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"Andrew Meade, my paternal grandfather, was an Irish Catholic, born in the County of Kerry. Tradition says he left his native country, and went first to London, then from thence came to New York, about the latter end of the 17th century. He resided some years in New York, and then married Mary Latham, of Quaker parentage, and some time after he removed to Virginia, and settled permanently at the head of navigation on the Nansemond River.
'It has never been ascertained that he ever formally renounced the Catholic faith, though he was many years a representative of his county in the House of Burgesses, judge of the court, and senior colonel of the militia, (from his holding these offices, we may certainly conclude that he had renounced it, since test-oaths were required of such officers, and he was reputed to be an honest man. In this I am further confirmed by the fact that the name of Colonel Andrew Meade stands first on the list of vestrymen in the year 1743, when the list I have commences. (Bishop Meade in "The Old Churches and Families of Virginia," p. 292) executing these offices with advantage to his adopted country and credit to himself, particularly the two former, for which he was eminently qualified by education, which was scholastic and supposed to have been received either in France or Flanders. He is said to have been a large man, of great corporeal strength and rather hard featured, but of fine form. In the year 1745, he deceased, leaving a character without a stain, having had the glorious epithet connected with his name, long before he died, of "The Honest."
'Anything further than is above related relative to the origin of my grandfather is chiefly conjecture. When I was in England, I was much noticed by the Irish, and very particularly by Lady Forbes and her son, the Hon. Mr. Forbes, who after the death of his grandfather and father, became Earl of Grenard. Counsellor Murphy, an Irish Catholic, a cousin of my father, who had chambers in the Temple, but, being a Catholic, could not appear at the bar, was umremitting in his attentions to me. I do not know from what source I received the information, but I understood that his brother was in the French service, and was high in command, under Colonel Lalley, in the East Indies during the war of 1758, and that his uncle and patron was Colonel Meade, of the Irish Brigade, and a man of much interest at the Court of Versailles. The Clan William coat of arms is the same as ours. The honors of that house originated in the reign of George II., and I believe, not very early in it.
'The many circumstances above noted, relative to Andrew Meade, of America, being taken into consideration, it is not an improbable hypothesis, that being unfriendly to William the Third's succession to the throne of England, he was forced out of his native country, not unhappily for him, as it appears, as his fortune in America was benign, nor has it been unfortunate for his progeny.
'He left a son, David, and a daughter, Priscilla, who married Wilson Curle, of Hampton. David Meade, the son, inherited the paternal estate, and about the year 1729 or 1730 married Susannah Everard, the older of two daughters of Sir Richard Everard, Bart., of Broomfield Hall, Much Waltham Parish, in the County of Essex, England, and Susannah Kidder, his wife, eldest daughter of Dr. Richard Kidder, Bishop of Bath and Wells.
"My grandfather, Sir Richard Everard, when a young man, was a captain in Queen Anne's army, and it is probably was with Sir George Rooke, Admiral of the British fleet, when he took Gibraltar, as he remained in garrison eighteen months, being so long against his inclinations stayed there by his sense of honor altogether, he having but recently married a young wife, and he resigned his commission immediately upon his return to England. He was for a few years proprietary governor of North Carolina, which position he resigned about the year 1730, soon after all the proprietors, except Lord Granville, sold out to the crown, not being in any credit at court; for although he had served Queen Anne as captain in her army, he was probably no friend to Hanoverian succession. I have heard my mother say the he, as well as several others of the Essex Baronets, found it convenient to make himself as little conspicuous as possible during the rebellion of 1715, at the beginning of George the First's reign.
'The Lords Proprietors were all particular friends of Sir Richard, and it has been understood in the family tha this patrimony had been much reduced by adventuring in the South Sea bubble, and he accepted from the proprietors the government of North Carolina to repair his estate. At his death, he left his dame all the estate of every kind which he possessed in even of her surviving their eldest son, as is recorded in her will to be found among my papers. Her will appears to have been written before the death of her eldest son, Richard, who, by death of his father, inherited the title of Baronet. Hugh, the younger son, survived his brother, and succeeded to the honors of the family, but not the estate, as he was disinherited, for what cause is unknown to the family this day. He was killed in a naval engagement. His name is still continued on the list of English Baronets. By his death, an ancient family became extinct in the male line, and in my person is continued in the female, I being the eldest son of the eldest daughter of Sir Richard Everard.
'Dame Susan Everard, as she is styled in the Testament, left her estate, in the event of her eldest son's dying without heirs, (which proved to be the case), to her two daughters, Susannah Meade, and Ann Everard, a spinster, but who unadvisedly married Lathbury, who held some office in the Tower, and who dissipated her estate. By the will, all her jewels and furniture of a house in London were left to my mother. the furniture of Broomfield Hall is not mentioned. the real property left to the two children consisted of Broomfield Hall, in the Parish of Much Waltham and County of Essex, a farm, called the Walnut Tree Farm, in the same county, also a copyhold farm in Hardfordshire, also the freehold of Heathfield, in Sussex, with a handsome mansion on it, which is said to be the precise spot on which the Battle of Hastings was fought, between the Saxon King Harold and William the Norman, and from which place Lord Heathfield makes his title. It was afterwards sold by my mother and her sister. Also Tower-head farm, in , near the city of Wells, which was devised solely to my mother, Susannah Meade, and was sold by my father. On this farm was built by her grandfather, Dr. Richard Kidder, Bishop of Bath and Wells, a mansion with a chapel, for his wife's accommodation, in the event of her surviving him, which did not happen, for they were both killed in bed together in the Episcopal Palace of Wells, by the fall of a stack of chimneys, on the night of the great storm of 1703. Langleys, in Essex, once a royal residence, afterwards became the seat of the Everards, and was sold by my maternal grandfather. ' "
"My father, David Meade, some time before his marriage, made an acquaintance with the family of Sir Richard Everard, who resided at Edenton, the then seat of government of North Carolina, where an attachment, perfectly romantic, was mutually formed between my father and the eldest daughter of Sir Richard.
