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When his sentence was announced to him, he remarked that, since it was his lot to die, there was still a choice in the mode which would make a material difference to his feelings, and he would be happy, if possible, to be indulged with a professional death. He made a second application by letter, in concise but persuasive terms. It was thought that this indulgence, being incompatible with the customs of war, could not be granted; and it was therefore determined; in both cases, to evade an answer, to spare him the sensations which a certain knowledge of the intended mode would inflict.
In going to the place of execution he bowed familiarly, as he went along, to all those with whom he had been acquainted in his confinement. A smile of complacency expressed the serene fortitude of his mind. Arrived at the fatal spot, he asked, with some emotion, “ Must I then die in this manner ?” He was told it had been unavoidable. “I am reconciled to my fate,” said he, “but not to the mode.” Soon, however, recollecting himself
, he added, “ It will be but a momentary pang ; " and, springing upon the cart, performed the last offices to himself with a composure that excited the admiration and melted the hearts of the beholders. Upon being told the final moment was at hand, and asked if he had anything to say, he answered, “Nothing, but to request you will witness to the world that I die like a brave man.” Among the extraordinary circumstances that attended him, in the midst of his enemies, he died universally regretted and universally esteemed.
There was something singularly interesting in the character and fortunes of André. To an excellent understanding, well improved by education and travel, he united a peculiar elegance of mind and manners, and the advantage of a pleasing person. It is said he possessed a pretty taste for the fine arts, and had himself attained some proficiency in poetry, music, and painting. His knowledge appeared without ostentation, and embellished by a diffidence that rarely accompanies so many talents and accomplishments, which left you to suppose more than appeared.
His sentiments were elevated, and inspired esteem ; they had a softness that conciliated affection. His elocution was handsome, his address easy, polite, and insinuating. By his merit he had acquired the unlimited confidence of his general, and was making a rapid progress in military rank and reputation. But in the height of his career, flushed with new hopes from the execution of a project the most beneficial to his party that could be devised, he was at once precipitated from the summit of prosperity, and saw all the expectations of his ambition blasted, and himself ruined.
The character I 'nave given of him is drawn partly from what I saw of him myself, and partly from information. I am aware that a man of real merit is never seen in so favorable a light as through the medium of adversity. The clouds that surround him are shades that set off his good qualities. Misfortune cuts down the little vanities that in prosperous times serve as so many spots in his virtues, and gives a tone of humility that makes his worth more amiable. His spectators, who enjoy a happier lot, are less prone to detract from it through envy, and are more disposed by compassion to give him the credit he deserves, and perhaps even to magnify it.
I speak not of André's conduct in this affair as a philosopher, but as a man of the world. The authorized maxims and practices of war are the satires of human nature. They countenance almost every species of seduction as well as violence; and the general who can make most traitors in the army of his adversary is frequently most applauded. On this scale we acquit André, while we would not but condemn him if we were to examine his conduct by the sober rules of philosophy and moral rectitude. It is, however, a blemish on his fame that he once intended to prostitute a flag, about this a man of nice honor ought to have had a scruple, — but the temptation was great. Let his misfortunes cast a veil over his error.
Several letters from Sir Henry Clinton and others were received in the course of the affair, feebly attempting to prove that André came out under the protection of a flag, with a passport from a general officer in actual service, and consequently could not be justly detained. Clinton sent a deputation, composed of Lieutenant General Robinson, Mr. Elliot, and Mr. William Smith, to represent, as he said, the true state of Major André's case. General Greene met Robinson, and had a conversation with him, in which he reiterated the pretence of a flag, urged André's release as a personal favor to Sir Henry Clinton, and offered any friend of ours in their power in exchange. Nothing could have been more frivolous than the plea which was used. The fact was, that besides the time, manner, object of the interview, change of dress, and other circumstances, there was not a single formality customary with flags, and the passport was not to Major André, but to Mr. Anderson. But had there been, on the contrary, all the formalities, it would be an abuse of language to say that the sanction of a flag, for corrupting an officer to betray his trust, ought to be respected. So unjustifiable a purpose would not only destroy its validity, but make it an aggravation.
André himself had answered the argument by ridiculing and exploding the idea in his examination before the board of officers. It was a weakness to urge it.
There was, in truth, no way of saving him. Arnold or he must have been the victim; the former was out of our power.
It was by some suspected Arnold had taken his measures in such a manner that, if the interview had been discovered in the act, it might have been in his power to sacrifice André to his own security. This surmise of double treachery made them imagine Clinton would be induced to give up Arnold for André, and a gentleman took occasion to suggest the expedient to the latter as a thing that might be proposed by him. He declined it. The moment he had been capable of so much frailty, I should have ceased to esteem him.
The infamy of Arnold's conduct, previous to his desertion, is only equalled by his baseness since. Besides the folly of writing to Sir Henry Clinton that André had acted under a passport from him, and according to his directions while commanding officer at a post, and that therefore he did not doubt he would be immediately sent in, he had the effrontery to write to General Washington in the same spirit, with the addition of a menace of retaliation if the sentence should be carried into execution. He has since acted the farce of sending in his resignation. This man is, in every sense, despicable. In addition to the scene of knavery and prostitution during his command in Philadelphia, which the late seizure of his papers has unfolded, the history of his command at West Point is a history of little as well as great villanies. He practised every art of peculation, and even stooped to connection with the sutlers of the garrison to defraud the public.
