Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

were Cyrus Griffin, afterwards judge of the United States' court for the district of Virginia, and General Benjamin Lincoln. The commission was closed in the same year..

In the year 1790, Colonel HUMPHREYS was appointed minister to the court of Portugal, and was resident there, as a diplomatic representative of his country, until the year 1797, when he took leave of that court, having been transferred to the court of Madrid, where he continued until the year 1802.

At that time, Thomas Pinckney, minister to England, was transferred to the court of Spain, and Colonel HUMPHREYS took leave, and returned to the United States.

During his residence in Portugal, he was authorized by special powers to open negotiations with several of the Barbary states, with a view, as well to obtain the liberation of many American citizens, held in captivity, as to secure our commerce by treaties from further spoliations; the act authorizing him to appoint agents. In furtherance of his duties, Colonel HUMPHREYS (who had made a short visit to the United States in the early part of the year 1795, in order to render full personal representations on the subject of Barbary aggressions,) returned to Europe in April, 1795, accompanied by Joseph Donaldson, consul for Tunis and Tripoli; who was to be employed to negotiate the treaty, while Colonel HUMPHREYS himself went to France, to obtain the aid of the French government.

In aid of Mr. Donaldson, Joel Barlow, then residing in France, was appointed to act in the negotiation. Through the agency of Mr. Barlow and Mr. Donaldson, treaties were subsequently formed with Algiers and Tripoli, and “approved and concluded” by Colonel HUMPHREYS.

Several of the most important of Colonel HUMPHREYS' diplomatic communications, have recently been presented to the public. They are considered by enlightened statesmen as being creditable to him, both as a national jurist and a correct and lucid negotiator.

During his residence in Europe, Colonel HUMPHREYS corresponded with his friend Dwight, in poetical epistles, and wrote several of his best compositions in verse. On taking leave of the court of Lisbon, he addressed a sonnet “To the Prince of Brazil,” which was translated into Portuguese verse,” by “the Marshal General and Commander-in-chief, Duke de Alafoens." His correspondence with General Washington was of the most friendly and confiding character, and Washington expressed a strong desire, that he would, after his return from Europe, make Mount Vernon his permanent residence, as the

companion of his declining years. During his residence abroad, Colonel HUMPHREYS married, in the year 1797, in Lisbon, a daughter of John Bulkley, an English resident merchant, of great wealth.

While minister at the court of Spain, he received the afflicting intelligence of the death of his venerated chief and friend. He wrote on that occasion a letter of condolence to Mrs. Washington, remarkably beautiful in expression and delicacy of feeling, and subsequently, on the 4th July, 1800, pronounced a poetic eulogium on the character of General Washington, at the house of the American legation in Madrid; which was forwarded to Mrs. Washington, with a dedicatory letter.

Previous to his departure from Spain, he purchased a flock of one hundred sheep, of the best selected merino breed, and forwarded them to the United States, from Lisbon. It was was an important and valuable accession to the agricultural and manufacturing interests of his country; and the allusion to the golden fleece of Jason, inscribed on his monument, is not less correct than beautiful. Colonel HumPHREYS also contributed to agricultural interests, by the introduction of Arabian horses, and good varieties of English cattle. His important services were justly appreciated by enlightened citizens, and in December, 1802, “the Trustees of the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture,” transmitted to him a gold medal, with appropriate devices, and a complimentary inscription.

From the year 1802, until 1812, Colonel HUMPHREYS devoted his time, almost exclusively, to agricultural and manufacturing pursuits. He erected, in that part of his native town, Derby, now known as the incorporated village of Humphreysville, (a name conferred in compliment to its founder) one of the earliest, and then the most extensive wool, cotton, and paper manufactories in the country. It is still in active and successful operation.

He did not resume his station as an actor in public life, until the year 1812. Among the revolutionary men who were then called from their retirement to mingle again in the strife of nations, Colonel HUMPHREYS was found ready to obey the summons; and to render his aid in sustaining his country, during the perilous trials of a second war with England. In the years 1812, '13 and '14, he was a representative in the legislature, from the town of Derby, and bore an active part, in organizing the state troops for the purposes of local defence.

In the year 1812, he took command of a corps of state troops, composed of “volunteers exempt by law from military duty.” The corps was raised under an act passed in the August session of 1812, and

Colonel HUMPHREYS was then commissioned as the special commander, with the rank of brigadier-general.

His public services terminated with the limitation of that appointment.

General HUMPHREYS was, in personal form, of lofty stature and commanding appearance; and, whatever peculiarities may have blended with his manners and address, impressed those who viewed him even as strangers, with the conviction, that he possessed high intellectual as well as physical powers. His early reputation as a scholar; his indulgence in poetic enthusiasm, fostered by youthful associates of kindred feelings; the countenance and support of the ablest officers of the revolution ; his free admission to counsels, on whose result an empire's fate depended; and finally his long residence at European courts, were well adapted to affect the mind of a young man with sentiments of self-esteem, that gave to his manners the appearance, perhaps, of vanity and ostentation. He was fond of dress and equipage; and, although his sentiments and public conduct were such as to prove his devoted attachment to republicanism, yet, like John Hancock, he was not insensible to the brilliancy of courtly style. His fondness for display (since it must be acknowledged as a trait in his character) is redeemed by the consideration, that he made, on all occasions, his personal gratifications secondary and obedient to public duty.