'A century ago, Hampton Roads was the receptacle of nearly all the ships which loaded within the water of Chesapeake Bay, and the chief part of the trade from North Carolina with England was through Hampton Roads. Having relinquished his government, Sir Richard Everard and his lady and two daughters became the guests of my grandfather, Meade, he living convenient to Hampton Roads, where the ship lay in which they had taken their passage to England. From some cause or other, the ship was delayed longer than was expected, which delay proved favorable to my father's views, who had but little expectation of obtaining the parent's consent to his marriage with their daughter in Virginia, and he was preparing to accompany the family to England, when the earnest entreaties of his father, who was distressed at the thought of being so long and so widely separated from his only son, prevailed upon the parents of my mother to consent to an immediate marriage. They, with the most entire confidence in his honor and affection, put their daughter under the protection of ther enraptured lover. No pair ever enjoyed more happiness in the hymeneal state than they did. They were both of them very young when they came together, and with very little experience in mankind, brought up under the eyes of fond and virtuous parents.
'My father was of handsome person and fine stature. He lived a monotonous and tranquil life. The purity of his heart corresponded with the symmetry of his person. He was the most affectionate of husbands, the tenderest of parents, and the best of masters, and an ingenuous and sincere friend. Brought up in his father's house, with such a pattern, he could not be but just, generous and hospitable. If it were thought to detract anything from his merits, it would not be here recorded that he had never studied human nature. Ever disposed to believe men to be what they should be, if he detected an individual deviating from strict probity, he considered him a monster. Venial faults excited in him astonishment, and crime horror. In fine, he was a truly virtuous man, but no philosopher. He deceased in the year 1757, being then in his 47th year. ' "
“David Meade, the grandson of Andrew and eldest son of David, was born July 29, old style 1744. In infancy he was so infirm and sickly that his fond parents, thinking that a change of climate might improve his health and prolong his life, determined to send him to England, with a view at the same time to his education. Soon after he passed his seventh year he embarked in Hampton Roads, under the protection of Mr. John Watson, a particular friend of his father, on board a new schooner, Capt. Bowman. The other cabin passengers were the Rev. Miles Seldon, as he became after receiving holy orders, and Don Ronello, the captain of a galleon from La Vera Cruz, stranded upon the coast of North Carolina, his secretary, and one officer of the ship. The passage was favorable until the last night the passengers remained on board, when at twelve o’clock, the night being very dark and wind blowing fresh, the schooner struck upon the Goodwin Sands in the channel, and continued to strike with such increased violence that it was expected by all on board that she would every minute go to pieces. In this dreadful situation all hands, including the passengers, were on deck, some way or other employed, except the was-to-be clergyman and his terrified messmate, who remained on their knees in the cabin from twelve at night until eight in the morning, when they and the rest of the passengers were taken on shore at Deal by boats from that place. The Spanish captain was impressed with the belief that Heaven had conceded the preservation of the sinners on board to the prayers of the seamen, not allowing any credit to those of the parson.
‘Mr. Watson passed with his young companion to Canterbury, where they visited the Cathedral; thence to London, arriving at night but how great was the young stranger’s disappointment, when, on looking out of the window, or door, next morning, he saw nothing but high houses built of materials which were not new to him, and black streets paved with round stones, instead of houses of gold and greets paved with diamonds, for his imagination had been thus early highly excited by fairy tales, such as the Arabian Nights. He was seized with a violent fever, which cost his parents no uneasiness (they knew nothing of it until he was well), but a good deal of money. Three physicians attended him many weeks, and part of the time twice a day. When he had attained to convalescence he was sent to a boarding school, more for the benefit of the country air than for tuition. From thence he was removed to Harrow and had the good fortune to be placed under Dr. Thackeray, Archdeacon of Surry and Chaplain to the Prince of Wales, head master of Harrow school. He was received by the venerable, worthy Doctor and his pious, charitable, and in every respect exemplary lady into their family as their adopted son, and for five years became bound to them by ties much stronger than those of nature, insomuch that the most affecting event of his whole life was his separation from them. At Harrow he made many a school acquaintance, which, if he had cultivated as long as her remained in England, with a view to the advancement of his fortune, would not have disappointed his expectations, in all probability; but, although a boy, and a subject at that time, and surely without any presentiment of the future destiny that was in reserve for him and his brethren in America, viz.: that of being elevated from the humble station of subject to the eminent distinction of citizen, he neither felt nor acknowledged any superiority in those school fellows and playmates who, themselves, were decorated with honorary titles, or whose fathers were titled men. He associated upon equal terms with any Lord, Duke, or Sir Harry.
