by the Marquis de Montcalm to the 
Mohawk River, to assist the operations in that 
quarter ; but these had oeen recalled, on the 
advance of the English, and were expected ever) 
hour. 

Nothing but an apathy and indecision, difficult 
to be conceived, sufficiently explain the tardiness 
of the British movements. Contemporary wri 
ters ascribe it to the incapacity of the com 
mander-in-chief, General Abercromby. Stark 
was ever of opinion, that the disasters of the 
expedition were in no small degree owing to the 
fall of Lord Howe. If the British army, after a 
sufficient reconnaissance of the ground, had pushed 
on at the moment of landing, and before the 
French, viho were without artillery, had had time 
to intrench themselves within a formidable breast 
work of trees, the success of the attack cannot 
be doubted. But the delay was fatal. On the 
morning of the Sth, the army was again in mo 
tion. At sunrise Sir William Johnson arrived, 
with a party of four hundred and forty Indians 
At seven the troops moved forward, Stark s 
division of rangers in the van. His lieutenant 
led the advanced uard, which, within three hun- 



42 AMERICAN BlOtrRAPHY. 

dreil yards of the intrenchments, was fired upon 
by a party of French of two hundred men in 
ambush. The remainder of the rangers came 
up to support *heir comrades, and the enemy 
were driven in. The light infantry now moved 
up to the right of the rangers, and the ratteau- 
men to the left, and continued to skirmish with 
the advanced parties of the enemy, but without 
the loss of a man. 

While the rangers were thus employed, the 
main body of the army was forming. At ten 
o clock the rangers were ordered to drive in the 
advanced parties of the enemy, preparatory to a 
general assault. This service was gallantly per 
formed, and a party of the regular troops moved 
up to the breast-work. The obstacles which 
impeded the advance, and the height of the 
breast-work, did not prevent the attempt to scale 
it ; but Major Proby, who led the pickets en 
gaged in this perilous service, was killed within 
a few yards of the works. The attempt was 
repeated several times for four hours. But the 
trees, which had been piled up on their approach, 
broke the advancing columns ; it was found im 
possible to carry the breast-work ; and the gen- 
eral-5n-chief ordered a retreat. It was the duty 
of the rangers to be the last, as they had been 
the first, at the post of danger ; and Major Rog- 
gers and Captain Stark were employed till late 



JOHN STARK.. 43 

in the evening, in bringing up the rear. There 
fell on this disastrous and bloody day, five hun 
dred regulars killed and twelve hundred wounded , 
of the provincials, one hundred killed and two 
hundred and fifty wounded ; leaving the British 
army still at twice the French force. Notwith 
standing this, a precipitate retreat was ordered ; 
the attempt on the fort was abandoned ; and by 
evening the next day, the whole army had re 
turned to their camp, at the south end of Lake 
George. Here the troops received the thanks of 
the commanding general, for their good behavior ; 

compliment which certainly it was not in the 
power of the army to return to the Command 
ing General. 

No further attempt was made upon Ticonde- 
roga the present season. The disgrace of this 
repulse was partly redeemed by the success of 
an expedition against Fort Frontenac, by a party 
of three thousand, detached under Colonel Broad- 
street to the Mohawk. No general operations 
were attempted by the main army, and the brunt 
of the service fell upon the rangers, who were 
engaged in their accustomed duty in ooserving the 
enemy, reconnoitring his posts, watching his move 
ments, and waylaying his foraging parties. 

Severe battles were frequently fought on these 
occasions. On the 8th of August an affair of 
more than ordinary importance took place. A 



44 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

party of rangers and regulars, amounting in the 
whole to five or six hundred, had been employed 
to scour the woods. On their return, they were 
met by a party of the enemy of about equal force, 
In the progress of this action Major Israel Put 
nam, commanding a company of rangers, fell into 
the hands of the enemy. He was tied to a tree 
by the Indians, and for a long time was within 
the fire of both parties, and otherwise exposed 
to peril and outrage from the savage foe. The 
particulars of this occurrence, with the subse 
quent captivity and sufferings of Putnam, form 
one of the most extraordinary and romantic in 
cidents in American history, and will be par 
ticularly narrated in another volume of this work. 
The field was obstinately contested on both sides. 
Four several charges were made by the enemy 
on the rangers ; but officers and men maintained 
their ground with singular firmness and intrepidity, 
and at the end of an hour the enemy broke 
and dispersed. About one tenth of the Anglo 
American party were killed, wounded, and miss 
ing ; but of the latter, twenty-one came in the 
next day. 

At the close of this campaign, Captain Stark 
obtained a furlough ; and returning home was 
married to Elizabeth Page, daughter of Captain 
Page of Dunbarton. In the spring a new en- 
Mstment of rangers was made in New Hamp- 



J O H N S T A R K . 45 

shire, and Captain John Stark was again found 
af the seat of war, at the head of his company. 
Sir Jeffery Amherst, who, at the close of the last 
campaign, had distinguished himself by the cap 
ture of Louisburg, was now advanced to the 
chief command of the forces on the Canadian 
frontier. The plan of the campaign aimed at the 
acquisition of the entire possessions of France on 
the American continent. The expedition against 
Quebec, a leading feature of the plan, consisted 
of two parts. General Wolfe, with a large force 
assembled at Louisburg, was to move up the 
St. Lawrence ; and Sir Jeffery Amherst, after 
effecting the reduction of Ticonderoga and Crown 
Point, was to proceed by Lake Champlain and the 
St. John s into Canada, and unite his arms with 
those of General Wolfe under the walls of Que 
bec. 

The plan was admirably conceived, and am 
ple means seem to have been at the command ol 
Sir Jeffery Amherst to effect his part of it. But 
the evil genius of delay appeared to control his 
movements. It was the 22d of July, before he 
was prepared to cross Lake George, and move 
upon Ticonderoga. Captain Stark, as usual, was 
in the advance with his rangers. The plan of 
attack was pretty nearly the same as that of the 
preceding year ; but the forces of the enemy 
being withdrawn to Quebec, the garrisons were 



46 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

not sufficiently strong to resist the English army, 
and successively retreated, without a battle, from 
Ticonderoga and Crown Point. 

Instead of pursuing his success and moving up 
the lake, Sir JefFery Amherst deemed it neces 
sary to intrench himself in this quarter, till he 
could be assured of a superiority on the water, 
and eventually went into winter-quarters, with 
out making any effort to unite his forces with those 
of General Wolfe. To this failure on his part, 
all the embarrassments of that gallant officer s 
movements before Quebec were ascribed. 

As soon as he had taken up the station at 
Crown Point, General Amherst directed Captain 
Stark, with two hundred rangers, to open a road 
from that post to Number Four, on the Connec 
ticut River, a distance of about eighty miles, 
through an almost pathless wilderness. In con 
sequence of being employed on this arduous 
service, he was spared the painful necessity of 
joining Major Rogers, in his expedition against 
the St. Francis Indians, in which their settlement 
was burned, and a large portion of the tribe de 
stroyed. This tribe, from its position on the 
frontier, had, from the earliest settlement of the 
country, been employed by ihe French as instiii 
ments of havoc and desolation, for the purpose 
of striking terror into the minds of the British 
colonists, and preventing their extension to the 



JOHN STARK 47 

north and west. The whole border was filled 
with traditions of massacre, plunder, and captivity 
worse than death, suffered by the inhabitants at 
the hands of the St. Francis Indians ; and now 
that it was necessary to open the road to Canada, 
there were no compunctious visitings of conscience, 
to avert the fate of this feared and hated tribe. 

The expedition against them by Rogers, with 
a detachment of the rangers, was conducted with 
singular boldness and success ; and the sufferings 
of his party, on their return, seem almost to 
exceed the capacity of human endurance. Cap 
tain Stark, as we have seen in the early part of 
this Memoir, had experienced a great deal of 
kindness from these Indians, during his captivity 
among them in his youth. His frankness and 
intrepidity won their favor, and he was adopted 
as a young warrior into their tribe. He never 
r orgot, through life, the kindness he then received 
from them ; and although, during the war, of 
which we have been narrating some of the inci 
dents, he was continually engaged with their hos 
tile scouting parties, he rejoiced, that his detach 
ment upon another service spared him the painful 
recessity of assisting in their destruction. 

After completing the road from Crown Point 
to Number Four, the army being withdrawn to 
winter-quarters. Captain Stark returned home. In 
the spring of H60, he received orders from Sir 



48 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Jeffery Amherst, to direct the recruiting service in 
the province of New Hampshire. As he does not 
appear to have been attached to the corps of ran 
gers, which was marched into Canada in the course 
of the campaign of this year, it is probable he was 
stationed during the summer at Crown Point. 

The events of this year brought the war, in 
this part of America, to a close. A portion of 
the rangers were ordered to Detroit, to engage 
in the military operations in that quarter ; but 
Stark, who had formed domestic relations, deemed 
himself justified in retiring from the service, to 
which he had already devoted some of the best 
years of his life, and of which the substantial 
objects had been attained, in the reduction of 
Canada. In addition to this consideration, dis 
contents existed in the minds of the provincial 
troops. Their officers had reason to complain of 
the preference claimed and enjoyed by the offi 
cers of the British army. The superiority, arro 
gated by regular troops over colonial forces and 
especially militia drafts, appeared in its most offen 
sive form on the part of the young Englishmen, 
who held important commands in the English 
army, and who manifested toward the Americans 
the offensive hauteur, which forms so conspicuous 
a trait in their national character. The rustic 
manners and uncouth appearance of the provin 
cial corps, many of whom came fresh from the 



JOHN STARK. 4 

plough and the workshop to the camp, furn shed 
constant matter of ridicule to the young men, who 
had received their military education in the draw 
ing rooms of London. To men like Stark, who 
had passed their youth amidst the hardships of a 
frontier life, who had served with bravery, con 
duct, and success, in many a severe campaign, 
and who felt conscious that they possessed the 
substantial qualities of the officer, proved in all 
the hardships and achievements of the actual 
service, this arrogant assumption of the young 
men, who had purchased commissions in th& 
English army, was intolerable. He retired from 
the service, however, in possession of the good 
will of General Amherst, who, in accepting his 
resignation, assured him of the continuance of 
his protection, and promised him that he should 
resume his rank in the army, whenever he chose 
to rejoin it. 

This it is v^ry likely he would have done, had 
the war continued ; but the restoration of peace 
left him to the undisturbed pursuit of his private 
occupations. No event is recorded of public in 
terest, in his life, during the period, which elapsed 
from the close of the Seven Years War till the 
commencement of the Revolution. When the 
controversy assumed a decided form and seemed 
drawing to a crisis, a portion of the American 
officers, who had served with success and honor 

v. 1 



50 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

in the British army, were drawn, partly it may 
be supposed under the influence of habits of mil 
itary subordination, to espouse the royal side. 
They could not, as men who had received com 
missions in the British army, who were still in 
the receipt of their half-pay on the peace es 
tablishment, and had been brought up in the 
habits of uninquiring acquiescence, which be 
long to military life, conceive of a state of things 
in which they could lawfully turn their arms 
against their sovereign. Under the influence of 
these feelings, Major Rogers, the famous chief 
of rangers, under whose command Stark had 
served in the Seven Years War, having passed 
the greater portion of his time in England after 
the peace of 176-3, v\as induced, on the com 
mencement of hostilities in 1775, to adopt the 
British side. In like manner, William Stark, 
the elder brother of the hero of our narrative, in 
no degree his inferior in courage and hardihood, 
but possessed of less of the moral firmness of the 
patriot soldier, was lost to the cause of the Rev 
olution. He had served with reputation as an 
officer of rangers, had been present at the <? ir 
render of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, had 
assisted in the capture of Loutsburg by General 
Amherst, and had fought with Wolfe at Que 
bec. At the commencement of the revolution 
-try war, he applied for the command of one of 



JOHN STARK. 51 

the New Hampshire regiments. The General 
Assembly gave the preference to another colonel, 
and William Stark listened to the overtures made 
him by the enemy, and passed into the British 
service. He became a colonel in the English 
army, and was killed by a fall from his horse or 
Long Island. On the eve of his departure fo: 
New York, he communicated his intentions to his 
brother, to whom the same overtures had been 
made, and urged him to follow his example. But 
John steadily resisted the proposal, and parted 
with his brother never to meet again. 

These facts are referred to, in order to show, 
that the course pursued by the gallant and patri 
otic officers who had distinguished themselves in 
the Seven Years War, and who hastened to range 
themselves on the side of the Revolution, was 
not a hasty and unreflecting adhesion to the pop 
ular cause. They prove that the question was 
presented to the mind of Stark as one to be 
deliberately weighed, and that he decided for hi? 
country, against the influence of authority and 
temptation to which many a mind would have 
yielded, and with the immediate sacrifice of his 
emoluments as a British officer. His mind, how 
ever, was made up from the first. He uniformly 
maintained the popular side in the great public 
controversy, which commenced with the attempt 
ed establishment of a new colonial system, after 



52 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the downfall of the French power on the Ameri 
can continent. He formed the rallying-point of 
his neighbors and fellow-citizens, and gave the 
tone to the public sentiment in his vicinity. On 
the organization of the Committees of Safety in 
1774, an organization whose efficiency and extent 
have not as yet been duly appreciated and set 
forth, Stark became a member of one of those 
bodies, for the town in which he lived. In this 
capacity, he exhibited the strength and wisdom of 
his character, signalizing his moderation as well as 
his firmness. He spared no pains to produce a 
cordial unanimity among the people, and to win 
over the wavering and disaffected to the popular 
cause. His military experience enabled him to 
act with effect, in preparing measures for a vigor 
ous demonstration of strength, when the crisis 
should arrive. 

Careful reflection upon the nature of the art of 
war will lead us to the conclusion, that the time, 
at which the revolutionary contest was brought on, 
was all-important to its success. If, instead of ten 
or twelve years from the close of the Seven Years 
War, a period three or four times as long had 
elapsed before the commencement ot the pa 
triotic struggle, it is manifest, that all the milita 
ry experience of the colonies would have passed 
away, and all the confidence and courage inspired 
by the conscious possession of tried leaders would 



JOKNSTARK. 53 

have vanished. It is not unlikely, that the recur 
rence of a war every fifteen or twenty years is ab 
solutely necessary, to keep up the military charac 
ter of a people, and prevent the traditionary por 
tions of the military art, and that skill, which is 
acquired by actual service, from dying out. What 
ever may be thought of this as a general principle, 
it is notorious that the recent experience of the 
Seven Years War had a most salutary influence 
upon the character of the revolutionary struggle 
The officers who had been trained in its arduous 
campaigns with few exceptions espoused the patri 
otic cause. So great had been the numbers of 
those who from 1754 to 1762 had served in ever^ 
part of the country, from Nova Scotia to Florida, 
that there was found some one, and often several, 
of them in every town and settlement throughout 
the colony, to whom the idea of war, of its alarm, 
its preparation, its organization, its resources, its 
exposures, its prizes, was familiar. 

Were the records of the Seven Years War pre 
served to us, as amply as those of the Revolution, 
they would probably disclose, to say the least, as 
great an amount of military service, to which we 
are now perhaps likely to do but partial justice, 
for the want of more detailed accounts, and the 
superior interest attached to the revolutionary an 
nals. But facts which occasionally come to light 
show the prod gious numhpr of men who were en- 



54 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

gaged in the military service in that war. In a 
recent obituary notice of an individual of the town 
Df Grafton in Worcester county, who served in the 
Seven Years War, it is stated, that thirty persons 
from this town were killed in the course of that 
war. There is no reason to suppose, that Grafton 
furnished more than its share of soldiers, or that an 
unusual proportion of those whom it furnished 
were killed. The population of this town in 1820 
was but eleven hundred and fifty-four. 

Of those officers of the Seven Years War, 
whose experience and character contributed tc 
give the first impulse to the revolutionary struggle. 
Stark was among the most prompt and efficient. 
The existing state of tilings in New Hampshire, 
as in the other New England colonies, furnished 
better materials for the speedy organization of a 
large force, than would at first be supposed. By 
the old militia law, every male inhabitant, from the 
age of sixteen to that of sixty, was obliged to be 
provided with a musket and bayonet, a knapsack, 
cartridge-box, a pound of powder, twenty bullets, 
and twelve flints. Every town was obliged to 
keep in readiness a barrel of powder, two hundrea 
pounds of lead, and three hundred flints for every 
sixty men ; besides a quantity of arms and ammu 
nition for the supply of those, who were unable to 
provide themselves w th the necessary articles. 
Those persons, who by reason of dignity and sta- 



JOHNSTARK 55- 

tion were exempt from the discharge of ordinary 
military duty, were obliged to keep on hand the 
statutory arms and ammunition. These requisitions 
were not strictly observed in time of peace, either 
by the towns or individuals. But GovernoF 
Went worth had a few years before, by the ap 
pointment of officers and the review of the regi 
ments, infused new life into the militia system of 
IVew Hampshire. The provincial Convention, 
which assembled at Exeter in January, 1775, in 
their address to their constituents, exhorted them, 
among other things, to devote themselves to exer 
cise in the military art, that they might be ready 
to repel invasion. In pursuance of this exhorta 
tion, voluntary associations were formed, among 
the militia of the province, for the purpose of 
practice in military manoeuvres and drilling, un 
der the command of those whose experience in 
former wars qualified them for this duty. In ad 
dition to all this, the Committees of Inspection and 
Safety made it their duty, by personal application 
to every individual, to enforce his preparation 
for the anticipated struggle. In the discharge oi 
all these voluntary duties, Stark was distinguished 
for his promptitude, zeal, and influence among his 
fellow-citizens. 

The commencement of hostilities, on the 19th 
of April, 1775, can hardly be said to have taken 
the country unprepared The tidmos spread with 



56 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

rapidity through the continent, and from every 
part of New England thousands of volunteers 
rushed to the scene of action. The greater part 
of the adjacent colonies received the intelligence 
within twenty-four hours. Within ten minutes 
after its reception, Stark had mounted his horse, 
and was on his way toward the sea-coast, having 
directed the volunteers of his neighborhood to ren 
dezvous at Medford, near Boston. About twelve 
hundred men hastened, on the first alarm, from 
those parts of New Hampshire which bordered on 
Massachusetts, and, in pursuance of the advice of 
Stark, concentrated themselves at Medford. Of 
these a portion returned, but enough remained to 
constitute two regiments, which were organized 
under the authority of the Provincial Congress of 
Massachusetts. Of the first of these regiments 
Stark was unanimously elected colonel, Isaac 
Wyman lieutenant-colonel, and Andrew M Clary 
major. The late Major-General Dearborn com 
manded a company in this regiment. As soon as 
the Provincial Congress of New Hampshire met, 
they voted to enlist two thousand men for eight 
months, of whom the two regiments, already em 
bodied at the theatre of war, were to make a part. 
The residue formed a third regiment. Colonels 
Stark and Reed were confirmed in the command 
of the first two regiments, and Enoch Poor was 
appointed to the th rd. The greater Dart of th 



JOHN STARK. 57 

two New Hampshire regiments was stationed at 
Medford ; but a detachment from them formed a 
part of the left wing of the army and was posted 
at Chelsea, and another part, we believe, was 
stationed near the Inman Farm, at Cambridge. 
Colonel Stark s quarters were at Medford. Hav 
ing left home at a few minutes notice, he went 
back to New Hampshire, after the organization of 
the regiment, to arrange his affairs ; and, after two 
days devoted to that object, returned to his com 
mand. 

Shortly after rejoining his regiment, he was 
directed by General Ward to take a small escort 
and examine Noddle s Island, with a view to as 
certain the practicability of establishing a battery 
there for the annoyance of the British shipping. 
He repaired to the island with Major M Clary 
a few other officers, and a small party, crossing 
over from Chelsea. While engaged in reconnoi 
tring the ground, they perceived a party of the 
enemy, who had landed upon the island with the 
intention of cutting them off, by getting possession 
of their boat. After exchanging a few shots, the 
British party retired, and left Colonel Stark and 
his companions in the undisturbed possession of 
their boat. 

On the ever memorable seventeenth of June, 
17"75, Stark s regiment formed the left of the Amer 
ican line The part of the British troops opposed 



5S AMERICAN BIOGRAPH1. 

to it consisted of the Welsh Fusileers, who had 
distinguished themselves at the battle of Minden, 
and were considered one of the finest corps in the 
English army. It is not our present purpose to 
relate in detail the entire history of this glorious 
battle. A fitter opportunity for this attempt may 
present itself, in connexion with the biography of 
some one of the distinguished men, who exercised 
the chief command of the day. But among all 
who stood forward at this critical conjuncture, and 
bore their part in a conflict, which exerted an all- 
important influence upon the fate of the war, none 
is entitled to higher commendation than Stark. It 
is related, that when General Gage, reconnoitring 
the scene of the approaching action from Boston, 
before the battle commenced, was asked whether 
he thought the Americans would wait the assault 
of the royal troops, he replied, that " they would 
if one John Stark were among them, for he was a 
brave fellow, and had served under him at Lake 
George in 1758 and 1759." 

Colonel Prescott, who commanded at Bunker s 
Hill, having perceived at about nine o clock of the 
morning of the eventful day the necessity of a 
reinforcement, despatched Major Brooks to the 
I ead-quarters of General Ward at Cambridge, to 
make a representation to that effect. The matter 
was referred to a council of war, and by their 
advice orders were sent to Colonel Stark at Med- 



JOHN STARK. 59 

ford to reinforce Colonel Prescott with two hun 
dred men from the New Hampshire troops. This 
order was promptly obeyed, and the detachment 
required was sent under Lieutenant-Colonel Wy- 
man to the scene of action. The men were in 
an it jperfect state of preparation fcr so unexpect 
ed a call. Every man was immediately supplied 
with two flints and with a gill of powder and fif 
teen balls to make into cartridges. Nearly all of 
them, however, were unprovided with cartridge- 
boxes, and made use of powder-horns as a substi 
tute. The guns were of different sizes, and the 
men were obliged in many cases to hammer their 
balls to a proper size. At a later hour another 
order arrived by express, directing Colonel Stark 
to repair with his whole regiment to Charlestown. 
At an early period of the day, Captain Knowl- 
ton had been posted with a detachment of Con 
necticut troops, on the extreme left of the Ameri 
can line behind a rail fence, between the Mystic 
River and the road. The troops pulled up anoth 
er fence in the neighborhood, placed it in the 
ground near that which covered their front, and 
filled the interval between them with the new- 
mown grass. A portion of this fence had a low 
stone wall beneath it. The whole formed a very 
inadequate breast-work. On the arrival of the New 
Hampshire troops at the scene of action (which 
was after the British trooos and reinforcements had 



60 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

landed in Charlestown, but before their advance 
from the place of disembarkation commenced), a 
portion of them were detached by General Putnam 
to work upon the intrenchments of Bunker s Hill, 
properly so called. The residue, under their 
Colonels, Stark and Reed, were ordered to take 
post at Captain Knowlton s position just described. 
On receiving this order, Colonel Stark made a 
brief and animated address to his men, and 
marched them off to the station designated. He 
had not precipitated his march from Medford, 
distant about five miles from the heights of Charles- 
town, and accordingly brought his men to the 
ground unexhausted and vigorous, justly stating 
that " one fresh man in battle is better than ten 
who are fatigued." 

