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archbishop Laud. Norton wrote Latin with elegance and purity; his name was celebrated in various nations of Europe. Less is said about Roger Williams before he left his native country. He was young, and perhaps did not preach with the same force as he wrote. All who peruse his works will wonder at the vast expansion of his mind, and lament the eccentricities of his conduct.
The succeeding generation bore a resemblance to their fathers in their character, but were not equal to them in erudition. The writer of the Magnalia divides into three classes the eminent preachers, who emigrated to New England. The first were in the exercise of their ministry when they came over. They were educated either at Oxford, or Cambridge. The second class comprehends those, whose education was unfinished, and had only such advantages to complete it, as they could obtain in the plantations. Mr. John Higginson, Mr. Sherman and Thomas Thacher were the most famous among them. The third consisted of those who were ejected from the ministry, after the restoration of the monarchy, and establishment of the episcopal church. These were pious and good men; but in their literary accomplishments they were not superiour to those who were educated at Harvard College, which was the only seminary in North America for many years. This institution could not vie with the colleges in Europe for endowments; but during the civil wars of England, the universities lost their ablest professors, and less attention was paid to the means of making eminent scholars. We may well suppose that polite literature would fall pros trate with the laws of the realm. Few went to the pure fountains of classical knowledge, though many Greek and Roman authors were read. The works of their theologians, some of whom were great and excellent men, displayed the stores of learning without the skill and graces of composition. The quaint style and manner, which then prevailed in England, was imitated by our American divines. They were as much disgusted with the works of the English writers,who lived in the reign of Charles or of William, as the most famous authors in Great Britain, in those reigns, were disgusted with the writings of the preceding age. Cotton Mather, the most voluminous American author, and a man of immense learning, has very little credit with the present generation, because his narrations are so prolix, and so many strange
things occur in so strange a style. He was a man of unbounded fancy, astonishing memory, but of no judgment. With his
marvellous stories he has, however, collected many facts, and it would be unpardonable if the author of this work did not pay a tribute to his memory. Every writer of the affairs of Massachusetts is much indebted to him for the use of his materials.
From the date of the new charter we find very few leading characters, who were not born and bred in the colonies. There was no great encouragement for men, who had genius and talents, to come over to New England for the sake of gaining a subsistence. At this time, it has been said, that learning was at a low ebb in our country. A late writer has thus described the college at New Haven: "The students had heard of a certain new and strange philosophy in vogue in England, and the names of Boyle, Locke and Newton had reached them, but they were not suffered to think that any valuable improvements were to be expected from philosophical innovations" This description is much exaggerated by the prejudices of a party writer. One of the governours of Connecticut had been the intimate friend of Mr. Boyle, and was a principal founder of the royal society. Two of the corporation of Harvard College were fellows of the royal society at this very time, and the mode of instruction was the same in both seminaries. Can we suppose that the Newtonian philosophy was not adopted, or that the first characters in their churches and colleges were sitting so contentedly in the shades of ignorance? From our sketches it will appear, that we had at this period not only students in the new philosophy, but scholars who excelled in polite learning. Philological inquiries grew fashionable, and very excellent productions appeared from the hands of gentlemen in civil life, as well as from the clergy. It is true that these were days of tranquillity, and such times are not favourable to great exertions. If we except the disturbances, which were caused by Indian wars, we can hardly conceive of a more happy state of society, than New England exhibited for the first half of the 18th century. The people were submissive to the laws. There was order in the cities, peace in the villages, and religion in the temples. These are not the times to display great talents any more than great
Chandler's life of Dr. Johnson, president of King's College.