During his early career in the army, this characteristic was manifest, and observed even by foreign officers. In an unpublished manuscript letter from General Kosciusko to his friend Pierce, paymaster-general of the northern department, now before the writer, dated 30th July, 1778, in commending his regard to the board of officers, he incidentally notes the qualities of his friend HUMPHREYS, by requesting his correspondent to consult him as a person peculiarly familiar with the rules of military etiquette, if he were at loss as to the mode of complying with his wishes.

Anecdotes have been mentioned, alluding to the same peculiarity during his residence with Washington.

As a prose writer he was correct and animated in style, and exhibited less of display than would have been expected from his sanguine temperament. Generally, his writings of that description are graceful, unaffected, and free from redundancy of ornament.

As a poet, considering the peculiar circumstances under which he wrote, he is entitled to a respectable rank among the bards of the country. Some of his lighter effusions are marked by a playfulness and vivacity that evince his sensibility to the most sportive and gay attractions of fancy,

After his return from Europe, his occasional literary productions were collected and published in an octavo volume, in 1804. As this work was arranged under his personal direction, it may be presumed to embrace all selections from his compositions before that date, that he wished to note as connected with his character as an author. It is dedicated by him to the Duke de Rochefaucault, who had been his personal and particular friend in France.

Colonel HUMPHREYS, in the first and concluding paragraphs of his dedication, conveys sentiments of independence and patriotic virtue to his titled friend, that the history of his life warrants us in believing to have been as heart-felt as they are correct. They are as follows. In the commencement he says:

" It is consistent with the frankness of a free-born American to say, that your noble blood and immense possessions would be of little consideration with the republicans, whose constitutions of government you have made familiar to your own nation, by translating them into French, if unsupported by your personal merit and amiable accomplishments."

In the conclusion of the dedication, Colonel HUMPHREYS makes this remark: "In presenting for your amusement the trifles which have been occasionally composed at my leisure hours, I assume nothing beyond the negative merit of not having ever written any thing unfavorable to the interests of freedom, humanity, and virtue.”

A perusal of his writings, certainly will induce a ready assent to the truth of this observation; and it may be added, that it is more than "negative merit,” that ever poetical writings, which are so liable to be tinged by a licentious freedom of expression and thought, should have been composed by a soldier and diplomatist, in his hours of relaxation, without being affected by the contaminating influence of camps and courts.

The principal poetical writings of General HUMPHREYS, embraced in his collection, consist of “An Address to the Armies of the United States," and poems “On the Happiness of America," "On the Future Glory of the United States," "On the Industry of the United States," “On the Love of Country," and "On the Death of General Washington." Besides these patriotic and more elaborate productions, he has preserved many lighter effusions, both of a grave and humorous character, several of which are felicitous as well in expression as in thought.

His prose writings, aside from diplomatic and other official papers, relate almost entirely to such subjects as are connected with patriotism and political economy.

Among these productions, the life of General Putnam, the lionhearted chief, is the most elaborate. It is a beautiful tribute of a young soldier to his teacher in the art of war; and will always maintain an interesting rank among the literary records of the fathers of the republic. It was dedicated, through their president, Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth, to the state society of the Cincinnati in Connecticut, to be preserved in their archives; and is mentioned by the author, as “ the first effort in biography that had been made on this continent.”

To this essay may be added two orations before the Cincinnati society; "A Memorial to the Legislature," for its incorporation; “Re marks on the War with Tripoli ;” “ Thoughts on the Necessity of Maintaining a Navy;" " Means of Improving Public Defence," in a letter to Governor Trumbull; “A Dissertation on Merino Sheep,” besides numerous minor productions. Many of Colonel HUMPHREYS' writings, in poetry and prose, have passed through numerous editions in Europe and America, and have been favorably noticed by critics in both hemispheres. His friend, the accomplished Marquis de Chastelleux, translated into French without the knowledge of the author, his poetical “ Address to the Armies of the United States," and accompanied the publication in Paris with an elegant introductory notice, highly complimentary to his talents and character. It need not be added, that his American friends, Barlow, Dwight, and Trumbull, were ready in offering their testimonials of affection and respect.

He received while in active life the honorary degree of doctor of laws from three American colleges, and was associated, as member or fellow, with numerous literary institutions, both in Europe and America.

The last years of his life were principally spent in New Haven and Boston, and his attention during that time was directed more to personal concerns than public engagements.

He died of an organic affection of the heart at New Haven, on the 21st February, 1818, aged sixty-five years. His remains were interred in the burial-ground of that city, over which has since been erected a plain but lofty and durable granite monument. The epitaph which briefly, and with no exaggerated praise, relates his history, was written by his early and faithful friend, the Hon. John Trumbull.

E, B.

« AnteriorContinuar »