The British right wing, consisting of the fifth 
regiment, a regiment of grenadiers, and one of 
light infantry, moved forward to the attack of the 
Americans behind the rail fence, a portion of the 
light companies at the same time attempting to 
turn the extreme left of the American line. Gen 
eral Howe commanded on this portion of the 
field. The general order given to the American 
troops, to reserve their fire till the near approach 
of the enemy, had been repeated and enforced by 
Stark. This order was strictly obeyed, so that 
when his men threw in their volley, the veterans 
of the British arrnv recoiled before it. The same 



JOHN STARK. 61 

result was prcduced by the destructive fire from 
within the redoubt and along the line upon the de 
clivity of the hill, and compelled the enemy pre 
cipitately to fall back. A second and third charge 
were followed by the same effect ; nor was it till 
the British army, strengthened by powerful rein 
forcements, was brought up for a fourth time to 
the assault, that they succeeded in forcing from 
the field the scanty numoers opposed to them, 
of whom many were exhausted by the labors 
of the preceding night, and of the day passed 
without refreshment. 

In the heat of the action it was reported to 
Colonel Stark that his son, a young man of six 
teen who had followed him to the field, had just 
been killed. He remarked to the person, who 
brought him the information, that it was not the 
moment to talk of private affairs, when the enemy 
was in force in front ; and ordered him back to 
his duty. The report, however, proved errone 
ous, and his son served through the war as a staff- 
officer 

After the fate of the day was decided, Stark 
drew off his regiment in such order that he was 
not pursued, The following extract from a let 
ter written by him the second day after the 
battle deserves preservation, as an authentic doc 
ument relative to this mos: important event. 



62 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

"TO THE HON. MATTHEW THORNTON, EXETER. 

Medford. June 19, 1775. 
" SIR, 

" I embrace this opportunity by Colonel Hoi 
land, to give you some particulars of an engage 
ment, which was fought on the 17th instant 
between the British troops and the Americans. 

"On the 16th at evening, a detachment of the 
Massachusetts line marched, by the General s 
order, to make an intrenchment upon a hill in 
Charlestown, called Charlestown Hill, near Bos 
ton, where they intrenched that night without 
interruption, but were attacked on the morning 
of the 17th very warmly, by the ships of war in 
Charlestown River and the batteries in Boston. 
Upon this, I was ordered by the General, to send 
a detachment of two hundred men with proper 
officers to their assistance, which order I promptly 
obeyed, and appointed Lieutenant-Colonel W i- - 
mau to command the same. At two o clock in 
the afternoon, an express arrived for my whole 
regiment to proceed to Charlestown to oppose tho 
British, who were landing on Charlestown Point 
Accordingly we proceeded and the battle soon 
came on, in which a number of officers and men 
of my regiment were killed and wounded. The 
officers killed were Major M Clary by a cannon- 
ball, and Captain Baldwin and Lieutenant Scott 
by small anus. 



JOHN STARK. 63 

"The whole number, including officers, 

killed and missing . . . 15 

"Wounded ... . 45 

" Total killed, wounded, and missing . 60 

^ By Colonel Reed s desire, I transmit the 

account of those who suffered, belonging to that 

portion of his regiment, who were engaged, viz. 

"Killed . ... 3 

" Wounded . . 29 

" Missing . . 1 

33 

" Total in both regiments . 93 

" But we remain in good spirits, being well sat 
isfied, that where we have lost one, the enem) 
have lost three. 

" I am, Sir, with great respect, 

Yours and the country s 

to serve, in a good cause, 
" JOHN STARK." 



The fate of Major M Clary demands a brief 
commemoration. He was a person of command 
ing stature and Stentorian voice, which was 
heard amidst the roar of the cannon and musketry, 
exhorting his men to the discharge of their duty. 
After the retreat, he hastened to Medford to pro 
cure a supply of dressings for the wounded. Re- 



64 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

turning on this benevolent errand, he crossed 
again o\er Charlestown Neck to reconnoitre the 
British troops, which had now taken possession of 
the heights. Having accomplished that object, 
he was on his way back to join the retreat of his 
regiment in company with Lieutenant-Colonel 
Robinson, Captain Dearborn, and other officers. 
To some remark made on the danger of crossing 
the neck, he replied, " The ball is not yet cast, 
which is commissioned to kill me." At that 
moment, a shot from the Glasgow destroyed him. 
Captain Baldwin, another meritorious officer in 
Stark s regiment, who fell on this occasion, had 
fought in twenty battles in the former wars. On 
no part of the line was the execution greater, than 
on that, where the New Hampshire troops were 
stationed. In an account sent from the Brit 
ish army, bearing date, Boston, 5th July, 1775, 
and published in London, we are told that the 
British light infantry were moved up " in com 
panies against the grass fence, but could not pen 
etrate it. Indeed, how could we penetrate it? 
Most of our grenadiers and light infantry, the 
moment of presenting themselves, lost three- 
lourths and many nine-tenths of their men. Some 
had only eight or nine men in a company left, 
some only three, four, or five." * 

* Detail and conduct of the American War. Lon 
don. 1780. p. ia 



JOHN STARK. 65 

On the retreat from Bunker s Hill, our troops 
took post upon the heights in the neighborhood ; 
the regiment of Stark on Winter Hill. The 
night succeeding the battle and the following day 
were passed in the labor of intrenching ; but the 
experience of the 19th of April and the 17th 
of June deterred the British troops from any 
repetition of the attempt to penetrate into the 
interior, in this portion of the country. No im 
portant movement was made, on either side, for 
the rest of the season. At the close of the year 
the term for which the men had engaged had 
generally expired, and a reenlistment became 
necessary. Colonel Stark met with extraordinary 
success in engaging his men to continue in the 
service, and in a few days his regiment was again 
full. 

While the regiment of Stark was stationed at 
Winter Hill, an incident occurred, strikingly illus 
trative of his character. It is related in his Me 
moirs on the authority of the late Major Dow of 
Hampton Falls. The person, who had been 
appointed paymaster of the New Hampshire line, 
was unfriendly to Colonel Stark, and endeav 
ored to embarrass the payment of his men, in 
order to create disaffection in the regiment. The 
troops were marched by companies, to receive 
their pay, to Medford, where the paymaster had 
stationed himself. He refused to pay them, on 

v. 5 



66 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the ground that their pay-rolls were not made out 
in proper form. The men, highly dissatisfied, 
returned to their encampment ; and the next day 
marched again to Medford, with new pay-rolls, 
made out (it was supposed) in the strictest form, 
but payment was again refused. The same thing 
was repeated on the third day ; and the soldiers 
returned, ripe for mutiny, to the camp. They 
besieged the Colonel s quarters clamoring for 
payment. Colonel Stark was provoked at the 
vexatious delays, interposed by the paymaster, 
and declared that " as the regiment had made 
him three visits, he should make them one in 
return." He accordingly despatched a sergeant s 
guard, arrested the paymaster at his quarters 
in Medford, and brought him to camp, to the 
tune of the Rogue s March. On examination 
he could point out no fault hi the roll, and the 
men were paid. Colonel Stark s conduct was 
submitted to a court of inquiry ; but the paymas 
ter had fallen, meantime, under strong suspicion 
of being a defaulter, and found it advisable to 
quit the army. The court of inquiry deemed it 
inexpedient to pursue the affair. 

A portion of the officers and men in Stark s 
regiment had, in the course of the summer of 
1775, enlisted as volunteers in the expedition, 
which was undertaken by direction of General 
Washington, under the command of Arnold, to 



JOHN STARK. 67 

penetrate, by the way of the Kennebec, into Can 
ada. Dearborn (a Major-General in the war of 
1812), a distinguished Captain in Stark s regi 
ment, shared the almost unexampled hardships 
of this march. Colonel Stark himself remained 
at his station on Winter Hill, till the evacuation 
of Boston by the British, in the month of March, 
1776. 

On the occurrence of that event, a small de 
tachment of the army was left at Boston, undei 
the command of General Ward, to complete the 
erection of the works there begun ; while the 
main body marched to New York, under the 
command of General Washington. The regi 
ment of Stark was among the troops, who 
proceeded to New York, and their Colonel was 
assiduously employed on his arrival under the 
orders of the commander-in-chief, in strength 
ening the defences of that place. In the month 
of May, his regiment was ordered to proceed, 
by the way of Albany, to join the American 
army in Canada. Stark came up with the army 
at St. John s, and thence advanced to the mouth 
of the river Sorel. The bold and not ill-conceived 
expedition against Canada, one of the earliest and 
most favorite projects of the Continental Con 
gress, was now drawing to a close. The utmost 
that could be hoped was to prevent its being pre 
cipitated to a disastrous termination. General 



68 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Thomas had died of the small-pox at Sorel, after 
having raised the siege of Quebec, and retreated 
to that place. General Sullivan succeeded him 
in the command, and this circumstance, with the 
arrival of reinforcements, which raised the entiie 
force of the Americans to four or five thousand 
men, gave new hopes of retrieving the fortunes 
of the expedition. General Sullivan deemed it 
expedient to execute the project of an attack 
upon the enemy s post at Three Rivers, sug 
gested by Colonel St. Clair, and approved by 
General Thompson, who, for a few days, during 
the illness of General Thomas, had the command 
at Sorel.* Stark remonstrated, in a council of 
war, against this expedition, as one requiring for 
its success a naval superiority upon the river, and 
the concurrence of too many contingent circum 
stances. But, it having been decided to pursue 
the attack, the principles of duty, which gov 
erned him while in the service, prompted him to 
contribute ull in his power to its successful issue. 
The result, as is well known, was unfortunate. 

On the return to Sorel of those, who escaped 
from the disaster of Three Rivers, it became 
necessary for the American army to retire from 
Canada. The retreat was conducted by General 
Sullivan with skill, in the face of a superior and 

* St. Glair s Narrative, p. 235. 



JOHN STARK. 69 

triumphant force of the enemy. In fact it had 
been the wish of this commander to defend the 
post of Sorel ; but he was overruled, n this rash 
purpose, by the unanimous opinion of his officers 
It was but a few hours before the appearance of 
the enemy, that he was finally prevailed upon, by 
a council of war, to retire. The pursuit was 
not continued beyond Isle-aux-Noix, the Ameri 
cans having the command of Lake Champlain. 
But, though unmolested by the enemy, the army 
of General Sullivan suffered severely by the 
small-pox. After passing the Lake, the regiment 
of Stark was stationed at Chimney Point, on the 
side of the Lake opposite to Crown Point, where 
tne remainder of the army was posted. Here 
it was the opinion of Colonel Stark, that the 
army should make a stand. General Schuyler, 
who had assumed the command of the army, 
and all the general officers under him, thought 
otherwise, and it was determined in a council of 
war to fall back to Ticonderoga, contrary to the 
advice of several of the subordinate officers, who 
deemed it essential, for the protection of the coun 
try on the borders of the Lake, to hold Crown 
Point. This opinion they set forth in a written 
memorial addressed to the General, but without 
effect. On the 6th and 7th of July, 1776, the 
army reached Ticonderoga. On the following 
day, the Declaration of Independence was re- 



70 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ceived and proclaimed to the army, who hailed 
it with shouts of applause. The regiment of 
Stark was stationed on a hill, distant about two 
miles from the fort, and which was named Mount 
Independence, in honor of the memorable event, 
which had just been proclaimed. Thus had 
Colonel Stark the satisfaction, on the theatre of 
his former military exploits, and sixteen years 
after he had been present with General Amherst 
at the taking of Ticonderoga from the French, 
to hear the Independence of his country pro 
claimed, at the head of a patriotic army. In a 
short period the command of the post devolved 
on General Gates. Upon his arrival at head 
quarters, a reorganization of the army took place, 
and Colonel Stark was appointed to the command 
of a brigade, with orders to clear and fortify 
Mount Independence, then a wilderness. 

Nothing further of importance occurred on the 
northern frontier, in the course of the season 
After the disastrous occurrences in New York, 
General Gates was ordered to reinforce General 
Washington on the right bank of the Delaware. 
The regiment of Colonel Stark was among tre 
troops, detached from the northern army for this 
purpose ; and reached the head-quarters of the 
Commander-in-chief on the 20th of December. 
By this reinforcement the army of General Wash 
ington was swelled to about seven thousand 



JOHN STARK. 71 

effective men. This was a period of deep and 
general despondency, and Washington felt the 
necessity of striking a bold stroke, which might 
have the effect of changing the gloomy aspect of 
affairs, and reviving the spirits of the country. 
In this design, an attack on all the enemy s 
pests upon the left bank of the Delaware was 
projected. Owing to the inclemency of the 
weather, and the state of the river, some portions 
of this plan miscarried ; but that part of it, which 
was to be executed under the direct command 
of Washington, the attack upon Trenton, was 
completely successful. In this attack, General 
Sullivan commanded the right wing, and Stark, 
with his regiment, led the vanguard, and con 
tributed his full share to this brilliant enterprise, 
in which twenty of the enemy were killed, and 
nearly one thousand made prisoners. On the part 
of the Americans, two persons only were killed, 
and four or five wounded. But the fact, that two 
were also frozen to death, shows the rigor of the 
night, under cover of which this coup de main 
was executed. On the eve of this affair, Col 
onel Stark, in allusion to the spirit, with which 
the contest had hitherto been carried on, as a 
war of posts and intrenchments, rather than of 
battles, thus expressed himself to the General ; 
" Your men have long been accustomed to place 
dependence upon spades and pickaxes for safety. 



72 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

But if you ever mean to establish the Indepen 
dence of the United States, you must teach them 
to rely upon their fire-arms." Washington repli- 
eo\ " This is what we have agreed upon. We are 
to march to-morrow upon Trenton ; you are to 
command the right wing of the advanced guard, 
and General Greene the left." The Colonel re 
joined, that he could not have been assigned to 
a more acceptable station. 

Colonel Stark accompanied Washington, when, 
a few days afterwards, he again crossed the Dela 
ware. He was with him in the battle at Princeton, 
and remained with the army till the establish 
ment of the head-quarters of General Washington 
at Morristown. The term for which his men 
had enlisted had expired before these last bril 
liant efforts of the American commander-in-chief. 
Stark, however, proposed to them a reenlistmeni 
for a short period ; and his personal influence with 
his regiment induced them to a man to enter into 
a new engagment for six weeks. It was not 
easy, in the critical state of affairs at the time, to 
render a more important service to the country. 

But, as this new enlistment was but for a few 
weeks, it became necessary to make a more 
permanent provision to recruit the ranks of the 
regiment. He was accordingly ordered to New 
Hampshire to perform that service. By the 
month of March, 1777, he had discharged the 



J O H N S T A R K . 73 

duty so successfully, that his regiment was full. 
He immediately communicated this intelligence to 
the Council of New Hampshire and to General 
Washington. He repaired to Exeter to receive 
nstructions from the authorities of New Hamp 
shire, who were there assembled. While there 
he was informed, that a new list of promotions 
had been made, in which his name was omitted, 
and those of junior officers were found. He as 
cribed this neglect of what he conceived his just 
claims, to the unfriendly interposition of some 
officers of high rank and members of Congress. 
It was impossible for a man of his lofty spirit and 
unbending character to acquiesce in what he 
considered an injurious disregard of his fair pre 
tensions to advancement. He immediately ap 
peared before the Council, and also waited upon 
the Generals Sullivan and Poor. He stated the 
grounds of his dissatisfaction and his determina 
tion to retire from the army. Wishing them all 
possible success in the service of the country, he 
surrendered his commission and returned home, 
without any expectation of entering again into 
the ranks of the army. But, though dissa isfiea 
with his own treatment, he was in no degree 
disaffected to the cause. He fitted out for the 
army all the members of his family, who were 
old enough to join it, and continued, as hereto 
fore, by every means except his personal services 



74 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

in the field, to promote the great cause of his 
country. 

The retirement of Colonel Stark was not 
viewed with indifference. Generals Sullivan and 
Poor endeavored to dissuade him from executing 
his purpose. But he declared that an officer, 
who would not maintain his rank and assert his 
own rights, could not be trusted to vindicate those 
of his country. At the same time he pointed 
out to them the dangerous situation of Ticonde- 
roga and the necessity of immediate relief, if the 
northern frontier was to be protected ; and he 
declared his readiness again to take the field, 
whenever his country should require his services 
On his resignation, the Council and House of 
Delegates of New Hampshire expressed their 
sense of the value of his services, by the following 
vote, passed the 21st of March, 1777. " Voted, 
that the thanks of both Houses in convention 
be given to Colonel Stark for his good services 
in the present war ; and that, from his early and 
steadfast attachment to the cause of his country, 
they make not the least doubt that his future 
conduct, in whatever state of life Providence 
may place hi in, will manifest the same noble dis 
position of mind." On the passage of this vote, 
the thanks of both Houses were presented to him 
by the President. 



JOHN ST ARK.. 



75 



The time was fast approaching, when the con 
fidence here expressed in the patriotism of Colo 
nel Stark was to be justified in the most signal 
and gratifying manner. The war on the north 
ern frontier had thus far been little else than a 
succession of disasters, and the summer of 1777 
seemed likely to be distinguished by calamities 
not less distressing than those, which had attended 
the invasion of Canada. A formidable army was 
penetrating the States from Canada, and the 
plan of the campaign, as far as it was developed, 
threatened a junction of the force of Burgoyne 
with that of Sir William Howe, which would 
have effectually broken the States into two fee 
ble and disconnected portions. The retreat of 
the American army from Ticonderoga, on the 
approach of Burgoyne, while it filled the public 
mind with dismay, as the surrender of a position 
on which the safety of the north depended, was 
regarded with gloomy apprehension, as the pre 
lude to further reverses. The mind of Washing 
ton, however, by a happy forecast perceived a 
gleam of hope, even in this hour of despondence, 
and with a sort of prophetic skill seems to have 
foretold, with extraordinary precision, the auspi 
cious change of affairs which was in store. In 
reply to a letter of General Schuyler, of the 17th 
of July, communicating the unfavorable state and 
prospects of the army, he says, "Though our 



76 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

affairs have for some days past worn a gloomy 
aspect, yet I look forward to a happy change. ] 
trust General Burgoyne s army will meet soonei 
or later an effectual checK ; and, as I suggested 
before, that the success he has had will precipi 
tate his ruin. From your accounts, he appears 
to be pursuing that line of conduct, which, of all 
others, is most favorable to us, I mean acting 
in detachment. This conduct will certainly give 
room for enterprise on our part, and expose his 
parties to great hazard. Could we be so happy 
as to cut one of them off, though it should not 
exceed four, five, or six hundred men, it would 
inspirit the people and do away much of theii 
present anxiety. In such an event they would 
lose sight of past misfortunes, and, urged at the 
same time by a regard for their own security, 
they would fly to arms and afford every aid in 
their power." 

It must be confessed that it required no ordi 
nary share of fortitude, to find topics of conso 
lation in the present state of affairs. The British 
were advancing with a well-appointed army into 
the heart of the country, under the conduct, as 
it was supposed, of the most skilful officers, con 
fident of success and selected to finish the war. 
The army consisted in part of German troops, 
veterans of the Seven Yaars War, under the com 
mand of a general of experience, conduct, and 



JOHNSTARK. 77 

valor. Nothing could have been more ample 
than the military supplies, the artillery, munitions, 
and stores, with which the army was provided. 
A considerable force of Canadians and American 
loyalists furnished the requisite spies, scouts, and 
rangers ; and a numerous force of savages in their 
war dresses, with their peculiar weapons and 
native ferocity, increased the terrors of its ap 
proach. Its numbers were usually rated at ten 
thousand strong. 

On the evacuation of Ticonderoga, and the 
further advance of such an army, the New En 
gland States, and particularly New Hampshire 
and Massachusetts, were filled with alarm. It 
was felt that their frontier was uncovered, and 
that strenuous and extraordinary efforts for the 
protection of the country were necessary. In 
New Hampshire, as being nearer the scene of 
danger, a proportionably greater anxiety was felt. 
The Committee of Safety of what was then called 
the New Hampshire Grants, the present State of 
Vermont, wrote in the most pressing terms to the 
New Hampshire Committee of Safety at Exeter, 
apprizing them, that, if assistance should not be 
sent to them, they should be forced to abandon 
the country and take refuge east of the Connect - 
cut River. When these tidings reached Exeter, 
the Assembly had finished their spring session and 
had gone home. A summons from the Commit- 



78 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

tee brought them together again, and in three 
days they took the most effectual and decisive 
steps for the defence of the country. Among 
the patriotic members of the Assembly, who sig 
nalized themselves on this occasion, none was 
more conspicuous than the kte Governor Lang- 
don. The members of that body were inclined to 
despond ; the public credit was exhausted ; and 
there were no means of supporting troops, if they 
could be raised. Meantime the defences of the 
frontier had fallen, and the enemy, with over 
whelming force, was penetrating into the country 
At this gloomy juncture, John Langdon, a mer 
chant of Portsmouth, and speaker of the Assem 
bly, thus addressed its members ; 

"I have three thousand dollars in hard money, 
I will pledge my plate for three thousand more ; 
I have seventy hogsheads of Tobago rum, which 
shall be sold for the most it will bring. These are 
at the service of the state. If we succeed in 
defending our firesides and homes, I may be re 
munerated ; if we do not, the property will be 
of no value to me. Our old friend Stark, who 
so nobly maintained the honor of our state at 
Bunker s Hill, may be safely intrusted with the 
conduct of the enterprise, and we will check the 
orogress of Burgoyne." 

This proposal infused life into the measures of 
the Assembly. They formed the whole militia 



JOHNSTARK. 79 

of the State into two brigades. Of the first they 
gave the command to William Whipple, of the 
second to John Stark. They ordered one fourth 
part of Stark s brigade and one fourth of three 
regiments of Whipple s to march immediately 
under the command of Stark, " to stop the pro 
gress of the enemy on our western frontiers." 
They ordered the militia officers to take away 
arms from all persons, who scrupled or refused 
to assist in defending the country ; and appoint 
ed a day of fasting and prayer, which was ob 
served with great solemnity. 

