« AnteriorContinuar »
their lands are still called by their names. Anecdotes of some of them are still current among their people. Their record is on high.
As has already been mentioned, the leading Federalists and the ministers of Connecticut were opposed to the war of 1812. Still they were decidedly in favor of resisting, by force of arms, all invasions and raids by the British. State troops were embodied for that purpose, and provision was made even for raising, for the same purpose, a body of exempts, under the command of Gen. David Humphreys, the aid-de-camp of Washington.
In the summer or early autumn of 1814, a frigate, a sloop of war, and several tenders were lying at anchor, near Faulkner's Island, belonging to the blockading squadron off New London, commanded at one time by Commodore Hardy, and afterwards by Admiral Hotham. These vessels, thus lying at Faulkner's Island, were regarded by the neighboring towns, Guilford, Branford, and Killingworth, as a standing menace. They would sometimes bellow forth from their great guns, their mimic thunder, to “startle the dull ear of night," and fill the minds of the fearful with forebodings of forthcoming evil.
One morning, about eight or nine o'clock, a man came riding through the streets of East Guilford, now Madison, from west to east, crying “Turn out! turn out! the British are coming! the British are coming!" On the word, numbers of the young and active men went down to the west wharf, to defend a vessel on the stocks against any attacks by the British. On our arrival, we found what proved to be two barges, forty-six men on board each, armed with muskets, there being a short cannon at the bow, a six-pounder, for carrying grape shot. These barges, impelled by the strong arms of trained oarsmen, came rushing along on the level brine, directly towards the vessel, behind which we had taken our position, and where we had determined to give them a warm welcome.
Suddenly these barges changed their course, and steered directly for the east wharf, where they would arrive sooner than we could, who had to follow the windings of the shore. One of them went to the east side of the wharf, and proceeded to cut out a sloop, loaded with earthen ware, from Norwalk. Her consort took a position on the west side of the same wharf, nearly south of Scranton's fish-house, and about twelve or fifteen rods from the shore, for the purpose of supporting her.
Our company, increased to forty or fifty, took their position back of the beach, east of Scranton's fish-house, and commenced to fire upon the supporting barge. One of our men fired seventeen rounds at the barge, and another not more than seven, and all of them averaging about ten rounds. The prize having been carried off, the two barges left us.
In the early part of the action, Dr. John Eliot, the clergyman, and Dr. Jonathan Todd, the physician, came down on their horses, to be ready for the cure of the bodies and the cure of the souls. Both of them took their position under a hickory tree, and awaited the issue. A charge of grape-shot passed through the top of the tree, cutting off some of the branches, but without doing any further injury. Some of the elderly men told me that this was just what used to happen in the time of the Revolutionary War.
The minister and the physician always came down as soon as there was an alarm, to be ready for service. On this occasion there were none of us killed, thanks to the bad shooting of the British, though it was said that we killed two men, who were buried the next day on Goose Island, near Faulkners Island.
In one such skirmish during the Revolutionary War, there was a man by the name of Meigs killed by the British in East Guilford, near Fence Creek, just east of East Wharf.
From the time of the meeting of the Federal Convention in 1787 to the close of the administration of John Adams in 1801, the star of Connecticut in the political hemisphere was in the ascendant, if not in its culmination. In that period Wm. Samuel Johnson, Oliver Ellsworth, and Roger Sherman had great influence in the Federal Convention. In that period those three men were a portion of the time Senators. There was Oliver Ellsworth. There was Oliver Wolcott, and Roger Griswold ; there was Eliphalet Dyer, and Jesse Root, and Charles Chauncey; there was Stephen Mix Mitchell, member of Congress, Senator, and Chief Justice of the State. In that period Samuel Huntington was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. In that period was Johnathan Trumbull, the second Governor of that name. In that period Samuel W. Dana was a leading member of Congress, and one of the best, if not the best, scholar in that body. Chauncey Goodrich was at that time a leading member of Congress, of whom, when he was afterwards a Senator, Mr. Jefferson remarked: “I would give more for the opinion of that gray-headed Yankee than for that of one-third of the Senate.” The following is the well-known testimony of Mr. Calhoun, from his speech in the Senate of the United States, February 20, 1847: (See Calhoun's Works, vol. iv, p. 354.) “ It is owing—I speak it here in honor of New England and the Northern States—it is owing mainly to the States of Connecticut and New Jersey, that we have a federal instead of a national government—that we have the best government instead of the most despotic and intolerable on the earth. Who were the men of these States to whom we are indebted for this admirable government? I will name them. Their names ought to be engraven on brass and live for ever! They were Chief Justice Ellsworth, Roger Sherman, and Judge Patterson of New Jersey. The other States farther south were blind; they did not see the future. But to the sagacity and coolness of these three men, aided by a few others, but not so prominent, we owe the present Constitution.