It may, however, be proper to mention the names of one schoolfellow (several years over the age), and one other to whom he was under greater obligations than to any others, for their uniform kindness up to the time he left the Kingdom. The Hon. George Forbes, late Earl of Grenard, father to the present Earl, was, perhaps, the most steady, warm friend he had in England with the exception of Dr. Thackeray and his wife, who were father and mother to him. At the house of Lady Forbes he always spent a time, and from my Lady received all the attention and tenderness of a near relative. James West, his bedfellow at Harrow, was the other friend to be noticed. He was the son of the member of parliament for St. Albans, nephew to Lady Grantly, Attorney-General Norton, and brother to Lady Archer, well known for fifty years in a very gay, elevated life. Titles were familiar at Harrow, but no more will be mentioned. It must not be forgotten the professed scholar and great linguist, Sir William Jones was at Harrow school at the time he was, and if Dr. Parr was his friend, the son of Mr. Parr, the apothecary of Harrow, he was likewise at school at the same time, and well remembered by him. The succession of masters at a school so prominent as that of Harrow-on-the-Hill is no doubt registered in the records of that institution, but it probably does not set forth the causes of removal of such as were superseded.
The case of Dr. Cox, the head master immediately before Doctor Thackeray, was singular and somewhat tragic. Of the proprietors of Pennsylvania, John and Richard Penn, who were the last proprietary governors of that province (now state) were at Harrow school, and it is probable boarded (with many other boys) at the head master’s. John, as it was said, contracted a fondness for a daughter of Doctor Cox, and married her clandestinely. It was suspected by the family of Penn and his connections, that the Doctor had connived the elopement; but whether he did or not, the unfortunate Doctor Cox and his guiltless daughter became the sad victims of their resentment. The Doctor was disgracefully discharged from the honorable station of head master of Harrow school. She soon after died of a broken heart, and her father, deprived of his living and his reputation, did not long survive her. It is well known in America that John Penn afterwards married the daughter of Mr. Allen of Philadelphia. The pecuniary advantage of Mr. Penn’s marriage with Miss Allen was probably much greater than the more than the first which he contracted with Miss Cox: demonstrably not more honorable, but perhaps less so. The above narrative will be found upon inquiry not to be apocryphal. The humble subject of this brief biography was present at an arrow shooting at which his friend West won the prize or arrow, at which time his honored, good, and venerable head master on account of his age and the many sacerdotal duties which he had to perform took his farewell of Harrow, leaving the succession to Doctor Sumner, well known at Eaton, but afterwards better known as head master of Harrow, having for many ears filled the highest seat in that seminary. He acquired for it so high a reputation that the number of boys at it was augmented from less than two hundred to more than five hundred. Eaton alone could boast of a greater number. After a residence of about five years with Doctor Thackeray, he was, without the knowledge or even indirect sanction of his parents, removed from Harrow to a private school at Dalston, in Hackney parish, kept by Mr. James Graham, whose son, became a barrister of considerable eminence. His brother, Richard Kidder Meade, not long before arrived at London from Virginia, and was sent with him to Graham’s school. During a continuance at Dalston of two years or more he made no progress in classical learning or indeed any other. Here it may not be amiss to note that the progress which boys make at public or private boarding schools in learning the dead languages depends less upon the qualification of the masters to teach, than upon the capacities of the boys for learning. From Dalston school he was removed to Fuller’s academy in London, where, dropping the dead languages altogether, after having been at Latin and Greek seven years, he entered upon a new and very different course of learning, viz: Writing, ciphering, mathematics, geography, French, grammar, drawing, perspective, music, etc., etc., of which at the end of three years, he did not take away to impoverish the academy. He had a very small smattering of everything he had attempted to learn, but less of the languages both dead and foreign than of sciences and the elegant arts. Thus, but ordinarily qualified for the humble walks of private life, and without natural talents or acquired knowledge to move with any credit to himself in public, he left England in the year 1761, and arrived in his native Virginia some time in June of that year, having had a passage of about two months on board a ship of a hundred hogshead burden, commanded by Captain Hooper, bound to New York, and consigned to Mr. Norton of that town. A considerable fleet of merchantmen, of which Hooper made one, came into Chesapeake Bay at the same time under the convoy of the--------, 40 guns, Capt. Norton, and the Postillion, 20 guns, Capt. Jarvis, probably now Lord St. Vincents----sloops of war. The forests and the black population of his native land, after an absence of ten years, were novel, but not by any means pleasing to him, and nothing was less familiar to him than the persons of the individuals of his family. He found two sisters---Mary, married to George Walker; and Anne, married to Richard Randolph—from whom are now derived a numerous progeny. The writer left behind him at Dalston school two brothers, Richard Kidder, who afterward became aid-de-camp to General Washington, and Everard, who was aid-de-camp to General Lincoln, and was afterward raised to the rank of General, and found two at his paternal mansion born since he left Virginia. The persons of his sisters were as little known to him as those of his brothers whom he had never seen. But although he had forgotten all persons and things about his birthplace, he recognized a scene and the persons of the actors in it, to which he had been familiar from having been a spectator of it for perhaps nearly every day of his life previous to this going to England; it was two old Negro men upon a pit in the act of sawing; precisely as when he left them employed, so he found them without any apparent change in their persons. The four following years he passed with the recurrence of little incident, rather monotonous, there being little in the county of Nansemond, where his mother’s residence was, to attract a youth brought up to no occupation, accustomed to good company, and inheriting a good patrimony. He found society up James River to be more congenial to his age, temper, and habits, than any his native county could afford him. Williamsburg was the metropolis of the colony, and was the resort before the Revolutionary war, of all the gentry and merchants in the colony, also of the planters, for the purpose of drawing bills of exchange upon London, Bristol, Liverpool, etc.