But it was in the selection of the commander, 
who was to direct these measures of protection, 
that the great hope of the people, under Provi 
dence, rested. Stark was now called upon, soon 
er than he had anticipated, to digest his private 
griefs and hasten to the defence of his country. 
Knowing the confidence reposed in his firmness, 
fortitude, and military experience by all classes 
of the community, the Assembly deemed their 
work of preparation unfinished, till they could hold 
out his name, as the rallying-point to the people. 
Deeply wounded by the occurrences of the spring, 
he refused at first to accept the command of the 
troops ; but consented at length to assume it, on 
condition, that he should not be obliged to join 
the main army, but be allowed to hang upon 
the wings of the enemy in the New Hampshire 



80 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Grants, and to exercise his own discretion as 
to his movements, accountable to no one but 
the authorities of New Hampshire. His con 
ditions were complied with, and he was, in the 
language of the origina. orders, directed to repair 
with a separate command, " to Charlestown on 
Connecticut river ; there to consult with a commit 
tee from the New Hampshire Grants, respecting his 
future operations, and the supply of his men with 
provisions ; to take the command of the militia 
and march into the Grants ; to act in conjunction 
with the troops of that new State, or any other of 
the States, or the United States, or separately, as it 
should appear expedient to him, for the protection 
of the people and the annoyance of the enemy." 
The appearance of their favorite commander 
filled the people with spirits. The militia took 
the field without hesitation. In a few days Stark 
proceeded to Charlestown ; and, as fast as his men 
came in, he sent them forward to join the troops 
of the Grants under Colonel Warner, who had 
taken post at Manchester, twenty miles to the 
north of Bennington. Here Stark soon joined 
him, and met with General Lincoln, who had 
been sent from Stillwater by General Schuyler, 
commander of the northern department, to con 
duct the militia to the west bank of the Hudson. 
Stark communicated the orders, under which he 
was acting from the authorities of New Hamp- 



JOHN STARK. 81 

shire, stated his views of the dangerous consequen 
ces, to the people of Vermont, of removing his 
force from their borders, and declined obedience to 
General Schuyler s command. General Lincoln 
made known to General Schuyler and to Congress 
the result of his application. On the 19th of August, 
1777, that body resolved, " that a copy of General 
Lincoln s letter be forthwith transmitted to the 
Council of New Hampshire, and that they be in 
formed that the instructions, which General Stark 
says he received from them, are destructive of mili 
tary subordination, and highly prejudicial to the 
common cause at this crisis; and that therefore 
they be desired to instruct General Stark to con 
form himself to the same rules which other Gen 
eral officers of the militia are subject to, whenever 
they are called out at the expense of the United 
States." Notwithstanding this disapprobation of 
the course pursued by General Stark and the cor 
rectness of the principles involved in the resolution 
of Congress, the refusal of the General to march 
his troops to the west of the Hudson was founded 
upon the soundest views of the state of things, 
and was productive of inestimable benefits to the 
country, as the event soon proved. 

The levy of the militia, to which we have al 
luded, was ordered by the Assembly of New Hamp 
shire, on a general consideration of the exposed 
condition of the western frontier of the State 

v. 6 



82 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

after the abandonment of Ticonderoga by the 
American army. But events speedily occurred 
which showed the wisdom of these measures of 
preparation. At the very period when they 
were completed, General Burgoyne, filled with 
an overweening confidence in his superior strength, 
and greatly deceived as to the extent of the 
royalist party in the Colonies, disregarding the 
advice of Baron Riedesel, the commander-in- 
chief of the German troops, detached Colonel 
Baum, with a party of six hundred men on an 
expedition, the object of which was, in the first 
sentence of the instructions given by General 
Burgoyne to the commander, stated to be, " to 
try the affections of the country, to disconcert the 
councils of the enemy, to mount Riedesel s dra 
goons, to complete Peters s corps (of loyalists), 
and to obtain large supplies of cattle, horses, 
and carriages." * 

These instructions bear date the 9th of August, 
and the detachment of Baum was put in motion, 
about the time of Stark s arrival at Bennington. 
The Commander-in-chief of the American army, 
probably apprized of this movement of the enemy, 

*The original of these instructions came into the 
possession of General Lincoln, and was by him deposited 
in the archives of the Massachusetts Historical Society 
A copy of the document is found in their Collections, 
First Series, Vol. II. p. 25. 



JOHN STARK 83 

perceived the wisdom of Stark s dispositions, and 
approved his plan of operations. On the 13th of 
August, information reached General Stark, that a 
party of Indians attached to Baum s force had been 
perceived at Cambridge, about twelve miles north 
west from Bennington. He immediately detached 
Lieutenant-Colonel Gregg, with two hundred men, 
to stop their march. In the course of the night, 
he was advised by express, that a large body of 
the enemy, with a train of artillery, was in the 
rear of the Indians, in full march for Bennington. 
He immediately rallied his brigade, with all the 
militia which had collected at Bennington. Orders 
were at the same time despatched to the officer 
in command of Colonel Warner s regiment at 
Manchester, to inarch that body of men down to 
Bennington, and an animated call was made upon 
all the neighboring militia. These various dispo 
sitions were carried promptly into effect. 

On the morning of the 14th, Stark moved for 
ward to the support of Colonel Gregg, with the 
entire force under his command. At the distance 
of four or five miles, he met the Colonel in 
r ull retreat, and the enemy within a mile of h!*n. 
Stark instantly halted, and drew up his men in 
order of battle. The enemy, perceiving that ne 
had taken a stand, immediately came to a halt on 
very advantageous ground and there intrenched 
themselves. Unable to draw them from their po- 



84 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHi. 

sition, he fell back for a mile, leaving only a small 
party to skirmish with the enemy. This was 
done with considerable effect. Thirty of their 
force, with two Indian chiefs, were killed or 
wounded, without any loss on the American side. 

The following day, the 15th, was rainy, and 
nothing was attempted beyond skirmishing with 
the enemy. This was done with spirit, and the 
Indians began to desert the army of Colonel Baum, 
because," as they said, " the woods were filled 
with Yankees." This respite enabled the enemy to 
complete their breast-works, to apprize General 
Burgoyne of their situation, and to ask for rein 
forcements. Colonel Breyman, with an additional 
body of German troops, was immediately detached 
to the assistance of Baum. 

On the morning of the 16th, General Stark was 
joined by Colonel Symonds, with a body of Berk 
shire militia, and made preparations for an attack, 
according to a plan proposed by the General and 
agreed upon in a council of war. 

The German troops with their battery were 
advantageously posted upon a rising ground at 
a bend in the Wollamsac (a tributary of the 
Hoosac) on its north bank. The ground fell 
off to the north and west, a circumstance of which 
Stark skilfully took advantage. Peters s corps 
of Tories were intrenched on the other side of the 
stream, in lower ground, and nearly in front of 



JOHNSTARK. 85 

the German battery. The little river, that me 
anders through the scene of the action, is fordable 
in all places. Stark was encamped upon the same 
side of it as the Germans, but, owing to its serpen 
tine course, it crossed his line of march twice 
on his way to their position. Their post was 
carefully reconnoitred at a mile s distance, and the 
plan of attack was arranged in the following man 
ner. Colonel Nichols, with tw r o hundred men, 
was detached to attack the rear of the enemy s 
left, and Colonel Herrick, with three hundred 
men, to fall upon the rear of their right, with orders 
to form a junction before they made the assault. 
Colonels Hubbard and Stickney were also ordered 
to advance with two hundred men on their right 
and one hundred in front, to divert their attention 
from the real point of attack. The action com 
menced at three o clock in the afternoon on the 
rear of the enemy s left, when Colonel Nichols, 
with great precision, carried into effect the dispo 
sitions of the commander. His example was fol 
lowed by every other portion of the little army. 
General Stark himself moved forward slowly in 
front, till he heard the sound of the guns from 
Colonel Nichols s party, when he rushed upon the 
Tories, and in a few moments the action became 
general. " It lasted," says Stark, in his official re 
port, " two hours, and was the hottest I ever saw. 
It was like one continued clap of thunder." The 



SC A M E H I C A N BIOGRAPHY. 

Indians, alarmed at the prospect of being enclos 
ed between the parties of Nichols and Herrick, fled 
at the commencement of the action, their main 
principle of battle array being to contrive or to 
escape an ambush or an attack in the rear. The 
Tories were soon driven over the river, and were 
thus thrown in confusion on the Germans, who 
were forced from their breast-work. Baum made 
a brave and resolute defence. The German dra 
goons, with the discipline of veterans, preserved 
their ranks unbroken, and, after their ammunition 
was expended, were led to the charge by their 
Colonel with the sword ; but they were over 
powered and obliged to give way, leaving their 
artillery and baggage on the field. 

They were well enclosed in two breast-works 
which, owing to the rain on the 1 5th, they had con 
structed at leisure. But notwithstanding this pro 
tection, with the advantage of two pieces of can 
non, arms and ammunition in perfect order, and an 
auxiliary force of Indians, they were driven from 
their intrenchments by a band of militia just 
brought to the field, poorly armed, with few bay 
onets, without field-pieces, and with little discipline. 
The superiority of numbers, on the part of the 
Americans, will, when these things are considered, 
hardly be thought to abate any thing from the 
praise due to the conduct of the commander, or 
the spirit and courage of his men. 



JOHN STARK. 87 

The enemy being driven from the field, the 
militia dispersed to collect the plunder. Scarcely 
had they done so, before intelligence was brought, 
that a large reinforcement from the British army 
was on the march, and within two miles distance 
This was the corps of Colonel Breyman, already 
mentioned, which had been despatched by Gener 
al Burgoyne on receiving from Baum intelligence 
of his position. The rain of the preceding day 
and the badness of the roads had delayed his ar 
rival ; a circumstance which exercised a very im 
portant influence on the fate of the battle. Ou 
the approach of Breyman s reinforcements, the 
flying party of Baum made a rally, and the for 
tune of the day was for a moment in suspense. 
Stark made an effort to rally the militia ; but hap 
pily at this juncture Colonel Warner s regiment 
came up fresh and not yet engaged, and fell with 
vigor upon the enemy. 

This regiment, since the battle fought at Hub- 
bardston, had been stationed at Manchester. It 
had been reduced, by the loss sustained in that ac 
tion, to less than two hundred men. Warner, 
their Colonel, as we have seen, was at Benning- 
ton and was with General Stark on the 14th 
Tht regiment at Manchester was under the com 
mand of Major Samuel Safford. In consequence 
of the absence of a large number of the men on 
a scouting party, and other causes, it was not pos- 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

sible to put the regiment in motion on the 14th , 
on the 15th they marched for Bennington. Ow 
ing to the heavy rain of that day, it was near mid 
night, when the troops arrived within a mile of 
Bennington. Fatigued with the march of the 
preceding day, their arms and equipments injured 
by the rain, and their ammunition scanty, a con 
siderable portion of the ensuing day was exhaust 
ed, before the men could prepare themselves for 
battle. The first assault had been made in the 
manner described, and the enemy driven from the 
field, before this regiment came into action. At 
the most critical moment of the day, when the ar 
rival of Breyman s reinforcement threatened a re 
verse of its good fortune, Warner s troops appear 
ed in the field. * Stark, with what men he had 

* Some confusion on the subject of Warner s regiment 
exists in the histories, and has probably perplexed most 
readers of the accounts of the battle. General Stark, in 
his official letter to General Gates, expressly states that 
Warner was with him on the 14th ; and Gordon and oth 
ers correctly follow this authority. But yet it is also stat 
ed, that Warner s regiment came up fresh after the first 
action of the 16th, The Editor of the Memoir appears 
to have thought there must have been an error in the 
official account of the events of the 14th, which he seems 
accordingly to have altered by omitting the names cf 
Warner, Herrick, and Brush as being witn Stark on that 
day. I have followed, however, a copy of Stark s letter, 
made from the original among Gates s pipers, now ip 



JOHNS T ARK. 89 

oeen able to rally, pushed forward to his assistance, 
and the battle was contested with great obstinacy 
on both sides till sunset, when the enemy were 
obliged to give way. General Stark pursued their 
flying forces till dark, and was obliged to draw off 
his men, to prevent them from firing upon each 
other under cover of night. " With one hour 
more of daylight," as he observes in his official 
report, " he would have captured the whole body." 
The fruits of the victory were four pieces of brass 
cannon, several hundred stand of arms, eight brass 
drums, a quantity of German broad swords, and 
about seven hundred prisoners. Two hundred 
and seven were killed upon the spot ; the number 
of the wounded was not ascertained. Colonel 
Baum was wounded and made a prisoner, bur 
shortly after died of his wounds. The loss of 
the Americans was thirty killed and forty wound 
ed. The General s horse was killed in the action 

the archives of the New York Historical Society. The 
facts mentioned in the text explain this difficulty. The 
accounts general^ state, that Warner s regiment came 
up " fresh from Manchester," on the afternoon of the 
16th. This is not correct. That regiment, as we hav*> 
seen, arrived very late the night before, drenched with 
ram ; and the time required to dry their arms and pre 
pare ammunition, after the march of the 15th, accounts 
for their coming so late into action on the 16th. 1 aro 
indebted for the knowledge of this fact, and of others 
illustrative of the action, to Mr. Hiland Hall, of Benning 
ton, member of Congress from Vermont. 



90 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Too much praise cannot be bestowed on the 
conduct of those, who gained the battle of Ben 
nington, officers and men. It is perhaps the most 
conspicuous example of the performance by mili 
tia of all that is expected of regular, veteran troops. 
The fortitude and resolution, with which the lines 
at Bunker s Hill were maintained, by recent re 
cruits, against the assault of a powerful army of 
experienced soldiers, have always been regarded 
with admiration. But at Bennington the hardy 
yeomen of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massa 
chusetts, many of them fresh from the plough and 
unused to the camp, " advanced," as General Stark 
expresses it in his official letter, " through fire 
and smoke, and mounted breast-works, that were 
well fortified and defended with cannon." 

Fortunately for the success of the battle, Stark 
was most ably seconded by the officers under him ; 
every previous disposition of his little force was 
most faithfully executed. He expresses his 
particular obligations to Colonels Warner and 
Herrick, " whose superior skill was of great 
service to him." Indeed the battle was planned 
and fought with a degree of military talent ana 
science, which would have done no discredit to 
any service in Europe. A higher degree of 
discipline might have enabled the General to 
check the eagerness of his men to possess them 
selves of the spoils of victory ; but his ability, even 



JOHNSTARK. 91 

in that moment of dispersion and under the flush 
of success, to meet and conquer a hostile rein 
forcement, evinces a judgment and resource not 
often equalled in partisan warfare. 

In fact it would be the height of injustice not to 
recognise, in this battle, the marks of the master 
mind of the leader, which makes good officers and 
good soldiers out of any materials, and infuses 
its own spirit into all that surround it. This bril 
liant exploit was the work of Stark, from its in 
ception to its achievement. His popular name 
called the militia together. His resolute w r ill ob 
tained him a separate commission, at the ex 
pense, it is true, of a wise political principle, 
but on the present occasion, with the happiest 
effect. His firmness prevented him from being 
overruled by the influence of General Lincoln, 
which would have led him, with his troops, across 
the Hudson. How few are the men, who in such 
a crisis would not merely not have sought, but ac 
tually have repudiated, a junction with the main 
army ! How few, who would not only have de 
sired, but actually insisted on taking the respon 
sibility of separate action ! Having chosen the 
burden of acting alone, he acquitted himself in the 
discharge of his duty, with the spirit and vigor of 
a man, conscious of ability proportioned to the 
crisis. He advanced against the enemy with 
promptitude ; sent forward a small force to recon 



92 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

noitre and measure his strength ; chose his ground 
deliberately and with skill ; planned and fought 
the battle with gallantry and success. Pointing 
out the enemy to his soldiers, he declared to 
them, that " he would gain the victory over them 
in the approaching battle, or Molly Stark should 
be a widow that night." And this victory was 
gained by the simple force of judicious dispositions 
of his men, bravely executed. 

The consequences of this battle were of great 
importance. It animated the hearts of the peo 
ple, more than fulfilling, in this respect, the happy 
prediction of Washington. But its immediate 
effects were of the first moment. It not only cost 
the army of Burgoyne more than one thousand of 
his best troops, but it wholly deranged the plan of 
his campaign, and materially contributed to the loss 
of his army. By advancing beyond Ticonderoga, 
his communication with the country in his rear 
was interrupted. He relied on these lateral ex 
cursions to keep the population ir alarm and to 
prevent their flocking to Gates. He also depended 
on procuring his supplies by such inroads into the 
country. The catastrophe of Baurn s expedition, 
by which he hoped to furnish himself with an 
ample store of provisions collected at Bennington, 
disappointed that expectation, and compelled him 
to halt, till he could procure them in detail from 
other quarters, and thus retarded his advance 



JOHN STARK. 93 

toward Albany for a month, during all which time 
the militia poured to the standard of General 
Gates, and placed him in a condition, to compel 
the surrender of the British army. In the Memoir 
of Baron Riedesel s expedition, written by the Bar 
oness, it is stated that this judicious officer strongly 
remonstrated against despatching Baurn, and the 
event of the expedition is declared " to have para 
lyzed at once the operations of the British army." 

General Stark, on the achievement of his victo 
ry, communicated the intelligence of it to General 
Gates, !)y a letter bearing date three days after 
the battis. He also transmitted official information 
of it to he State authorities of New Hampshire, 
Massact asetts, and Vermont, whose troops were 
engage ! with him in the contest. To each of 
these three States he sent trophies of the battle, 
brazen drums, muskets, and swords taken from 
the field. 

The following is a copy of General Stark s let 
ter, accompanying the trophies sent by him to the 
A jsembly of Massachusetts, and copied from the 
original in the public archives at Boston. 

"Benmngton, September 15th, 1777. 

" General Stark begs leave to present to the 
State of the Massachusetts Bay, an-d pray their 
acceptance of the same, one Hessian gun and bay 
onet, one broad sword, one brass-barrelled drum, 



94 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

and one grenadier s cap, taken from the enemy, in 
the memorable battle, fought at Wallomsac, on the 
16th of August last; and requests that the same 
may be kept in commemoration of that glorious 
victory, obtained over the enemy that day, by the 
united troops of that State, those of New Hamp 
shire, and Vermont, which victory ought to be 
kept in memory, and handed down to futurity, as 
a lasting and laudable example for the sons and 
daughters of the victors, in order never to suffer 
themselves to become the prey of those merce 
nary tyrants and British sycophants, who are daily 
endeavoring to ruin and destroy us." 

The General Court of Massachusetts was not in 
session on the receipt of this letter, and did not 
meet till the next December. On the 12th of 
that month, the following letter was addressed to 
General Stark, in behalf of the Assembly. 

Boston, 12th of December, 1777. 
" SIB, 

" The General Assembly of this State take the 
earliest opportunity, to acknowledge the receipt 
of your acceptable present, the tokens of vic 
tory at the memorable battle of Bennington. 

"The events of that day strongly mark the 
bravery of the men, who, unskilled in war, forced 
from their intrenchments a chosen number of vet 
eran troops, of boasted Britons ; as well as the ad- 



JOHNSTARK. Q5 

dress and valor of the General, who dhected theif 
movements and led them on to conquest. This 
signal exploit opened the way to a rapid succes 
sion of advantages most important to America. 

" These trophies shall be safely deposited in the 
archives of the State, and there remind posterity 
of the irresistible power of the God of armies, 
and the honors due to the memory of the brave. 

" Still attended with like successes, may you 
long enjoy the just rewards of a grateful country. 

Together with this letter the following resolu 
tion was adopted. 

" Resolved unanimously, that the Board of War 
of this State be and they hereby are directed, in 
the name of this Court, to present to the honora 
ole Brigadier-General Stark a complete suit of 
clothes becoming his rank, together with a piece 
of linen ; as a testimony of the high sense this 
Court have of the great and important services 
rendered by that officer." 

The interesting trophies of the battle sent to 
Massachusetts are still preserved on the walls of 
her Senate-chamber, opposite to the chair of the 
President of that body.* 



* We beg leave respectfully to suggest, that the name 
of John Stark, with the date of the battle of Benning- 
ton, be placed beneath them. 



93 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

But perhaps the most characteristic incident in 
the whole transaction, was the neglect of Stark to 
inform Congress of his victory. Slighted as he 
thought himself by that body, by the promotion of 
officers younger than himself, he had quitted the 
Continental service in disgust. While yet smarting 
under the recent sense of injury, he had sought 
the noblest revenge, that of redoubled exertions in 
the cause of his country ; and having fulfilled this 
purpose to the utmost of the demands, either of 
ambition or patriotism, he disdained to make his 
success the instrument of a triumphant accommo 
dation. He gained his victory two days before 
Congress had passed their resolution, censuring his 
assumption of a separate command. As his letters 
on the subject of his rank had lain on the table 
of Congress unanswered, he forbore to write to 
them, even to communicate the tidings of his 
triumph. Congress, however, wisely chose to 
take themselves the first step toward a recon 
ciliation, and. on the 4th of October, passed the 
following resolution , " That the thanks of Con 
gress be presented to General Stark of the New 
Hampshire militia, and the officers and troops un 
der his command, for their brave and successful 
attack upon and victory over the enemy in their 
lines at Benmngton ; and that Brigadier Stark be 
appointed a Brigadier-General in the armies of 
the United States." On the last clause of the 



JOHN STARK. 97 

resolution the ayes and nays were called, and one 
vote was given in the negative.* 

Several anecdotes of this affair have been re 
corded, and the following deserves a repetition. 
Among the reinforcements from Berkshire County 
came a clergyman, with a portion of his flock, 
resolved to make bare the arm of flesh against the 
enemies of the country. Before daylight on the 
morning of the 16th, he addressed the commander 
as follows. " We the people of Berkshire have 
been frequently called upon to fight, but have 
never been led against the enemy. We have now 
resolved, if you will not let us fight, never to turn 
out again." General Stark asked him, " if he 
wished to march then, when it was dark and 
rainy." " No," was the answer. " Then," con 
tinued Stark, " if the Lord should once more give 
us sunshine, and I do not give you fighting enough, 
I will never ask you to rome again." The 
weather cleared up in the course of the day, and 
the men of Berkshire followed their spiritual guide 
into action. f 

We ought not wholly to dismiss this account of 
the battle of Bennington, without observing, that 
General Stark, in persisting in his refusal to march 
his troops from Vermont to the army under Gen- 

* Judge Chase of Maryland. 

f This is believed to have been the Rev. Mr Allen 
of Pittsfield. 
v. 7 



98 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

eral Schuyler, agreeably to the orders sent to that 
effect by General Lincoln, was not actuated mere 
ly by personal feelings, or a selfish purpose to 
maintain his separate command. He disapproved, 
on the soundest military principles, of Schuyler s 
plan of the campaign, which was to concentrate 
all the troops, which he could collect in front, and 
leave Burgoyne s rear undisturbed. Stark, on the 
contrary, saw, that nothing would more effectually 
weaken him, than to hang on his rear, and compel 
him to make strong detachments for observation 
and security. General Washington concurred in 
this view of the subject. Stark, however, had, on 
the 13th of August, and before the resolution of 
Congress censuring his conduct had passed, com 
municated his willingness to General Schuyler to 
cooperate with him in the impending crisis, with 
out any regard to his personal griefs, and in any 
way, in which the public welfare might require it. 
This most important affair, however, was but 
an incidental circumstance in the campaign. A 
general call had gone out to New England, in 
consequence of the disastrous downfall of Ticon 
deroga- General Stark remained nearly a month 
at Bennington after the battle, and received a re 
inforcement of one thousand of the militia ; but, as 
his former troops had enlisted for a short period, 
their term of service had nearly expired. General 
Stark finally proceeded to head-quarters, ana en 



JOHN STARK. 90 

tered the army of General Gates, at Behuius s 
Heights. But on the 18th of September, the pe 
riod for which most of his men were drafted had 
expired. Gates was desirous to retain them, as he 
was in daily expectation of a battle. They were 
drawn up and harangued by him and by their own 
general, Stark, but without effect. They had 
been raised en masse, and had left their homes 
greatly to their own inconvenience, and their time 
had expired. They had expressly stipulated that 
they should know no commander but Stark, as he 
had stipulated that he should not be placed under 
the Continental officers. He was now willing to 
waive this scruple, but they were not. Finally, 
General Gates was already so strong, that it was 
not easy to make out a case of very urgent neces 
sity. With all these excuses, it is not very sur 
prising, that the militia insisted upon being march 
ed home, and that all efforts to detain them were 
unavailing. 

