Слике страница
PDF
ePub

supplies of provisions. Yet, it has so happened, | House to carry the treaty into effect immeand it is a complete proof that the whole is diately, and notwithstanding the continued agonly an alarm, that whilst we have been de gressions of the British, if their will was fairly bating, the price of flour, which was of very and fully expressed, I would immediately acdull sale two weeks ago, has risen in equal pro- quiesce; but since an appeal has been made to portion with the supposed fears of the purcha-them, it is reasonable to suspend a decision sers. I cannot help considering the cry of war, until their sentiments are known. Till then I the threats of a dissolution of government, and must follow my own judgment; and as I canthe present alarm, as designed for the same not see that any possible evils will follow a dopurpose, that of making an impression on the lay, I shall vote against the resolution before fears of this House. It was through the fear the committee, in order to make room, either of being involved in a war, that the negotiation for that proposed by my colleague, Mr. Maclay, with Great Britain originated; under the im- or for any other, expressed in any manner pression of fear, the treaty has been negotiated whatever, provided it embraces the object I and signed; a fear of the same danger, that of have in view, to wit, the suspension of the war, has promoted its ratification, and now, final vote-a postponement of the laws necesevery imaginary mischief, which can alarm our sary to carry the treaty into effect, until satisfears, is conjured up, in order to deprive us of factory assurances are obtained, that Great that 'discretion, which this House thinks they Britain means, in future, to show us that friendly have a right to exercise, and in order to force disposition, which it is my earnest wish may us to carry the treaty into effect.

at all times be cultivated by America towards If the people of the United States wish this I all other nations.

JAMES HILLHOUSE.

THE Rev. James Hillhouse, the first of the family who emigrated to America, was a native of Londonderry, Ireland, where he was born in 1687. He was educated at the University of Glasgow. On the decease of his father and the descent of the family estate to his eldest brother, he sailed for New England, arriving there some time previous to 1720. Two years after he was installed the first pastor of the second church in New London, Connecticut. He is spoken of as “a great proficient in human and divine learning, of a true magnanimity, bearing all the troubles of life with a patient resignation to the will of God.” After spending many years in great usefulness, "declaring his dependence on the veracity of Christ's promises, that he had experienced, and commending his soul to God, he fell asleep” on the fifteenth of December, 1740.

This eminent divine, a short time after his installation, married Mary Fitch, one of his parishioners, and was blessed with two sons, William and James Abraham.* William, the eldest, was born in 1728, and became noted in the public service of his native State. During the war of the Revolution, he served as a major in the second regiment of horse raised by Connecticut, was a member of the State Council and Legislature, for many years was a judge of the county court, and held other offices of trust and honor.

His son James, the subject of the present sketch, was born at Montville, in New London county, on the twenty-first of October, 1754. When quite a youth he was adopted by his uncle, James Abraham Hillhouse, and removed to New Haven, where he received his education. In 1773, after leaving college, he entered the office of his uncle and commenced the study of the law. Two years afterward this uncle died, and young Hillhouse succeeded, in a great measure, to his extensive business. Respecting this period of his life, little is known. About this time he manifested an ardent desire to enter the service of his country as a soldier, and “

was prevented from accompanying Arnold in his memorable expedition to Quebec, only by the absolute interdict of those friends whose will he was bound to respect."

In the early part of July, 1779, the town of New Haven was invaded by the British under General Tryon. When the information that the enemy was landing at West Haven reached the town, a great number of the inhabitants filed to the neighboring hills. Some remained, hoping to escape any molestation by staying quietly in their houses, while a large number prepared themselves to meet the enemy and harass them as much as possible. Mr. Hillhouse was among the latter. He commanded a small company of young men, some of whom were students of