The general court held its session in April and October. The amusements were balls, sometimes theatricals and races, spring and fall. In conformity with an engagement entered into some time previous, with his very intimate and much valued friends Ryland and John Randolph, the former a fine classical scholar, master of the French and Italian languages, and eloquent speaker and most accomplished gentleman, and the latter, his brother, who was the father of the much celebrated member of Congress of the same name, a worthy man of good natural parts, not so much cultivated as those of his brother Ryland, and totally without application. In conformity with the before mentioned agreement, the writer left home with the above named gentleman on a tour northward. At Hampton he hired a vessel to transport him to the head of the Chesapeake Bay, and embarked at Mill Creek, July 26th, 1765, and the next day in the evening arrived at Corotoman, upon the Rappahonnock, the seat of Mr. Carter. There Ryland Randolph joined him; John Randolph had preceded them to Philadelphia, where he was inoculated for small-pox, thence by way of Amboy to New York. They were politely received and very handsomely entertained by General Gage, the commander-in-chief. They were introduced by letters from Colonel Byrd, of Westover, and Colonel Fitzhugh, of Maryland. During the year 1766, it is well known, all British America was violently agitated by an attempt of Government to impress the stamp duty upon the Colonies. Deputies were appointed by the different legislatures to meet at New York for the purpose of remonstrating against it. Very few attended that year at New York, but a pretty full representation of the Colonies and provinces assembled in Congress the next year in Maryland.
Of the company, which was very numerous at General Gage’s table, were three deputies from Massachusetts, viz., General Ruggles, Col. Partridge, and the distinguished champion of his country’s rights at that time, Mr. Otis, who was the father, in all probability, of the modern Otis, distinguished not for his opposition to, but partiality for Britain, and his hospitality to the virtuous and popular chief, and all others who assisted in the administration of the Government of the United States. Mr. Otis, of the year ’65 appeared to be a modest, sensible man, who was no stranger to good company, of middle stature, inclining to be fat, and little (if any) over the middle age. Brigadier Ruggles was, to appearances, not less than seventy years of age, very tall, very taciturn, and of aspect neither engaging nor patrician. Col. Partridge was a pert little man, with the coat of a gentleman, he was a complete clown in his manners, and manifested the most entire ignorance of the usages which prevail in polished societies. In those days industry and enterprise were characteristic attributes of New Englandmen, hospitality and good breeding, of all above vulgar, of the Southern colonies and city, and the population more refined than it was in any other city, borough or town in North America, except Charleston, in South Carolina. There were not more than three or four close carriages in New York; that of the venerable Chief Justice Horsmanden, a very old coach, was in their service during the few days they were in the city. Neither were there any elegant steamboats in those days, for that place, which, although affording but humble accommodations, was the best to be had. During a short stay at Albany they became acquainted with a Mr. Prevost, lieutenant in the army, and son or nephew to the first general of that name. How near he was related to the redoubtable Sir George, the hero of Plattsburg, was not worth the while engaging, and now not easily ascertained. From Albany they advanced to Lake George, by way of Fort Edward; from Lake George down the lake to Ticonderoga, on the contracted part of Cham
plain; thence to Crown Point; thence down the lake to St. John’s; thence by land 18 miles, all a swamp forest, inhabited by no other living thing but mosquitoes of the highest magnitude, to La Prairie, on the hither bank of the St. Lawrence river, in sight of land and nine miles from Montreal, the site of which is a great natural curiosity and very beautiful. It may be thought worthy of notice, that in the year 1765, as you advanced up the North or Hudson river, above Albany, and near the bank of the river, where the only or most public road ran, the settlements became less frequent by pretty regular gradations until you got to Stillwater, 18 miles above Albany. At Stillwater there were very fine saw-mills, perhaps belong to the Schuyler family, and except the attendants on the mills, no other inhabitants but an old woman and a female servant or companion, who occupied a log house of two rooms, where she entertained travelers. From thence to Saratoga—about 14 miles—few if any, settlements; from Saratoga to Fort Edward, about 25 miles—at intervals of miles were settlements (so recently made that the dry leaves were still standing on the deadened timber) altogether upon the bottoms of the river. Fort Edward was built upon a very beautiful bottom of considerable extent upon the Hudson, well set with green sward of great height, and fit for the scythe. Upon an eminence on the other side of the river, nearly opposite the fort, stood a block house, mounting eight cannon. Fort Edward was a square of regular sides, with four bastions built of timber and earth. From thence to Fort George, on the south end of Lake George, were 14 miles of country without a settlement; from the south end of the lake to the landing place on the north being 36 miles. On neither side was there any human residence except on the west, about six miles from the landing, an individual in a lived in a small hut, his only companion a cat. From the landing place, where at a small block house a disbanded provincial officer, attended with an ox-cart to hire for conveyance, to Ticonderoga—only three weeks crossing. In this short distance was not kind of settlement, or the appearance of any ever having been, except the ruins of a saw-mill, which had been erected at the expense of the Crown for public use.
