Page images
PDF
EPUB

duties of chief justice, until the year 1799, when he was elected governor of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Of his judicial character, we have not room to speak at large. In all the qualifications of the judge, however, it may, without hesitation, be said, that he had few equals in this or any other country. They who remember the supreme court of Pennsylvania while he presided there, speak of the dignity which it preserved, and the reverence which it inspired; and his judicial opinions, at a period when the law of the state was unsettled, and when a master mind was requisite to reduce it to a system, have established for him the reputation of being one of the ablest lawyers of his country. To the present day, his memory is held in the courts, in the most profound respect and veneration, and successive judges have, by their unvarying testimony, given unfading lustre to his judicial fame. In 1790, he was a member of the convention which framed the constitution of Pennsylvania. The best talents of the state were engaged in this important work, and among them, the force of Mr. M-Kean's knowledge and opinions was felt and justly appreciated.

İn 1799, he was elected governor of Pennsylvania. His election was the result of a warm conflict between the two great parties which were then assuming those distinct political ranks, into which, for many years, the people of our country continued to be divided.

His success was the precursor of Mr. Jefferson's elevation to the presidency; and during the whole period of that gentleman's administration, the weight of Mr. M'Kean's opinions and conduct was directed to the upholding of the principles which marked the policy of the general government. Such is the nature of the constitution of Pennsylvania, with respect to the powers of the governor, that party spirit will be roused, and the feelings of individuals, governed by personal interest, will be exhibited during every administration. Whatever, therefore, may have been the opinions of some, with regard to governor M’Kean's administration, while they were under the excitement of the personal feelings of hope or disappointment, yet, during the whole constitutional period of nine years, the people were with him, and

at this day, when his conduct is viewed through the medium of candour and truth, it is not denied, that that administration was marked by uncommon ability, and with great benefit to the state. His messages to the different legislative assemblies, are characterized by peculiar elegance and force of language, and are replete with the soundest maxims of political wisdom, and the clearest practical views of the policy of the government.

During the whole of his life, he was remarkable for the most unbending integrity of character. He possessed, a qualification which has been justly noticed, as a distinguished trait in the character of Washington; a de termination to do what he thought best for the interest of the state, without regard to the clamour of ignorance or of discontent. Independent of the opinion which the narrow-minded, but self-sufficient, might please to adopt with regard to him, he was willing to be judged by the consequences of his actions, however remote those consequences might be.

In person, Mr. M‘Kean was tall, erect, and well formed. His countenance, in a remarkable manner, bespoke the firmness and intelligence for which he was distinguished. . His manners were impressive and dignified. He retired, in 1808, from the cares of a long life, faithfully, ably, and successfully, devoted to the service of his country; and for the remainder of his days, enjoyed, in the peaceful pursuits of science and literature, the consciousness of a well-earned and honourable fame.

He died at his mansion, in Philadelphia, on the 24th of June, 1817, in the eighty-fourth year of his age.

He had outlived all the enmities which an active and conspicuous part in public affairs had, in the nature of things, created; and his memory will be cherished as that of one of the most useful, among the able and virtuous fathers of a mighty rępublic.

MONTGOMERY, RICHARD, a major general in the army of the United States, in the revolutionary war, was

born in the north of Ireland, in the year. 1737. He possessed an excellent genius, which was matured by a fine education. Entering the army of Great Britain, he successfully fought her battles with Wolfe, at Quebec, 1759, and on the very spot, where he was doomed to fall, when fighting against her, under ibe banners of freedom. After his return to England, he quitted his regiment in 1772, though in a fair way to preferment. He had imhibed an attachment to America, viewing it as the rising seat of arts and freedom. After his arrival in this country, he purchased an estate in New York, about a hundred miles from the city, and married a daughter of judge Livingston. He now considered himself as an American. When the struggle with Great Britain commenced, as he was known to have an ardent attachment to liberty, and had expressed his readiness to draw his sword on the side of the colonies, the command of the continental forces in the northern department was intrusted to him and general Schuyler, in the fall of 1775. By the indisposition of Schuyler, the chief command devolved upon him in October. He reduced fort Chamblee, and on the third of November, captured St. John's. On the 12th he took Montreal. Leaving a few troops in Montreal, he despatched several detachments into the province, encouraging the Canadians to forward on provisions, and proceeded with expedition to Quebec. He formed a junction at Point-Aux-Trembles with colonel Arnold, who had been despatched through the wilderness with a body of troops from the American army at Cambridge. The combined forces commenced the siege of the capital on the first of December, prior to which general Montgomery sent in a summons to governor Carlton, to surrender, in order to avoid the horrors of a storm. The flag was fired upon and returned. Means, however, were devised, by which the summons was conveyed to the inhabitants, but Carlton evinced astonishing inflexibility and firmness of mind on this trying occasion. The bombardment was soon after begun from five small mortars, but with very little effect. In a few days general Montgomery opened a six gun battery, about seven hundred yards distant from the walls, but his pieces were of too small calibre to make any impression. Con

