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IF Arthur Middleton had given no other proof of his enlightened and firm mind, and of his generous spirit, than that of having staked his life, his fortune, and the welfare of his family, by putting his name to an act, which was fated to produce such glorious results, the American people should feel no slight degree of interest in acquiring some knowledge of his private character, some account of the source from which he sprung, and some particulars of the share which he took in the labours and peril of the day.
In looking back on the scenes of the revolution, something is every day lost to the view. The curtain has dropped ; the actors have disappeared ; and little else remains on the mind but the moral denouement of the piece. Those who witnessed the representation, not only beheld the great scheme of the drama going on, but felt their interest warmed and kept up, both by various exhibitions of individual character, and by a knowledge of the parts which those indivi duals had played on the more confined theatre of provincial politics. It was a matter of course, that no man could be deputed to represent the interests and feelings of the people in the great council of the nation, who had not given early and decided proofs of having participated in those feelings, and of possessing some knowledge of those interests.
At that day a seat in the American congress was not to be obtained by electioneering or intrigue. The appointments were made by the provincial legislatures; the service was one in which much was confided to the discretion of the delegate ; and those who made the choice, had too near a view of consequences to put every thing to hazard by inconsiderate selections. It would be unjust to affirm, that there were not many individuals in the several states, who had equal claims to the confidence of their fellow citizens with those who were delegated to represent them in congress, at the commencement of the revolution. But many of the former preferred occupying stations in which their ardent zeal for the public cause was more agreeably exercised by being brought into contact with the enemy, and where their achievements could acquire for them more immediate reputation than could possibly be obtained by those, the results of whose efforts could only be determined by time. The service of some of these men could not be dispensed with in military commands. Those who had served in the provincial regiments were supposed, with reason, to possess more knowledge of the art of war, than such as had never been engaged in military enterprises. To these were added others who had evinced proofs of a martial spirit, although hitherto untried in the field of danger. Commissions were offered to them; and under their commands, regiments were more readily formed.
But if impartiality requires the admission, that the delegates to the American congress, at that eventful period, had in some respects their equals ; justice no less compels us to assort, that they had not their superiors in zeal and devotion to the public cause ; nor were they excelled in reputation for
integrity, withont which perfect confidence could not be reposed in them.
In the present state of the country, closely united by a national representation, submitted to the operation of the same national law, and, as it were, amalgamated by the various relations arising from these causes, no opinion can be formed of the very dissimilar state of manners, habits of life, and modes of transacting public business, which existed at the commencement of the revolution, in the different British provinces. Little connexion subsisted between the different sections of the country, however contiguous; the intercourse between the extremes of the continent was limited, and only kept up from motives of curiosity or business. England was the point of universal attraction, and the exertions of industry, as well as the calls of pleasure, terminated there.
In the New England and northern states, great simplicity of manners prevailed; babits of strict economy were inculcated, and a knowledge of public matters universally diffused. In the southern and middle states, greater distinctions in society existed ; a more aristocratical spirit, and a more refined taste, were diffused through the educated classes, and the people left the administration of political affairs to what were termed the gentlemen of the country. These derived most of their ideas, and their modes of thinking, from England. Many of the planters, and men in easy circumstances, had been sent to that country, (then fondly termed home,) to cultivate their minds, in early youth ; and at a more advanced period, to form their manners by a nearer view of fashionable life. They were, therefore, not ignorant of the greatness and resources of the British empire, and when they consented to throw off the yoke, could not underrate the perils of the attempt. If then we are to seek for the
cause which produced unanimity in men of such various habits, and which effected a compact so firm, out of materials so loose, it can only be found in the spirit of the English institutions, which had taken deep root in every part of the then British colonies, and which flourished with equal vigour, from one end to the other of the North American continent. The descendants of the men who resisted the arbitrary encroachments of Charles I. displayed no less alacrity than their ancestors in offering prompt and systematic opposition to the unauthorized acts of the British parliament. This spirit of resistance will occasion the less surprise, when we refer to the histories of the several colonies: from the first moment of their civil organization, to the commencement of the revolution, we find constant discussions between the colonial assemblies and the proprietary or royal governors, upon every point in which the rights, or liberties, of the colonists were in the least assailed. To account for this unwillingness to yield to arbitrary power, it must be recollected, that most of the American colonies were established at a time when a knowledge of civil right had made great progress in England, and when the investigation of its doctrines had excited much warmth in the minds of all classes of society. Although the colonies had received, at different times, large accessions of population from various parts of Europe, the English character still predominated, and the anxiety to restrain the strides of arbitrary power, and to ensure certain rights and privileges to the subject, which had characterized that people, and distinguished it from all the other nations of Europe, had not abated by being transplanted to a distant soil. It seems difficult to account for the indifference which the people of Great Britain have uniformly evinced towards the United States, whose growing prosperity and importance
might so naturally be supposed to awaken in them a feeling of pride. Surely no happior commentary could be imaginod, on the superior excellenco of the English constitution, than that which is now presented to the world, in the existence of the American republic. All who are not blinded by inveterato prejudices, must allow, that no other European power could have thrown out a colony, equally capable of erecting itself into an independent nation, and of submitting its happiness and its destinios to the operation of equal laws, emanating from the will of the majority. It must not be forgotten, that in their contests with the proprietary governments, and subsequently in the great struggle with the British parliament, the colonists never ceased to invoke the genius of English liberty, and to refer their exertions in defence of their rights, to tho genuino spirit of British subjects. That spirit which prompted them to resistance, was the spirit that had animatod Hampden, Pym, Vano, and a host of English worthies, and which can certainly never be disowned by the virtuous and well informed portion of the British nation.
Although in America we know no distinction of rank, and desiro no privileges from the merits of our progenitors, yet it is believed, that there are few individuals, however they may be disposed to ridicule the feeling in others, who would not look with complacency upon a line of virtuous and onlightened ancestors, and who would not feel themselves animated by a double portion of honourablo zoal, if they could say that their fathers, for soveral generations, had been conspicuous for their services in the public cause. In the enjoyment of this feeling, it is certain, that there is no family in America which has the advantago over that of Mr. Middleton. It is of English descent, and a branch of it, with which a constant intercourse has been kept up, is settled in