Arriving at Ticonderoga some time early in the day, they were politely received and hospitably entertained by the commander of the fort, a captain. There they found Sir Adam Gordon, Captain McDonald, of his regiment. Mr. Ralph Izard, of South Carolina, father of the present chief general of the United States, and Mr. John Allen of Philadelphia, who were on their return from a tour to the Falls of Niagara and lower Canada, as far as Quebec. Lord Adam was so obliging as to make them a present of his tent, which, although very old and full of holes, was the only one the company had, and proved extremely convenient to those who had the succession to it. The next morning (Aug. 23) the embarked in a sail boat with Captain Brown, who commanded at Crown Point, and arrived at about ten in the forenoon. The fort at Crown Point is a pentagon (irregular), with a bastion at each angle, built very handsomely of hewn timber, and cost the Crown 150,000 pounds. It was built by order of Gen. Amherst, and by military men judged a waste of money. The same was thought of the expenditure of 25,000 pounds by that general upon a single bastion of stone at the south end of Lake George as a part of a fort, which, when completed, was to have been square, with four bastions. On the morning of the 25th they embarked in a sail boat, heavy laden with baggage (of which they very unadvisedly started with too much), for St. John’s and emcamped, the wind changing to adverse in the afternoon, at a point on the west side of the lake, opposite to four islands called the “Four Brothers,” nearly where the lake begins to expand above, being only of the width of a small river forty miles below Crown Point. The next morning early they continued their journey as far as Isle Noir, where they were obliged to stop and continue that night, one of the part being taken with an ague, which was the second he had had on the lake. Here they found shelter in an old cottage inhabited by a German family, and it was the only settlement from Crown Point thither, with the exception of one which was said to have been made that summer, or perhaps the preceding, by a gentleman from Ireland, with several laborers, at the depth of a bay, commencing at a point opposite the “Four Brothers,” from which point to that northward which forms the bay is about two miles, and is probably the bay near which Plattsburg is situated, and same which will be memorable in the annals of the United States, and immortalize the name of McDonough, who, with his gallant associates, captured a whole British fleet in it.
On the 27th landed at St. John’s before midday, hired horses and proceeded without delay to La Prairie, where they arrived at night, a distance of eighteen miles. La Prairie, on the south bank of the St. Lawrence, is higher up the river than Montreal, and the passage from the former to the latter is nine miles in an oblique direction. The river is nearly all the way full of rocks, visible and invisible, which cause such considerable rapids that it requires skillful boatmen to conduct passengers safely across. After three days spent at Montreal, which they found under the command of Capt. Stabo in the absence of the chief commander of the military, who, with many other officers, had gone down to Quebec to receive two regiments, one recently arrived from Ireland and another that was to embark for England. Capt. Stabo, who had the temporary command at Montreal, was known by name and character to the travelers, and their connections were perfectly known to the Captain, who had resided some years in Virginia as a merchant or factor for some Scotch mercantile house. In his deportment towards them he omitted nothing that was becoming in him or that could be expected by them. It is painful here to note that some years afterward, in a fit of delirium, this gentleman put a period to his existence.
On the 31st they took passage in a sloop for Quebec—the 1st and 2nd of September dropping down the river and on the 3d, early in the morning, they landed at Quebec. On the next morning they waited on General Murray, Governor of Canada. The General’s residence was about a mile from the wall of the city, upon the Heights of the conquest of Quebec (having command of the troops left for the defense of the city) he defeated Count Levis. The mansion was unfinished and of timber. It commanded a view of the city east, the plains and distances not very limited south, west and north to the little river Charles, two hundred feet deep, and in a valley just beneath a most charming view. They went to the Montmorency, a lovely stream two hundred feet higher, nine miles over an open country, the whole of it well set in green sward, unmixed with any other grass, almost as high as wheat near harvest time, and, like wheat, waving in the wind. General Murray, the Governor, was a gentleman of the most easy, affable manners, of engaging conversation, of education suitable to his noble birth, and with more than ordinary fluency of speech. He more-over manifested by the general tenor of his practice all the hospitality of an Irishman or Southern American of the United States in so remarkable a degree that it may be questioned whether any person of elevated public station equaled him in the British Colonies in that particular, except Sir William Johnson, whose way of life at his residence on the Mohawk, above Albany, is far-famed, although in one respect subject to animadversion and censure. Gen. Murray, the generous and spirited civil ruler of Canada, was justly and little less so with the British merchants of Quebec, of whom a large proportion of his countrymen of Scotland: the effect of a cause, which, to his honor, rendered him obnoxious to the military; in the estimate of which is included only the officers, by whom the native French Canadians had been greatly oppressed, and would have continued to be, but for the humane and generous interference of the Governor, who offered them all the protection which his high civil authority qualified him to give. The object of the travelers being to see as much of the city and its vicinity as their short visit would admit of, they found it inconvenient to accept of General Murray’s very polite and hospitable invitation to make his habitation their lodging house; but they could not decline the acceptance of another memorial of his polite attention to them, vis.: every morning during their short continuance at Quebec, at the same hour, immediately after breakfast, a servant with saddle horses handsomely caparisoned, which they made use of to ride about the neighboring country. Nor was that all. They were accompanied in their excursions by a young Mr. Murray, a kinsman of the General and of his household; sometimes likewise by his father; (Mr. Murray, the son was married to a young Frenchwoman), and every day after they returned from their morning ride and had dressed for dinner, the General’s post chaise attended at their lodgings to carry them to the house where they were engaged to dine. At Quebec they one day participated in a good dinner given by General Burton, commander of the military in Canada, to the officers of two regiments, one just arrived from Ireland, the other about to embark for England, to which they, as strangers, were invited. A very obvious difference appeared between the manners of the officers just landed and those about to embark. Of the former some were very polite gentlemen, of the latter scarcely any.
