Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

mory. The great point urged was, that as the king had by proclamation declared the colonies “out of the protection of the British Crown, nothing remained but to resolve on independence." The news of the battle of Lexington, just one month before, had reached them, and the people were very much excited. A committee drew up the resolutions and read them (says General Graham) “ as near as I can recollect, in the very words we have since seen them several times in print.”

5. Four aged and respectable inhabitants of Mecklenburg county testify, that they were present at the meeting in May, 1775, that the delegates (to use their own words) “ formed several resolves which were read, and which went to declare themselves, and the people of Mecklenburg county, free and independent of the king and parliament of Great Britain—and from that day thenceforth, all allegiance and political relation was absolved between the good people of Mecklenburg and the king of Great Britain."

6. The individual who bore these resolves from Mecklenburg to the delegates from North Carolina, in the Congress then sitting in Philadelphia, was living in 1819, when the letters of Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson were first made public ; and their publication called forth his statement, given at the age of eighty-eight ; after having been, as he says, a soldier of the Revolution from its commencement to its close. Captain Jack testifies that he was present, and heard the resolutions read to the multitude, from the door of the court-house, in the town of Charlotte, when they were received with acclamation: he was appointed to carry them to Philadelphia, and on his way stopped at Salisbury, in North Carolina, where the General Court was then sitting; at the request of the Court, he landed a copy of the resolves to a gentleman of the bar, by whom he heard them read in open court: he then proceeded to Philadelphia, and delivered his dispatches to Messrs. Hooper and Caswell, delegates from North Carolina. He also refers to the Rev. Francis Cumming as one who was present.

7. The Rev. Francis Cumming says he was present, and states that the meeting, “ from the head of the court-house stairs proclaimed independence on English government, by their herald Col. Thomas Polk." We might proceed and furnish testimony from other witnesses : for the laudable zeal of the legislature of North Carolina, to which we are indebted for the evidence above presented, has not left this subject in obscurity ; but we think we have adduced enough.

And now, reminding our readers, that the testimony just laid before them, was not taken with the view of meeting the

issue of interpolation, made now for the first time by professor Tucker; but was intended to answer Mr. Jefferson's insinuation that the whole story was “an unjustifiable quiz," and that there never was any Mecklenburg declaration at all; we are quite willing, with a word or two more, to leave the whole subject in the hands of intelligent and honest men.

Professor Tucker admits that there is a plagiarism here, on the one side or the other: if we have succeeded in proving that the Mecklenburg instrument always existed in the present form, from the twentieth of May, 1775, then the robbery of other men's thoughts and words is not the sin of some patriotic son of North Carolina; therefore (upon the professor's premises, adopting, with the omission of the little negative particle, his own words) we conclude, “the inference is inevitable that Mr. Jefferson did borrow from this Mecklenburg paper.” And if he did, was not his letter to John Adams something more “ unjustifiable” than a “quiz ?” We fear there are those, who, in spite of the explanations of his friend, will feel constrained to believe, that he did use this poor, despised document from North Carolina ; that he knew he had used it when he answered Mr. Adams' letter; and that he meant to leave for himself a convenient “ loop hole of retreat," when he wrote, “nor do I affirm positively that this paper is a fabrication.”

But it will be observed that other coincidences of language are to be found between our national document and the constitution of Virginia, or, to speak more accurately, the list of grievances prefixed to that constitution. How does this happen? His biograher gives us the following solution of it. He is speaking of Mr. Jefferson in the congress of 1776:

“While Mr. Jefferson was thus engaged in the great concerns of the confederacy, he was not unmindful of what was passing in Virginia. Knowing that they were engaged in framing a Constitution for the state, he prepared the draught of one, with a preamble reciting the grievances of the colonies and the acts of misrule in the King and Parliament, which he transmitted to his friend Mr. Wythe. But the Constitution proposed by George Mason* had been adopted, in committee, before Mr. Jefferson's arrived, and was afterwards, with little alteration, adopted by the house. They, however, accepted Mr. Jef

* Of this gentleman, Mr. Jefferson gives the following forcible, and, as it is believed, just sketch. He was “ of the first order of wisdom among those who acted on the theatre of the Revolution, of expansive mind, profound judgment, cogent in argument, learned in the lore of our former Constitution, and earnest for the republican change on democratic principles. His elocution was neither flowing nor smooth; but his language was strong, his manner most impressive and strengthened by a dash of biting criticism, where provocation made it seasonable."-- 1 Jeff. Mem. p. 33.

ferson's preamble, which is nearly the same as a recital of wrongs in the Declaration of Independence."

Now we will not say that Mr. Jefferson did not write the list of grievances prefixed to the constitution of Virginia : but there are certain facts which need some explanation.