Scarcely had they started, when the action of 
the 19th was commenced. At the sound of the 
artillery many turned, and would have gone back 
to the army. But as the firing ceased, they re 
sumed their homeward march. General Slark, 
holding no commission in the Continental army, 
and left without soldiers, returned, to make repor 
of his campaign to the Council of New Hamp 
shire. Wherever he went, he received demon 



100 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

strations of the popular gratitude ; and Congress 
soon honored him with their thanks, and the rank 
in the army, of which he had thought himself, in 
the spring, injuriously deprived. 

He now addressed himself, with new zeal and 
efficiency, to the public service. His victory at 
Bennington had added great influence to his name, 
and breathed hope and courage into the people. 
The militia were now ready to rise in all quarters, 
and pour into General Gates s army, in the un- 
doubting confidence of the speedy destruction of 
Burgoyne. General Stark was soon enabled to 
take the field, with a more numerous force than 
he had commanded before. Acting upon his for 
mer policy, he placed his army in the rear of the 
enemy, and wholly cut off their communications 
with Lake George and Canada. No circumstance 
contributed more to accelerate the fall of Bur 
goyne, as it baffled him in his attempted retreat, 
after the battle of the 4th of October. In fact, 
it nearly completed the circle in which Burgoyne 
was enclosed ; and General Stark was of opinion, 
that he might have been compelled to surrender 
at discretion. The state of his army, as disclosed 
after its capitulation, puts this beyond doubt ; but 
as all the substantial objects of such a surrender 
were attained by the capitulation, without the 
hazard of driving the enemy to despair, it was 
adopted as the safer course. 



JOHN STARK. 101 

The war in this quarter being brought to a tn 
uinphant close, and General Stark reinstated in the 
Continental service, he repaired to New Hamp 
shire for recruits and supplies. In a short time, 
his services were required by Congress on a pro 
posed expedition, of which the history is wrapped 
in some obscurity. Congress, without consulting 
General Washington, conceived the plan of another 
expedition to Canada, to be commenced, like the 
former, in mid winter. Without any previous in 
formation, that such an expedition was intended, 
General Washington received a letter from the 
President of the Board of War, of the 24th of 
January, 1778, enclosing one of the same date to 
General Lafayette, requiring the immediate at 
tendance of the latter on Congress^ to, receive his 
instructions, as commande r-iu-chief of. the expedi 
tion. Generals Coriway and Stark were to have 
been the second and third in command. Lafay 
ette, after receiving his instructions, repaired to 
Albany, and there General Stark was directed to 
meet him. On their arrival, it became manifest 
that no preparations had been made for pursuing 
the project, and it was accordingly abandoned. 

The command in the Northern department was 
intrusted to General Stark in the spring of 1778. 
The number of troops at his disposal was small, 
and he was obliged to protect with them an exten 
live and important frontier. His station at Albany 



102 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

imposed on him the unpleasant duty of watching 
the disaffected, the spies, and the adventurers of 
all descriptions, that were preying on the public, 
in this important district. He was glad to escape 
from the annoyances resulting from his position, 
and willingly received an order to join General 
Gates in Rhode Island. Here he was posted at 
East Greenwich, where the militia were chiefly 
stationed, a post for which he was eminently qual 
ified, by his popularity with that branch of the 
army. At the close of the campaign, he returned 
through Boston to New Hampshire, to enforce, 
by his presence and urgency, the call for recruits 
and supplies. 

In the spring of H79, he" returned to the army 
m Rhode^ "Island, and -by direction of General 
Gates instituted- a rvCcmnohsance of the coast, from 
Mount "Hope on the edsT/to Point Judith on the 
west. The military force in this district was small, 
and more than ordinary vigilance was required to 
keep up a proper observation of the enemy. In- 
iications of a movement being perceived in the 
autumn, he removed his head-quarters from Prov 
idence to Point Judith, but rarely slept more than 
a single night in a place. 

Late in October, the enemy were in motion, 
and the men of General Stark s command were 
for some days on constant duty. On the 10th of 
November they decamped from Rhode Island, 



JOHN STARK. 103 

and early the next morning General Stark took 
possession of Newport, to protect the inhabitants 
of that place from plunder, and the other conse 
quences of a change in the military occupation 
of the town. Shortly afterwards Generals Gates 
and Stark, with all their troops, excepting a small 
garrison, were ordered to reinforce General Wash 
ington in New Jersey. In the month of Decem 
ber the main army was thrown into two divisions 
for the winter, the Northern and the Southern ; 
the former of which was placed under General 
Heath, whose head-quarters were at West Point, 
and the latter under General Washington himself, 
whose head-quarters were fixed at Morristown, in 
New Jersey. 

General Stark was employed by the Commander- 
in-chief, while the troops remained in winter- 
quarters, on his accustomed errand to New Eng 
land for recruits and supplies. In May, 1780, he 
rejoined the army at Morristown. He was present 
at the battle of Springfield, in New Jersey, which 
occurred shortly after his return. At this period 
Count Rochambeau, with his fleet, appeared on 
the coast Stark was sent into New England to 
collect, if possible, a body of militia and volun 
teers, to reinforce the army at W T est Point. This 
object he effected with his usual energy, and 
reached West Point, while General Washington 
was absent at Hartford, whither he had repaired 



104 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

to hold a conference with Count Rochambeau, as 
to the combined operations of their forces. This 
was shortly before the defection of Arnold. Hav 
ing delivered up his reinforcements, General Stark 
rejoined his division in New Jersey ; but, in the 
month of September, he was ordered with his 
brigade to relieve General Saint Clair, who had 
occupied West Point with the troops of the Penn 
sylvania line, after Arnold s flight. 

While at West Point, it became his painful duty 
to act on the court-martial, by which Major Andre 
was condemned as a spy. He felt the hardship 
of the case, but joined his brother officers, in 
the unanimous opinion, that the life of this unfor 
tunate officer was forfeited by the laws of war, 
and that the interests of the country required, that 
the forfeit should be paid. 

About this time General Washington, having 
formed a project to surprise Staten -Island, with a 
view to masking his intentions, ordered General 
Stark, with a detachment of twenty-five hundred 
men and a heavy train of wagons, to advance as 
near as possible to York Island, bring off all the 
corn and forage that could be collected, and hover 
about the approaches to the city, till they should 
be ordered back. The British appear to have 
suspected some concealed design, for they suffered 
this detachment to range the country up to Mor- 
risania and Kingsbridge, and then quietly to return 



JOHN STARK. 105 

with their booty. Having received a despatch 
from General Washington, brought by Colonel 
Humphreys across the ferry at Paulus Hook a 
stormy night, informing them, that the expedition 
against Staten-Island was abandoned, General 
Stark drew off his forces and returned to head 
quarters. Shortly after this period, the army went 
into winter-quarters at West Point, New Windsor, 
and Fishkill. 

During the summer of 1780, General Stark 
joined his brother officers in one of those touching 
and powerful appeals to Congress, on the distress 
ed state of the army, with which the annals of the 
Revolution abound. The arrival of the French 
auxiliary forces brought home to the minds of the 
American soldiery, officers and men, a painful con 
trast of condition. The French troops were liber 
ally paid in specie, the American troops received a 
compensation, at best inadequate, in paper which 
was worthless. The officers were almost without 
exception of a class of men, dependent on their 
industry and exertions in their various callings and 
pursuits, for the support of themselves and their 
families. While they were withdrawn from home, 
their professions, their farms, and pecuniary affairs 
necessarily went to decay, and their families were 
straitened. Their appointment as officers fre 
quently yielded them not even the decent comforts 
of life for themselves at the camp. Men, "whose 



106 AMERICAN BIOGR4PHY. 

tables once abounded with plenty and variety," 
were, in consequence of devoting themselves to 
the service of the country, compelled " to subsist, 
month after month, upon barely one ration of dry 
bread and meat, and that frequently of the mean 
est quality, their families looking to them in vain 
for their usual support, and their children for that 
education, to which they once had a title." 

These painful expostulations produced for the 
present no beneficial effect. The difficulty was 
perhaps less than is generally supposed in the real 
poverty of the country, though it would be para 
doxical to deny, that the country was poor. But 
the soil was as fertile then as now. The num 
ber of persons withdrawn from the peaceful and 
productive pursuits of life, and engaged in the mil 
itary service of the country, was not large enoughj 
either by the loss of their labor or the burden of 
their support, to make three millions of people 
poor. The regular foreign trade of the country 
\vas destroyed ; but it had never yet been the great 
interest which it has since become, and its place 
was partly supplied by privateering, which was 
probably carried on much to the advantage of the 
United States. The subsistence of the enemy s 
armies was eventually a great branch of business, 
profitable to the country, although the circulation 
of the capitals employed in it, was of course im 
peded by political causes. All these considers- 



JOHN STARK. 107 

tions show sufficiently, that the extreme public 
poverty, which forms so prominent and painful a 
topic in the state-papers of the Revolution, was a 
poverty not of the people but of the government. 
The government had no power. The property 
belonged to the people, and the government could 
not act on the people. Its only action was on the 
States, and the States in a mere financial view were 
metaphysical existences. They had no money, 
and were subject to no process. The bitterness of 
the experience, which our fathers had of the evils 
of such a system, explains their readiness, high- 
toned as they were on the subject of taxation, to 
clothe the new government, formed by the federal 
constitution, with a direct control, under constitu 
tional limits, over the property of the citizen. 

Failing in their application to Congress, some of 
the general officers from New England addressed a 
memorial to their several States, at the close of the 
year 1780. It is a powerful and interesting docu 
ment. The name of General Greene stands at the 
head of the signers, and that of General Stark is 
among the number. This able document, like 
that last mentioned, may be found in the Appen 
dix to the interesting Memoir of General Stark, 
to which we have so often had occasion to refer. 

The health of General Stark was seriously im 
paired at the close of this campaign. He was now 
oeyond the meridian of a life, almost the whole of 



108 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

which had been a scene of hardship. One of the 
pioneers of civilization on a savage frontier, a 
hunter, a clearer of the soil, a ranger through the 
Seven Years War, and already for five years 
engaged in that of the Revolution, it is not to be 
wondered at, that he found his constitution, strong 
as it was, not insensible to the trials, to which he 
subjected it. He thought seriously, at the close 
of the campaign of 1780, of retiring from the ser 
vice, and endeavoring to restore his health, in 
the cultivation of his farm. He communicated his 
feelings to General Sullivan, with his views of 
the provision which Congress was bound to make 
for officers who retired disabled from the service- 
On the advice of General Sullivan, he went no 
further, than to ask a furlough for the winter. 
This was readily accorded to him. Relaxation 
from the pressure of active duty accomplished the 
only object he had in view in retiring ; and he 
was prepared, on the return of spring, to resume 
his post, with recruited health, and new ardor in 
the public service. 

In the month of June, 1781, General Stark was 
designated by the Commander-in-chief to command 
the Northern department. His head-quarters were 
fixed at Saratoga. The force at his control for 
the protection of the frontier was but inconsidera 
ble, consisting of small detachments from the mili 
tia of New York, New Hampshire, and Massachu- 



JOHN STARK. 100 

setts. The post was by no means an enviable one. 
The country was, in this part of it, overrun by 
spies and traitors. Robberies were of frequent 
occurrence, and unarmed citizens were sometimes 
surprised in their houses, and carried prisoners intc 
Canada. General Schuyler s house was robbed, 
and two of his servants were carried into Canada. 
The General saved himself by retreating to his 
chamber, barricading his door, and firing upon the 
marauders. The militia of Albany were roused 
by the noise, but the plunderers escaped. 

Shortly after General Stark established his head 
quarters at Saratoga, a party of these brigands 
was discovered within the lines, unarmed, and a 
British commission was found upon their com 
mander, Thomas Lovelace, a refugee from the 
States. He was brought before a court-martial, 
was tried, and condemned as a spy ; and the sen 
tence was carried into effect the following day 
This individual having family connexions in the 
neighborhood, a remonstrance w r as addressed by 
them to the Commander-in-chief, and threats were 
circulated of procuring retaliation to be made. 
General Washington directed a copy of the pro 
ceedings to be sent to him ; but no further notice 
was taken of the affair. 

Another of the party, on a promise of pardon, 
gave information that they belonged to a band of 
fifteen, who had come from Canada, as plunderers 



110 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

and spies, and scattered themselves through the 
country, to ascertain the state of affairs, and col 
lect intelligence for the British general command 
ing in Canada, who meditated an incursion into 
New York. He stated, that they had left their 
boats on the shores of Lake George. A lieuten 
ant was despatched, with a sufficient force, and 
with the prisoner as a guide, and ordered to wait 
five days, and surprise the party on their return 
to their boats. This officer found the beats, but, 
after having waited one day, the prisoner escaped. 
Fearful for his safety, the officer disobeyed the 
orders which he had received, to wait five days, 
and immediately returned. It was afterwards 
ascertained, that the party returned in two days, 
and might all have been surprised. 

General Stark was at his post at Saratoga, when 
the army of Cornwallis surrendered at York town. 
Writing to General Schuyler, a few weeks before 
that event, he expresses a confident assurance, that 
it would take place, and his regret at not sharing in 
the glory of the triumph, which he foretold for his 
country s arms. After this memorable event, which 
brought the war to a virtual close, and removed 
all danger of an inroad upon the Canada frontier, 
General Stark dismissed the militia to their homes, 
with his thanks for their good conduct ; and, hav 
ing taken measures for the security of the public 
property, was directed himself to repair to New 



JOHN STARK. Ill 

England Dy the way of Albany, and to exert 
himself during the winter in raising men and sup 
plies for the ensuing campaign. He did not, how 
ever, himself take the field in 1782. The season 
passed away without active military operations ; 
negotiations for peace were known to be on foot, 
and were brought to a provisional close, in the 
autumn of that year. These considerations, with 
the state of his health, greatly impaired by attacks 
of rheumatism, prevented his joining the army till 
ordered to do so by General Washington, in April, 
1783. He reported himself at head-quarters on 
the day appointed, and received the thanks of 
General Washington for his punctuality. He 
exerted his best influence, with that of his brothe 
officers, to allay the discontent which existed ir 
the minds of the army, and which was studiously 
fomented by the famous Newburg Letters. He 
had, at a former period, been, on his own account, 
dissatisfied with the policy pursued by Congress ; 
and some of his letters manifest the persuasion, on 
his part, that the interests of the army were not 
cordially promoted by that body. But his distrust 
was overcome by the progress of events. Con 
gress had exerted itself to the utmost, to meet the 
reasonable wishes of officers and men, and Stark 
was particularly solicitous, that the close of the 
glorious drama should be sullied by no discreditable 
or unpatriotic act on the part of his associates. 



112 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

"When the army was finally disbanded, he retired 
to private life, carrying with him an honored name 
He devoted himself, for the residue of his days, to 
the care of his farm, and the various duties, which 
devolved upon him, as the head of a numerous 
family. Leading the life of a real Cincinnatus, he 
declined associating himself with the Society, form 
ed by the officers of the newly disbanded army, 
under that name. He shared the apprehensions, 
which prevailed so widely, of the dangerous ten 
dency of that institution ; and he had something 
severe and primitive in his taste, which disinclined 
him from its organization. 

From the close of the revolutionary war, no 
incident of public importance marks the life of 
Gereral Stark. He gradually descended the vale 
of years, an object of respect due to age, patri 
otism, integrity, and public service of the mrst 
brilliant cast, in trying times. His life was pro 
longed, beyond any expectation which could 
reasonably be formed of one, whose early years 
were one unbroken series of hardship and expo 
sure. He attained the unusual age of ninety-foui. 
For many years before his death, he had become, 
n the best sense of the word, a privileged charac 
ter. One of the few surviving officers of the Rev 
olution, he was regarded as the personification of 
its spirit, in the neighborhood in which he lived. 
He was vis ted by strangers ; and the most eminent 



JOHN STARK. 

men in the country took a pride in paying him 
the homage of their respects. The Memoir of 
his Life contains letters of Messrs. Jefferson and 
Madison, expressive of the interest taken by 
these distinguished statesmen in this venerable 
hero, and their willingness to encourage an at 
tachment on his part towards themselves. 

The war of 1812 came upon General Stark at 
a period of advanced age, when it was, of course, 
impossible for him to engage for a third time in 
the public service ; but he watched its progress 
with interest. He was informed that the field- 
pieces, which he had taken at Bennington, were 
surrendered to the enemy at Detroit, when the 
army of General Hull capitulated at that place. 
The history of these cannon is somewhat singular. 
They were of French fabric, and, being found at 
Quebec, were brought by General Burgoyne from 
Canada, and formed the field artillery of Colonel 
Baum. Having been taken by General Stark at 
Bennington, they were inscribed with the date of 
the battle, August 16th, 1777. On the capitula 
tion of Hull, they fell into the hands of the British, 
by whom they were transported to Fort George, 
at the mouth of the Niagara. On the fall of that 
fortress, they passed again into the possession of 
the Americans, and were sent by Major-General 
Dearborn to Sackett s Harbor, where they were 
used in firing a salute, on occasion of General 



114 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

Harrison s victory over General Proctor, in the 
battle of the Thames. They are now said to be 
at Washington. When Stark heard, that "his 
^uns," as he called them, were taken at Detroit, 
he expressed great feeling, and regretted that his 
age and infirmities prevented his taking the field 
himself. 

In the year 1809, an invitation was sent to 
General Stark, by the inhabitants of Bennin^ton 
and its vicinity, to join them in the celebration of 
the anniversary of the battle. More than sixty of 
those, who had been engaged in the action, attend 
ed the meeting, at which the arrangements for the 
celebration were made. But he was then eighty- 
one years of age, and the state of his health pre 
vented his accepting the invitation. The commit 
tee, in requesting his attendance, expressed the 
wish, that " the young men of Bennington might 
have the pleasure of seeing the man, who so 
gallantly fought to defend their sacred rights, their 
fathers and mothers, and protected them while 
lisping in infancy." In reply to this portion of the 
letter of invitation, the aged hero observed, " You 
say you wish your young men to see me ; but 
you, who have seen me, can tell them, that I was 
never worth much for a show ; and certainly can 
not be worth their seeing now." 

At length, on the 8th of May, 1822, his long 
and eventful life was broup-ht to a close, at the a^e 



JOHN STARK. H5 

of ninety-four. With the exception of Sampler, 
he was the last of the American generals of the 
Revolution. His funeral was attended with military 
honors, by a large concourse of people, at the 
place of his residence, in Manchester on the Mer- 
mac river. His remains were deposited in a tomb, 
which, within a few years, had been erected at his 
request, upon a rising ground on the second bank 
of the river, and visible at a distance of four or 
five miles, up and down the Merrimac. On the 
4th of July, 1829, a monument was erected by 
his family upon this spot. It consists of a block 
of granite in the form of an obelisk, with the 
simple inscription, "MAJOR-GENERAL STARK." 

In person, General Stark was of about the 
medium size, and \vell proportioned. In his early 
years he was remarkable for his strength, activity, 
and ability to bear fatigue. He was seasoned in 
his youth to the hunter s and woodman s life. In 
the French war, a single bear-skin and a roll of 
snow were not uncommonly the ranger s bed. He 
was remarkable through life for his kindness and 
hospitality, particularly to his reduced companions 
in arms. It is justly mentioned as an extraordinary 
circumstance in his life, that frequently as he was 
engaged in battle in two long wars, he never re 
ceived a wound. 

The Memoir, to which we have been so largely 
indebted, closes with the following sentences ; 



116 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

< His character in his private was as unexception 
able as in his public life. His manners were frank 
and open ; though tinged with an eccentricity 
peculiar to himself and useful to society. He 
sustained through life the reputation of a man of 
honor and integrity, friendly to the industrious arid 
enterprising, severe to the idle and unworthy. 
Society may venerate the memory of an honest 
citizen, and the nation that of a hero, whose eulo 
gy is in the remembrance of his countrymen." 



LIFE 

OF 

WILLIAM PINKNEY 

BY 

HENRY WHEATON 



WILLIAM PINKNET 



WILLIAM PINKNET was born at Annapolis, in 
the State of Maryland, on the 17th of March, 
1764. His father, whom he always spoke of as 
a man of firm temper, and of a strong, original 
cast of mind, was an Englishman by birth, and 
took the part of the parent country during the 
war of the revolution. The boyish ardor or wil- 
fulness of young Pinkney was pleased with the 
adoption of opposite sentiments, and he avowed, 
even in his early youth, his ardent attachment to 
the liberties of America. One of the freaks of 
his patriotism was to escape from the vigilance 
of his parents, and mount night guard with the 
soldiers in the fort at Annapolis. He retained to 
the end of his life a strong partiality to his native 
town, and took a pleasure in pointing out to his 
intimate friends, especially the young, the scenes 
of his childish toils and sports. 

His early education was imperfect ; but this 
was probably less owing to the narrow circum 
stances of his father, who spared no pains for his 



120 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHF 

son, than to the distracted state of i -^ country at 
that period. He was initiated in class* *1 studies 
by a private teacher of the name of Bra .hand, 
who left the country on account of the disturb 
ances then commencing The affection, which 
his pupil always continued to entertain for him, 
was warmly reciprocated by the preceptor, who, 
after the lapse of several years, expressed the 
greatest pleasure in meeting in England a friend 
of Pinkney, and was eager in his inquiries about 
him. " One of my greatest regrets," said he, " in 
leaving America, was that I had to part from my 
promising pupil." 

They, who remember him at this period of life, 
describe him as already animated by that haughty 
impatience of a superior, which characterized him 
at a later day, and which was, in some degree, 
the strength and the weakness of his character. 
This temper was not confined to the rivalries of 
study, but extended to the rougher competitions 
of boyhood. One anecdote of the former he 
used to relate of himself, as a ruse, which might 
be pardoned in a youth. There was a debating 
club at Annapolis, of which Pinkney was a mem 
ber. A question had been assigned for discussion 
on a certain evening, when all the polite company 
of the town was expected to attend ; and our 
young orator repaired to a secluded spot in the 
vicinity, to prepare himself in solitude for the 



WILLIAM PINKNET. 121 

coming contest. His antagonist in the debate, 
who was ever his chief competitor in the club, 
was there, however, before him ; and our aspirant 
took the benefit of some friendly screen to over 
hear his preparatory declamation unobserved 
"The result," said he, "was brilliant. In the 
evening, my antagonist s speech, which was well 
enough seasoned with rhetoric, was received with 
acclamation. But when I came to make my 
extemporaneous reply, which I had very earnestly 
prepared during the day, I was at home, as you 
may guess, on every point. The night was mine, 
and thenceforth I was King of the Club." 

He had commenced the study of medicine 
under Dr. Goodwin, then an extensive practitioner 
in Baltimore ; but soon found that he had mistaken 
his vocation, and resorted to that of the law, under 
the direction of Samuel Chase, afterwards one of 
the Judges of the Supreme Federal Court, and 
then at the head of the Maryland bar. Mr. Chase 
happened to be present at a meeting of another 
debating society, of which young Pinkney was a 
member. Struck with the talents displayed by 
him on this occasion, that gentlemen advised him 
to tne study of the law, inviting him back to An 
napolis, where the Superior Courts were held, and 
offering him the free use of his library, and what 
ever other aid he could afford him. The province 
of Maryland was distinguished among the other 



122 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

colonies by a succession of learned and accom 
plished lawyers ; and Burke has observed, in his 
speech on Conciliation with America, how popular 
and widely diffused were law studies in all of them, 
especially after the publication of the classical 
Commentaries of Blackstone, of which nearly as 
many copies were sold in this country as in Eng 
land. With such a guide, and in such a school, 
his studies were of no superficial kind. 