On the 7th, in the morning, they departed form Quebec in their calashes—an open carriage drawn by one horse, driven by a Canadian who sits before. The distance from thence by land is 180 miles—nearly the same by water—and it is divided in three stages at each of which the traveler gets fresh horses. The road is all the distance near the river bank, and the country is mostly open; the habitation little, if any more than two hundred yards apart, the tenures being seigniories to inferior land holders. Within a few miles distance were churches near the bank of the St. Lawrence and many more crosses’ passed the Three Rivers where there was a town at the confluence of them with the St. Lawrence, was, perhaps, the third in the province and contained one or two religious houses, etc. The district is sandy, producing very indifferent grass, differing widely in the particular from the rest of Canada, which is as fine a grass country as it is possible any other part of the world can be. In the district of Three Rivers no hay was made; and, although the store has the effect of fable, yet the truth of it is not to be controverted that the inhabitants fed their cattle upon a fish called “tom cod” which were taken out of holes made on the ice with a scooping net and heaped up in stacks. Late in the evening of the 10th they arrived at Montreal. The site of the city is very fine, being between the foot of a small mountain and the river—so narrow is the space as to have been then nearly filled up by buildings. Should the city become hereafter extensive it must embrace two small mountains—the one mentioned and its twin sister—the mountain to the north of it and touching at its base.
From the summit of the northernmost of these mountains the spectator has a bird’s-eye view of the town, river and country in its vicinity, and a prospect the most extensive, variegated and magnificent that can be imagined, watered by the copious st. Lawrence, which divides here into three broad streams, which for the Isle of Montreal south, and of Jesus north, and these several channels are studded with innumerable islands of various sizes. To the south east the plain and prospect is bounded by mountains about twenty-five miles distant. To the north or north west, forty miles up the river, an avenue formed by mountains on each side, closes at a point as far as the eye can reach and down the river the same but unbounded at the extremity. Montreal was surrounded by a stone wall—perhaps not so high or so well built as that of Quebec at the upper town adjoining the plains or heights of Abraham. Neither had a ditch or was intended as a defense against artillery. Captain Claus, of the Royal Americans, son-in-law of Sir William Johnson, and deputy superintendent of Indian affairs, invited them to a congress of Indian chiefs from several nations upon the lakes (the town then being full of Indians). The Intendant introduced the travelers to each of them individually as brethren of the long knife, who had come from the south almost a thousand miles to visit Canada—with whom they shook hands. Some of the chiefs were standing, but more sitting upon the carpet on the floor.
The Intendant, after the ceremony of introduction of the long knives or Virginians, opened the congress with a speech or talk, to which several of the chiefs replied, some sitting, some standing. The Indian orators generally looked to the floor whilst speaking, seldom (if ever) raising their eyes. The sitting orators looked between their knees at the carpet. Among the chiefs was a white man of fair complexion, with light hair, not grey, although perhaps sixty years of age. He had been taken when very young from a Dutch family near Albany; brave in war and wise in counsel, he was much respected and honored amongst the nations. He spoke standing, longer and with more animation than the other orators. Altogether is was a very poor specimen of Indian eloquence. But if, after reading Logan’s speech in Mr. Jefferson’s notes and the account of his manner, the travelers were disappointed in their expectations of seeing and hearing something at this Montreal congress correspondent with the manner in which Logan deliver his speech, they at least had reason to admire the politeness of those savages as it was interpreted to them by Captain Claus. Each orator without a single exception opened his talk with a compliment to the traveling long knives, in terms which would have done credit to the most refined people, in which nothing was said superfluous, and nothing omitted in what was said.
