« PreviousContinue »
its contents, and the peculiar claims that it presents for a kind reception from the public. All that was wanted to secure immediate attention was a simple announcement of the fact, that Miss Farley was the editor of the Lowell Offering, and one of the most successful contributors to it; and that, encouraged by the favorable notice which has been taken of that periodical, both in this country and in Europe, she has collected from it, and published in a separate volume, her own fugitive pieces, both in prose and verse. The book, therefore, does not properly come under our cognizance at the present time, as two thirds of its contents are in sober prose. But we wished to assist in making its publication more widely known, so that the public may be able to form some estimate of the character and attainments of the females who are employed in the mills at Lowell. It shows what use was made of her leisure by one who spent twelve hours a day at the loom.
The appearance of the Lowell Offering was regarded as a strange phenomenon in England ; but it excited comparatively little surprise here, where the blessings of education are so widely diffused, and a higher rate of wages, with a more earnest desire for independence, induces many to devote themselves to manual labor who are well qualified for a more ambitious, but less lucrative, calling. A farmer's daughter finds that she can earn more money by employment in a cotton factory, than by teaching a country district school; and as nearly all distinctions of class are merely nominal in this country, it is not strange that she should choose the shortest road to independence. It will be her own fault, if she is not quite as much respected in the mill as in the schoolhouse. Miss Farley's book shows more talent certainly, but not a higher degree of cultivation, or a wider range of reading, than is quite common among her associates in labor. She writes with facility and correctness, showing a tolerable command of expression, and an instinctive good taste. Her poems are smoothly versified, and display considerable fancy and humor, with frequent indications of deep feeling. She is evidently most familiar with Burns and Mrs. Hemans, and two of her imitations of the former, The Mouse's Visit, and the Lines addressed to the Comet of 1843, in the manner of the Address to the De'il, are quite successful. Certainly, the perusal of her volume was the least disagreeable portion of our task, when we undertook to give our readers some account of nine new poets. ART. VII. - The Life of William Alexander, Earl of
Stirling, Major-General in the Army of the United States, during the Revolution ; with Selections from his Correspondence. By his Grandson, WILLIAM ALEXANDER DUER, LL. D. Published for the New Jersey Historical Society, by Wiley & Putnam. New York. 1847. 8vo. pp. 272. Few contributions to the literature of our country are more useful than those which furnish the biographies of our distinguished men. In recording the actions, and giving an insight into the character, of those who have rendered valuable services to the republic, they at the same time bestow a
reward on the faithful public servant, and hold up a valuable example to those who would tread the same honorable career.
Moreover, the private records from which they are usually compiled often bring to view much that has escaped the documentary history of the times, and serve to cast a brighter light along the track of general history with which they are connected.
While Mr. Duer, therefore, has performed an act of filial duty in presenting to the public the papers of his distinguished ancestor, he has also made a valuable contribution to the existing materials for our national history. The narrative, too, with which he has skilfully connected the correspondence, that comprises the chief part of his work, supplies agreeably the information which the reader would desire, and enables him to form a just estimate of the actions and character of one of the fathers of our independence. From the volume before us we propose to give a condensed view of the life, services, and character of Lord Stirling.
William Alexander was born in New York, in 1726. His father, James Alexander, was a native of Scotland, who having served at an early age as an engineer officer in the of the Pretender, in the rebellion of 1715, on its suppression, took refuge in America. Through the interest of friends, he obtained employment, on his arrival, in the office of the secretary of the province, and devoted his leisure assiduously to the study of law. His mathematical acquirements soon obtained for him the appointment of surveyor-general of the provinces of New York and New Jersey. He was also ad
army mitted to the bar in New York, and, practising in the intervals of his duties as surveyor, according to Smith, the historian of the colony, "attained great eminence for his profound legal knowledge, sagacity, and penetration.” In 1720, Governor Burnet appointed him a member of his council. According to the biographer, — " It was not merely as a lawyer, a politician, or a statesman, that Mr. Alexander was distinguished, but also as a man of science. He was not only the principal author, with Dr. Colden, of the memorable report on the Indian trade, in defence of the policy of Governor Burnet, but, together with Dr. Franklin, Francis Hopkinson, and others, founded the American Philosophical Society. He maintained, moreover, a constant correspondence with Halley, the Astronomer Royal at Greenwi and other learned mathematicians in different parts of Europe, upon subjects relating to their common pursuits.” James Alexander died in 1756, leaving an ample fortune to his children.
William Alexander had received the best education the country at that time afforded, and had the advantage of private instruction from his father in the exact sciences. Early in life he had engaged in commercial pursuits, and subsequently joined the commissariat of the army.
