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and of existing remains. Weigh these together, and then determine if the argument, in the mass, be not founded upon truth. The theory built upon it may be so unskilfully supported, as to fall to pieces at the first rude touch; but the foundation we believe to be so deeply laid, that it cannot be overthrown.
Be not offended, that one who, in comparison with you, knows nothing, should venture to intrude upon the ground, which you
have lest vacant; and who feels like a mole attempting to burrow through a mountain, having no power to accomplish more than barely to trace upon the surface that line, which it is your province to quarry through underground.
"Be not forgetful that the ablest general rarely marches his forces over ground that has not previously been prepared for him by the humble pioneer, and that the most talented of architects cannot put into execution his sublime conceptions, except he have the help of the
poor workman who labours for his daily bread. Do not despise the day of small things. "I see men as trees walking. Let us hope that the ointment may yet be found, which shall restore to those dim and tree-like figures, the grace and the proportions of men.” pp. 430-1.
We are not among the learned men,' and, therefore, do not conceive ourselves to be of the number of those meant to be addressed in the above passage : but, after reading this apology, we feel that, whatever may have been Mrs. Gray's success, and whatever the value of her book, she certainly wrote with good intentions; and that, if she cannot claim from us our congratulations on the execution of her task, she is, at least, entitled to our sympathy in her failure. We have spoken with more severity than we intended, and we regret the necessity that compelled us to do so. We have purposely overlooked many faults, and have not enlarged, as we might justly have done, upon those which we have noticed. Any design of harshness has been far from our thoughts, and we should have said little more than that the work had not answered our expectations, had it not been for the repetition of passages claiming for herself a much more intimate familiarity with Roman and Greek lore, than the evidence she affords us will justify. And when we conclude with the hope, that Mrs. Gray will not continue this IIistory of Etruria, we do so with every disposition to forgive those past offences which we cannot altogether overlook.
Art. VIII.—Memoirs of Aaron Burr. By Matthew L.
Davis. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1836.
Ir called upon merely to state objections to this book, we would begin by saying, there is a want of proper distinction between memoirs and correspondence; and a lack of independence in arguing from facts. An essential part
of the duty of a writer of biography, consists in sifting off from the correspondence of his hero, the acts of his life; and in reasoning independently upon these acts. Mr. Davis failed to perform this part of his task, when he undertook to write the memoirs of Colonel Burr. . He has left his readers to wade, without assistance, through a copious correspondence, for the facts which make up his life and character; and even when indulging in a remark, he touches the subject with too much delicacy to elicit truth.
In scanning the events of a man's life, we must view it from a different position than that occupied by his enemies or his friends. It is not from the ground, torn by the combatants, that one best sees the arrangements of the battle. From a distance, we discover faults of position, dangers of movements, never thought of by those who stand amidst the noise and confusion of the strife.
It is no compliment to the justice of men to say, they rarely deal fairly with the lives and characters of public men, until too late for justice to be available. The time when truth should be dispensed, and error dispelled, should be that, when the person concerned, can feel the reward or profit by the correction. But the times in which men live are, as respects them, times of excitement and prejudice. They are surrounded by an atmosphere too dense with the breath of applause and censure for the rays of truth to break in upon them. Public opinion, while a man is engaged in action, like too much light upon a tender insect in the microscope, either burns him up with much praise, or hides his qualities in much abuse. This truth failed to strike the sagacious mind of the virtuous and talented John Adams. Returning from his embassies, he complains that his countrymen have despised bis merits and ungratefully forgotten his services. Who could have conceived, that a man whom his country was then preparing to reward with the station filled by Washington, could have felt jealous of that coun
try's praise. It is, however, with the characters of distinguished men as with their bodies: the phosphoric light never rises till they have decayed: the grave, only, elicits truth.
Forty years have elapsed, since Aaron Burr occupied a position on the political horizon, which made him an object of astonishment to the whole world. Eight years have passed since he died in poverty and suspicion. It is a happy moment for an impartial pen to review his life. He is no longer in a state to be affected by praise or censure: no direct descendant lives to be mortified or gratulated in his history. The country in which he lived and died, with whose early struggles for freedom, with whose civil admin
stration, with whose parties he was associated, may learn wisdom in the page which records his adventurous life.