They left Montreal on the 15th of September, and by way of St. John’s and Lake Motte Island, where they were stayed wind bound two nights and a day, during which time the old tent presented them by Lord Adam Gordon was put to good use. Left the isle early the following morning and arrived the following night at Crown Point. At this time (1765), the only mode of crossing the lakes was in public bateaux rowed by four soldiers and steered by a corporal. This, a matter of a grace which was obtained by means of orders from the commander-in-chief at New York, and was, as well as my be supposed, not less expensive than hand boats would have been, could such have been had, but all here was then wilderness, from Crown Point to Ticonderoga, where they remarked the famous French lines which were in the seven years war so gallantly defended by the Marquis Montcalm, with 4,000 men against the British General Abercrombie with 17,000. the events of the disastrous day were detailed to the travelers by officers who served in that assailing army. It is a well known historical fact that the brave and accomplished Lord Howe, a colonel, fell dead the day before the attack of the French lines, and soon after the army had landed at the north end of Lake George, from a shot fired by some concealed enemy, as he was rapidly advancing through the woods at the head of his division. A night of horrors succeeded to the next day’s defeat. We have much in British story of glorious naval victories, and but little of disgraceful defeats of British armies by land. Arrogant boasters! Take a retrospective view of the many defeats of your armies in America! But very particularly that of the lines of Ticonderoga. Advert to the genuine history of your defeat, your great loss and your humiliation there. In Europe the infamous convention of seven, when and where your Duke of Cumberland, the senior prince of the blood, and son to your monarch of that day, surrendered and army of 40,000 men to the French General. Look on the results of your many attempts at invasion of France during that war. Also the events of your last French war, and that you are waging now with America, are so recent as to be in the recollection of everybody. Britains, the fresh waves of Erie and Champlain, and the salt billows of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans will be, as long as they remain lakes and oceans, monuments of the courage, skill and glory of the American navy, and of the insolence, humiliation, and disgrace of the vain sustainers of the British flag. Will not every true American heart palpitate with emotions of patriotic exultation whenever the transactions of Chippeway, Fort Erie, and Plattsburg recur to their minds, and must not the honest, ingenuous, and modest Englishman (for such and many such there are,) blush at the dereliction of every feeling of humanity and sentiment of national honor in the British Government and in very many individuals in the infamous tools of that government, on a retrospection of the enormities committed under the sanction of three peers of high rank in the British army; at the River Raisin, at Hampton and many other places, and the ungenerous and dishonorable and dastardly violation of natural rights, at Valparaiso in Chili, besides many previous instances of the infraction of the law of nations? Britains! Powerful domineering nation, feared, not loved (perhaps hated) by neighboring states, particularly commercial states! Infant America has already shorn your laurels—may she in her more mature age bend you to a standing among nations below mediocrity.
From Ticonderoga they continued to retrace the same route they came, to the landing place at the north end of Lake George, and up the lake 36 miles to the south end, Fort George, formerly Fort William Henry, memorable for its siege early in the war by the Marquis Montcalm, governor of Canada, about which time the war carried on in America, under the auspices of Britain, was unsuccessful and disastrous; and at this place it was the year after that Provincial powers retrieved the sinking reputation of British troops, and gave a turn to the fortunes of the war by the defeat of the Baron Dieskau, whose army was routed and himself slain by American militia, under the command of that brave, intrepid officer, Sir Wm. Johnson.
Lodging one night at a settler’s house near the fort, when on their way forward, they were disturbed by a noise in a shed, from which their apartment was separated by a partition of thin boards; but with the ceasing of the noise, being fatigued with their journey of the preceding day, they soon composed themselves to sleep. The next morning, upon looking out of the door, they say a very large but poor wolf, which the settler had killed on the shed, when they heard the noise at their heads. The wolf was in pursuit of poultry, and had god his fore paws into a barrel after a cock, which had retreated to the bottom of it. Near the road from the lake to Fort Edward, on the Hudson, is a pond of standing water, then called the “Bloody Pond,” where it is said St. Luke de Cour, a Canadian officer, commanding a party of Indians in the French service, massacred a number of adverse troops, who were escorting wagons to the lake. On this day’s ride they saw upon the roadside, between the forts George and Edward, a moose deer, which trotted and galloped along a ridge of woods which ran parallel with the road three miles in the course they traveled. It moved along as heavily as an ox. They arrived at Albany the 23d, at night, where they spent only one whole day and part of another, and then proceeded down the river, as they had come up, in an Albany sloop, to New York. Spent five or six days there—four or five in Philadelphia. On their way down Chesapeake Bay, called at Col. Wm. Fitzhugh’s at Rousby Hall, eight miles up the Potomac, and on the 20th of October arrived at Corotoman, the residence of their friend, Mr. Carter, afterwards of Shirley, on James River. Here the trio separated. Mr. Ryland Randolph and his brother John proceeded home by land, and the subject of this biographical sketch down the bay, and arrived at his mother’s, in Nansemond County, very late night, Oct. 22, 1765. The two or three succeeding years were passed in the same unvaried routine that the four preceding years had been. The chief source of enjoyment he derived from the society of his friends up the James River, was principally that of Curles, the seat of Mr. Richard Randolph, who married the eldest of his three sisters. His friends Ryland and John Randolph were inmates there, and several very agreeable females were the members of the household; but although he had a heart not destitute of susceptibility of the tender passion which nature and sentiment dispose the sexes to feel for each other, and the neighborhood of Curles, including that seat, abounded with as much beauty, fashion and rank as any part of Virginia (if not more), there was wanting something in them individually that was essential to excite such sentiments in him as to secure his exclusive affections. Although he was not so vain as to believe he could have had his choice, at the same time he did not affect so much humility as to think that his pretensions were not in every quarter good. Before he left England, though then very young, he had been betrayed by example and opportunity into very blamable excesses in one or two instances, but the consequences tainted neither mind nor body—to the former, on the contrary, they proved salutary. He had naturally a warm and romantic disposition. He was a great builder of castles in the air; but conscious as he was, that he had neither face, figure nor accomplishments to qualify him for an epitome of a romance, here he prudently determined to fall in love and marry somewhat after the fashion of the people. Nevertheless he was fastidious in the choice of his object. With all the insight of folly and fault which his character was loaded, it could not be denied that he led as regular a life as any young man; that his manners were tolerably mild, that he deported himself towards rich and poor uniformly with civility, towards the latter particularly in such a manner as to induce them to believe that he felt no kind of superiority over them. That he was chaste and sober, and an avowed enemy of gaming, and free from all great vices which disturb the order and peace of society, and stamp the seal of Satan upon the perpetrator. Facts may have been inadvertently but not deliberately stated in this record, which, perhaps may not stand the test of rigid criticism, but as the foregoing history, so what follows shall be written in the spirit of truth. Candor is therefore constrained to confess that the subject of it is not entitled to the credit of positive virtues which he had not claim to. He was content with very little that was his duet—the extreme humble merit of negative virtues. With that small stock he however passed within the narrow sphere of his action as a young man of good morals, and many gentlemen, the most distinguished for wealth, talents and worth, were not backward in admitting him to their most intimate acquaintance, and in some instances to favor him with their friendship; and in one of the most amiable of this or any other country manifested so much partiality for him—not so evident to him as others who were their common friends, as to induce an opinion that he (then in so declining a state of health that he deceased in May, 1767) wished to commit his protection his daughter, an only child.
