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brought him nine children. He was reputed to be exceedingly skilful in his profession, but a fondness for liberal studies, particularly for those of natural and experimental philosophy, prevented him from giving it that attention which alone could make its exercise gainful. When Dr. Franklin, who was an old acquaintance and friend in the family, first published his discoveries in the science of electricity, the mind of Mason was strongly drawn to this interesting subject. The brilliancy of its phenomena, the new views it opened of the laws and relations of nature, and the control which it seemed to give of one of the most fearful and destructive of the elements, inspired him with a kind of enthusiasm for this branch of natural philosophy. He made himself master of all that was then known concerning it, and delivered courses of lectures and repeated the experiments of the American philosopher in Boston, Portsmouth, Salem, and other towns in New England. It was he who erected the first lightning-rods in that part of the country. He used to relate, that while delivering a course of these lectures in one of the towns in the Eastern states, some years after the first publications on the subject by Franklin, the good people of the place became exceedingly troubled with doubts concerning the lawfulness of the wonders he showed them. A number of them, and those not the least respectable among the inhabitants, waited in a body upon their minister, the fountain of spiritual counsel, to desire his opinion whether such things could take place without the agency of the devil, or some other forbidden means. It was with the utmost difficulty that their clergymnan could persuade them that they might be accomplished without supernatural aid, and consistently with the known laws of nature. In the course of his electrical experiments Mason succeeded in depriving a pigeon of sight; he repeated the shocks till he had deprived him of life also. This result he considered of so much importance, that he immediately undertook a journey to Philadelphia, expressly for the purpose of communicating the fact to Dr. Franklin, who had not then made an experiment of the kind with the same success. It was at that time his intention to proceed to Europe, there to prosecute his researches in this interesting and as yet imperfectly explored science.
Nothing so quickly and completely subdues all kinds of enthusiasm as sea-sickness. That man must be attached to his projects of philanthropy or his dreams of fame, by ties of more than common strength, who does not feel them greatly weak. ened while under the visitation of this distressing malady. On
way to Philadelphia, Mason suffered from it so severely, that he no longer thought of going to Europe.
On the breaking out of the war between France and England, which we still familiarly call “ the old French war," Mason's attention was turned to a military life. He had always a fondness for military studies, particularly for the art of gunnery, in which he afterwards acquired such skill and expertness, that at the commencement of the revolutionary war, he was thought to understand the practical part of it better than any man in New-England. He entered the provincial army in 1757, with a lieutenant's commission, but on joining it, was attached to the British line of artillery with the rank of captain. He commanded a battery of brass cannon in fort William and Henry, at the time it was taken by the French and Indians. By the terms of the capitulation, the garrison were to march out of the fort with the honours of war, and to be protected from the Indians until their arrival at Quebec. At a little distance from the fort a party of three hundred Indians fell upon them, and took or massacred nearly the whole garrison. As Mason was making his escape, he saw a woman struggling in the arms of the savages. It was a serjeant's wife, who had been a faithful nurse in the fort. They had taken her child from her, and dashed out its brains against the ground. He sprung to her rescue, succeeded in getting her out of their hands, and thus drew their attention upon himself. He fled, they pursued; in crossing a log fence he stumbled and fell; the savages were upon him before he could rise, seized him, carried him to the shore, and put him into a boat, pushed into the stream, and paddled up the river. Mason's situation was now unpleasant enough, with only the prospect of a painful death, or a long captivity before him; he endeavoured, however, to assume an air of indifference and unconcern in the presence of his captors. One of them was a chief, who had with him his son, a boy about fourteen years
They took from Mason his hat, ripped off the gold lace, and threw it about the boy's neck, hung his sleeve-buttons to the ears of the young savage, and stripping him of all his clothing, except his small clothes, distributed it among the rest of the party. As they were proceeding up the river, the boy wanted to go on shore for the purpose of lighting his pipe. Mason understanding his wishes, made signs to him that he would light it from the sun, which he did with a lens fixed in the end of a tobacco stopper that he happened to have in his breeches pocket. · It should seem that the savages were not a whit behind the people of New-En
gland, in ascribing to supernatural means appearances which they could not comprehend, for they immediately began to regard their prisoner with manifest awe and uneasiness. Desirous of improving this disposition to his own advantage, Mason made signs to the boy that he would give him the tobacco stopper, and instruct him to draw fire from the sun whenever he pleased-a proposal which the savages received with great satisfaction. Soon after he saw a French officer walking along the shore, accosted him in English, and to his great delight found that he understood the language. He explained to him his situation, and entreated him to contrive some way for his release. The Frenchman readily undertook to bargain with the Indians for the care of their prisoner; nor were they, on the other hand, unwilling to get rid of the magician, of whose potency they had such convincing evidence. They accordingly landed him on the river side, whence he travelled to a considerable distance in company with the officer, who at parting kindly gave him his great coat, and advised him to conceal himself in the woods till the Indians had dispersed. He then crept under some fallen trees, where he remained for three days and nights, expecting every moment to be discovered by the savages, whose steps and voices he heard almost continually in the woods about him. During this time he was entirely without food except a bit of ginseng which he happened to have in his pocket. On the fourth day he found himself obliged, by the danger of absolute starvation, to abandon his place of concealment. He arrived at Albany without any material accident, and thence returned to his family. At the close of the war, the British commander, who seems to have entertained a high idea of his military talents, obtained for him, without his knowledge or solicitation, a captain's commission of artillery in the British army. This commission was sent to Philadelphia, and Mason was requested to come and receive it, but was prevented by the remonstrances of his family, who were unwilling that he should again expose himself to the dangers and hardships of a military life. Of this circumstance he never spoke in the latter part of his life, without an expression of gratitude to Providence, since, had he accepted the commission, he must have found himself, at the beginning of the revolutionary war, in the ranks of his country's enemies.