He commenced his law studies in 1783, ana 
was called to the bar in 1786. His very first 
efforts seem to have given him a commanding 
place in the eye of the profession and the public. 
A knowledge of the law of real property, and of 
the science of special pleading, were then consider 
ed as the two great foundations of legal distinction. 
His attainments in these branches were accurate 
and profound, and he had disciplined his mind by 
the cultivation of that species of logic, which con 
tributes essentially to invigorate the reasoning fac 
ulty, and enables it to detect those fallacies, which 
are apt to impose upon the understanding in the 
warmth and hurry of forensic discussion. His 
style in speaking was, at that period, marked by 
an easy flow of natural eloquence and a happy 
choice of language. His voice was melodious, 
and seemed a most winning accompaniment to his 
pire and effective diction. His elocution was 
calm and placid ; the very contrast of that strenu- 



WILLIAM PINKNET. 123 

ous, vehement, and emphatic manner which he 
subsequently adopted. 

Mr. Pinkney was elected, in 1788, a delegate 
from the county of Harford to the Convention of 
the State of Maryland, which ratified the Constitu 
tion of the United States proposed by the General 
Convention at Philadelphia. In the same year, 
he was chosen to represent the county in the 
House of Delegates at Annapolis, which seat he 
continued to fill until the year 1792. 

In 1789 ; he was married at Havre de Grace to 
Miss Ann Maria Rodgers, daughter of Mr. John 
Rodgers of that town, and sister to that distin 
guished officer Commodore Rodgers, the Presi 
dent of the Navy Board. 

In 1 790, he was elected a member of Congress. 
His election was contested upon the ground that 
he did not reside in the district for which he was 
chosen, as required by the law of the State. But 
he was declared duly elected, and returned ac 
cordingly, by the Executive Council, upon the 
principle that the State legislature had no au 
thority to require other qualifications than those 
enumerated in the federal constitution ; and that 
the power of regulating the times, places, and 
manner of holding the elections, did not include 
that of superinducing the additional qualification 
of residence within the district for which the can 
didate was chosen. He made on this occasion a 



124 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHT. 

cogent argument in support of his own claim to be 
retumod, but declined, on account of his profes 
sional pursuits and the state of his private affairs, 
to accept the honor which had been conferred 
upon him. 

At the first session of the legislature of Mary 
land, after his election as a member of the House 
of Delegates in 1788, he made a speech upon the 
Report of a Committee appointed to consider the 
laws of that State prohibiting the emancipation of 
slaves by last will and testament, or in any other 
manner during the last sickness of the owner 
This speech breathes all the fire of youth, and a 
generous enthusiasm for the rights of human na 
ture, although it may not perhaps be thought to 
give any pledge of those great powers of eloquence 
and reasoning, which he afte/wards displayed in 
his mature efforts. At the subsequent session in 
1789, he delivered a speech on the same subject, 
which, as he himself said in a letter to a friend, 
written at the time when his consistency was 
impeached for the part he took in the Missouri 
question, is "much better than the first speech 
and for a young man is well enough." 

Neither of these juvenile orations, however, 
grapples with the real difficulties of the subject, or 
tends to solve the problem, how the entire emanci 
pation of the African race, in a country where it 
is predominant in point of numbers, can be 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 125 

ciled with the safety of the white population ; or 
how it is to find its equal place hi a society, where 
inveterate prejudices, founded on indelible physical 
distinctions, (it is to be apprehended) must ever 
retain it in the abject condition of a despised and 
oppressed caste. The more mature and ripened 
judgment of Mr. Pinkney, as a statesman, seems 
to have ultimately settled down into the conviction 
that colonization was the only practicable remedy, 
from which the removal of this plague-spot could 
even be hoped for ; and we shall hereafter see, 
that his opinions on the subject of slavery under 
wit so great a modification as to incur the re- 
pir^ach of inconsistency on a subject, which, as a 
constitutional lawyer, he regarded as exclusively 
of local State cognizance, with which the federal 
authority had no right to intermeddle, not even to 
the extent of annexing the local prohibition of 
slavery as a condition to the admission of new 
States into the Union. 

In 1792, Mr. Pinkney was elected a member 
of the Executive Council of Maryland, and con 
tinued in that station until November, 1795, when, 
being again chosen a delegate to the State legisla 
ture, he resigned his seat at the Council-board, 
of which he was at that time President. 

During all this period he continued indefati- 
gably devoted to his professional pursuits, and 
gradually rose to the head of the bar, and to a 



126 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHT. 

distinguished rank in the public councils of his 
native State. His acuteness, dexterity, and zeal 
in the transaction of business ; the extent and ac 
curacy of his legal learning ; his readiness, spirit, 
and vigor in debate ; the beauty and richness of 
his fluent elocution ; the manliness of his figure, 
and the energy of his mien, united with a sonorous 
and flexible voice, an animated and graceful deliv 
ery, are said to have been the qualities by which 
he attained this elevated standing in the public 
estimation. But there remain no other memori 
als of his professional character at this period of 
his life, than such as have been preserved in the 
fleeting recollections of his cotemporaries ; in the 
written opinions which he gave upon cases sub 
mitted to him as counsel, and which often embra 
ced elaborate arguments upon the most difficult 
questions of law ; and in the printed Reports of 
the Court of Appeals. It is, however, obviously 
impossible to form any adequate notion of the 
powers of an advocate from these papers, or from 
the necessarily concise sketches of the arguments 
of counsel contained in the books of Reports. But 
an argument which he made before the Court of 
Appeals in 1793, upon the question whether the 
statute of limitations is a bar to the issue of tenant 
in tail, may be referred to as a specimen of the 
accuracy and depth of his legal learning, and c* 



WILLIAM PIN1LNET. 127 

his style and peculiarly cogent manner of reason 
ing upon legal subjects. * 

In 1796, he was selected by President Wash 
ington as one of the commissioners on the part of 
the United States under the seventh article of Mr. 
Jay s treaty with Great Britain. After consulting 
with his friends, he determined to accept this ap 
pointment, which had been spontaneously tendered 
to him. He accordingly embarked for London 
with his family, where he arrived in July, 1796, 
and was joined by Mr. Gore, the other commis 
sioner on the part of our government. The 
Board, having been organized by the addition of 
two English civilians, Sir John Wichell and Dr. 
Swabey, and of Mr. Trumbull, a citizen of the 
United States appointed by lot, proceeded to 
examine the claims brought before it. Various 
interesting questions of public law arose, in the 
course of this examination, respecting contraband 
of war, domicile, blockade, and the practice of the 
prize courts, which were investigated with great 
learning and ability by the commissioners. Mr. 
Pinkney s written opinions, read at the Board, are 
finished models of judicial eloquence, uniting pow 
erful and comprehensive reasoning with profound 
knowledge of international law, and a copious, 
pure, and energetic diction. The theory of the 

Hams and M Henry s Reports, Vol. III. p. 270. 



128 AMERICAN BIOGRPAHT 

conclusiveness of the judgments of Admiralty 
courts, with the appropriate limitations of its ap 
plication, has, I think, nowhere been more pro 
foundly and satisfactorily discussed, than in the 
opinion delivered by him in the case of The Betsey, 
in contradiction to that of Sir John Wichell, who 
maintained, that compensation for the capture ought 
not to be allowed in that case by the commission 
ers, because, the sentence of condemnation pro 
nounced in the inferior court having been affirmed 
by the Lords of Appeal in Prize Causes, conclu 
sive credit ought to be given to it, inasmuch as, 
according to the general law of nations, it must be 
presumed that justice had been administered by 
the competent tribunal of the capturing state ; and 
the treaty had not varied this general rule of inter 
national law, having engaged to afford relief only 
in cases, (either existing at the time of its signa 
ture or before the ratification,) in which, from 
peculiar circumstances belonging to them, adequate 
compensation could not then be obtained in the 
ordinary course of justice. 

Mr. Pinkney was also engaged, during his resi 
dence abroad, in attending to the claim of the 
State of Maryland for a large amount of public 
property, invested in the stock of the Bank 
of England before the revolution, which had 
become the subject of a complicated Chancery 
litigation. He at last succeeded in extricating 



WILLIAM PINKNIT. 129 

the stock from this situation by an arrangement, 
under which it was, with his consenv, adjudged to 
the crown, with an understanding, that, after the 
payment of the liens upon it, the balance should 
oe paid over to the government of Maryland. 

His residence in England was protracted fai 
beyond his expectations or wishes, as he was 
anxious to return to his native country and his 
profession. This anxiety was feelingly expressed 
in his epistolary correspondence with his private 
friends. In a letter, dated August, 1800, to his 
brother, he says ; " It is time for me to think 
seriously of revisiting my country, and of reviving 
my professional habits. I shall soon begin to 
require ease and retirement ; my constitution is 
weak, and my health precarious. A few years 
of professional labor will bring me into the sear 
and yellow leaf of life ; and if I do not begin 
speedily, I shall begin too late. To commence the 
world at forty is indeed dreadful ; but I am used 
to adverse fortune, and know how to struggle with 
it ; my consolations cannot easily desert me, 
the consciousness of honorable views, and the 
cheering hope that Providence will yet enable me 
to pass the evening of my days in peace. It is 
not of small importance to me, that I shall go back 
to the bar cured of every propensity that could 
divert me from business, stronger than when I 
left it, and, I trust, somewhat wiser. In regard 



130 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

to legal knowledge, I shall not be worse than il 
I had continued in practice ; I have been a regu 
lar and industrious student for the last two years 
and I believe myself to be a much better lawyer 
than when I arrived in England. But I shall 
not grow much wiser or better by a longer stay, 
I am become familiar with almost every thing 
around me, and do not look out upon life with as 
much intenseness of observation as heretofore ; 
and of course, I am now rather confirming former 
acquisitions of knowledge than laying in new 
stores for the future. I begin to languish for 
active employment. The commission does not 
occupy me sufficiently, and visiting, &c., with 
much reading, cannot supply the deficiency. My 
time is always filled in one way or other, but I 
think I should be the better for a speech now and 
then. Perhaps another twelve months may give 
me an opportunity of making speeches till I get 
tired of them, and tire others too." 

In another letter written in August, 1803, to 
his friend, Mr. Cooke, he expresses the same 
sentiments, with his apprehensions that what has 
been by some since called the " civil revolution," 
which brought Mr. Jefferson into power at the 
head of the democratic party, might sever the ties 
of friendship which had connected him with sever 
al leading individuals of the opposition. " I. am 
prepared," he says, " on my return, to find the 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 131 

spirit of party as high and phrensied as the most 
turbulent would have it. I am even prepared to 
find a brutality in that spirit, which in this country 
either does not exist, or is kept down by the pre 
dominance of a better feeling. I lament with you 
that it is so ; and I wonder that it is so ; for the 
American people are generous, and liberal, and 
enlightened. We are not, I hope, to have this 
inordinate zeal, this extravagant fanaticism, en 
tailed upon us ; although one might almost sup 
pose it to be a part of our political creed, that 
internal tranquillity, or rather the absence of 
domestic discord and a rancorous contention for 
power, was incompatible with the health of the 
state and the liberty of the citizen. I profess to 
be temperate in my opinions, and shall put in my 
claim to freedom of conscience ; but, when both 
sides are intolerant, what hopes can I have that 
this claim will be respected? I do not desire 
office ; although I have no such objections to the 
present administration, as, on what are called, 
party principles, would induce me to decline 
public employment. It is my wish to be a mere 
professional laborer, to cultivate my friends and 
my family, and to secure an honorable indepen 
dence before I am overtaken by age and infirmity. 
My present intention is to fix in Baltimore, where 
I will flatter myself I shall find some, who will 
not regret my choice of residence." 



132 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

On his return to the United States in August, 
1804, Mr Pinkney executed his purpose of re 
moving to Baltimore, and began to attend the 
federal Supreme Court at Washington. He con 
tinued to devote himself with unwearied assiduity 
to his professional pursuits. During his long resi 
dence in England, he had never laid aside his 
habits of diligent study, and had availed him 
self of his opportunities of intercourse with the 
accomplished lawyers of that country, and of 
frequenting the courts of Westminster Hall, to 
enlarge and improve his legal attainments. He 
was, by his public station, brought into immediate 
contact with most of the English civilians, and 
was much in the society of that accomplished and 
highly gifted man, Sir William Scott. He had 
occasion to witness the forensic efforts of Erskine, 
then in the meridian of his fame. He was in the 
constant habit of attending the debates in the two 
houses of Parliament, whilst Fox and Pitt still 
shone forth as the brightest luminaries of British 
eloquence. A higher standard of literary attain 
ments was held up to his observation. He em 
ployed his leisure hours in endeavoring to supply 
what he now found to be the defect of his early 
education, by completing his knowledge of English 
and classical literature. He devoted peculiar 
attention to the subject of Latin prosody and 
English eiocution ; aiming, above ail, to acquire a 



WILLIAM PINKNET 133 

critical knowledge of the living English tongue, 
its pronunciation, its terms and significations, 
its synonymes, and, in short, its whole structure 
and vocabulary. By these means, he added to 
his natural eloquence and fluency a copiousness 
and variety of diction, which graced even his 
colloquial intercourse, and imparted new strength 
and beauty to his forensic style. 

In April, 1806, he was again called into the 
public service of his country abroad by circum 
stances, which were even then deemed to be of 
serious concern, but which ultimately involved 
our republic in that war with Great Britain, which 
has given a new coloring and character to our 
subsequent political existence. 

In the course of the ensuing year after his 
return from England, several cases of the capture 
of our merchant vessels, engaged in carrying the 
produce of the colonies of the enemies of Great 
Britain to Europe, had occurred, which threatened 
the total destruction of that branch of our neutral 
carrying trade. These seizures were grounded 
upon a revival by the British government of a 
doctrine, which had acquired the denomination of 
" the Rule of the War of 1756," from the cir 
cumstance of its having been first applied by the 
Prize Court during that war. The rule was 
suffered to lie dormant during the war of our 
revolution, probably from the fear of exciting the 



134 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

hostility of the maritime powers who subsequently 
formed the league of armed neutrality. It was 
revived during the first war of the French revo 
lution in 1793, and extended to the entire pro 
hibition of all neutral traffic with the colonies and 
upon the coasts of the enemy. But, as indemnity 
was given by the board of commissioners under 
Mr Jay s treaty for captures made upon this pre 
text, and as it had been expressly admitted in 
Lord Hawksbury s letter to Mr. King of April 
llth, 1801, (enclosing Sir John Nicholl s official 
report as Advocate-General,) that the colonial 
trade might be carried on by neutrals circuitously, 
and that landing the cargo in a neutral port broke 
the continuity of voyage so as to legalize the 
trade thus carried on, there was the more reason 
for surprise and complaint on the part of the 
government and people of this country at this 
sudden and unexpected attack upon their accus 
tomed trade. 

The revival and extended application of " the 
Rule of 1756 " gave rise to numerous polemic pub 
lications on both sides of the Atlantic ; in which 
the respective pretensions of England and America 
were elaborately discussed. Among these was LD 
ingenious pamphlet entitled " War in Disguise, or 
the Frauds of Neutral Flags," written by Mr. 
Stephen, an English barrister, well known for his 
enthusiastic zeal in the cause of the abolition of 



WILLIAM P I N K N E Y. 135 

\Vest India slavery, and who was supposed to 
enjoy the confidence of the ministry then in 
power. This production was examined, and its 
reasonings combated, by a very able writer in the 
Edinburgh Review. * It was also answered by 
Gouverneur Morris, in a pamphlet characteristic 
of that statesman s peculiar genius and political 
prejudices ; and the whole subject was afterwards 
thoroughly discussed by Mr. Madison, then Sec 
retary of State, in an elaborate work entitled 
" An Examination of the British Doctrine, which 
subjects to Capture a Neutral Trade not open in 
Time of Peace." 

Different memorials were presented from the 
various commercial cities of the Union, remon 
strating against this dangerous pretension, and 
pledging the support of the trading interests to 
such measures, as the government might think fit 
to adopt, to resist it, as incompatible with the just 
rights and independence of the country. Among 
these, was an argumentative and eloquent Memo 
rial from the merchants of Baltimore, drawn up 
by Mr. Pinkney, who had found occasion to study 
this question when a member of the board of 
commissioners under the British treaty of 1794. 

In this paper he conclusively shows, by an 
elaborate historical deduction, accompanied with a 
searching analysis of judicial precedents, that the 

* Vol. VIII. No. 15, for April, 1806. 



136 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

doctrine in question was never heard of until the 
war of 1756 ; that it was then rested upon the 
peculiar ground of adoption or naturalization, by 
which neutral vessels, engaged in the colony trade 
of France, were considered by the British courte 
of Admiralty as having forfeited their original 
national character, by being incorporated into the 
enemy s navigation with all its privileges, just as 
an individual neutral merchant is considered as 
losing the immunities of his native character by 
permanent residence in the belligerent country. 
He also proves, that during the war of the Ameri 
can revolution, the doctrine was expressly disa 
vowed by the British prize tribunals, and that this 
solemn renunciation was powerfully confirmed by 
the acquiescence of Great Britain, during the first 
and most important and active period of the war 
which was terminated by the peace of Amiens, 
in the free and unlimited prosecution by neutrals 
of the whole colony trade of France ; and, when 
she did, at last, interrupt it by orders of council, 
secretly issued and suddenly executed, she made 
ample amends for this breach of good faith and 
public law, into which she had been inconsider 
ately betrayed. 

The leading part taken in this interesting dis 
cussion by Mr. Pinkney, and the thorough knowl 
edge of the subject shown in this paper, together 
with the valuable experience he had acquired 



WILLiAM PINKN1 . 137 

during his former residence in England, induced 
President Jefferson to invite him 10 assist in the 
negotiation already commenced by Mr. Monroe, 
then our resident envoy in London, on this and 
the other important points of difference between 
the two countries. With this view, he was ap 
pointed in April, 1806, jointly with Mr. Monroe 
as minister plenipotentiary to treat with the British 
government on these subjects. He, therefore, 
once more abandoned his professional pursuits, 
and embarked in the month of May, with his 
family, for England. 

The moment seemed to be propitious for a 
satisfactory adjustment of the complicated difficul 
ties which had arisen between the two countries. 
Mr, Fox, after having been banished from the 

oyal presence and confidence for more than 
\ venty years, subsequent to the failure of his 
. *mous India bill, was once more admitted to a 
snare of power in conjunction with that portion 
of Mr. Pitt s party who continued to adhere to 
Lord Grenville after the death of their great 
leader. Mr. Fox was appointed to the Foreign 
Office, and one of his first objects was an endeav 
or to realize his own views of the impolicy of 
*he war with France, which he had so long ana 
". strenuously opposed, by opening a negotiation 
JOT peace. But this effort at negotiation, wedged 

between the battle of Austerlitz and that of 



138 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Jena, the former of which broke the heart of 
Pitt, and the latter laid the European continent 
prostrate at the feet of Napoleon, came too late 
to stop the resistless tide of conquest which 
threatened to overwhelm the world. 

This awful state of things rendered it the more 
incumbent on the new ministry to prevent the 
weight of America, with her vast maritime re 
sources, from being thrown into the scale of 
France, by doing us justice upon those subjects 
of complaint which had occasioned so much irri 
tation, the lawless practice of impressing our 
sea-faring citizens from on board our own vessels 
on the high seas, the habitual violation of our 
neutral jurisdiction on the coasts and within the 
bays, ports, and harbors of the Union, and the 
multiplied restraints upon our commerce by novel 
interpretations of public law. 

The Lords Holland and Auckland were named 
by the government to treat on these points, and 
for a revision of the commercial articles of Mr 
Jay s treaty with the American envoys. The 
writer of this biographical sketch has been assured 
by Mr Monroe, that the British commission, dur 
ing the wholo course of this difficult and delicate 
negotiation, showed the most candid and concilia 
tory disposition, at the same time that they were, 
of course, duly attentive to the interests of their 
own country. That amiable, enlightened, and 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 139 

accomplished nobleman, Lord Holland, it is well 
known to all who have attended to his public 
career, or enjoyed the advantage of personal 
intercourse with him, then cherished and still 
chen^I es for the United States and its free institu 
tions those feelings of kindness, which he imbibed 
from his illustrious relative, Mr. Fox, and which 
we aay be allowed to believe have been con- 
firrr- d by his own enlightened judgment. Lord 
Xuckland seemed also desirous, by a conciliatory 
eportment, to remove any injurious impressions 
vhich might have been taken up against him 
during the w r ar of our revolution, but without 
adverting, on any occasion, to the transactions 
of those times. 

The British negotiators were, however, in the 
hands of their government, whose orders they 
implicitly obeyed ; and it is well known that the 
cabinet itself was made up of a coalition of fra 
gile and discordant materials, all its proceedings 
being looked upon with extreme jealousy by the 
opposition of the day. It fell to pieces not long 
after the death of Mr. Fox, who soon followed 
his illustrious rival to the grave ; and Mr. Canning 
came into the Foreign Office, deeply imbued with 
all those prejudices against every thing American, 
which he had imbibed in the school of that min- 
ster under whose banner he so long served. 
Mr. Canning acquired his character for liberality 



140 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

as a statesman long afterwards ; towards America, 
at least, he was, at this period, neither generous 
nor just. 

Previous to this breaking up of the coalition 
ministry, (which at last took place upon the ob 
stinate refusal of the king to consent to any 
measure of Catholic emancipation, however lim 
ited, and his requiring a positive pledge from his 
ministers that they would never mention the sub 
ject to him again,) a treaty had been signed on 
the 31st of December, 1806, by the American, 
with the British negotiators, which the former, 
however, declared to be not conformable to their 
instructions, and concluded merely sub spe rati ; 
whilst the latter accompanied its signature with a 
declaration of the right of the British government 
to retaliate upon neutral nations the decree of 
blockade issued by Napoleon at Berlin on the 
21st of November. 

The ministry, no longer guided by the pacific 
spirit of Fox, and as if they were determined to 
furnish their successors with a precedent for anni 
hilating neutral commerce, (as they had furnished 
to Napoleon a pretext for his Berlin decree by 
thsir previous blockade, of May, 1806, of the 
coasts from the Elbe to Brest,) immediately fol 
lowed this declaration with the orders in council 
of the 7th of January, 1807, establishing a limited 
blockade of the whole coast of Europe in pos- 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 141 

session of France and her allies, so as to prevent 
neutrals from trading from one port to another. 
Then came the attack on the frigate Chesapeake, 
and President Jefferson sent back the proposed 
treaty for revision, without submitting it to the 
Senate. 

Mr. Monroe now returned to the United States, 
leaving Mr. Pinkney as sole minister in England. 
The prospect of reconciliation with that country, 
on terms consistent with the interests and honor 
of the republic, dark as it was before, was now 
clouded with the additional measure of the orders 
in council of November, 1807, prohibiting all 
neutral trade with the ports of France and her 
allies, or of any other country at war with Great 
Britain, and with all other European ports from 
which the British flag was excluded, unless such 
trade should be carried on through her ports, 
under her licenses, and paying duties to her 
exchequer. 

