Page images
PDF
EPUB

both of whom are in the house with ters, with Mr. Morris, who had us.' been directed by a resolution of congress to confer with the commander in chief on the plan of the campaign, gave the following ac. count of it:

"I accepted the offer, from Mr. Morris, said Mr. Commissioner Peters, with many thanks, and ad. dressed myself immediately to the two gentlemen who owned the other half, for their consent to sell; but they had already trusted a large amount of clothing to the continent. al congress, and were unwilling to give that body any further credit. I informed Morris of their refusal. 'Tell them,' said he, 'that I will pay them for their share.' This settled the business: the lead was delivered; I set three or four hundred men to work, who manufac. tured it into cartridge bullets for Washington's army, to which it gave complete relief."

On the 18th of June, 1778, Mr. Peters entered Philadelphia, at the very time the enemy was evacuating the place. He went there under a strong escort sent with him by General Washington. His object was to secure clothing and stores, secreted by our friends, who had remained in the city; and to purchase every thing that he could from the dealers. The British rearguard was crossing the Delaware, when he arrived. He succeeded in fulfilling the wishes of the Ame. rican general-in-chief. Arnold took command of the city a few days af ter, when Mr. Peters returned to York in Pennsylvania, where congress then held its sessions.

Mr. Peters's exertions were peculiarly meritorious and useful, at the time when General Washington suddenly changed his intended at. tack on New-York, to that of York. town in Virginia.

This change of plan originated with Washington alone: Mr. Pe.

"One morning at the beat of reveillé, Mr. Morris and myself, who occupied the same marquee, were roused by a messenger from head quarters, and desired forthwith to repair thither. We were surprised at the circumstance; every thing having been the evening before perfectly tranquil. We were more so on our meeting the general, who, the moment he saw me, with expressions of intemperate passion, handed to me a letter from the French admiral, who commanded six or seven ships at Rhode Island: 'Here,' said the general, 'read this; you understand the French;' -then turning away: 'so do I now better than ever.' Mr. Morris and myself stood silent, and not a little astonished. The letter informed the general that the writer had received by an express frigate, arrived from the fleet of Comte de Grasse, at sea, orders to join that fleet in the Chesapeake, as the Comte had changed his destination, on information that the bay of New-York was dangerous for his heavy ships; and if any thing could be done in the southern quarters, co-operation was offered during the few weeks of his intended stay in those waters, to avoid the West India hurricane season. Secrecy was enjoined, and we went our way. On returning to breakfast, we found the general as composed, as if nothing had happened. That evening, or I think the next day, a letter arrived from the Marquis de Lafayette, from Virginia, annour

cing the arrival of the French fleet in the Chesapeake.

<<

6

In the course of the day, I was asked by the general: well, what can you do for us, under the present change of circumstances?' I an. swered, please to inform me of the extent of your wants.'-Being, after some time, generally informed, I replied: 'I can do every thing with money; nothing without it; but what can be transported from hence, must be relied on.' I looked impressively on Mr. Morris, who said, 'I understand you; I must have time to consider and calculate.""

Mr. Morris shortly after told the general that he had no tangible ef fects; but if anticipations on the credit of his personal engagements would succeed, he could supply the means for transporting the ar my from New-Jersey to the Chesapcake.

"In a day, or two," continues Mr. Peters, “ we left camp, under injunctions of secrecy, until the general developed his final objects and measures to congress.

"On our arrival at Philadelphia, I set to work most industriously, and masked the object for a time. By the zeal and extraordinary ef forts of the staff departments, par. ticularly that of ordnance and mili tary stores, sixty pieces of batter. ing cannon, and a greater number of field artillery, were completely provided and finished in three or four weeks; and as fast as any portion of the train was ready, it was sent off on its way to the south. Not a single gun was mounted on my arrival at Philadelphia, nor a rammer or a sponge, or other attirail, nor any considerable quantity of fixed ammunition. No European magazine or arsenal, could have