New Jersey saw the birth of Burr in 1756. His father, the Rev. Aaron Burr, was, at that time, President of the College of that State. His mother was Esther, daughter of Jonathan Edwards, the second President of Princeton College. Of the protection and care of parents, Burr was be. reaved before the age of three years. Very early in life he gave manifest indications of superior intelligence, and bold, impetuous temper. From his youth, he was associated with the Sophomores of Princeton in 1769, though qualified to enter a higher class. While in College he established a character for industry, abstinence and temperance. He graduated at sixteen, and bore away the highest honors of the institution. Passing his time from this period, alternately in the pursuit of knowledge and the pleasures incident to his age, Burr reached the year 1775. The memorable occurrences of this period roused him from the listlessness of his occupations. The battle of Lexington gave a military impulse to his life. He immediately prepared to join the army, and prepare for the engagements of the soldier. While connected with the American forces at Cambridge, he learned of Arnold's contemplated expedition to Quebec. From a bed of sickness, he rushed to partake of this bold enterprize. Amidst the inclemencies of the season and dangers of the route, his fragile form remained unaffected, while hundreds of robust soldiers sank under the infliction of rains, hunger and cold. On the arrival of Arnold at Chaudiere Pond, he was impressed deeply with the courage, prudence and patriotism displayed by Burr on the
journey. He was therefore selected to convey a message of importance to General Montgomery.
In the disguise of a Catholic priest, he encountered various dangers and discharged his trust in a manner securing him the confidence of Montgomery. He became the aid of this general ; and at the attack upon Quebec, displayed a cool courage, which distinguished him above all his station. Having obtained the command of a company of forty men, he disciplined them to a high state of military perfection, and awaited with impatience, the onset in which he was to be entrusted with a perilous service. The plan of operations however, being changed, he accompanied the Commander-in-Chief in leading the advance, and was near that brave Captain when he fell. In connexion with the death of General Montgomery, it is stated on the authority of the Rev. Samuel Spring, volunteer chaplain under Arnold, that when Montgomery had fallen, and the British troops were advancing towards the dead body, Burr was discovered amidst the show, hastening from the fire of the enemy, staggering under the weight of Montgomery’s body, which he was endeavoring to convey into the American lines. During the period of this disastrous campaign, Burr performed the duties of Brigade Major, and never evinced a higher sense of duty as an officer, than when he indignantly refused, at the command of Arnold, to convey a communication to the British camp, in terms dishonorable to the American cause. Returning, he expressed constantly in the strongest terms, his disgust at the conduct and manners of Arnold, and excited much indignation against that officer. But praise met Burr at every step. From all sides flowed in upon him the highest commendations for the zeal, bravery and prudence which his conduct had, on all occasions exhibited. He now at the instance of Washington joined the military family of that Commander. But the inactivity of his situation rendered him discontented and impatient. In a letter to John Hancock he indulged his spirit of dissatisfaction in terms which lost him the confidence of Washington, and obtained for him the station of aid to Putnam. At this time, Putnam's family was the asylum of Miss Moncriff, the daughter of a Major in the British service. The chance of war had thrown this girl, at the age of fourteen under the protection of Putnam. Her abilities, personal attractions, and engaging manners, were the occasion
of constant remark; and her admiration for Burr was not concealed. On these facts is based the report of her seduction. We think, if permitted to digress from our narrative, that the suspicion of this lady's dishonor by Burr rests on very slight proofs. The beauty and accomplishments of an indiscreet girl of fourteen, when connected with the reputation of her lover for gallantry, are not enough to authorize a conclusion, that chastity has been violated. But so far as we discover, these are alone the grounds of the accusation. To admit such a result as necessarily arising from the intercourse of the parties, merely because the lady was youthful and engaging, and Burr an unprincipled flatterer, would be to admit that the restraints society has imposed upon licentiousness, have no effect upon an ambitious man, anxious for the adıniration of the world, and that Miss Moncriff herself was the perfection of weakness, credulity and passion. Again, the continued confidence of Putnam in Burr, after this period dissipates the feeble presumption of his guilt. Such an occurrence could not have been concealed, if true, and the generous soldier who could lay his hand on his sword and refuse, with an oath, to obey the commands of Washington, to retain this lady a prisoner, would not have extended his friendship to the man, violating thus, the rights of his hospitable mansion.
Burr continued to serve in the army as an aid to Putnam, until 1777, when he received the commission of lieut. colonel in the regiment of Col. Malcolm. In this position he continued until 1779, when forced, on account of his shattered constitution to resign. In 1782, Burr was admitted to the bar at Albany; and in 1784, married Theodosia Prevost, the widow of Col. Prevost, of the British army. His connection with this lady was of a most romantic and affectionate character. She was accomplished and intelligent ; and Burris affection as exhibited, both in his treatment of her, and of her children by the former marriage, was ardent and highly creditable to his heart. Soon after his marriage, Burr removed to the city of New-York, and in 1789, was appointed Attorney General. From 1785 to 1788, he participated little in political affairs, being engaged honorably and prosperously in his profession. In 1791, he was elected to the Senate of the United States; and in 1792, nominated and confirmed as Judge of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. This latter office he declined; and his ser