* James A. Hillhouse was born on the 12th of May, 1730. He was educated at Yale College, where he graduated in 1749. He was soon after chosen to the office of a tutor in that institution, and held that position for six years, with the highest approbation and esteem. Here he became an intimate associate of the celebrated Ezra Stiles. He settled in New Haven, and appeared at the bar “where his powers of reasoning and eloquence excited general admiration. In 1792, he was elected a member of the Council of the State of Connecticut, and in this department was eminent for his abilities and integrity. Anxious for the liberties of his country, he firmly opposed, in the spirit of true patriotism, ministerial ty. ranny on the one hand, and lawless anarchy on the other. His Christian life and conversation were truly exemplary, and he was adorned with the graces of meekness, charity and humility.” He died on the third of October, 1775: his wife survived him and died in July, 1822.-Holmes' Life of Esra Stiles: Connecticut Historical Collections : Caulkins' History of Ner London,

a

Yale College, and marched out to oppose the enemy. They met the advanced guards of the British on the parade, near the church in West Haven, fired upon them and forced a retreat to the main body; but owing to superior numbers, the little band was soon after compelled to leave the field. That Mr. Hillhouse's services at this critical period were of great importance. cannot be denied. “It is not too much to say,” writes Doctor Bacon, “ that it was owing in no small measure to his sagacity in planning and intrepidity in executing those hasty and imperfect measures of defence which alone were practicable, that New Haven was saved from the flames."

At the age of twenty-five years, he was elected by his townsmen to the Legislature of Connecticut, and continued in the service of the State, either as a representative or in the council for eleven years. During the same period, he was three times chosen to the Continental Congress, but always declined serving in that capacity. In 1782, he was appointed treasurer of Yale College, and held the office until the day of his death.

On the twenty-fourth of October, 1791, he took his seat in the House of Representatives of the United States, as a member from his native State, and two days after, was appointed with Mr. Boudinot, Mr. Giles, Mr. Gerry, and others, on a Committee of Elections. His first remarks in Congress appear in the debate upon the Ratio of Representation. In 1794, he was transferred to the Senate, and remained there until 1810. He took a prominent part in all the important debates, acquiring a sterling reputation for diligence, influence, and usefulness. Wherever he had a duty to perform, he was always ready and foremost.

His resolution submitted to the Senate on the twelfth day of April, 1808, proposing certain amendments to the Federal Constitution, in regard to the mode of choosing members of Congress and the President of the United States, was one of the most noted measures of his senatorial career. He proposed a lower House of Congress chosen annually by the people; a Senate, the members of which should be elected once in three years; and a President with much less power than at present is given to that officer, who should be annually selected from among the Senators by lot. These propositions he supported in an able and extended speech. The measure excited considerable observation at the time, and has been the subject of a great variety of opinions among many of the most distinguished men of America. Chief Justice Marshall, in answer to a letter from Mr. Hillhouse written in the spring of 1830, thus speaks of the subject :-"I read your speech, when first published, with great pleasure and attention, but was not then a convert to either of the amendments it suggested. In truth there is something so captivating in the idea of a chief executive magistrate who is the choice of a whole people, that it is extremely difficult to withdraw the judgment from its influence. The advantages which ought to result from it are manifest. They strike the mind at once, and we are unwilling to believe that they can be defeated, or that the operation of choosing can be attended with evils which more than counterbalance the actual good resulting from the choice. It is humiliating, too, to admit that we must look in any degree to chance for that decision which ought to be made by the judgment. These strong, and apparently rational convictions can be shaken only by long observation and painful experience. Mine are, I confess, very much shaken, and my views of this subject have changed a good deal since 1808. I consider it, however, rather as an affair of curious speculation, than of probable fact. Your plan comes in conflict with so many opposing interests and deep-rooted prejudices, that I should despair of its success were its utility still more apparent than it is:-All those who are candidates for the Presidency, either immediately or remotely, and they are more numerous than is imagined, and are the most powerful members of the community, will be opposed to it. The body of the people will also most probably be in opposition; for it will be difficult to persuade them that any mode of choice can be preferable to election, mediate or immediate, by themselves. The ardent politicians of the country, not yet moderated by experience, will consider it as an imputation on the great republican principle, that the people are capable of governing themselves, if any other mode of appointing a chief magistrate be substituted for that which depends on their agency. I believe, therefore, that we must proceed with our present system till its evils become still more obvious; perhaps, indeed, till the experiment shall become impracticable, before we shall be willing to change it.