To his conduct that of the captors of André formed a striking contrast. He tempted them with the offer of his watch, his horse, and any sum of money they should name. They rejected his offers with indignation, and the gold that could seduce a man high in the esteem and confidence of his country, who had the remembrance of past exploits, the motives of present reputation and future glory to prop his integrity, had no charms for three simple peasants, leaning only on their virtue and an honest sense of their duty. While Arnold is handed down with execration to future times, posterity will repeat with reverence the names of Van Wart, Paulding, and Williams.
Fisher Ames was born in Dedham, Massachusetts, April 9, 1758, and died in his native place July 4, 1808. He was a precocious youth, and was sent to Harvard College at the age of twelve. After graduation he spent a few years in teaching, and then entered upon the study of law in Bo ton. He commenced practice at Dedham in 1781. He was early prominent in his profession, and was equal.y distinguished as a political speaker and & sayist. He was the first member of Congress from his district which included Boston, and he continued to represent it for eight years. During his whole career he was an ardent Federalist — a fact which the reader is rarely allowed to forget in any speech, essay, or letter.
Mr. Ames possessed uncommon vigor of mind; his memory was stored with literary treasures : his fancy was active, furnishing ilustrative images that were as much to the purpose as his logic. And such was the effect of his oratory, even upon deliberative bodies, that on one occasion Congress adjourned on motion of Ames's chief opponent in debate, for the alleged reason that the members ought not to be called upon to vote while under the spell of his extraordinary eloquence. The speeches of Mr. Ames that have been preserved fully sustain his great reputation, being vigorous and logical in statement, and adorned with the graces of a lively and learned style. His letters, also, are fresh and charming. When we remember how much was done to influence public opinion by the private correspondence of leading men in the last generation, we must lament the decay of letterwriting as a fine art
Mr. Ames was a man of amiable temper and irreproachable character; and though he was idolized by the public, it was only in the light of his home that he was fully known as he was one of the wisest, wittiest, as well as most tender and constant of men.
His life was written by President Kirkland, of Harvard Coilege, and his works have been edited by his son, Hon. Seth Ames, justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts. (2 vols., 8vo.)
[Letter to Josiah Quincy.)
February 1, 1806. MY DEAR SIR : Messrs. Trask and Wheelock, two knights of the currycomb, in Bromfield Lane, and proprietors of the stage through Dedham to Hartford, from a sheer love to the public, are willing to use and abuse their horses to expedite the mail in eighteen hours in summer, provided that Congress will order the postmaster-general to make a contract with them to carry it three times a week. Even love, you know, grows faint if unrequited. Here we sit in darkness; and instead of having the light of the newspapers - the only light men can see to think by, shed dingy and streaked every morning, like Aurora — we often have to wait, as they do in Greenland, for the weather and the northern lights. The town stage is often stopped by rain or snow; the driver forgets to bring the newspapers, or loses them out of his box. This is our bad condition here. How much worse it is ten miles farther from Boston, you may conceive. The darkness might be felt. Now, as the government alone possesses information, and as the stage horses alone are the pipes for its transmission to the printers, who are the issuing commissaries to the people, we, the people, the rank-and-file men, ask our officers, through Trask and Wheelock, to provide for our accommodation. Let us have food for the mind every other day.
The middle road is the nearest by twenty or twenty-five miles ; besides, Mr. Dowse lives upon it, and as it is tow all turnpike, in fact or on paper, and as fifty miles of it through Connecticut, without granting the petition, might not in any season, if at all, get knowledge of Mr. Wright's bill, and his bounty for shooting Englishmen, the public reasons are the strongest imaginable for ordering the postmaster-general to make such a contract. It would not cost much ; and as the increase of mails increases letter-writing, who will say that ultimately it will cost anything ? The only sensible economy in farming is to spend money; it may be so in government matters.
To be serious, there can be no doubt the public good requires the arrangement in question, as Sam Brown, George Blake, and Dr. Eustis subscribe the petition. The Worcester road may seem to be attacked, by the conferring the high prerogative of a mail three times a week on a parallel road; and Granger's bowels may yearn for his imperial city of feathers and wooden trays, which is situated on the route through Springfield. Pray do what you can for these folks, and get others to help you. Even Mr. Randolph ought to promote these views, as it will, no doubt, increase the number of the readers of his speeches.
Yours, truly, &c.
[From a Letter to Timothy Pickering.!
FRENCH CONQUEST OF EUROPE.
February 14, 1806.
LATE events, I confess, lessen my confidence in the military capacity of resistance of all the foes of France, England not excepted. A fate seems to sweep the prostrate world along that is not to be averted by submission, nor retarded by arms. The British navy stands like Briareus, parrying the thunderbolts, but can hurl none back again ; and if Bonaparte effects his conquest of the dry land, the empire of the sea must in the end belong to him. That he will reign supreme and alone on the continent is to be disputed by