Графични страници
PDF файл

and practiced by royal governors that they detested and despised it, and would have none of it in the General Government. The States themselves had their governors and legislative bodies, but the Federal Government was devoid of executive power, except so far as the Federal Legislature by its own acts assumed 'them under the articles and executed them through its President.

Upon the assembling of Congress, under the new Articles of Confederation, on the 2d of March, 1781, JOHN HANSON was present as a Delegate from Maryland. He was born in Charles County, southern Maryland, in the year 1715, and was therefore at this period fast approaching the time which is allotted to men by the patriarch-three score and ten-yet he was as active as ever in the great struggle for independence. Years had not diminished his ardor nor lessened his devotion to the cause. He was descended from a family who originally dwelt upon the Eastern Shore of the State, in the good old county of Kent. His was one of the most influential families in the province. His personality stands in direct contrast with that of CHARLES CARROLL. His education was obtained in the land of his nativity, not in foreign countries. His occupation was that of a Maryland landowner, a tiller of the soil, dwelling amidst his large plantation; a Protestant in faith, and, naturally, an adherent of the house of Hanover.

In early manhood he began, by reason of his position, to take great interest in the affairs of the colony. He represented Charles County in the lower house of the assembly in numerous sessions, and in the exciting times when the oppressions of Great Britain upon the colonies augmented from year to year he participated with thoughtful conservatism, which gradually developed—not by passion, but by reason and principle-into a determined opposition to the mother country. His fame spread throughout the province, and he ranked high among the accepted leaders of the move::ent for resistance. He was among the strongest and stanchest advocates of the “Maryland associations," and was among the first to sign the agreement obligating himself, “by the sacred ties of honor and reputation, not to import nor purchase any article thus taxed or which should thereafter be taxed by Parliament for the purpose of revenue," and he was the first in Charles County to openly compel the reshipment of goods sought to be imported.

In 1773 the march to the westward had already begun, and Frederick County, which has proven to be one of the richest agricultural districts in the United States, began to attract prominent settlers. JOHN HANSON was in the vanguard of the march of the new pioneers, and settled in Frederick County in 1773. Already well known as a leader in the State, his activity was transferred from Charles to Frederick County. In 1774 he was appointed a Delegate to the General Congress at Annapolis and also elected a member of the committee of observation for the colony. He was active in organizing the Maryland Line, and contributed freely from his means, not only to his own State government, but it is recorded of him at this time that he sent £200 sterling for the relief of the poor of Boston, then suffering by reason of British invasion. Thenceforward we may trace his history, ever in the forefront, serving in various capacities upon committees and in assemblies.

In 1775 the Maryland convention issued its declaration of independence, known as the “Association of freemen of Maryland.” This meant the downfall of the proprietary government and the assumption of power by the provisional government of the people themselves. Matthew Tilghman was the president of this convention, and JOHN HANSON one of its most distinguished and forceful members. During his chairmanship of committee of observation in Maryland, which practically governed the colony, the attempt of Lord Dunmore and his fellow-conspirators to destroy Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania by fire and sword was discovered and frustrated. When Maryland had ceased to be a province and became a State under its own constitution, John HANSON was again

a member of the general assembly, and in 1779 was elected a Delegate to the Continental Congress. In November, 1780, he was reelected to the general assembly of Maryland, but declined the honor and resigned his office, he being at the same time a member of the Continental Congress from his State.

Here it may be remarked that when he resigned his office he said to the people of Frederick County that the best man they could send in his place was Thomas Johnson, the famous first governor of Maryland when she was free.

On November 28, 1781, JOHN HANSON was reelected to Congress for his third term, and with Daniel Carroll subscribed to the ratification of the Articles of Confederation for his State.

The organization of the new Congress began, and John HANSON, of Maryland, was chosen as President, and thus became “President of the United States in Congress assembled," occupying that exalted position until 1782, during the eventful period when the American armies, in conjunction with their French allies, finally triumphed, when beneath the rays of an October sun George Washington received the sword of his captive, Cornwallis. The great labor accomplished, independence won, and the nation in its formative period, with every indication of advancement and success, John HANSON, now a man old in years as well as high in honors, retired from public life, seeking seclusion and rest.

He was the first “President of the United States in Congress assembled," and his hand guided the fortunes of the new nation in the year which brought the final success of American arms, after a long period of vicissitude and changeful fortune. He was not a man of selfish ambition, but became active in the affairs of his native colony by reason of his love of country and steadfast purpose to stand by and for the right. That he loved home better than the arena of political life is evidenced by his correspondence with his nearest and dearest of kin. As we read some of these epistles written to his wife and to his son-in-law, Dr. Philip Thomas, of Frederick, we are impressed with the fact that only a high sense of duty kept him for five and twenty years constantly engaged in public service, and allowed him to retire only when his fondest hopes had been realized in the consummation of freedom and self-government for his native land. I trust I may be pardoned for presenting to public view an extract from a letter which was evidently intended for his family, dated at Philadelphia, September 4, 1782. He wrote as follows:

As to my serving as a delegate in our assembly next year, I hope my friends will excuse me. I think the public can have no further claim to my services. I have performed my term of duty and they must give me a discharge. Retirement to people of my age must be most desirable, and I hope I shall enjoy it in the future without being censured for withdrawing from the public service.

But the effect of the arduous labors of a lifetime of constant effort in the great cause soon called him to a more lasting rest than that afforded by the seclusion of his estate, for on the 22d day of November, 1783, he passed out of this life into the future, where it is said, “just men are made perfect.”

CHARLES CARROLL lived long beyond JOHN HANSON. To him was vouchsafed a life filled with honors even in his declining years. The services which he rendered to his State and to the Union can not be too highly appreciated. The Articles of Confederation had been well denominated “a rope of sand,” and the formation of a strong, lasting Union was necessary as between the sovereign States. Common oppression and mutual disasters had united them in a desperate endeavor to obtain freedom.

At the conclusion of the struggle the army was disbanded, Washington resigned his commission and lived quietly at Mount Vernon; but notwithstanding his private station, he stood first in the hearts of his countrymen, and he was worthy of their high esteem. His patient endurance more than any other quality had brought final success to the American arms. It was reserved for him to do as great a service for his country in civil life as he had rendered upon the field. He it was who appealed to his countrymen to form a more lasting Union by the adoption of a Constitution creating a Federal Government. His influence was necessary, he alone had the power of leading the various and conflicting interests of the colonies to this conclusion. Among the very first of the leaders in the various States with whom he had consultation was CHARLES CARROLL, and through CHARLES CARROLL Maryland was induced to favor a convention and assist in the formation of a Constitution and finally aid in its adoption. Thus he rendered to the State and to the Union service of supreme value. He served in the Senate of the United States under the new Constitution, for the adoption of which he labored valiantly and faithfully. Then in the senate of his State for a decade, and after that came retirement from public life, receiving in private station from his fellow-citizens the honors which were due to him as the first and greatest citizen of his State. The end of. his glorious life came on the 14th of November, 1832, he having reached an age almost unprecedented among the men of his time—almost 96 years. He was the last survivor of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Such was the character, such were the services of the two Marylanders whom our statues typify as the best product of the manhood of our soil. They have passed away, but they shall be ever remembered, and their fame will extend into the distant future. Their influence has not ceased. True it is, the principles which they evolved and for which they struggled seem at present to be obscured by an eclipse. If it be so, would it not be well upon this occasion to call a halt in the fateful march, would it not be well to look backward, and, if necessary, retrace our steps until we may stand again in that altitude where our vision will become bright and clear, where the flash light of an indiscreet ambition, of a desire for “world

« ПредишнаНапред »