done more in the time, and under like circumstances. General Knox, who arrived in twelve or fourteen days, had a great share of the merit of this effort. Mr. Morris supplied the money or the credit; and without derogation from the merit of the assistance rendered by state authorities, it may truly be said, that the financial means furnished by him, were the main-springs of transportation and supplies for the glorious achievement, which effectually secured our independence. He issued his notes for, I think, one million four hundred thousand dollars. They passed freely, and at the value of specie, and were in time all redeemed. The Bank of North America, which he founded, with money supplied from abroad, and by taxing the credit of his particular friends, and many other good friends to their country, as. sisted him most eminently. We gave our securities to the amount of a great proportion of its capital stock."

Those were times, as Mr. Peters adds, "when wants were plenty, and supplies lamentably scarce." The fearless manner in which property and personal responsibility were risked, is worthy of all praise. It was the tone of the day; a spirit of disinterested love of country prevailed, and a vigilance that no exertions could tire !

In December, 1781, Mr. Peters resigned his post in the War Office.

After Mr. Peters left the War Office, he was elected a member of congress, and assisted in closing the business of the war.

At the organization of a new government, under the present constitution, Washington selected Mr. Peters as the judge of the district court of Pennsylvania. This

Y

office he accepted, although he was desirous to resume his profession, and enjoy some respite from public labour. He yielded, nevertheless, to the request of the President, and assumed the exercise of its duties, which he performed until his death; being a period of thirty-six years, during which time he was seldom detained from court by sickness, and never from any other cause. The admiralty portion of his judicial functions, was greatly simplified and improved under his care.

The duties of the district judge, particularly when associated with the judge of the circuit court, were sometimes extremely painful. Two insurrections (the only ones that have taken place since the adoption of the present constitution) occur. red in Mr. Peters's district. To aid in the suppression of the first, he followed the army as far as Pittsburg, the western limit of his ju. risdiction; and there, with his usual promptitude and prudence, satis. factorily discharged his official dutics. In a few years after, he was called on again to try for treason, another set of rebels from the northern part of his district. His associate during part of the time, was the celebrated Samuel Chase, one of the justices of the supreme court of the United States. The trial of these deluded insurgents, and the execution of the two acts of congress so well known by the names of alien and sedition laws, gave great notoriety to the circuit court of this district. Its proceed. ings were narrowly watched by the political enemies of the Federal government, until at length, John Randolph, a member of the house of representatives from Virginia, thought he saw cause of impeachment in the conduct of its judges.

Articles were agreed upon by the house of representatives, and sent up to the senate against Samuel Chase; and great pains were ta ken to include Mr. Peters. Indeed the house inserted his name at one time; but on proper investigation, it was withdrawn, under a conviction that no cause of accusation existed on the contrary, when the examination took place, it was found that his judicial course had uniformly been marked by pru. dence, decorum, and moderation.

At this very moment, when political strife was at its height, he was actively engaged in promoting, and chiefly directing, one of the most beautiful and most useful improvements in the state of Pennsyl vania-the erection of the great bridge over the Schuylkill, at the end of High-street.

Before Mr. Peters became a judge, and indeed, shortly after the termination of the war, in 1783, he visited England. His travels in that country, and in Scotland and Ireland, were extensive. He had in charge, on this occasion, a commission somewhat of a public nature, which introduced him to the acquaintance of the Primate and principal prelates of the English Church. Before the revolution, the Protestant Episcopal church in this country, of which Mr. Peters was a member, was governed by the Bishop of London; but when our political connexion was dissolved, no Protestant church here would consent to be regulated by a foreign diocesan. Mr. Peters, therefore, was commissioned to obtain the consent of the British prelates to ordain to the office of Bishop three priests of the American Episcopal church, and thus give to it a canonical succession. An act