crimes. When occasion called forth the exertions of American citizens, they discovered vigour, abilities, as well as patriotism, strong and manly virtues with political skill, and all that energy of character necessary for raising provinces into an empire. During the course of the war, the officers of the American army showed courage and magnanimity. They were brave, active, with a spirit of enterprise, and would have obtained distinction in the armies of Europe. The members of the first congress were viewed with admiration bordering on enthusiasm. Their abilities as statesmen, and their political integrity, did honour to the United States, and gained them respect from the great men of other nations. They certainly have a claim upon the gratitude of posterity. If more particular attention have been paid to one part of this biographical work, it is in doing justice to the characters of those who lived between the peace of Paris, and the commencement of the American revolution. The age of the writer made every thing impressive. He was acquainted with those who were active in our publick concerns, and has been favoured with written accounts, that are strengthened by the opinion and conversation of those who are still alive. Whenever he has recurred to the publications of the day, he has endeavoured to gain collateral evidence to make the representation just. In writing biography we ought to be very careful about taking the character from newspapers. Facts are not always to be depended upon; characters very seldom. If the deceased had virtues they are exaggerated by his friends; and how often are particular delineations made by those who knew not the man! A pen is employed which is elegant, and if the sketch is done in the best manner, there is no inquiry whe ther it be true? If we had no other knowledge of men, but what we get from newspapers, would there be a proper discrimination between the good and bad members of society?
A remark of a similar kind may be made upon funeral sermons. If they are not in the style of eulogy they are not printed. What the preacher says he doubtless believes; but how often is his opinion different from that of his audience? How many funeral orators paint nothing? Such performances require a nice and delicate pencil to finish; but,in general, they are the most unstudied compositions of their authors. This is not, however, what first excited the remark. Our objection is, that they are not pure
sources of information. A preacher is to say nothing but good of the dead; a writer of lives nothing but the truth; for he exhibits men as they were. The preacher is apt to give a general view of the characters; it is the object of the biographer to enter into the most minute details. All funeral sermons, however, are not liable to the same censure. Those preached upon the death of ministers sometimes bring an obscure clergyman into view, who preferred the shade, as the most agreeable situation, but whose virtues and talents ought to be known, that others might be stimulated by the example. On the other hand, preachers often say better things of their brethren than they deserve; upon no occasion is friendship or flattery more indelicate. ly manifested. The reputation of the deceased depends insome measure upon the orator. If his performance be admired, strangers who read it will think highly of the subject. If the discourse be dull or inelegant, it perhaps is not printed, and no character published. However eminent the deceased was in life, he is not known beyond the line of his near acquaintance, among whom his reputation is long preserved by a most affectionate remembrance.
The author of this work has taken the freedom to mingle his own observations with the documents received from others. His taste always led him to collect curious mss. and ancient books; he was favoured with many letters of the Hutchinson and Oliver families; and had free access to the books and mss. of the Massachusetts Historical Society. He has mostly written from one general mass of information, which he has been many years in collecting; but where he has been indebted for principal facts he has pointed to the main source of his intelligence. The original design was to give a view of eminent men in North America. The difficulty of obtaining documents, or such peculiar notices as are necessary for proper delineations of characters,induced the writer to confine himself to New England. Some articles in its present form are omitted, which would be equally interesting as those which appear. Certain notices, which he expected to receive, did not arrive till it was too late for their insertion. He particularly regrets the omission of judge Trowbridge of Cambridge, gov. Jerks of Rhode Island, Mr. Hobart of Fairfield, Mr. Ellsworth, Mr. Tracy, and several other gentlemen of distinction in Connecticut.
In the beginning of the work, several lives are disproportionate to the general scale, which obliged the author to compress the articles in other parts, and under the last letters of the alphabet to introduce no person who has died since the commencement of the nineteenth century. Among those are several magistrates of this state, president Willard and professor Tappan of Cambridge, and several eminent clergymen. Memoirs of these gentlemen have been published lately, and their characters ably and fully delineated; but with the addition of such names, any work would be materially improved. If the book should ever pass through another edition improvements may be expected.
For the errors which the reader may find in the following pages some apology ought to be made,especially for the transposition, of several names and the misplacing of figures in the dates. These are corrected among other typographical errata. One name is introduced, page 351, which ought not to appear among persons deceased. Those who thought the information of his death correct, are happy to learn that the gentleman still lives.
In the course of his proceeding the author has been indebted to several friends for their suggestions, encouragement and assistance. Without their kind attentions his labour would have been wearisome. The delicacy and warmth of their friendship have excited sensations which are better felt than expressed; for their literary communications, as well as tokens of their esteem and affection, he begs them to accept his grateful acknowledgements,