The remnant of neutral commerce spared by 
this edict was effectually destroyed by the retalia 
tory decree soon afterwards fulminated at Milan 
by Napoleon, who seized gladly upon this pretext 
to complete his system of blockade and confisca 
tion, by which he hoped effectually to cut off the 
commercial and financial resources of England. 
The two great belligerent powers thus mutually 
rivalled each other in the work of destroying the 



142 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



commerce of the only remaining neutral state their 
indiscriminate violence had left out of the circle 
of hostility. In vain were the justice and policy 
of the British orders in council of November 
arraigned in Parliament by Lord Erskine and 
other members of the late ministry, who had 
themselves furnished the precedent and the pat 
tern of that measure in the orders issued in the 
preceding January on the same pretext of retali 
ating the Berlin decree. In vain was the wanton 
attack on Copenhagen assailed by them as subver 
sive of the sacred principles of morality, of public 
law, and of the soundest maxims of national poli 
cy. All other considerations were merged in the 
apparent necessity of resisting the portentous pow 
er of the French Emperor, who, after the victory 
of Friedland and the peace of Tilsit, wielded the 
entire resources of the European continent, ana 
directed them to the avowed purpose of subverting 
the British empire. 

The solicitude of Mr. Pinkney to accomplish 
the intentions of his government in seeking to 
remove by pacific means those obstacles, which 
had been thrown in the way of neutral commerce 
by tnese violent measures, and his anxiety to vin- 
dic& e the honor and rights of his country, are 
apparent, not only from his official correspondence, 
W. from his voluminous private letters to Mr. 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 143 

Madison, to transcribe which would enlarge the 
size of this biography beyond its prescribed limits. 

But the years 1808, 1809, and 1810, passed 
away without any adequate return for his zealous 
and persevering cooperation with the government 
at home, in endeavoring to avoid that alterna 
tive which was at last forced upon us by the obsti 
nate perseverance of the British ministry in their 
offensive measures. The arrangement concluded 
at Washington, in April, 1809, for the repeal of 
the orders in council, upon condition that our non- 
intercourse should be continued against France 
until she repealed her decrees, was disavowed 
by the British government. Fresh cause of irri 
tation was created by the offensive conduct of Mr. 
Jackson, sent to explain that disavowal ; the 
attack on the frigate Chesapeake still remained 
unexpiated ; the impressment of our seamen and 
the capture of our vessels were still continued. 

His conciliatory endeavors to remove these 
causes of complaint proved abortive ; whilst he 
was subjected to severe censure at home for the 
alleged tameness of his remonstrances, which were 
in exact conformity to the instructions he had re 
ceived from our government, whose excessive anxi 
ety for peace dictated only the most arnica ole lan 
guage in its intercourse with England. In the 
mean time, the money he had saved from his 
professional earnings had been absorbed in the 



144 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

expenses incident to the education of his children 
in a foreign country, and to maintaining that style 
of living, which is not only absolutely necessary in 
a public minister, in order to enable him to recipro 
cate the civilities of others which he in vain seeks 
to avoid, but even to perform the duties of his 
station by keeping up social intercourse with his 
diplomatic colleagues, and with the members of 
the government to which he is accredited. 

In his letters to his private friends, the effects of 
these cares upon his health and spirits are express 
ed with much sensibility, mingled with the strong 
est feelings of attachment to the scenes and com 
panions of his youth. In a private letter to 
President Madison, dated in November, 1810, he 
requests his immediate recall, upon the ground 
that his salary was utterly inadequate to defray his 
unavoidable expenses. He adds ; " There are 
other considerations, however, which ought, per 
haps, to have produced the same effect at even an 
earlier period, and would have produced it, if I 
had followed my own inclinations rather than a 
sense of duty to you and to the people. Some of 
these considerations respect myself individually, 
and need not be named ; for they are nothing 
n comparison with those which look to my family. 
[ts claims to the benefit of my professional exer 
tions have been too long neglected. Age is 
stealing fast upon me ; and I shall soon have lost 



WILLIAM PJNKNET 145 

the power of retrieving the time which has been 
wasted in endeavors (fruitless it would seem) to 
deserve well of my country. Every day will, as 
it passes render it more difficult to resume the 
habits which I have twice improvidently aban 
doned. At present, I feel no want of cheerful 
resolution to seek them again as old friends, whom 
I ought never to have quitted, and no want of 
confidence that they will not disown me. How 
long that resolution, if not acted upon, may last, 
or that confidence may stand up in the decline of 
life, I cannot know, and will not try. I trust it is 
not necessary for me to say how much your kind 
ness, and that of your predecessor, has contributed 
to subdue the anxieties of my situation, and to 
make me forget that I ought to leave a post, at 
once so perilous and costly, to richer and to abler 
hands. Those who know me will believe, that 
my heart is deeply sensible of that kindness, and 
that my memory will preserve a faithful record of 
it while it can preserve a trace of any thing." 

Mr. Pinkney still continued to press upon the 
ministry, of which Marquis Wellesley was the 
head, the complaints of this country, until, finding 
that no attention was likely to be paid to his 
remonstrances, he took leave of the British court 
in February, 1811, soon afterwards embarked in 
the frigate Essex for the United States, and arrived 
at Annapolis in the month of June. 

v. 10 



146 AMERICAN B1OGRAFF/Y. 

On his return, he immediately resumed the 
labors of his profession with his accustomed alac 
rity and ardor. In December, 1811, he was 
appointed Attorney-General of the United States 
by President Madison. At the term of the 
Supreme Court following his appointment, came 
on for hearing before that tribunal a cause ol 
remarkable interest, as involving an important 
question of public law, our international relations 
with foreign powers, and the sovereign rights of a 
foreign nation brought in conflict with the claim 
of one of our own citizens. 

This was the case of the ship Exchange, origi 
nally a merchant vessel belonging to an American 
citizen, which had been seized and confiscated by 
Napoleon, under his decree issued at Rambouillet 
upon the pretext of retaliating our Non-Intercourse 
act against France, armed and commissioned in 
his service, and sent to carry despatches to the 
East Indies. In the course of its voyage, the 
vessel was compelled, by stress of weather, to put 
into the port of Philadelphia, our waters being 
then open to the ships of war of all the belliger 
ent powers. It was there proceeded against by 
the original American owners, who reclaimed their 
property in the ordinary course of justice, and the 
cause was finally brought, by appeal, before the 
Supreme Court; the French minister at Wash 
ington having insisted, in his correspondence witr- 



WILLIAM P1NKNEY. 147 

our government, that the justice and legality of 
the original seizure under the Rambouillet decree 
was a question of state to be settled by diplomatic 
negotiation between the French and American 
governments ; and that it could not be determined 
by the ordinary tribunals of justice, especially as 
the vessel, sailing under the commission of his 
sovereign, had entered a port of the Union under 
the general permission to the public armed ship? 
of foreign nations. 

The same principle of exemption from ordinary 
judicial cognizance, for the vessel thus entering 
our waters, was also maintained by Mr. Pinkney, 
as Attorney-General, with an extent of learning, 
and a force of argument and eloquence, which 
raised him at once in the public estimation, to the 
head of the American bar. He reasoned to show, 
that, where wrongs are inflicted by one nation 
upon another in such tempestuous and lawless 
times, they could not be redressed by judicature in 
the exercise of its ordinary powers ; that, where 
the private property of the citizen had been ever 
so unjustly confiscated in the competent tribunals 
of a foreign state, a regular condemnation closes 
the judicial eye upon the enormity of the original 
seizure ; and still less could the courts of justice 
interfere where the sovereign rights of a foreign 
prince had intervened, whose flag and commission 
must be respected by those courts until a jurisdic- 



148 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

tion over his vessels had been expressly conferred 
upon them by the supreme legislative power oi 
their own government. 

He compared the case then in judgment to the 
analogous exemptions, laid down by the classical 
text writers on international law, from the local 
jurisdiction of the country, of the person of the 
sovereign, of his envoys, or his fleets and armies, 
coming within the territorial limits of another 
state, by its permission, expressed or implied. 
He insisted upon the equality of sovereigns, and 
that one sovereign could not submit his rights to 
the decision of another, or of his courts of justice ; 
but that the mutually conflicting claims of inde 
pendent states must be adjusted by diplomatic 
negotiations or reprisals and war ; that no repri 
sals had been authorized by our own government 
in the present instance ; and that the general pro 
visions of the laws of Congress, descriptive of the 
ordinary jurisdiction of the national tribunals to 
redress private wrongs, ought not to be so inter 
preted as to give them cognizance of a case, in 
which the sovereign power of the nation had, by 
implication, consented to wave its territorial juris 
diction. 

These topics of argument he amplified and 
illustrated by a variety of considerations, drawn 
from the impotency of the judicial power to en 
force its decisions in such cases ; from the exclu- 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 149 

sive competence of the supreme sovereign power 
of the nation adequately to avenge wrongs com- 
mittea by a foreign sovereign, and to determine 
when it shall assert, and when it may prudently 
compromise, its extreme rights ; and from the very 
nature of the questions growing out of such trans 
actions, as being rather questions of state policy 
than of jurisprudence, of diplomatic than of fo 
rensic discussion, and to be determined by all 
those delicate and complicated motives which 
guide the statesman, rather than by those inflexible 
rules which must be observed by those who pre 
side in the judgment-seat. These topics were 
made the grounds of the masterly judgment pro 
nounced by Mr. Chief Justice Marshall in this 
celebrated case, with the unanimous concurrence 
of the bench ; Judge Washington uniting with 
the rest of his brethren in reversing his own sen 
tence pronounced in the Circuit Court, with that 
perfect candor and willing sacrifice of selfish vanity 
to the convictions of his better-instructed mind, 
which adorned the character of that upright magis 
trate, and shed a new lustre upon the great name 
he bore. 

The organization of the judicial - cy is one 
ol the most curious and nicely adapted parts of 
our admirable scheme of federative government. 
The highest appellate tribunal is invested with an 
imposing combination of authorities. Besides its 



150 



A M E 11 1 A N BIOGRAPHY. 



extensive powers as an ordinary court of justice, it 
administers the law of nations to our own citizens 
and to foreigners ; and determines, in the last 
resort, every question capable of a judicial deter 
mination, arising under our municipal constitution, 
including controversies between the members 
of the Union, and those growing out of conflicts 
between the fundamental law and ordinary acts of 
legislation. It is before " this more than Am- 
phictyonic council " that the American lawyer is 
called to plead, not merely for the private rights 
of his fellow-citizens, but for their constitutional 
privileges, and to discuss the conflicting preten 
sions of State and Federal sovereignties. 

It was a rash assertion of an illustrious writer, 
that there are no discoveries to be made in moral 
science and in the principles of government. To 
say nothing of other improvements which the pres 
ent age has witnessed, mankind is indebted to 
America for the discovery and practical applica 
tion of a scheme of federative representative gov 
ernment, which, if it be not adapted to all climes, 
and to every condition of the many-peopled globe, 
has, at least so far, " worked well," and avoided 
the defects of all preceding confederacies. Th* 
extensive and important function assigned to tht 
judicial power in this polity, combined with the 
peculiar circumstances of our social condition, has 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 151 

nevitanly assigned to the legal profession a large 
share of public influence. 

Generally speaking, the practice of the bar m 
this country is not confined to particular courts* 
Our lawyers not being restricted to any particular 
department of the profession, their technical learn 
ing is usually of a more liberal and expansive cast 
than in the country whence we derived our legal 
institutions. Their professional habits and tech 
nical studies do not unfit them, in any degree, for 
the performance of the higher and more important 
functions of statesmen and legislators. There can 
be no doubt, that, in England, greater skill and 
nicety of execution are acquired, by the minute 
subdivision of labor, produced by the state of 
the profession and the circumstances of society. 
Hence, we find there more perfect masters of 
the science of equity, of special pleading, convey 
ancing, or of the civil and canon laws as they 
are administered in the admiralty and consistorial 
courts. 

But the peculiar circumstances and social con 
dition of this young country have aroused the 
active faculties of the people, and imparted a 
greater flexibility and variety to the talents of its 
public men ; whilst they have enabled our more 
eminent lawyers, when called into the public ser 
vice, to perform all the offices of peace and war 
with as much ability and success as in those coun- 



152 AMERICAN BIOGRPAHT. 

tries where youth are prepared for the duties of 
public life by a peculiar system of education, 
exclusively adapted for that purpose. They have 
stored their minds with miscellaneous knowledge ; 
and 5 when removed from the bar into the cabinet 
or the senate, have generally been found to sus 
tain the reputation they had acquired in a more 
limited walk. 

The infancy of the country, the immature state 
of society, and the freedom of its political institu 
tions, have all contributed to this result. Society 
is not yet, if indeed it ever will be, broken into 
those marked distinctions and gradations of rank 
and occupation, demanding a correspondent sep 
aration of mere professional employments, from 
those connected with the business of the state ; 
whilst, at the same time, the bar, as in the ancient 
republics, is the principal avenue to public honors 
and employments. These peculiar circumstances, 
combined with the singular nature of the judica 
ture exercised by the Supreme Court in constitu 
tional cases, have advanced the science of juris 
prudence in the United States far beyond the 
general condition of our literature, and raised the 
iCgal profession to a higher rank than it enjoys in 
any other country. 

Mr. Pinkney cooperated, as an advocate, in 
laying the foundations of the system of prize-law, 
built up by the Supreme Court during the late 



WILLIAM PINKNET. 153 

war with Great Britain. His extensive learning 
and peculiar experience in this science contributed 
essentially to enlighten the judgments of that tri 
bunal on a branch of jurisprudence in which we 
had few national precedents, and where the ele 
mentary writers on public law are extremely defi 
cient in practical details and a particular applica 
tion of general principles. Among other cases ol 
capture brought for adjudication before that tribu 
nal, was the celebrated case of the Nereide, in 
which arose the novel question of international 
law, whether a neutral could lawfully lade his 
goods on board an armed enemy s vessel. 

In the argument of this cause, his powers were 
severely tasked by rivalry, not only with his gifted 
competitor, Mr. Emmett, but with the counsel 
associated with him for the captors, Mr. Dallas, 
who, he said, had " dealt with this great cause in 
a way so masterly, and had presented it before the 
Court with such a provoking fulness of illustra 
tion, that his unlucky colleague could scarcely set 
his foot upon a single spot of it without trespassing 
upon some one of those arguments, which, w r ith 
an admirable profusion, I had almost said, a prodi 
gality of learning, he has spread over the whole 
subject. Time, however, which changes all 
things, and man more than any thing, no longer 
permits me to speak upon the impulse of ambition. 
ft has left me only that of duty ; better, perhaps, 



154 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

than the feverish impulse which it has supplanted ; 
sufficient, as I hope, to urge me, upon this and 
every other occasion, to maintain the cause of 
truth, by such exertions as may become a servant 
of the law in a forum like this. I shall be con 
tent, therefore, to travel after my learned friend 
over a part of the track which he has at once 
smoothed and illuminated, happy, rather than 
displeased, that he has facilitated and justified the 
celerity with which I mean to traverse it ; more 
happy still, if I shall be able, as I pass along, to 
relieve the fatigue of your Honors, the benevolent 
companions of my journey, by imparting something 
of freshness and novelty to the prospect around us. 

" To this course I am also reconciled by a 
pretty confident opinion, the result of general 
study, as well as of particular meditation, that the 
discussion in which we are engaged has no claim 
to that air of intricacy which it has assumed ; that, 
on the contrary, it turns upon a few very plain 
and familiar principles, which, if kept steadily in 
view, will guide us in safety, through the worse 
than Cretan labyrinth of topics and authorities, 
that seem to embarrass it, to such a conclusion as 
i". may be fit for this Court to sanction by its judg 
ment. 

" I shall, in the outset, dismiss from the cause 
whatever has been rather insinuated with a pru 
dent delicacy, than openly and directly pressed by 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 155 

my able opponent, with reference to the personal 
situation of the claimant, and of those with whom 
he is united in blood and interest. I am willing to 
admit that a Christian judicature may dare to feel 
for a desolate foreigner who stands before it, not 
for life and death indeed, but for the fortunes of 
himself and his house. I am ready to concede, 
that, when a friendly and a friendless stranger sues 
for the restoration of his all to human justice, she 
may sometimes wish to lay aside a portion of her 
sternness, to take him by the hand, and, exchang 
ing her character for that of mercy, to raise him 
up from an abyss of doubt and fear to a pinnacle 
of hope and joy. In such circumstances, a tem 
perate and guarded sympathy may not unfre- 
quently be virtue. 

" But this is the last place upon earth in which 
it can be necessary to state, that, if it be yielded 
to a? a motive of decision, it ceases to be virtue? 
and becomes something infinitely worse than weak 
ness. What may be the real value of Mr. Pinto s 
claim to our sympathy, it is impossible for us to be 
certain that we know ; but thus much we are sure 
ws know, that, whatever may be its value in fact, 
in the balance of the law it is lighter than a 
feather shaken from a linnet s wing, lighter than 
tne down that floats upon the breeze of summer 
I throw into the opposite scale the ponderous 
claim of WAR ; a claim of high concernment, not 



156 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

to us only, but to the world ; a claim connected 
with the maritime strength of this maritime state, 
with public honor and individual enterprise, with 
all those passions and motives, which can be made 
subservient to national success and glory in the 
hour of national trial and danger. I throw into 
the same scale the venerable code of universal 
law, before which it is the duty of this Court, high 
as it is in dignity, and great as are its titles to 
reverence, to bow down with submission. I throw 
into the same scale a solemn treaty, binding upon 
the claimant and upon you. In a word, I throw 
into that scale the rights of belligerent America, 
and, as embodied with them, the rights of those 
captors, by whose efforts and at whose cost the 
naval exertions of the government have been 
seconded, until our once despised and drooping 
flag has been made to wave in triumph where 
neither France nor Spain could venture to show a 
prow. 

" You may call these rights by what name you 
please. You may call them iron rights ; I care 
not ; it is enough for me, that they are RIGHTS. 
It is more than enough for me, that they come 
before you encircled and adorned by the laurels, 
which we have torn from the brow of the naval 
genius of England ; that they come before you 
recommended, and endeared, and consecrated by 
a thousand recollections which it would be base- 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 157 

ness and folly not to cherish, and that they are 
mingled in fancy and in fact with all the elements 
of our future greatness." 

In the course of his argument, Mr. Pinkney 
insisted that the claimant s property ought to be 
condemned as prize of war upon the three follow 
ing grounds ; 

1. That the treaty of 1795, between the United 
States and Spain, contained a positive stipulation 
adopting the maxim of the northern confederacy, 
that free ships shall make free goods; and al 
though it did not expressly mention the converse 
proposition, that enemy ships should make enemy 
goods, yet it did not negative that proposition ; 
and as the two maxims had always been associated 
together in the practice of nations, the one was to 
be considered as implying the other. 

2. That, by the Spanish prize-code, neutral 
property found on board of enemy s vessels was 
liable to capture and condemnation ; and that, this 
being the law of Spain, applied by her when bel 
ligerent, to us and to all other nations when 
neutral, by the principle of reciprocity the same 
i\-b was to be applied to the property of hei 
subject, which Mr. Pinto must be taken to be, the 
United States government not having at that time 
acknowledged the independence of the Spanish 
American colonies. 

3. He contended, that the claim of Mr. Pinto 



158 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ought to be rejected on account of his unneutral 
conduct, in hiring and putting his goods on board 
of an armed vessel, which sailed under convoy 
and actually resisted search. 

After fully discussing the first two points, he 
proceeded ; 

" I come now to the third and last question , 
upon which, if I should be found to speak with 
more confidence than may be thought to become 
me, I stand upon this apology, that I have never 
been able to persuade myself that it was any ques 
tion at all. I have consulted upon it the reputed 
oracles of universal law, with a wish disrespectful 
to their high vocation, that they would mislead me 
into doubt. But pia sunt, nuttumque nefas 
oracula suadent. I have listened to the counsel 
for the claimant, with a hope produced by his 
reputation for abilities and learning, that his argu 
ment would shake from me the sturdy conviction 
which held me in its grasp, and would substitute 
for it that mild and convenient skepticism that 
excites without oppressing the mind, and summons 
an advocate to the best exertion of his faculties, 
without taking from him the prospect of success, 
and the assurance that his cause deserves it. I 
have listened, I say, and am as great an infidel as 
ever. 

" My learned colleague, in his discourse upon 
this branch of the subject, relied in some degree 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 159 

apon circumstances, supposed by him to be in 
evidence, but by our opponents believed to be 
merely assumed. I will not rely upon any cir 
cumstances but such as are admitted by us alL 
I take the broad and general ground, which 
does not require the aid of such special consider 
ations as might be borrowed from the contested 
facts. 

" I shall consider the case as simply that of a 
neutral, who attempts to carry on his trade from a 
belligerent port, not only under belligerent con 
voy, but in a belligerent vessel of force, with full 
knowledge that she has capacity to resist the com 
missioned vessels, and (if they lie in her way) to 
attack and subdue the defenceless merchant-ships 
of the other belligerent, and with the further 
knowledge, that her commander, over whom in 
this respect he has no control, has inclination and 
authority, and is bound by duty so to resist, and is 
inclined and authorized so to attack and subdue. 
I shall discuss it as the case of a neutral, who 
advisedly puts in motion, and connects his com 
merce and himself with a force thus qualified and 
conducted ; who voluntarily identifies his com 
merce and himself with a hostile spirit, and 
authority, and duty, thus known to and uncon 
trollable by him ; who steadily adheres to this 
anomalous fellowship, this unhallowed league be 
tween neutrality and war, until, in an evil hour, 



160 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

it falls before the superior force of an America* 
cruiser, when, for the first time, he insists upon 
dissolving the connexion, and demands to be re 
garded as an unsophisticated neutral, whom i f 
would be barbarous to censure, and monstrous tf 
/sit with penalty. The gentlemen tell us that a 
-euiral may do all this ! I hold that he may 
not, and if he may, that he is a chartered liber 
tine, that he is legibus solutis, and may do any 
thing. 

" The boundaries, which separate war from neu 
trality, are sometimes more faint and obscure than 
could be desired ; but there never were any boun 
daries between them, or they must all have per 
ished, if neutrality can, as this new and most 
licentious creed declares, surround itself upon the 
ocean with as much of hostile equipment as it can 
afford to purchase, if it can set forth upon the 
great common of the world, under the tutelary 
auspices and armed with the power of one belliger 
ent bidding defiance to, and entering the lists of 
battle with the other, and at the same moment 
assume the aspect and robe of peace, and chal 
lenge all the immunities which belong only to 
submission. 

" My learned friends must bear with me if I 
say, that there is in this idea such an appearance 
of revolting incongruity, that it is difficult tb re 
strain the understanding from rejecting it wi f hout 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 161 

inquiry, by a sort of intellectual instinct. It is, I 
admit, of a romantic and marvellous cast, and may, 
on that account, find favor with those who delight 
in paradox ; but I am utterly at a loss to conjec 
ture, how a well-regulated and disciplined judg 
ment, for which the gentlemen on the other side 
are eminently distinguished, can receive it other 
wise than as the mere figment of the brain of some 
ingenious artificer of wonders. The idea is formed 
by a union of the most repulsive ingredients. It 
exists by an unexampled reconciliation of mortal 
antipathies. It exhibits such a rare discordia 
rerum, such a stupendous society of jarring ele 
ments, or (to use an expression of Tacitus) of 
res insociabiks, that it throws into the shade the 
wildest fictions of poetry. I entreat your Honors 
to endeavor a personification of this motley notion, 
and to forgive me for presuming to intimate, that 
if, after you have achieved it, you pronounce the 
notion to be correct, you will have gone a great 
way to prepare us, by the authority of your opin 
ion, to receive, as credible history, the worst parts 
of the mythology of the Pagan world. The 
Centaur and the Proteus of antiquity will be fabu 
lous no longer. 