VOL. 11.-10

а

ness.

a

S

[ocr errors]

“My own private mind has been slowly and reluctantly advancing to the belief that the pres. ent mode of choosing the chief magistrate threatens the most serious danger to the public happi.

The passions of men are inflamed to so fearful an extent, large masses are so embittered against each other, that I dread the consequences. The election agitates every section of the United States, and the ferment is never to subside. Scarcely is a President elected, before the machinations respecting a successor commence. Every political question is affected by it. All those who are in office, all those who want office, are put in motion. The angriest, I might say the worst passions, are roused and put into full activity. Vast masses, united closely, move in opposite directions, animated with the most hostile feelings towards each other. What is to be the effect of all this? Age is, perhaps, unreasonably timid. Certain it is that I now dread consequences which I once thought imaginary. I feel disposed to take refuge under some less turbulent and less dangerous mode of choosing the chief magistrate, and my mind suggests none less objectionable than that you have proposed."

William H. Crawford, the distinguished statesman and jurist, viewed the plan with favor and lent to it his support; as will be observed in the accompanying extract of a letter from him to Mr. Hillhouse: "I recollect distinctly the proposition of amendment to the Constitution, which you submitted to the Senate twenty-two years ago, and which I then seconded. At that time I had not made up my mind definitely upon the principle of the amendment. Reflection and experience have convinced me that the amendment is correct. I am now entirely convinced that great talents are not necessary for the chief magistracy of this nation. A moderate share of talents, with integrity of character and conduct, is all that is necessary. Under the principle of your amendment I think there is little probability that a President would be elected, weaker than Col. or with less practical common sense than Mr.

But I am not certain that the nation is prepared for such an amendment. There is something fascinating in the idea of selecting the best talents in the nation for the chief magistrate of the Union. The view which ought to decide in favor of the principle of your amendment is seldom taken. The true view is this: elective chief magistrates are not, and cannot, in the nature of things, be the best men in the nation; while such elections never fail to produce mischief to the nation. The evils of such elections have generally induced civilized nations to submit to hereditary monarchy. Now the evil which is incident to this form of government, is that of having the oldest son of the monarch for ruler, whether he is a fool, a rascal, or a madman. I think no man who will reflect coolly upon the subject, but would prefer a President chosen by lot out of the Senate, to running the risk of having a fool, a rascal or a madman, in the oldest son of the wisest and most benevolent sovereign that ever lived. When the amendment is considered in this point of view, I think it will find favor, especially when it must be admitted that the election of a President in this manner will be productive of as little turmoil and agitation as the accession of the son to the father in hereditary monarchies. The more I reflect upon the subject, the more I am in favor of your amendment." Added to the respectful consideration of Mr. Marshall and Mr. Crawford, Mr. Hillhouse's propositions received the attention of Mr. Madison and the approbation of Chancellor Kent.*

In 1810 Mr. Hillhouse having been appointed by the Connecticut Legislature commissioner of the School Fund, resigned his seat in the Senate, and returned to New Haven. By his skill, industry, perseverance and fidelity he raised the fund out of an entangled and embarrassed condition, and on retiring from the office in 1825, left it increased twofold. His efforts in behalf of Yale College were continual and untiring. Through his influence a grant was made to that institution, by the State legislature," at a time when perhaps nothing else could have saved it from total ruin," and thus the once “humble and feeble institution” has been placed in the honorable and prominent position which it now occupies among the literary and educational institutions of the world.