On the 11th of August, 1775, Mr. Jefferson was elected a delegate to Congress for one year, by the convention of Virginia,* and on the 20th of June, 1776, was re-elected for another year.t The Journals, to which we have referred, show us that George Wythe, also, was elected with Mr. Jefferson, on both the occasions referred to ; and as the list of members in the Virginia convention presents us with the name, at one time, of Mr. Edmund Randolph, and at another, of Mr. Prentiss, sitting for Mr. Wythe, we infer that in 1776, when the Virginia constitution was under consideration, Mr. Wythe was in Philadelphia with Mr. Jefferson, atterding to his duties in Congress: if this be so, we do not perceive how this list of grievances could have been transmitted to him in Virginia. It may, indeed, have been sent to some other friend named Wythe; or the professor may have mistaken the person to whom it was sent ; in which case it is plain that the original letter of Mr. Jefferson containing these grievances was not before his biographer. It may be a received opinion, in Virginia, that Mr. Jefferson furnished the list of grievances prefixed to the constitution ; nor would we be understood as denying that he did so. If he did, he only borrowed very largely from himself; and it is to be lamented that he has left no explanation of the resemblance between the declaration and the charter of Virginia; while in another case, of much less moment, he has been at the pains to account for the likeness of a Virginia document, which was penned by himself, to a public paper which he prepared as a member of Congress. If a letter to any one in Virginia, can be produced, from Mr. Jefferson's pen, which contains this list of grievances, and if they were thus communicated before the 29th of June, 1776, Mr. Jefferson's friends owe it to his memory; and, as Americans, they owe it also to their countrymen, to let the testimony be forthcoming. If there be no such letter in being, let inferior evidence be produced, if it exists to establish the fact that Mr. Jefferson wrote both papers. The respective dates of the papers render it important; for, unexplained by satisfactory proof, posterity may accuse Mr. Jefferson of a plagiarism more extensive than that from the Mecklenburg document. On the

Journal of that date. † Ibid.

See Autobiography, p. 10.

15th of May, 1776, the convention of Virginia appointed the committee to prepare a declaration of rights, and a constitution ; on the 27th of May, the declaration of rights was reported, and on the 11th of June, was adopted ; on the 29th of June, the constitution was adopted.

On the 10th of June, Congress appointed the committee to draw the declaration of independence; only one day before the declaration of rights was adopted in Virginia ; and, that this last named paper, which it is not pretended he wrote, was used by Mr. Jefferson, in preparing the first part of the congressional declaration, is obvious, upon a comparison of the two instruments. If this were sent to him in Philadelphia by his Virginia friends, as it must have been, why may not the copy of the proposed constitution, with this very list of grievances, have also been sent? We find, from the journals of the convention, that it was before that body as early as the 26th of June, for on that day it was discussed, and the committee had been employed on it from the 15th of the previous May ; so that we cannot tell how long before the 26th of June it had been in existence in Virginia, if it originated there; but it is certainly within the range of possibility, that it was prepared before the 10th of June, when the committee on the national document was appointed by Congress; and within the range of probability, that, if prepared, it was sent with the declaration of rights, which we have seen was used by Mr. Jefferson. These facts render it important, to establish most satisfactorily the point, that Mr. Jefferson did prepare this list of grievances in Philadelphia, and did send them to Virginia some time between the 15th of May and the 29th of June ; and if this point be not sustained, the presumption is against his claim to the authorship.

We, however, do not deny that he is the author : we have discussed the question as one of historical interest ; it is now some years since the facts and dates above stated, formed the subject of our thoughts; and we confess we looked with some interest to professor Tucker's book, for a solution of what seemed to us a matter requiring explanation. That explanation has not removed our perplexity ; because we think we find our author in a mistake as to the paper having been sent to Mr. Wythe at all; it is plain too, that he had not before him the original letter, containing these grievances; and no such communication is to be found in Mr. Jefferson's printed correspondence : there is, consequently, an uncertainty about the explanation, which renders it unsatisfactory. Were the fact of the letter to Mr. Wythe, or to any one else, fully sustained, we can truly say it would afford us pleasure.

In taking leave of our author, we cannot apologize for the plainness with which we have spoken of the subject of his book. The characters of public men are public property.

With feelings intensely American, we have spoken, as men who have a deep interest at stake in the prosperity of our country. We have thought that in our republic, those who fill important stations should be made to feel that the eyes of their countrymen are upon them; and their countrymen should make them feel, (for theirs is the power to do so), that they expect from them that elevation of character, which alone can dignify the elevation of office. The safety of the republic consists in the intelligence and virtue of its citizens; and he, who stands on the loftiest summit which a citizen can reach, should, of course, be most exemplary. It has become so much the fashion, under the influence of party feeling, to deify distinguished party leaders, that, we confess, it sometimes fills us with trembling apprehensions for the result. It becomes not the proud spirit of free men thus to bow down to a name. Let us judge of our public men as they are ; it will be better for them, and better for ourselves, should those in authority be brought to feel, that the tribunal of public opinion will be lenient to honest mistake, but knows also how to be stern toward vice. Let them be taught that personal unworthiness is a more grievous offence to the authors of all their power, than political blundering ; because, the last betokens weakness only, while the first is the offspring of wickedness. Let them be made to understand that the people know virtue to be essential to the proper working of our political machine ; and that they love the republic more than they do any, even the highest, citizen in it.

ART. II.-Morals and Legislation. By JEREMY BENTHAM.

Translated into French by M. DUMONT, with notes ; and from the French, (2d. ed. corrected and enlarged) with Notes, and a Biographical Notice of Jeremy Bentham and of M. Du

mont, by John NEAL. Boston, Wells & Lilly. 1836. BBNTHAM's Deontology. Westminster Review, No. XLI.

ART. 1. The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy. By WilLIAM Paley, D. D.

The name of Mr. Bentham is every day gaining increased celebrity as the rallying-point of a new school in morals, and the very “loadstar of reformation” in politics. His political

« ÎnapoiContinuați »