vinced that the siege must soon be raised, or the place be stormed, the general decided on the latter, although he esteemed success but barely within the grasp of possibility. He was induced to adopt this measure in order to meet the expectations of the whole colonies, who looked up to him for the speedy reduction of that province, which would be completed by the capture of the capital. The upper town was strongly fortified, the access to which from the lower town was very difficult on account of its almost perpendicular steepness. His confidence in the ardour of his troops, and a thirst for glory, induced him to make the assault, or perish in the attempt. The garrison of Quebec consisted of about 1520 men, viz. 800 militia, 450 seamen, and the remainder marines and regulars. The Americans consisted of only eight hun. dred.

The siege having been for some time ineffectually carried on, the last day of the year was determined for the assault. The morn was ushered in with a fall of snow. The general divided his little force into four detachments. Colonel Livingston, at the head of the Canadians, was directed to make a feint against St. John's Gate; and major Brown, another against Cape Diamond, in the upper town, while himself and Arnold should advance against the lower town, the first object of real at. tack. Montgomery advanced at the head of the New York troops, along the St. Lawrence, and having assisted with his own hands in pulling up the pickets, which obstructed his approach to the second barrier, which he was determined to force, when the only guns that were fired from the battery of the astonished enemy, killed him and his two aids. The spot where general Montgomery fell, is a place a little above Frazer's.wharf, upder Cape Diamond. The road there is extremely narrow, and will not admit of more than five people to walk abreast. A barrier had been made across the road, and from the windows of a low house, which formed part of it, were planted two cannon. Af his appearing upon a little rising ground, at the distance of about twenty or thirty yards, they were discharged. He and his two aids de-camp fell at the same time, and thence rolled upon the ice in the river, which always forms, in the winter, upon its side. The next morning, a party being sent out to pick up the dead, he was discovered among the slain. He was immediately taken to the prison where the Americans were confined, as they had denied his death; upon which they acknowledged him, and burst into tears. The same night he was buried by a few soldiers, without any kind of distinction whatever, at the corner of the powder-house, near port Louis. The lieutenant-governor of Quebec, Mr. Cramche, having served with him in the British army, was induced, by the persuasions of a lady, who was afterwards Mrs. Cramche, to order him a coffin, but made in the roughest manner. The other officers were indiscriminately thrown with their clothes an, into the same grave with their men. As there was a great quantity of snow on the ground, and the earth was frozen very hard, it was impossible to dig the graves very deep, and of course the bodies were but slightly covered. On the thawing of the snow in the ensuing spring, many of them appeared above ground, and became offensive. They were, however, again buried, on general Carlton's being made acquainted with the circumstance,

He was thirty-eight years of age. He was a man of great military talents, whose measures were taken with judgment, and executed with vigour. With undisciplined troops, who were jealous of him in the extreme, ħe yet inspired them with his own enthusiasm. He shared with them in all their hardships, and thus prevented their complaints. His industry could not be wearied, his vigilance imposed upon, nor his courage intimidated. Above the pride of opinion, when a measure was adopted by the majority, though contrary to his judgment, he gave it his full support.

The following character of general Montgomery we copy from Ramsay's History of the American Revolutian :

« Few men have ever fallen in battle, so much regretted by both sides, as general Montgomery. His many amiable qualities had procured him an uncommon share of private affection, and his great abilities an equal proportion of public esteem. Being a sincere fover of libera ty, he had engaged in the American cause from principle,

« PreviousContinue »