of parliament had already been obtained by the Bishop of London, to enable him to dispense with such of the usual requisitions as were inconsistent with the engagements of certain citizens of the United States, who had applied to him for holy orders; and about the time the higher question of succession was agitated, the same subject was brought before the Danish government, in consequence of a conversation between Mr. Adams, then minister to Great Britain, and the Danish minister to the same court, to which a favourable answer was given; so that the Danish church stood ready in case of difficulty, to confer on the American Episcopal church the necessary powers of Episcopal succession. But it is believed that this incident had no influence on the conduct of the British government or church, both of which are represented by Mr. Peters, in a letter from England, dated March 4th, 1786, as favourably disposed. His opinion was subsequently confirmed by the courteous and friendly reception of the Right Revd. and venerable Bishop White, and his colleagues, who found the Archbishops and all the Bishops who were consulted on the business, acting with the utmost candour and liberality of sentiment; so that it is obvious that the English prelates were from the first ready and desirous to convey the succession to the American church; and that the only condition they made was, that there should not be such a depar. ture, either in discipline, worship, or doctrine, as would destroy the identity of the two churches in their spiritual character.

As a practical farmer, Mr. Pe. ters had from time to time commu

nicated the results of the experiments made at Belmont, to such of his neighbours as chose to profit by them; but he had not written much, if any thing, upon agriculture, before the year 1797. His first pub. lication was then made, and contained a statement of facts and opinions in relation to the use of Gypsum. This pamphlet circulated widely, and produced such a change in husbandry, by introducing the culture of clover, and other artificial grasses, as to give a magical increase to the value of farms. Estates which until then were unable to maintain stock, for want of winter fodder, and summer pasture, were suddenly brought into culture, and made productive. Formerly, on a farm destitute of natural meadow, no stock could be supported; and even where natural meadow existed, the barn yard was exhausted to keep up sufficient fertility, (in the absence of irrigation,) to feed a very few horses and black cattle.

In the year 1770, he was shown the effects of gypsum on clover, in a city lot, occupied by Mr. Jacob Barge, on the commons of Philadelphia.

The secret of its powerful agen. cy, came from Germany, where it was accidentally discovered. Mr. Peters obtained a small quantity, which he used successfully, and gradually promoted its consumption, until by his example, and his publications, the importation from Nova Scotia alone, into the single port of Philadelphia, increased to the amount of fourteen thousand tons annually, before the discovery of that fossil in the United States.

But his rural labours were not confined to the tillage of the ground;

to the mere variety of grasses, or alimental improvement of the soil which produced them. He was zealously employed in improving, by crosses, the breed of sheep and other animals. The broad-tail Barbary rams, procured at Tunis by General Eaton, having been confided to his care, he placed them advantageously, and pressed on the farmers the propriety of using them.

In order to appreciate properly his industry in treating on husband. ry and matters auxiliary to it, we must consult his voluminous communications, published in the Memoirs of the Philadelphia Agricultural Society.

It is not estimating the quantity of his labour too high, by placing it at one fourth of each volume; the quality of these productions is shown by their wide circulation, and great popularity.

court.

As a judge, his purity was of the highest order, and his quickness of perception and sagacity enabled him to appear with great advantage by the side of judge Washington, his associate in the circuit Even when they occasion. ally differed, which was but seldom, his opinions were generally sustained. During the term when they were together, the greatest cordiality existed between them, and they cheerfully co-operated in furthering the ends of justice. Of the admiralty law of the U. States, Judge Peters may be deemed the founder.

His decisions, which are collected with some few others in Peters's Reports, form the ground work of this branch of our jurisprudence; and have been sanctioned, not only by our own courts,

[blocks in formation]

DR. GALL.

Aug. 22, 1828. At his country house, at Montrouge, near Paris, aged 71, the celebrated phrenologist, Dr. Gall.

Jean Joseph Gall was born in 1758, in a village of the Duchy of Baden; his parents were in trade. At Baden he first commenced his education. Then at Brucksal, and afterwards at Strasburg, he stu. died medicine, under professor Hermann. At Vienna in Austria, he became invested with the title of doctor, in the year 1785, and afterwards followed the practice of medicine; but at this place he was not permitted to develope his new deas on the functions of the brain,

« PreviousContinue »