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ghosts of Brindley and the Duke of Bridgewater would have confronted him; but because he did not, is it to be tolerated that an idle traveller, passing along the results of their labors, should usurp it? They were indeed viewed by the eye of genius, and we accordingly find the name of Gouverneur Morris indissolubly connected with that of Mr. CLINTON, in the active inception of the project. As early as 1812, they were deputed as commissioners to ask the aid of Congress. They found little sympathy and less support. They returned from their bootless errand, and in their report, used this thrilling language :-" These men console themselves with the hope, that the envied state of New York will continue a supplicant for the favor and a dependant on the generosity of the union, instead of making a dignified and manly appeal to her own power. It remains to be proved, whether they judge justly who judge so meanly of our councils."
Union did not, however, exist in these councils. Opposition was always at hand—magnifying the expense, denying the utility, or doubting the practicability of the undertaking. For several years the contest was uncertain ; but at last the effort succeeded, and all difficulties vanished. It is of this period that the editor of the American (Mr. Charles King) speaks in his beautiful obituary notice. the great work of internal improvement he persevered through good report and through evil report, with a steadiness of purpose that no obstacle could divert; and when all the elements were in commotion around him, and even his chosen associates were appalled, he ALONE, LIKE COLUMBUS, on the wide waste of waters, in his frail bark, with a disheartened and unbelieving crew, remained firm, selfpoised, and unshaken.” “Is it (he adds) extravagant or unjust to say, that, like Columbus, he was recompensed by opening new worlds to our intercourse—vast regions, which the canals of New York must be the means of subduing, civilizing, enriching ?"
The burst of exultation that extended from Lake Erie to the ocean, in the autumn of 1825, when the canals were completed, was to Mr. Clinton like the triumph to an ancient worthy. It is given to few men to earn so proud a civic wreath. The madness of party, which subsequently removed him from the office of canal commissioner, served only to render his gratuitous services more conspicuous.
During the last years of his life political hostility was greatly allayed. It seemed to be felt, that the people, without regard to party, desired his elevation; and he sought to reward their partiality
by suggesting and promoting whatever might promise to increase their prosperity and happiness. Disease was, however, sapping the foundations of his vigorous constitution. It is highly probable that he labored for some years under an organic affection of the heart or its vessels. Symptoms strikingly characteristic of such a complaint were very manifest during the delivery of his address to the alumni of Columbia college, in May, 1827; and it is understood that he was alarmingly, though but temporarily ill, during the ensuing summer. There is every reason to believe that he was conscious of his situation, and that his mind was in a state becoming such a period. He did not intermit in his public duties, but was, with scarcely an omission, found daily at his chamber in the capitol, during the session of the legislature.
On the day of his death he had attended there as usual, and on his return home had written several letters during the afternoon. At a few minutes after six, on the evening of the 11th of February, 1828, while sitting in his study and conversing with two of his sons, he complained of a stricture across his breast; and almost in a moment thereafter, his head fell forward, and life was extinct.
Such was the fearfully sudden departure of this great man. It was the fortune of the writer of this article to be in Albany at the time; and certainly never was a place in greater agitation, nor a population buried in more profound grief, than when the sad news spread like lightning through its streets. The legislature were not unmindful of their duty to themselves and the deceased. Whatever of funeral pomp the civil and military authorities, the crowd of citizens, and appropriate emblems of mourning could present, was exhibited in the solemn march to the grave.
Throughout the state, and, indeed, the nation, deep and sincere sorrow was expressed. The representatives of the state at Washington assembled to pay their tribute of respect to his memory. Mr. Van Buren, then a senator, (now vice president,) spoke of him in a manner befitting his station and character. "All other considerations out of view, (he observed,) the single fact that the greatest public improvement of the age in which we live was commenced under the guidance of his councils, and splendidly accomplished under his immediate auspices, is of itself sufficient to fill the ambition of any man, and to give glory to any name. The triumph of his talents and patriotism cannot fail to become monuments of high and enduring fame. We cannot, indeed, but remember, that in our public career collisions of opinion and action, at once extensive,
earnest, and enduring, have arisen between the deceased and many of us. For myself, it gives me a deep-felt though melancholy satisfaction to know, and more so to be conscious, that the deceased also felt and acknowledged, that our political differences have been wholly free from that most venomous and corroding of all poisonspersonal hatred. But, in other respects, it is now immaterial what was the character of those collisions. They have been turned to nothing, and less than nothing, by the event we deplore; and I doubt not that we will, with one voice and one heart, yield to his memory the well-deserved tribute of our respect for his name, and our warmest gratitude for his great and signal services. For myself, so strong, so sincere, and so engrossing is this feeling, that I, who, whilst living, never, no, never, envied him any thing, now that he has fallen, am greatly tempted to envy him his grave with its honors."
We have but a small space left to speak of the character of Mr. Clinton. Many of its leading traits may be inferred from the preceding narrative. He was bold and decisive in conduct, tenacious of his purpose, and stern to those whom he considered as his enemies. He was not unfrequently charged with haughty or reserved manners; but we apprehend that much of this is to be attributed to a distrust in the success of his public performances. He was, in fact, a diffident man throughout his life; and hence the charm of his conversation, and the lights of his intellect, improved by extensive and varied reading, could only be appreciated (and there how delightfully!) in the private circle. Occasionally it is to be regretted that he indulged in a disposition for ridicule. What he intended should only be harmless mirth, from his situation, and the malevolence of those who retail the conversation of the great, often turned into venom that rankled and stung him.
If he had these faults, he had greater virtues. No one ever enlisted a more numerous or a more devoted body of personal friends. His frankness commanded their respect, his decision their esteem, and his public and patriotic views their admiration.
We have said that he read much. This indeed was one of the most striking traits of his intellectual character; and to it he owed much of his reputation. He disdained to be superficial. He informed himself on all subjects connected with his duties, and, as far as leisure would permit, studied natural history with all the love of a devotee. That he was occasionally incorrect or misinformed, is what must always be expected, whilst our scientific men have to beggar themselves in purchasing those libraries which other governments delight in spreading before their subjects.
Mr. CLINTON improved his style by much practice. Its predominant characters are vigor and clearness. He erred occasionally from indulging in diffuseness, and, in some of his productions, a want of connection may be detected. Many, however, it must be recollected, were written in haste, or for temporary purposes. When « the matter matched his mind,” as in some of his messages, and in his addresses to our naval heroes on presenting them with the freedom of the city of New York, his manner often rose to eloquence.
If there was any figure in which he delighted, it was antithesis; and his success in it frequently gave double force to the severity of his sarcasm.
As a public speaker, he was somewhat deficient in voice and animation; but he was always listened to with profound attention, from the talent displayed in discussing the important subjects to which he devoted himself.
His form was emphatically that of one of “nature's noblemen.” Tall, erect, commanding, with a countenance beaming with intellect, no one could meet him without being struck with his appearance, or conceiving that he bore with him the attributes of greatness.
"In all the private relations of a father and a husband, Mr. ClinTON was most exemplary, amiable, and indulgent."
Such was the individual “who,” to use the eloquent language of President Nott, of Union College, "during a life so short, so changeful, and yet, withal, so fortunate, was able, not only to fix some impress of his mind on most of the institutions under which we live, but also to grave the memorial of his being on the bosom of the earth on which we tread, and in lines, too, so bold and so indelible, that they may, and probably will continue legible, to successive generations.”