In the year 1763, Mason raised the first regular company of artillery in the town of Boston, and procured its organization. He was appointed captain of this company, and after holding his commission about a year, resigned it in favour of one of his friends, a young man who was ambitious of such distinctions.
In the year 1764 the small-pox desolated Boston, and the year following was remarkable for the decline of commerce and the stagnation of business in that town. Mason found himself obliged to reinove with his family to New-Gloucester, and after a residence of five years in that place, to Salem. the summer of the year 1774, he was appointed one of a committee to prevent the introduction of teas into the town of Salem. All parcels of this commodity found in the possession of the inhabitants, were seized and destroyed. Sometimes several chests of tea were lodged in Mason's house for safe keeping, till they could be delivered to the school-boys, those ready executers of patriotic resolutions, who carried them to the public square, and burat them with great rejoicings. When, in the autumn of this year, a committee of safety and a committee of supplies were appointed by the Massachusetts legislature to provide for the defence of the province, Mason was employed by those coinınittees as an engineer, with a fixed salary—the first military appointment in the revolutionary war. Under their direction he in nediately began to collect military stores. He went with Gen. Lincoln to Simsbury in Connecticut, and contracted for the casting of four thousand cannon balls, purchased seventeen iron cannon, which he found in the possession of a Capt. Derby, and made arrangements for furnishing them with carria zes. All these preparations were made with the utmost secrecy. A quantity of flannel cartridges were wanted for the guns, and Mason caused the materials for five hundred of them to be brought to his house, where his wife and daughters, having retired to an upper chamber, and locked the doors, occupied themselves for some days in making them. For the purpose of fitting the iron work to the carriages, the guns were conveyed to the shop of one Foster, situated on the north bank of Danvers river, which skirts the town of Salem, and over which there was a draw-bridge near the shop. A foreigner had been employed to do some part of the work which required more than ordinary skill, and this man, after receiving his wages, went immediately to Boston, and gave information to the governor of what was going on. A party of three hundred men under the command of capt. Leslie, were immediately embarked at Castle island, and landed at Marblehead, with orders to march to Salem and take possession of the guns in the name of his ma esty. The troops were at a short distance from the town when the alarm of their approach was given. Mason was immediately on his horse, and with a few young men hastened to secure the guns. It was near the end
of the month of February, a thick oak wood was near the shop, and the ground being free from snow was covered to a considerable depth with the leaves of the last autumn. Into this wood the guns were drawn, dismounted, and with their carriages completely concealed under the leaves. In the mean time, drums were beating, and bells ringing in Salem, and the streets were filled with people running in every direction. The troops met with some obstruction in their approach to the town; a bridge at the distance of about half a mile was demolished by the inhabitants, but Leslie's men soon found means to repair it, and marched into the place with martial music and standards displayed. About this time, Mason hav. ing secured his guns, rode into the street where they had halted. He there saw Leslie conversing apart with a young lawyer, known to be friendly to the British government, who was pointing with his cane in a direction which Mason saw would lead to the draw-bridge. He immediately returned, and with a body of young men belonging to the place, took his post at the bridge. The troops came on apparently in high spirits, the inhabitants stood watching their march in gloomy silence, but as soon as Leslie set bis foot on one half of the bridge, Mason ordered the other to be drawn up, presenting a chasm of forty feet in depth. Leslie was bighly incensed at this, and ordered the bridge to be lowered, with a torrent of threats and execrations, which were very cooly listened to by Mason and his party. A few boats were moored hard by; Leslie ordered some of his men to get into them, pass the river, and let down the bridge. Immediately the owners of the boats leaped into them with axes, and knocked out the bottoms. A scuffle ensued, in which one or two persons were slightly wounded. While Leslie was apparently deliberating with himself what to do next, Mason, who was personally acquainted with him, mounted by a ladder to the top of the drawbridge, and addressed him, advising him to desist from his purpose. He told him that expresses had been sent out, that in a very short time a thousand men, at least, would arrive from the surrounding country, and that if his troops should offer to fire upon the people, they would inevitably be cut to pieces. Leslie answered, that he had orders to pass the bridge, and would do it, though it should cost the life of every man under his command, but that if Mason would cause the draw-bridge to be let down, he pledged his honour that he would pass over and immediately return, without doing violence to the person or property of a single individual. Mason conferred with the multitude, and obtained their consent to do what Leslie de