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the records of our country, exhibit him; feeling it to be the duty I was under to the Society, to its interests and purposes, and to candor, to look at and portray him just as I have done. Like other men, he had weaknesses; but no man can point to any act, or expression, of his private life, even, that shows the slightest stain upon his character. Though a member of no church or religious congregation, he yet was an unquestioning believer in every article and creed of the Christian religion; and had no respect for, or patience with, the sentiments of its opponents. He cherished, especially, the moral virtues of honesty, fidelity to friendship, gratitude; and never forgot the services, how slight soever, that any rendered him, nor failed to grieve for those who
forgot the favors he
had done them. There were, of course, in his life, some of the latter, as there are in that of other men, but his charitable spirit made him willing to refer their defection to some temptation of the devil which they were too weak to resist. But he never trusted them again; his knowledge of human nature would not allow that. Nor did he permit them, by any act of his, to suppose that he could. Still he could not descend to vindictiveness. Such was the absolute sway, almost, that John M. Clayton held in Delaware, politically, from 1828 till the close of General Taylor's administration, a period of more than thirty years, that he never once failed to lead his political friends in the course he preferred-which shows not only the superiority of his judgment with respect to the affairs of his
party, but that there was no fault in him as a leader that could form a nucleus for opposition. He reigned supreme; as a party leader should, who possesses in the eminent degree he did, sagacity, oratorical power, unselfishness. Men there were of his own party who envied his power and hoped to destroy it; but whenever they essayed a movement for that purpose, it was always defeated. His party in Delaware knew that he was their champion, and not the small men who assailed him; and they clung to him with all the fidelity which loyalty to their own party advantage required of them. And such fidelity, they well knew, could not be yielded to a worthier person. Nor less had he the respect of his opponents. They made war upon him, of course, and upon the political theories he supported; but, at the same time he did nothing, public or private, that abated their admiration of him in the least. Oh for the return of the days when men could pardon the difference of opinion of their political adversaries, and respect the honorable methods they took for enforcing it!
I beg you believe, that, when the time time came for performance of the task I assumed, in accepting the invitation of the Society to read, before its members, a memoir of the late John M. Clayton, I regretted your selection, because I felt that, in every step of my progress in the work of preparation, I should feel, and painfully too, that other hands than mine ought to have been employed for a service, all the more difficult, because the subject of it was of such importance, in his day and generation, that only the most comprehensive observer and delineator of men's character, could do full justice to his merits. Although John M. Clayton, if he had been as wise as Solomon, could not have attained the renown which,
in this country, only crowns the career of great political, national leaders because he was a citizen of the smallest State in the Union-yet, he had a fame as a statesman, jurist, and man of splendid forensic abilities, which, in his day, was very wide and solid, and was promised in his young life by the intellectual gifts he then showed that he pos
sessed. All his friends and acquaintances felt, ere he stepped upon the stage of real, active, public life, at the bar, even, that he would soon attain an eminence, among men, of the highest grade. Were such anticipations realized? That is for you to say, when I events of his life, his career, prithe limits of this paper
have recounted the
birth and parentage of our
In England, in tracing family descent, it is considered a matter of the first importance to be able to say, of the subject of a memoir, that his ancestors came over with the Conqueror; as if it should afford those calling themselves Anglo-Saxon Englishmen any satisfaction to be able to carry back their lineage to the conquerors of Harold. With us in America, it is quite the fashion to be able to say, that such an one's ancestors came to these shores in the Mayflower; as if there were any merit in such parentage beyond that which can be claimed at any time, by those descended from any other immigrants seeking to establish, in a new home, modes of Christian worship more in accordance with their notions of fitness than the prevailing ones whence they came; or that they came here in the train of Lord Baltimore, a nobleman of courtly lineage and fame, and of great renown also as that Catholic ruler who allowed, at that day, in his most enlightened liberality, perfect liberty of conscience to the settlers upon a domain as fair as that within the boundaries given to
him and his descendants, by his royal sovereign;or that they represent the posterity of the stout Dutch burghers who laid the foundations of New York, and settled the fine territory of the New Netherlands, from the ocean, along the magnificent river of Hudson, to many miles beyond the mouth of its tributary, the Mohawk. While these different stocks were being planted, in the course of the diffusion of European population over America, another set of emigrants came to her shores a body of men and women whose high moral worth, and peaceable spirit, won for them, at once, from the savage possessors of the country, where they disembarked, their confidence and affection. These people brought neither arms in their hands, nor the passion to use them if they had been there, disdaining, as they did, all success that could only be secured by the use of weapons of war, and preferring to rely rather upon the mild influences of that religion which proclaimed peace and good will to all men, barbarians as well as civilized. While their courage was not that displayed by the warrior, or the man of strife, they had yet, in an eminent degree, that rarer quality of bravery which is shown by doing right according to God's law, in the face of all men. These were the Quakers, the cotemporaries of William Penn, and his companions, rather than followers, in his journey towards the sunset to take possession of the domains granted to him by his sovereign, Charles II., and the Duke of York, Charles's brother, by their respective charters of alienation.