" The prosopopoeia, to which I invite you, is 
scarcely, indeed, within the power of fancy, even 
in her most riotous and capricious mood, when she 
is best able and most disposed to force incompati 

v. 11 



162 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

bilities in ,o fleeting and shadowy combination, 
but, if you can accomplish it, will give you some 
thing like the kid and the lion, the lamb and the 
tiger portentously incorporated, with ferocity and 
meekness coexistent in the result, and equal as 
motives of action. It will give you a modern 
Amazon, more strangely constituted than those 
with whom ancient fable peopled the borders of 
the Thermidon, her voice compounded of the 
tremendous shout of the Minerva of Homer, and 
the gentle accents of an Arcadian shepherdess, 
with all the faculties and inclinations of turbulent 
and masculine War, and all the retiring modesty 
of virgin Peace. We shall have, in one personage, 
the pharetrata Camilla of the jEneid, and the 
Peneian maid of the Metamorphosis. We shall 
have Neutrality, soft and gentle, and defenceless 
in herself, yet clad in the panoply of her warlike 
neighbors, with the frown of defiance upon her 
brow, and the smile of conciliation upon her lip, 
with the spear of Achilles in one hand and a lying 
protestation of innocence and helplessness unfolded 
in the other. Nay, if I may be allowed so bold a 
figure in a mere legal discussion, we shall have the 
branch of olive entwined around the bolt of Jove, 
and Neutrality in the act of hurling the latter under 
the deceitful cover of the former. 

" I must take the liberty to assert, that - if this 
be law, it is not that sort of law of which Hooker 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 103 

si>eaks, when, with the splendid magnificence oi 
Eastern metaphor, he says, that her seat is the 
bosom of God, and her voice the harmony of the 
world. 5 Such a chimera can never be fashioned 
into a judicial rule fit to be tolerated or calculated 
to endure. You may, I know, erect it into a rule, 
and I shall, in common with others, do my best to 
respect it ; but, until you do so, I am free to say, 
that in my humble judgment, it must rise upon 
the ruins of many a principle of peculiar sanctity 
and venerable antiquity, which it will be your 
wisdom to preserve and perpetuate." 

After having thus spoken, as he said, in meta 
phors, which, if they would not bear the test of 
rigorous criticism, he trusted would at least be 
pardoned, upon the ground that they served to 
mark out and illustrate his more particular argu 
ment, Mr. Pinkney proceeded to consider the 
effect, w r hich such a license to neutrals as that 
supposed might produce upon the unarmed trade 
of the opposite belligerent, and to establish its 
unlawfulness, both on general principles, and the 
particular analogies of judicial precedents. But it 
would be difficult tc analyze, and impossible to 
abridge, this argument, which affords an adequate 
specimen of his peculiar powers as a forensic 
debater; and we must, therefore, content ourselves 
with subjoining the peroration to this admirable 
speech . 



164 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

" The little strength with which I set out is at 
last exhausted, and I must hasten to a conclusion. 
I commit to you, therefore, without farther discus 
sion, the cause of my clients, identified with the 
rights of the American people, and with those 
wholesome rules which give to public law simpli 
city and system, and tend to the quiet of the 
world. 

" We are now, thank God, once more at peace. 
Our belligerent rights may therefore sleep for a 
season. May their repose be long and profound. 
But the time must arrive, when the interests and 
honor of this great nation will command them to 
awake, and, when it does arrive, I feel undoubting 
confidence, that they will rise from their slumber 
in the fulness of their strength and majesty, unen 
feebled and unimpaired by the judgment of this 
high Court. 

" The skill and valor of our infant navy, which 
has illumined every sea, and dazzled the master 
states of Kurope by the splendor of its triumphs, 
have given us a pledge, which, I trust, will be 
dear to every American heart, and influence tne 
future course of our policy, that the ocean is 
destined to acknowledge the future dominion of 
the west. I am not likely to live to see it, and 
therefore, the more do I seize upon the enjoyment 
presented by the glorious anticipation. That this 
dominion, when God shall suffer us to wrest it 



WILLIAM P1NKNEY. 165 

from those who have abused it, will be exercised 
with such justice and moderation as will pit to 
shame the maritime tyranny of recent time, and 
fix upon our power the affections of mankind, it 
is the duty of us all to hope ; but it is equally our 
duty to hope, that we shall not be so inordinately 
just to others as to be unjust to ourselves." 

It is well known that Mr. Pinkney s argument 
was overruled by the Court, and the sentence of 
condemnation in the inferior tribunal reversed by a 
majority of the judges. It may be mentioned, 
however, as a remarkable example of the uncer 
tainty of the so-called law of nations, as adminis 
tered by belligerent prize-courts, that it should 
have been determined about the same time by Sir 
William Scott, that British captors were entitled 
to salvage for the recapture of neutral (Portu 
guese) property on board an armed British vessel, 
upon the ground, that the goods would have been 
justly liable to condemnation in our courts of 
admiralty. 

Mr. Pinkney took a very decided ana zealous 
part in the struggle between the rival political 
parties among his fellow-citizens, to which the war 
had given fresh activity. His direct agency in 
the negotiations by which our government sought 
to avoid this lamentable alternative, enabled him 
to bear conclusive testimony to its long-continued 
forbearance, and to the stern necessity, which at 



166 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHT. 

last compelled it to resort to arms, in order to 
vindicate our national honor, rights, and interests. 
*oth his pen and his tongue were diligently em 
ployed, in moments of leisure snatched from pro 
fessional occupations in the polemic warfare to 
which the struggle gave rise. He was frequently 
called upon to address the people at public meet 
ings on the topics connected with it. He wrote 
numerous newspaper articles on the same subject, 
and embodied his views of it in a pamphlet ad 
dressed to the people of Maryland under the 
signature of Publius, which affords a very fair 
specimen of his style as a political controversialist. 
Nor did he shrink from the duty of contributing 
his share to the duty of defending the state against 
invasion, a duty from which no man in this coun 
try is exempt, and which he performed with 
characteristic alacrity. 

Soon after the declaration of war, he was cho 
sen to the command of a volunteer corps, raised in 
Baltimore for local defence, and attached to the 
third brigade of Maryland militia. At the time ol 
the enemy s attack on the city of Washington, he 
marched with his corps to Bladensburg, and con 
ducted with great personal gallantry in the inglori 
ous action at that place, where he was severely 
wounded. Some time after the peace, having 
been elected a representative in Congress from 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 167 

the city of Baltimore, he resigned his military 
command. 

Soon after his election to Congress, a question 
of constitutional law, of the greatest public interest, 
arose in that body, which was discussed with much 
zeal and talent in both Houses. A commercial 
convention between the United States and Great 
Britain had been concluded at London in July, 
1815, and subsequently ratified by the President 
and Senate, by which it was stipulated that the 
discriminating duties on British vessels and their 
cargoes, then subsisting under certain acts of Con 
gress, should be abolished in return for a reciprocal 
stipulation on the part of the British government 

On this occasion, a bill was brought into the 
House of Representatives to carry the convention 
into effect, specifically enacting the provisions 
contained in the treaty itself. This bill was oppos 
ed by Mr. Pinkney, in an able and eloquent 
speech, exhausting the whole subject of discus 
sion. He contended, with great force of reasoning, 
that both under the international code and our 
own municipal constitution, the treaty became the 
supreme law of the land, the instant it was ratified 
by the President and Senate on one side, and his 
Britannic Majesty on the other ; that it had, 
proprio vigor e, the effect of repealing all the 
laws of Congress which stood in the way of its 
stipulations ; and required no confirmation by that 



168 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

body to give it complete validity, as a law binding 
upon every department of the government and 
upon the whole nation. 

The bill passed the House of Representatives, 
but was rejected in the Senate ; that body having 
passed a mere declaratory bill, enacting that so 
much of any act of Congress as was contrary to 
the stipulations of the convention, should be 
deemed and taken to be of no force or effect. 
Some further proceedings took place, and the 
disagreeing votes of the two Houses were at last 
reconciled by a committee of conference, at whose 
recommendation the declaratory bill was finally 
passed by the House of Representatives, and 
oecame a law by the approbation of President 
Monroe. A similar question had arisen during 
the administration of President Washington, as to 
the legislative provisions necessary to carry into 
effect the treaty of 1794 with England. 

In the debate on this subject, the same doctrine 
was insisted on by the administration party as that 
now maintained by Mr. Pinkney ; that, the con 
stitution having provided, that all treaties made 
under the authority of the United States should 
oe the supreme law of the land ; every treaty 
Deing, under the law of nations, an obligatory con 
tract between the nations parties to it; and the 
treaty in question having been ratified by the 
President, with the advice and consent of the 



WILLIAM PINKNET. 169 

Senate, a refusal of the House of Representatives 
to provide the necessary means for carrying it into 
effect, would, consequently, be a violation of the 
treaty and a breach of the national faith with the 
power to whom that faith had been pledged. 

On the other hand, it was contended by the 
opposition, that a treaty which required an appro 
priation of money, or any other special legislative 
provision to carry it into effect, was not, so far, of 
oinding obligation, until Congress had adopted the 
measures necessary for that purpose. The House 
of Representatives, on this occasion, ultimately 
passed a resolution requesting the President to lay 
before them the instructions he had given to Mr. 
Jay, the minister by whom the treaty had been 
negotiated, with the correspondence and othei 
papers, so far as they were not improper to be 
disclosed on account of pending negotiations 
President Washington declined complying with 
this request, alleging that a treaty with a foreign 
power, when duly made by the President and 
Senate, became the supreme law of the land 
that the assent of the House of Representative: 
was not necessary to its validity ; and therefore, 
the papers requested could not properly be requir 
ed for the use of the House, unless for the purpose 
of impeachment, which was not stated to be the 
object of the call. The House, therefore, passed 
resolutions disclaiming the power of interfering in 



170 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the making of treaties, but asserting its right 
whenever stipulations were made within the legis 
lative competence of Congress, to deliberate and 
decide as to the expediency of carrying them into 
effect. 

Such is certainly the practice in other constitu 
tional governments, as in England, where the 
commercial articles of the treaty of Utrecht with 
France, though duly made and ratified by the 
crown, remained unexecuted, because Parliament 
refused to pass the laws necessary to give effect to 
their provisions. So also in France, as we have 
seen by the recent example of the treaty of in 
demnities with the United States, the Chambers 
assert the right of controlling, by their votes, the 
appropriations of money, or other specific legisla 
tive provisions, which may be required to carry 
into effect treaties concluded by the crown with 
foreign powers. 

In March, 1816, Mr. Pinkney was again called 
mto the service of his country in a diplomatic 
capacity. In order to understand the motives 
which had repeatedly induced him to go abroad in 
the same service, it is necessary to advert to some 
of the peculiar circumstances connected with his 
brilliant success at the bar. 

This success was as much the effect of extraor 
dinary labor as of his genius and rare endowments 
of mind. His continued application to study, 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 171 

writing, and public speaking, which a physical 
constitution, rivalling in strength his intellectual, 
enabled him to keep up with a singular persever 
ance, was one of the most remarkable features of 
his character. He was never satiated with investi 
gating his causes, and took infinite pains in explor 
ing their facts and circumstances, and all the 
technical learning connected with them. He 
constantly continued the practice of private decla 
mation as a useful exercise, and was in the habit 
of premeditating his pleadings at the bar and other 
public speeches, not only as to the general order 
or method to be observed in treating his subject, 
the authorities to be relied on, and the leading 
topics of illustration, but frequently as to the 
principal passages and rhetorical embellishments. 
These last he sometimes wrote out beforehand ; 
not that he felt himself deficient in facility or 
fluency, but in order to preserve the command of 
a correct and elegant diction. 

All those who have heard him address a jury, 
or a deliberative assembly, well know, that he was 
a consummate master of the arts of extemporane 
ous debating. But he believed, with the most 
celebrated and successful orators of antiquity, that 
the habit of written composition is necessary to 
acquire and preserve a style at once correct and 
graceful in public speaking ; which, without this 
aid, is apt to degenerate into colloquial negligence, 



172 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

and to become enfeebled by tedious verbosity. 
His law papers were drawn up with great care ; 
his written opinions were elaborately composed, 
both as to matter and style, and frequently ex 
hausted, by a full discussion, the questions submit 
ted for his consideration. 

If to all these circumstances be added the fact, 
that he engaged in the performance of his profes 
sional duties with unusual zeal, ever regarding his 
own reputation as at stake, as well as the rights 
and interests of his client, and sensibly alive to 
every thing which might affect either, and that he 
spoke with great ardor and vehemence ; it must 
be evident, that the most robust constitution would 
not be sufficient to sustain such intense and uniii 
termitted labor, where every exertion was a con 
test for victory, and each new success a fresh 
stimulus to ambition. 

Those who are curious to see, to what extent of 
professional excellence such power of application, 
allied with such force of body and mind, may 
carry a man in a particular science, may regret 
that he ever wandered beyond the rugged paths ol 
his profession into another field, for the cultivation 
of which he was not, perhaps, so liberally endowed 
by nature, It seems, however, that he found it 
necessary to Vary his occupations, and to retire 
altogether from the bar for a season, in order to 
refresh Ls wearied body and mind, with the 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 173 

ourpose of again returning to it with an alacrity 
invigorated and quickened by this temporary sus 
pension of his professional pursuits. 

He was then induced to accept the appointment, 
tendered to him hy President Monroe, of envoy to 
the court of Russia, and of special minister to that 
jf Naples, the object of which last mission was, to 
demand indemnity from the restored government 
of that kingdom, for the losses sustained by our 
merchants in consequence of the seizure and con 
fiscation of their property during the reign of Mu 
rat. After he had fulfilled the duties of the special 
mission, he was to proceed to St. Petersburg as 
minister plenipotentiary to that court. He avowed 
the motives which induced him to accept this 
double mission, in a conversation with one of his 
friends, in which he said, " There are those among 
my friends, who wonder that I will go abroad, how 
ever honorable the service. They know not how 
I toil at the bar ; they know not all my anxious 
days and sleepless nights ; I must breathe awhile ; 
the bow forever bent will break." "Besides," 
he added, " I want to see Italy ; the orators of 
Britain I have heard ; but I want to visit that 
classic land, the study of whose poetry and elo 
quence is the charm of my life ; I shall set my 
foot on its snores with feelings that I cannot d( 
scribe, and return with new enthusiasm, I hope with 
new advantages, to the habits of public speaking." 



174 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

The business of his mission to Naples was com 
pletely evaded by the artifices of the Neapolitan 
court, who hastened his departure by pretences 
which they had no difficulty in laying aside when 
he was fairly out of Naples. His instructions did 
not allow him to wait even for an answer to the 
note he had presented to the minister of foreign 
affairs, and he proceeded through Rome, and the 
other principal Italian cities, to Vienna. From 
the latter capital, he pursued his way, through 
Poland, to Petersburg, where he remained about 
two years, attending to the duties of the mission, 
pursuing his favorite studies with unwearied alac 
rity, and at the same time cultivating the elegant 
society by which he was surrounded. 

His peculiar personal habits were formed by his 
intercourse with the higher circles abroad. His 
personal neatness, and minute attention to dress, 
were carried to an extreme which exposed him, 
while at home, to the charge of foppery and affec 
tation. But it should be remembered, how large 
a portion of his life he had spent in the higher 
circles of European society. Though he always 
piqued himself upon being a finished and elegant 
gentleman, yet his manners and habits of dress 
were undoubtedly acquired in Europe ; and, so far 
from being remarkable there, they were merely in 
accordance with the common and established 
usages of men of his rank and station. All, whc 



WILLIAM P1NKNEY. 175 

nave been at any of the European courts, know, 
that their public men consider it a necessary part 
of their character, to pay great attention to the 
elegance and refinements of life ; and, after a day, 
passed in the laborious discharge of their official 
duties, will spend their evenings in society, and 
contribute their full share of pleasant trifling. It 
is their maniere d etre. 

Mr. Pinkney returned from Russia in the sum 
mer of 1818, and once more resumed his profes 
sional habits and occupations with as much alacrity 
as if he had never left them. At the following 
session of the Supreme Court, he delivered, upon 
the question of the right of the States to tax the 
national Bank, perhaps his ablest and most elo 
quent forensic oration, the principles of which 
were adopted by Mr. Chief Justice Marshall, in 
delivering the judgment of the Court. In 1819, 
he was elected by the legislature of Maryland a 
Senator in Congress. 

Soon after he took his seat in the Senate, he 
delivered his famous speech against the clause in 
the Bill passed by the House of Representatives, 
for the admission of Missouri into the Union, upon 
condition that the introduction of slaves into 
the new State should be prohibited. The ques 
tion was finally settled by the House abandoning 
this clause, and substituting for it a provision pro- 



176 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

hibiting slavery in the vacant territory to the north 
and west of Missouri. 

In 1821, he made, in the Supreme Court, in the 
case of Cohens against the State of Virginia, an 
elaborate argument in favor of the appellate juris 
diction of the Court, in cases determined in the 
State involving the constitutionality of the laws 
and treaties of the Union. His reasoning in favor 
of the jurisdiction was adopted by the Court ; and 
it has since been regarded as one of those points 
of constitutional law, which are most conclusively 
and satisfactorily established. Indeed, it is not 
easy to see, how the supremacy of the constitution 
and laws of the Union could be peaceably main 
tained against the inroads of jarring State legisla 
tion, without the exercise of this jurisdiction by the 
supreme federal tribunal, which is also essential to 
preserve that uniformity of interpretation, without 
which our complicated system of government would 
soon become a mere chaos of conflicting authori 
ties. 

Mr. Pinkney continued his professional labors at 
the session of the Court in 1822, with the same 
intense application and burning thirst of profes 
sional fame, which had marked his splendid career 
*Ie also took a part in the preliminary discussions 
a the Senate upon the bill for establishing uniform 
<LWS of Bankruptcy throughout the Union, an ob- 




IK* 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 177 

ject which he had much at heart. He prepared 
nims^lf for the debate upon the Maryland proposi 
tion, relating to the appropriation of the public 
lands belonging to the United States for the pur 
poses of education. 

But his busy life was hurrying to a conclusion. 
He had exerted himself intemperately in the prep 
aration and argument of a cause of peculiar interest, 
at a time when the state of his health unfitted him 
for application to study and business. On the 
17th of February, he was attacked by a severe in 
disposition, doubtless produced by this effort. He 
mentioned to the writer of this sketch, that he had 
sat up very late in the night on which he was 
taken ill, to read Scott s romance of the " Pirate" 
then just published, and made many remarks re 
specting it, drawing comparisons between the 
two heroines, and criticizing the narrative and style 
with his usual confident and decided tone, and in 
a way which showed that his imagination had been 
a good deal excited by the perusal. 

From this period, till his decease, he was a con 
siderable part of the time in a state of delirium. 
In his lucid intervals, his mind reverted to his 
favDnte studies and pursuits, on which, whenever 
the temporary suspension of his bodily sufferings 
enabled him, he conversed with great freedom and 
animation. He seems, however, to have antici 
pated that his illness must have a fatal termination, 

v. 12 



178 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

and to have awaited the event with patient for 
titude. After a course of acute suffering, he 
breathed his last on the night of the 25th of Feb 
ruary. His funeral was honored by the attendance 
of the members of both Houses of Congress, of the 
executive government, the judges and bar of the 
Supreme Court, and a numerous concourse of citi 
zens, with all those marks of reverential sorrow 
and respect due to the character and eminent sta 
tion of the deceased. 

At his death, he had not quite completed bu 
fifty-eighth year, an age at which men begin to 
regard the termination of life, as an object not verv 
remote. But his person was yet robust, his com 
plexion florid, and his general appearance suchj 
aided as it was by the studied carefulness of his 
toilet, as to give a strong impression of vigorous 
health and tenaciousness of life. The force of his 
faculties too, which were riot only unimpaired, but 
seemed only then to have attained full ripeness ; 
the brilliancy of a career, in which, though so long 
a victor, he was every day winning fresh laurels 
<jy fresh exertions ; the very keenness of his relish 
<>r those gathered fruits of his fame, and for the 
rharms of a life so eminently successful ; all these 
a they seemed to promise a long postponement oi 
the common doom, rendered it more deeply af 
fecting to the imagination when it thus suddenly 
arrived. Apparently, however, he did not himself 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 179" 

regard the seeds of his fate as so far from their 
developement. 

His sanguine temperament and plethoric habit 
of body led him to apprehend a sudden decay c r 
life, or, at least, of his faculties ; and he has beer 
heard to speak of the fate of that celebrated law 
yer, Luther Martin, as not unlikely to be his own 
in this particular. He was spared, however, the 
worst of the maladies of age. He did not linger 
through those melancholy displays of imbecility, 
which are caused by the receding tide of life, bu* 
seemed to rush to the termination of his course 
the busy torrent dashes onward to the sea. 

His death produced, both in the metropolis and 
through the country, a deep and remarkable sen 
sation. We call it remarkable, because it is sel 
dom that mere professional renown, disconnected 
as it is from popular passion, obtains for itself, in so 
great a degree, this last and melancholy reward of 
genius. Nor can we impute it, certainly, even in 
the case of the remarkable individual in question, 
distinguished as were his services at the bar, in 
the Senate, and in foreign affairs, to any fear that 
the active business of the world would suffer any 
pause from his death. The theatre of busy life 
never wants actors, and few are they who may 
flatter themselves, that their exit will produce 
either disorder or vacancy in the pcene. These 
losses of society are soon repaired. Other talents, 



180 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

till then crowded from the stage, press forward in 
the eager competition ; and we daily see the tomb 
close on virtue and genius, with as little percepti 
ble effect on the great social machine, as on the 
sun and the breeze, which are feigned, in the ele 
giac strains of the poet, to darken and sigh over 
their decay. 

We must refer, then, to some other source our 
strong emotion on the death of one of these intel 
lectual heroes. Perhaps the harsh contrasts, always 
suggested by death, are heightened by the mental 
power and activity, which belong to genius. We 
contemplate with pain the sudden extinction of this 
subtile spirit, now become insensible to its slow- 
won honors, and incapable of dispensing the gath 
ered treasures of thought and knowledge. There 
was something astounding in the hasty close of g 
career, marked, like Mr. Pinkney s, by such un 
tiring energy to the last, and animated by the con 
senting applauses of partisan friends and rival 
competitors. 

Few men ever earned those " garlands of the 
tomb" by a more inflexible pursuit of them 
through a long life. In him the zeal of reputation 
was not one of many impulses obeyed by 
turns, and exciting him at intervals to unusual ex 
ertion. It was ever present and predominant, 
urging him, even more than the appetite of knowl 
edge, to the perpetual increase of his intellectual 



WILLIAM P1NKNEY. 131 

stores. His emulation was boundless. " I never 
heard him allow," said a friend of his, " that any 
man was his superior in any thing ; in field sports, 
m music, in drawing ; and especially in oratory, 
on which his great ambition rested." 

