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that some of the blood of the Tudors or Stuarts” is coursing sluggishly through the veins of the modern hero of a memoir; and although the present legitimate princes of the British Empire have but little legitimate blood amongst their subjects, it would undoubtedly be highly gratifying to learn that he can claim consanguinity, or even some affinity with the house of Brunswick.f The American reader, however much he may desire it, can seldom be gratified, in tracing a lengthened genealogy of his distinguished countrymen. It may well be doubted whether any of the original European inhabitants of Maryland, the native, and Pennsylvania, the adopted state of Decatur, or indeed of any other of the ancient colonies, even thought of bringing across the Atlantic, any family archives, or any evidence of family ancestry. Ardent in the pursuit of civil and religious liberty, they little cared about proving their descent from an arbitrary royal family, or a degenerated nobility who had deprived them of both. Indeed, it may be doubted whether our ancestors had any noble blood, excepting that noble blood which rouses all true Americans, and Englishmen too, to revolt at civil and ecclesiastical tyranny. Our ancestors were not amongst the favourites of the courts of the Charleses, and Jameses, or the Georges ;-they generally consisted of the highest and best informed class of the sturdy yeomanry, who chose rather to encounter the * Ancient reigning families in England. t The present reigning family in the British Empire,

dangers of the ocean, and all the appalling horrors of Indian warfare, than to submit to the abused prerogative of a crown, or the arrogance of an insolent high church priesthood. They came here to begin a Republic, and to begin their own names : and surely it is far more gratifying to see a new-born Republic, rising in strong majesty, than to behold ancient empires and kingdoms tottering to their fall. It is also infinitely more gratifying to behold the present generation of Americans beginning names for themselves, than to see them ending those that were rendered illustrious by their ancestors. These hasty remarks are not made with a view of extirpating from the breast that noble sentiment which induces the descendants of great Statesmen, Heroes and Scholars, to cherish, venerate and defend the fame of their ancestors; but to impress the idea thus forcibly expressed by one of the master painters of human nature;— “The deeds of long descended ancestors, Are but by grace of imputation ours.” The reader may be led to suppose from the preceding remarks, that Decatur was of the humblest origin, and that the obscurity of his family is about to be mentioned in order to increase the lustre of his own achievements. Not so, the object was to impress upon the mind of the youthful reader, a sentiment which ought to be unceasingly reiterated through the Republic, that the principle of family aristocracy, prostrates the very genius of our constitution. The rising youth of America should

scorn to repose in listless inactivity, riot in the wealth, or bask in the same of their ancestors. Nothing but personal merit, and deeds of actual renown, entitles a man to be enrolled with worthies, or hold a niche in the temple of fame. How ignoble would Stephen and JAMEs DecaTUR have appeared, if, instead of devoting themselves to their country, and achieving deeds of glory as the foundation of their own fame, they had supinely reposed upon the high rank and reputation of their gallant father. The family of Decatur was of French extraction in the paternal line—upon the maternal side, it was of Irish extraction. Could it be indulged in a biographical memoir, what a capacious field is here opened to “ expatiate free” upon the prominent characteristics of Frenchmen and Irishmen 2 We might paint the chivalrous gallantry of the one, and the ardent and romantic courage of the other—we can only say, they both were most happily and gloriously united in Stephen Decatur—under the name of an American. His grand-father was a native of La Rochelle, in France, celebrated for the refinement and taste which prevails in the large cities of that captivating and charming country. Although amongst the early emigrants from European nations, Frenchmen included but a small proportion, many of the most distinguished men of the middle and southern States can trace their origin to that people. The same cause that drove Englishmen, Scotsmen, Irishmen. Germans, &c. to the New World—civil and ecclesiastical oppression, also compelled some of the persecuted * Hugonots in France, to seek an asylum in America, which has most emphatically been denominated “The asylum of oppressed humanity.” What were the motives of Decatur’s ancestor to emigrate, is lost in the oblivious shade that is spread over that interesting period of our history. He landed in Rhode-Island, a State which owes its existence to an high sense of religious liberty. Having soon discovered the excellence of a government where freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, had dissipated the monkish gloom and sullen terror which enveloped and chained the human mind in the regions where a subtile, aspiring, corrupt and detestable priesthood held dominion, he relinquished all idea of returning to his native land—married a lady of Rhode-Island, and settled at Newport, situated upon the most charming island bordering upon the American continent. It was here that Stephen Decatur, the father of our hero, was born. What were the pecuniary circumstances of this family, at this period, is unknown to the writer, and is of but little consequence to the reader. That adventurous spirit, which characterises the name of Decatur, induced him, in early life, to remove to the city of Philadelphia, the me. tropolis of the then American colonies. Having previously become acquainted, and enamoured with the ocean, he resorted to that element as the theatre of his exertions, his fortune and his fame. From what has previously been said, the reader will not here expect a biographical notice of the distinguished father of the subject of these Sketches. His life deserves the record of a much abler hand than that which is now attempting to pourtray that of his gallant and illustrious son. A mere miniature will only be attempted. He entered into the matrimonial state early in life, before the fine feeling of an affectionate heart had been cooled by intercourse with a deceitful, friendless and cruel world. His bosom companion was the daughter of an Irish gentleman by the name of Pine. Having been previously instructed in the theory of navigation, he commenced his nautical life in the merchants’ service, at that auspicious period, when commercial enterprize was the sure passport to sudden wealth. But its fascinating charms had no attractions for the elder Stephen Decatur, when put in competition with naval glory. No sooner had our infant navy embraced the ocean, than his ardent spirit led him, amongst the very first of the naval heroes of 1798, to tender his services to his country. Let it be remembered, that at that period, the Republic had no commanders who had distinguished themselves— America was not even ranked with naval powers. It therefore required a devotion to country which must border upon the romantic, to engage in a ser

* Vide, the pathetic accounts of the sanguinary persecution of the Hugonots by the Papal power.

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