“ The zeal, activity, and military spirit he displayed in the discharge of his duties, in the field as well as in the camp, attracted the notice of the commander-in-chief, General Shirley, whose staff he was eventually invited to join as aide-de-camp and private secretary. In this capacity he served during the greater part of the war, which, although not formally declared in Europe until 1756, had actually commenced on this continent some years before. It was thus that young Alexander had an early opportunity of acquiring a knowledge of military affairs, during three severe campaigns in which he served with General Shirley.
In an interval of his service with the army, the enlightened benevolence which marked his character exhibited itself in his uniting with five of his fellow-townsmen in laying the foundation, by a donation of " six hundred pounds to purchase books for the people,” of the adınirable institution now known as the New York Society Library. About this period he married Sarah, the eldest daughter of Philip Livingston, proprietor of Livingston manor.
General Shirley having been superseded in the military command in the Colonies,
“ Major Alexander accompanied him to England in the autumn of 1756, to aid in the settlement of his accounts, and to indicate by his testimony the character of his commander. He was accordingly examined as a witness on his behalf at the bar of the House of Commons, in April, 1757, and his evidence contributed materially to the justification of his friend and patron. The candor and intelligence of the young American in giving his testimony received the marked approbation of the House, and contributed, with the interest of Shirley, and the letters he had brought with him from other military men of rank and family, to facilitate his introduction to some of the most eminent public characters in England ; while his conciliatory manners, social accomplishments, general information, and enlightened views in regard to the mutual interests of the mother country and her colonies, recommended him strongly to their esteem and confidence. Among the friends distinguished by rank and station that he made at this period was the eloquent and ingenious Charles Townshend, the versatility of whose talents has obtained a permanent celebrity in the splendid eulogy and quaint metaphors of Edmund Burke.”
James, the father of William Alexander, was known, at the time of his leaving Scotland, to be the presumptive heir to the title of the Earl of Stirling. On the death of that nobleman, in 1737, James Alexander was probably prevented from laying claim to the title by the circumstances under which he left his native country, being implicated in the rebellion of 1715.
His son, William Alexander, being free from reproach on this account, and having received from his father a considerable inheritance which he had increased by marriage, so as to render his fortune sufficient for the support of a Scotch earldom, felt bound to make good nis claim to a title which he considered rightfully his own. Nor was Mr. Alexander's object in procuring himself to be judicially recognized as the heir male of the deceased Earl of Stirling limited to the attainment of the peerage alone. The estates of the last earl in Scotland had all been sequestrated for the benefit of his creditors. But there remained large tracts of country in America, which had been granted to his ancestors, and which had escaped the sequestration, as well on account of their remoteness, as their inconsiderable value at that period. The progress of time, settlement, and the consequent development of resources, had now given to these tracts no trifling present,
and immense prospective value, which their enumeration will suffice to show.
They consisted first of Nova Scotia, next of Long Island, and lastly of St. Croix or Sagadahock, a territory comprising all the present State of Maine lying eastward of the Kennebec river. The last Earl of Stirling had conveyed his title to Long Island and St. Croix to the Duke of York, in consideration of an annuity of £300, which is said never to have been in any part paid. The right of the earl to make this conveyance was also questioned, by reason of his having refused to enter on the inheritance of his father, on account of the debts with which it was encumbered, chiefly in consequence of the expenses incurred by his father in colonizing his American estates; he had therefore abandoned it to sequestration. The American estates had eventually come to be administered by the crown, which now enjoyed the quitrents.
Under these circumstances, Mr. Alexander was persuaded to hope, that if he could make good, as he had just reason to believe he should, his claim to the earldom of Stirling, the inheritance of the family estates in America might follow. This inheritance he offered to divide equitably with the descendants of the female branch of his family in England, who cordially assented to his proposition, and authorized him to proceed in their_behalf. Having made his claims known to his friends in England as well as in this country, “it was,” says his biographer, “ from the encouragement of Mr. Townshend, the Duke of Argyle, and the Earl of Bute, in addition to the persuasions of General Shirley, and of his friends Messrs. Thomas and John Penn, the proprietaries of Pennsylvania, and of Mr. Morris, their governor of that province, that Mr. Alexander was induced to lay claim to the vacant earldom of Stirling.'
Having obtained the highest legal opinions in favor of his claim, among others that of Mr. Wedderburne, afterwards Lord Chancellor and Baron Loughborough, he repaired to Edinburgh in the summer of 1757, and remained there a year, occupied, with the aid of eminent counsel, in collecting the testimony necessary to substantiate his title to the peerage, and in instituting the proper legal proceedings to establish it. These matters not having been accomplished without the law's usual delay, Mr. Alexander returned to