Nor were his energies devoted entirely to the interests of his adopted town. In the great work of internal improvement he embarked with vigor and enthusiasm. For six years after his resig, nation of his office as commissioner of the school fund, he was engaged in the construction of the Farmington and Hampshire Canal, and only relinquished his charge a few months previous to his death. Those few months were spent in revising his private papers, arranging his correspondence, and the usual duties of his office in connection with Yale College. He died of apoplexy, on the twenty-ninth of December, 1832. He had been during the morning of that day attending a meeting of the prudential committee of the college, apparently in his usual health. About noon he returned to his house, and sat down, reading letters received that morning. Without speaking to any one, he rose from his chair and entered his bed-room. As it was not his practice to lie down during the day, a member of the family followed him in a moment, and found him lying in the bed already dead.*

* See the paper read by James H. Raymond before the New York Historical Society, May, 1848;--on Proposed amend ments to the Constitution of the United States, with original unpublished Letters from Distinguished Statesmon.

SPEECH IN THE CASE OF JOHN SMITH.

Mr. Hillhouse delivered the following argu- criminal cause before the courts of common ment in the Senate of the United States, on the law, is nct between guilt and innocence, but beninth of April, 1808, on the following resolu- This is a principle which I can never sanction,

tween guilt and the possibility of innocence.” tion. “Resoloed, that John Smith, a Senator from nor in the smallest degree countenance by my the State of Ohio, by his participation in the vote. In every country where civil liberty and conspiracy of Aaron Burr, against the peace, individual rights are regarded, the common law union and liberties of the people of the United rule is, that the trial is between innocence and

guilt; and that every person is to be deemed States, has been guilty of conduct incompatible innocent until his guilt is proved; a rule, which with his duty and station as a Senator of the so long as we shall preserve our liberties, cannot United States; and that he be therefore, and be abandoned. Once admit that the person achereby is, expelled from the Senate of the cused is to be presumed guilty, and to be put

to

prove the possibility of his innocence, and the United States."

same circumstances that would otherwise go to

establish innocence, would be converted into • The cause before the Senate has been so fully proof of guilt. In the present case, admit the heard and so ably discussed, that it was my in- presumption of innocence, and many parts of tention to have given a silent vote, had not the the conversations and conduct of the member gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Adams, accused, which are now relied on as a proof of declared in so pointed a manner, that even his guilt, may be accounted for, as being exvoting on a resolution would sanction the reactly what an honest, unsuspecting man would port of the committee which accompanied it; have said and done; but upon the supposition å report containing principles which I can never that he was engaged in Aaron Burr's conspiracy, sanction by my vote; principles which go to many presumptions of his guilt may be drawn discredit all our criminal tribunals, and those from them. This has been the ground assumed rules of proceeding and of evidence which by the gentleman from Massachusetts, and on govern the decision of courts; rules which this he has built his argument. In this way the alone can shield innocence and protect an accused member by doing what was commendaccused individual against governmental pro-able, and what was his duty as a good citizen secution, or the overwhelming power of a to do, has furnished evidence of his guilt. formidable combination of individuals deter

As to the two precedents referred to, and mined on his destruction-principles which which appear on the journals of the Senate, would plant a dagger in the bosom of civil they are misapprehended, and the facts entirely liberty.

misstated in the report of the committee. In of the many erroneous principles contained one case I was an actor in the scene, being then in that report, there is but one which I shall a Senator, and have a perfect recollection of think it necessary particularly to notice. The the facts, and know the statement to be wholly question says, “the report upon the trial of a

erroneous. Referring to the case of William

Blount the report says: * New York Gazette of January 4th, 1833. No extended

“In all these points the committee perceive account of Mr. Hillhouse bas yet boen published. The best the admission of a species of evidence, which sketch of his life and services was written by Doctor Leonard in courts of criminal jurisdiction would be exBacon of New Haven, and published in the Quarterly cluded ; and in the resolution of expulsion, the Christian Spectator, of June, 1838.

Senate declared the person inculpated 'guilty

« ПретходнаНастави »