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It is not often in recording the lives of those who havo been distinguished in the history of the revolution, that we · can refer to them as the descendants of ancestors long prominent in the annals of the colonies, either for wealth or political reputation. It has rather been our fortune, and it ought perhaps to be our pride, that when the exigencies of the nation have demanded it, patriots have arisen from every class of society, who have displayed the energy, integrity, and talents which were necessary to fill all the stations, military and civil, which the interests of their country required.
The family of Harrison forms, in some degree, an exception to this rule. At a period extremely early in the history of Virginia, we find it among the foremost names of the province, and the honourable standing which it then held, has descended unsullied to our own times. ..
Somewhere about the year 1640, a gentleman of this name is found settled in the county of Surrey, in the province of Virginia. A tradition has long prevailed in the family, and appears from many circumstances to be correctly founded, that this gentleman was nearly related to general Harrison, the distinguished revolutionary leader during the English
commonwealth. To such an ancestor, an American may look back with becoming pride. The strong prejudices, if we may not use a harsher expression, of a powerful party, long induced them, by every art, to calumniate his character; but the testimony of impartial history has survived tho feelings of the times, and that justice which Burnet refused, and Clarendon reluctantly yielded, has been atļlength universally accorded. In point of family he was respectable ; in his early profession, that of the law, he had been instructed by an eminent attorney, who had employment under the king; and as a soldier, he displayed skill, courage, and unblemished honour. Although, according to the fashion of his times, he was ardent to enthusiasm, in religion, he was yet open and generous in all his conduct. He sincerely and warmly opposed the ambitious designs of those, who used the revolution for the advancement of their private ends. And when, at last, the return of the triumphant royalists hurried him to the scaffold, he mildly but firmly adhered to those principles which the motivés of fear on the one hand, and hope on the other, had induced so many to disavow.
The next of the family in Virginia, of whom any trace remains, is Benjamin Harrison, the son of the preceding inhabitant of Surrey. In that county he was born in the year 1645, and lived there until the thirtieth of January, 1712–13. Of that period of course few records remain, and though from his bearing on his tomb the title of “honourable,” then not promiscuously bestowed, he held some office in the government of the province, it is now impossible exactly to determine what it was. It is said of him, that during his life he did justice, loved mercy, and walked humbly with his God; was loyal to his prince, and a great benefactor to his country.