Towards the end of his life, he devoted himself 
almost exclusively to intellectual exertion of some 
kind. " Thought," to borrow the phrase of one 
who knew him well, " appeared to be the very 
breath of his mind." Study was necessary to his 
spirit, and so far from laborious, that when not en 
gaged in it, or in some active corporeal exercise, 
he evinced very restless and uneasy feelings. On 
journeys, he read constantly in his carriage, and 
even studied his causes there. A life thus wholly 
" dedicated to closeness and the bettering of his 
nind," did not require that methodical distribution, 
which inferior intellects resort to, as a substitute 
for the power of constant application ; nor did his 
various engagements permit this rigorous adher 
ence to method. 

His hours of study varied according to circum 
stances ; but they increased progressively with age. 
He slept little, and always with a light in his 
chamber ; and might be heard stirring there at the 
earliest dawn, often retiring to bed again after 
several hours reading. He ate rapidly, drank 
wine freely at his meals, but never sat long at 
table, except OR special occasions ; and could retire 



182 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

at all times to his study with a mind disposed 
to severe labor. 

Having already anticipated most of the particu 
lars, which must be combined in order to form a 
just estimate of the eminent person, of whom we 
have endeavored to collect a few scattered traits, 
we will not detain the reader by attempting to 
blend them into a studied portrait. In tracing the 
principal outlines of his public character, his pro 
fessional talents and attainments must necessarily 
occupy the most prominent place. To extraordi 
nary natural endowments he added deep and vari 
ous knowledge in his profession. A long course 
of study and practice had wedded him to the 
science of jurisprudence. His peculiar intellectual 
powers were most conspicuous in this science, and 
his principal labors as a legislator were on topics 
connected with it. 

He had felt himself originally attracted to its 
study by that invincible inclination, and that strong 
instinct, which point genius to its true vocation ; it 
was his main pursuit in life ; and he never entirely 
lost sight of it in his occasional deviations intc 
other pursuits and employments. The lures of 
political ambition and the charms of polished soci 
ety, or, perhaps, a vague desire of universal ac 
complishment and general applause, might some 
times tempt him to stray for a season from the 
path, which the original bent of his genius had 



WILLIAM PINKNEF. 

assignee* him. But he ever returned, with fresh 
ardor and new delight, to his appropriate vocation. 
He was devoted to the law with a true enthusiasm ; 
and his other studies and pursuits, so far as they 
had a fixed and serious object, were valued chiefly 
as they might minister to this idol of his affections. 
It was in his profession, that he found himself at 
home ; in this consisted his pride and his pleasure ; 
for, as he said, "the bar is not the place to acquire 
or preserve a false or fraudulent reputation for 
talents," and on that theatre he felt conscious 
of possessing those powers, which would command 
success. 

Even when abroad, he never entirely neglected 
his legal studies. But when at home, and actively 
engaged in the practice of his profession, he toiled 
with almost unparalleled industry. All other pur 
suits, the pleasures of society, and even the re 
pose which nature demands, were sacrificed to 
this engrossing object. His character, in this re 
spect, affords a bright example for the imitation 
of the younger members of the profession. This 
entire devotion to his professional pursuits was con 
tinued, with unremitting perseverance, to the end 
of his career. If the celebrated Talon could say 
of the still more celebrated D Aguesseau, on hear 
ing his first speech at the bar, " that he would 
willingly end as that young man commenced" 
every youthful aspirant to forensic fame amona us 



184 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

might wish to begin his professional exertions with 
the same love of labor, and the same ardent desire 
of distinction, which marked the efforts of William 
Pinkney throughout his life.* 

This intense application and burning ambition 
continued to animate his labors to the last moments 
of his existence. He continually held up the very 
highest standard of excellence in this noble career, 
and pursued it with unabated diligence and zeal, 
keeping all his faculties continually upon the 
stretch, as if his entire reputation was staked upon 
each particular exertion. He guarded with anxious 
and jealous solicitude the fame thus acquired. 
The writer well remembers in the last, and one of 
his ablest pleadings, in the Supreme Court, re 
monstrating with him upon the necessity of his 
refraining from such laborious efforts in the actual 
state of his health, and with what vehemence he 
replied, " That he did not desire to live a mo- 

* "M. D AGUESSEAU avait fait le premier essai de ses 
talens dans la charge d Avocat au Chatelet, ou il entra a 
I age de vingt-un ans ; et quoiqu il ne I eut exercee que 
quelques mois, son pere ne douta pas qu il ne fut pas 
capable de remplir une troisieme charge d Avocat-Gen&- 
ral au Parlement, qui venait d etre cre6e. II y parut 
d abord avec tant d 6clat, que le celebre DENIS TALON, 
alors President a Mortier, dit qii il voudrait Jinir comme 
ce jeune homme commen^ait." JttnLge de la Vie dt 
M, It Chancelier d Jlguesseau. 



WILLIAM PINKNET. 185 

ment after the standing he had acquired at the bar 
was lost, or even brought into doubt or question." 

What might not be expected from professional 
emulation, directed by such an ardent spirit and 
such singleness of purpose, even if sustained by far 
inferior abilities ! But no abilities, however splen 
did, can command success at the bar, without in 
tense labor and persevering application. It was 
these, which secured to Mr. Pinkney the most ex 
tensive and lucrative practice ever acquired by 
any American lawyer, and which raised him to 
such an enviable height of professional eminence. 
For many years, he was the acknowledged head 
of the bar in his native State ; and, during the last 
ten years of his life, the principal period of his 
attendance in the Supreme national court, he en 
joyed the reputation of having been rarely equal 
led, and perhaps never excelled, in the power of 
reasoning upon legal subjects. This was the 
faculty, which most remarkably distinguished him 

His mind was acute and subtile, and at the same 
time comprehensive in its grasp ; rapid and clear 
in its conceptions, and singularly felicitous in the 
exposition of the truths it was employed in inves 
tigating. He seemed to have an unlimited com 
mand of the greatest variety of the most beautiful 
and appropriate diction, and the faculty of adorning 
the dryest and most unpromising subjects. His 
style does not appear to have been originally 



186 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

modelled after any particular standard, or imitated 
from the example of any particular writer or 
speaker It was apparently formed from his pe 
culiar manner of investigating and illustrating the 
sutjects with which he had to deal, and was 
impressed with the stamp of his vigorous and 
comprehensive intellect. When it had received all 
the improvement, which his maturer studies and 
experience in the practice of extemporaneous and 
written composition enabled him to give it, his 
diction more nearly approached to the model of 
that pure, copious, and classical style, which graced 
the judicial eloquence of Sir William Scott, than 
to any other known standard. It had somewhat 
more of amplitude, and fulness, and variety of 
illustration, and of that vehement energy, which is 
looked for in the pleadings of an advocate, but 
which would be unbecoming the judgment-seat 
It also borrowed occasionally the copiousness, 
force, and idiomatic grace, with the boldness and 
richness of metaphor, which distinguish the elder 
w r riters of English prose. But, in all its essential 
qualities, Mr. Pinkney s style was completely 
formed long before he had the advantage of study 
ing any of these models of eloquence. The frag 
ments of his works, which have been published,* 

* See "Some Account of the Life, Writings, and 
Speeches of William Pinkney. By Henry Wheaton. 
182CJ. 



WILLIAM P1NKNEY. 187 

will enable the reader to form some judgment 
both of its characteristic excellences and defects. 

After all, the great fame of his eloquence must 
rest mainly on tradition, as no complete memorials 
of his most interesting speeches at the bar, or in 
the Senate, have been preserved. Much of the 
reputation of an orator depends upon those glowing 
thoughts and expressions, which are struck out in 
the excitement and warmth of debate, and which 
even the speaker himself is afterwards unable to 
recover. Most of the poetry of eloquence is of 
this evanescent character. The beautiful imagery > 
which is produced in this manner from the excite 
ment of a rich and powerful mind, withers and 
perishes as soon as it springs into existence. The 
attempt to replace it by rhetorical ornament, sub 
sequently prepared in the cold abstraction of the 
closet, is seldom successful. Hence, some por- 
Mons of Mr. Pinkney s speeches, which were begun 
to be written out by himself with the intention of 
publishing them, will be found, perhaps, to be 
somewhat too much elaborated, and to bear the 
marks of studied ornament and excessive polish. 

The writer is, however, enabled to assert from 
tiis own recollection, that, whilst they have cer 
tainly lost in freshness and vigor by this process, 
m no instance have these more striking passages 
been improved in variety and richness of orna 
ment, or splendor of diction. Indeed, he often 



188 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

poured forth too great a profusion of rhetorical im 
agery in extemporaneous speaking. His style was 
frequently too highly wrought and embellished 
and his elocution too vehement and declamatory 
for the ordinary purposes of forensic discussion 
But whoever has listened to him even upon a drj 
and complicated question of mere technical law 
where there seemed to be nothing on which the 
mind delighted to fasten, must recollect what a 
charm he diffused over the most arid and intricate 
discussions by the clearness and purity of his lan 
guage, and the calm flow of his graceful elocution, 
which seemed only to chafe, and swell, and over 
leap its natural channel, when encountering some 
mightier theme. 

His favorite mode of reasoning was from the 
analogies of law, tracing up its technical rules to 
their original principles and historical sources. He 
followed the precept given by Pliny, and sowed 
his arguments broad-cast, amplifying them by ev 
ery variety of illustration of which the subject 
admitted, and deducing from them a connected 
series of propositions and corollaries, gaining in 
beautiful gradations on the mind, and linked to 
gether by an adamantine chain of reasoning. 

Of the extent and solidity of his legal attain 
ments, it would be difficult to speak in adequate 
terms, without the appearance of exaggeration. 
He was profoundly versed in the ancient learning 



WILLIAM PINKNEY 189 

of the common law, its technical peculiarities ,and 
feudal origin. Its subtile distinctions and artificial 
logic were familiar to his early studies, and enabled 
him to expound with admirable force and perspi 
cuity the rules of real property. He was familiar 
with every branch of commercial law ; and super- 
added, at a later period of his life, to his other 
legal attainments, an extensive acquaintance with 
the principles of public law and the practice of the 
prize-courts. In his legal studies, he preferred the 
original text writers and reporters, (e fontibus 
haurire,) to all those digests, abridgments, and ele 
mentary treatises, which lend so many convenient 
helps and facilities to the modern lawyer, but which 
he considered as adapted to form sciolists, and to 
encourage indolence and superficial habits of in 
vestigation. His favorite law-book was the Coke- 
Littleton, which he had read many times. Its 
principal texts were treasured up in his memory, 
and his arguments at the bar abounded with per 
petual recurrences to the principles and analogies 
drawn from this rich mine of common law learn 
ing- 
Different estimates have been made of the ex 
tent and variety of his merely literary accomplish 
ments. He was not what is commonly called a 
learned man ; but he excelled in those branches of 
human knowledge, which he had cultivated as 
auxiliary to his principal pursuit. Among his other 
accomplishments, (as has been before noticed,) he 



190 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

was a thorough master of the English language, 
its grammar and idiom, its terms and significa 
tions, its prosody, and, in short, its whole strue- 
tuie and vocabulary. Speaking with reference to 
any high literary standard, his early education was 
defective. He had doubtless acquired in early life 
some knowledge of classical literature, but not suffi 
cient to satisfy his own ideas of what was neces 
sary to support the character of an accomplished 
scholar. 

He used to relate to his young friends an anec 
dote, which explains one of the motives which in 
duced him, at a mature age, after he had risen tc 
eminence, to review and extend his classical 
studies. It illustrates, at the same time, one of 
the most remarkable traits of his character, that 
resolution and firmness of purpose, with which he 
devoted himself to the acquisition of any branch 
of knowledge he deemed it desirable to possess. 
During his first residence in England, some ques 
tion of classical literature was discussed at table 
in a social party where he was present, and the 
guests, in turn, gave their opinions upon it. Mr. 
Pinkney being silent for some time, an appeal was 
made to him for his opinion, when he had the 
mortification of being compelled to acknowledge 
that he was unacquainted with the subject. In 
consequence of this incident he was induced to 
resume his classical studies, and actually put him 
self under the care of an instructor for the purpose 



WILLI\M PINKNEY. 191 

ol reviewing and extending his acquaintance with 
incient literature. 

The acquisition of such knowledge may be 
recommended, and no doubt was sought by him 
for a higher purpose than merely completing the 
circle of liberal accomplishments. He never after 
neglected to cultivate attainments which he found 
so useful in enlarging his knowledge of his own 
language, improving his taste, and strengthening 
and embellishing his forensic style. Attempts 
have recently been made, unduly to depreciate the 
utility of classical learning ; and certainly the ex 
pediency of devoting so large a portion of time as 
is allotted to the acquisition of the languages of 
Greece and Rome in the education of the higher 
classes in England, and of all classes in Germany, 
may well be questioned. 

But in this country, at least, there is no feai 
that our youth will be saturated with classical 
learning, so as to leave neither time nor capacity 
for the acquisition of other knowledge more di 
rectly useful in the active business of lift. The 
discipline of the mind, and the cultivation of the 
taste, in the earlier period of youth, is best pro 
moted by the study of languages. " The memory 
is then more susceptible and tenacious of impres 
sions ; and the learning of languages being chiefly 
the work of memory, it seems precisely fitted to 
the powers of this period, which is long enough, 



192 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

too, for acquiring the most useful modern, as well 
as ancient languages." * And we may add, that 
the bright examples of ancient virtue, and the 
perfect models of ancient taste, are best studied in 
the originals. That generous love of freedom, of 
fame, and of country, which was the animating 
soul of the Greek and Roman republics, cannot be 
too early imbibed by the youth of every free state. 
Whilst they are taught duly to estimate the more 
wise and perfect organization of modern societies, 
they should be warmed and cheered with those 
noble sentiments which illumine the pages of the 
eloquent writers of antiquity, which are the best 
fruits, and, at the same time, the surest preserva 
tives of liberal institutions. 

During the whole course of his active and busy 
life, Mr. Pinkney pursued his professional studies, 
and those connected with the English language 
and literature, with the strictest method and the 
most resolute perseverance. In other respects, he 
seems to have read in the most desultory manner 
possible ; in such a way, perhaps, as any man 
would be likely to pursue, who, with a vigorous 
intellect and a disposition to industry, had no very 
precise object before him but to gratify his curi 
osity and to keep pace with the current literature 
of the day. 

* JEFFERSON S Notes, Query xiv 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 193 

His tenacious memory enabled him to retain 
the stores of miscellaneous knowledge he had thus 
acquired. His mind was enriched with literary 
and historical anecdote, which constituted the 
principal interest of his conversation, the chaim ol 
which was heightened by the facility and habitual 
elegance of his colloquial style. Among the mod 
ern English classics, Johnson and Gibbon were his 
favorite prose writers, chiefly, perhaps, because he 
thought their elaborate and elevated rhetorical 
style proper models for an orator. Pope and 
Milton were his chosen poets. In the copy of 
the last, in the possession of his family, all the 
remarkable passages are underlined, and he quoted 
them with readiness from memory. Comus he 
distinguished as the best sustained of English 
poems, in the elegant and various felicity of its 
diction, and was fond of reciting aloud the passa 
ges which he deemed most remarkable for har 
mony and beauty of thought and expression. 

He piqued himself on his critical knowledge of 
the elegances of his own tongue ; and, though he 
may have overrated his taste, his knowledge on 
this point was confessedly minute and extensive. 
His table was generally furnished with half a 
dozen works on prosody, and as many dictiona 
ries ; and he frequently indulged himself in a 
fancy for coining new words, or reviving obsolete 
ones, and then defending them by analogy, or by 

v. 13 



104 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

the authority of the classics. Of his euphuism^ 
for so we may call it, which he sometimes display 
ed at the bar, to the annoyance of his less literate 
brethren, he left a somewhat diverting record. It 
is a copy of a bulky dictionary published some 
years ago in this country, all grievously under 
scored, and full of marginal remarks, petitions, and 
interrogatories addressed to the author, written 
with playful spleen, and craving to know the 
reason of the multifarious impurities which he hac 
cast into the " well of English undefined." 

He possessed, in an eminent degree, that ro 
bustness of constitution, which is hardly less neces 
sary in study, than Napoleon deemed it in war. 
His recreations were mostly of that sort deemed 
favorable to bodily health ; he was attached to 
field sports, and excelled in them ; and, though he 
seemed almost indefatigable, generally returned 
from his sporting excursions overcome with fatigue. 
But as he was of a sanguine and melancholy tem 
perament, he was apt to fancy himself ill. At 
such times, he diverted himself with games of 
skill, in which he was a proficient, such as chess, 
draughts, and the like. He was once qaite a 
capital billiard-player, and seldom met his equal 
in whist. 

During his residence in England, he amused 
himself very much with his children, who were 
then young, mixing occasionally in their most 



WILLIAM P1NKNEY. 195 

childish sports. He used there to draw for one of 
his sons almost every night, and, what perhaps 
few persons know, he handled the pencil like a 
master. He assisted, moreover, in teaching one 
of his daughters music, to which task he brought 
a good deal of skill and an admirable ear. He 
was fond of the best novels, and, by way of mental 
dissipation, sometimes liked to hear the worst , 
and, when exhausted in mind, or depressed m 
spirits, would listen to any trash from the Minerva 
press, French novels, and fairy tales. The com 
pany of young persons, especially those of talent, 
was very attractive to him ; and, when occasion 
presented itst. he was pleased to do them any 
service. When they were assembled in his house, 
he would saunter from his study to the adjoining 
parlor, mingle in the topic or the jest of the mo 
ment, and then return. This he would repeat 
many times in an evening. 

Whether he was endowed by nature with those 
large and comprehensive views, and that extensive 
knowledge of mankind, which constitute the essen 
tial qualities of a great statesman, and which would 
have fitted him to take a leading part in the polit 
ical affairs of his country, and to guide its public 
councils in those moments of difficulty, when " a 
new and troubled scene is opened, and the file 
affords no precedent," is a question which we 
have no adequate means of determining. H 



196 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

diplomatic correspondence will show, indeed, that 
he was perfectly competent to maintain his own 
reputation for general talent, and to acquit himself 
*n a manner creditable to his country, when 
brought in contact with the ablest and most prac 
tised of European statesmen, with a Canning 
and a Wellesley. But that correspondence bears 
evident marks, throughout, of the constraint impos 
ed upon it by the nature of his instructions from 
our government, which forbade him from replying 
to the sarcastic taunts and affected indifference of 
those haughty ministers, in other than those concil 
iatory terms, which, both at home and abroad, 
were unhappily mistaken for the effects of fear of 
provoking hostilities between the two countries. 

It is principally in his private correspondence 
with President Madison, that we perceive how 
capable Mr. Pinkney was of appreciating the 
mighty scenes which were then passing before 
him, and the characters and motives of the actors, 
who, intent upon the great European drama, dis 
dained to consider what might be the consequen 
ces of calling into existence another naval power 
capable of contesting that supremacy, which Eng 
land had acquired on the ocean. He rightly con 
cluded, that it was not by appeals to her justice or 
her policy, but by fairly wrestling with her on 
her own element, that England could be taught 
to respect us. 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 197 

But, as has been before observed, his profession 
was the engrossing pursuit of his life ; and beyond 
that, his talents shone most conspicuously in those 
senatorial discussions,, which fall within the prov 
ince of the constitutional lawyer. In the various 
questions relating to the interpretation of the fede 
ral constitution, discussed in the Supreme Court, 
his depth of learning and powers of reasoning 
contributed very much to enlighten its judgments. 
In the discussion of that class of causes, espe 
cially, which, to use his own expressions, " pre 
sented the proud spectacle of a peaceful review 
of the conflicting sovereign claims of the govern 
ment of the Union and the particular States, by 
this more than Amphictyonic council," his argu 
ments were characterized by a fervor, earnestness, 
gravity, eloquence, and force of reasoning, which 
convinced all who heard him that he delivered his 
own sentiments as a citizen, and was not merely 
solicitous to discharge his duty as an advocate. 
He exerted an intellectual vigor proportioned to 
the magnitude of the occasion. He saw in it 
" a pledge of the immortality of the Union, of 
a perpetuity of national strength and glory, in 
creasing and brightening with age, of concord at 
home, and reputation abroad." 

As to the general nature and operation of 
our federative system, he thought with the il 
lustrious authors of the Letters of PUBLIUS, 



198 AMERICAN B10GKAPHF 

with Madison, Jay, and Hamilton, that, like 
other similar forms of government recorded in 
history, " its tendency was rather to anarchy 
among the members, than tyranny in the head," 
and that a general government, at least as ener 
getic as that intended to be established by the 
framers of the constitution, was indispensably ne 
cessary to secure the great objects of the Union. 

Believing these to be, generally speaking, m 
more peril from excessive jealousy on the part of 
the respective members of the confederacy, than 
from encroachments by the central government, 
he carried the weight of his support to that side 
of the vessel of state which he thought to be in 
danger of losing its equipoise. Absolute unanim 
ity is not to be expected on questions of such 
intrinsic difficulty as spring up on the debatable 
ground, which imperfectly marks the boundaries 
between the State and national sovereignties. Still 
less is it to be looked for in the discussion of such 
controversies as that arising from the admission 01 
the State of Missouri into the Union, where so 
many deep-seated prejudices and passions mAngled 
in the debate, and a contest for political power 
and claims of private interest were involved in the 
result. That mighty tempest at one time seemed 
to shake the Union to its centre, and, in the lan 
guage of Mr. Pinkney, threatened to " push from 
its moorings the sacred ark of the common safety, 



WILLIAM PINKNEY. 199 

and to chive this gallant vessel, freighted with 
every thing dear to an American bosom, upon the 
rocks, or lay it a sheer hulk upon the ocean. 5 
The agitation of the billows has not yet subsided ; 
and a distant posterity will alone be capable of 
pronouncing an impartial judgment upon the 
merits of a question, complicated of so many con 
siderations of humanity, of policy, and of consti- 
tional power. 

But a spirit of liberality may even now tolerate 
an honest difference of opinion on such a subject. 
It should be the part of the wise and the good to 
pour oil over this angry sea, to endeavor to calm 
the passions excited by that discussion, rather than 
to revive them in new shapes still more portentous 
to the peace and happiness of our country. What 
ever difference of opinion may exist as to the part 
which Mr. Pinkney took in this question, all 
unprejudiced minds ought, we think, to concur in 
the sentiment expressed by him at the close of his 
speech in the Senate on that memorable occasion. 

After alluding to the ambitious motives which 
were imputed to some of those engaged in this 
controversy, he added ; " For myself I can truly 
say, that I am wholly destitute of what is com 
monly called ambition. It is said that ambition 
is the disease of noble minds. If it be so, mine 
must be a vulgar one ; for I have nothing to desire 
in this world but professional fame, health and 



200 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

competence for those who are dear to me, a long 
list of friends among the wise and the virtuous, 
and honor and prosperity for my country. But, if 
I possessed any faculties, by the exertion of which, 
at a moment like the present, I could gain a place 
in the affectionate remembrance of my country 
men, and connect my humble name with the sta- 
oility of the American Union by tranquillizing the 
alarms which are now believed to endanger it, I 

O s 

know of no reward on this side the grave, save 
only that of an approving conscience, which, put 
in comparison with it, I should think worthy of a 
sigh, if lost ; of exultation, if obtained." * 

* The materials for this memoir have been drawn 
from the author s larger work, entitled Some Account 
of the Life, Writings, and Speeches of William Pink- 
ney " ; and also from an article on that work in the 
North American Review. 

THE END.