“So completely did the National party succumb, that during a large portion of the latter part of the sittings of the convention the word “National' was not named. The Federal,' and the Union, became the favorite names. The National party was completely overthrown; and what is remarkable, the very men who took the lead of the National party, assumed the name of 'Federalists,'—clearly showing that it had become the favorite name.”
Having thus given the testimony of one distinguished man, Mr. Calhoun, in favor of Connecticut, I should hardly be excusable if I omitted to give the testimony of another, namely, Alexis de Tocqueville. This distinguished man, after spending some time in the United States, published in the year 1835, his celebrated work, De la Democratic aux Etats Unis; universally considered as the ablest work ever written by a foreigner on the nature of the confederation formed by the adoption of the present Federal Constitution. The translations of his two volumes were published in 1836 and 1840, which gave him great reputation in this country, as the original work had in countries in Europe.
Not long after this work was published, a number of American gentlemen celebrated the 4th of July in Paris, and invited Monsieur De Tocqueville to be present. Among the remarks made on the occasion Connecticut was mentioned by a native of that State. Upon this Monsieur De Tocqueville arose and exclaimed:
“Connect-de-coot, Vy, messieurs, I vill tell you, vid the permission of de presidante of this festival, von very leetal story, and then I vill give you von grand sentiment, to dat little State you call Connect-de-coot. Von day ven I was in de gallery of the House of Representatif, I held one map of the Confederation in my hand. Dere vas von leetle yellow spot dat dey called Connect-de-coot. I found by the Constitution he was entitled to six of his boys to represent him on dat floor. But ven I make de acquaintance personelle with de member, I find dat more than tirty of the Representatif on dat floor was born in Connect-de-coot. And then ven I was in the gallery of the House of the Senat, I find de Constitution permit Connect-de-coot to send two of his boys to represent him in dat Legislature. But once more ven I make de acquaintance personelle of the Senator, I find nine of de Senator was born in Connect-de-coot. So, den, gentlemen, I have made my leetle speech ; now I vill give you my grand sentiment:
Connect-de-coot, the leetle yellow spot dat make de clock-peddler, de school-master, and de senator. De first, give you time; the second, tell you what you do with him ; and de sird make your law and your civilization ;"-and then, as he was resuming his seat amidst roars of laughter, he rose again, and with that peculiar gesticulation which characterizes all Frenchmen in moments of excitement, he shook his finger tremulously over the assembled confrères, and exclaimed to the top of his voice, “Ah! gentleman, dat leetle yellow State you call Connect-de-coot, is one very great miracle to me."
The Connecticut of to-day has much in it of the Connecticut of 1776, and much ist it of the Connecticut of 1636. Still there have been great changes in government, in agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial industry. There have been great changes in the instrumentalities of religion, in denominational opinions, and in patriarchal customs. There have likewise been great changes in educational and social institutions. The profit and loss from these changes can be better estimated from their long results, by those who come after us than by ourselves.
May that Gracious Being who holds the future in the hollow of his hand, and who can cause the wrath and the wisdom of man to praise him, so overrule the future as he has the past, that in 1976, men can say with the same adoring gratitude which ought to swell our hearts, Qui transtulit sustinet.