The motives to his union in hymeneal bonds to that daughter were pure, altogether disinterested and honorable. On the 12th of May, 1768, he married Sarah Waters, the daughter of William Waters of the city of Williamsburg, very soon after which event, on the death of the old Lieutenant-Governor Farquier and the arrival in Virginia of the new Governor-in Chief, Lord Baron Botetourt (who succeeded Lord Amherst, then Sir Jeffrey, the first Chief governor, who had for a long time resided at the seat of his government), feeling a little youthful ambition to become a member of the most splendid general assembly (as it was justly expected to be) that ever convened in the British Colonies and Provinces, he offered himself as a candidate for the representation of Nansemond county in that approaching assembly, and was elected first Burgess. The Assembly met in may 1769. He had been for some time previous afflicted with a tertian fever and ague, which had not left him, and he went up to the seat of government with an additional top pressure to that of fever and ague. It was of a different nature, but not less heavy upon the mind of a young man upon the eve of making his debut as an actor upon the first theater of America. The disease was painful to his body, never having before spoken in any public assembly and being charged with the presentation of several persons from his county. Under such uncomfortable circumstances he was not displeased at being commanded by the high authority of the representative of Majesty to divest himself of his honorable representative character and return to an humble station in private life. The Virginia Assembly was dissolved by His Excellency the Governor, and the young representative of Namsemond County was completely cured of his ambition. Lord Botetourt opened his first and only Assembly by the delivery of a pretty long speech in the Council Chamber, to which the house was convoked by message from His Excellency. The Governor’s deportment was dignified and his delivery solemn. It was said by those who heard and seen George III speak and act on the throne of England, that His Lordship on the throne of Virginia was true to his prototype. He spoke very slow, with long pauses. His costume was of the ordinary fashion of the day, but handsome and rich; the coat of a light red color, of gold thread tissue. From the palace in Williamsburg to the capitol was about three-quarters of a mile. When His Lordship went down the meet the Assembly it was in much greater state than any Governor of Virginia had ever before displayed. The chariot he rode in was a superbly finished one, presented to him by William, Duke of Cumberland, uncle to George the Third, and was intended for his state carriage, the Virginia arms being substituted for the royal English. During the ten days’ sitting of this Assembly the time of the house was chiefly taken up in the debate upon the important subject of the disagreement between the mother country and the colonies, and terminated in a number of spirited resolves, which the official duty of the Governor required him to express is disapprobation of. This he did in very angry terms; and, being informed of what was passing in the house, he then exercised his most extreme authority, hastened down to capitol and from the Council Chamber sent a message down by the clerk of the Council to demand the attendance of the members. The house not having completed the passage of the resolutions, the clerk who appeared in the lobby of the Assembly was for some time refused admittance, buy he did not wait very long before doors were opened to him and his message delivered. The members, without delay obeyed the summons and repaired to the Council Chamber, where they were received by His Excellency and his Council. He was dressed in a suit of plain scarlet. The speaker advanced toward him, the members following. At the usual distance form the person of the representative of Majesty the speaker stopped. A solemn pause of a minute or two ensued, when the Governor, with an assumed stern countenance and with considerable power, addressed the speaker and members of the house in following brief speech:
“GENTLEMEN—I have heard your resolves and I augur their ill effects. You have made it my duty to dissolve you, and you are accordingly dissolved.
Notwithstanding this act of official duty was so properly performed by this representative of majesty, it may be questioned whether it was altogether consonant with the judgment and feelings of His Lordship, and indeed it may be pronounced that it was not, unless he was a most consummate dissembler, which it would be unjust to his memory to believe; as the subject of this sketch heard some time after the dissolution of the Assembly, at Mr. Tristero Nicholas’ in Williamsburg, in the presence of several gentleman, the Governor declared that he should write to Lord Hillsborough(who was then seventy years old)’ who was then in the American Department of State, and assure him that unless the obnoxious acts of Parliament were repealed, he should desire to be recalled from his government. Lord Botetourt had rendered himself extremely popular in Virginia by his affable deportment towards all those, without distinction of standing in life, with whom he had any communication, either officially or casually, and died in 1771, very much and very generally lamented.
The Legislature, at its first convocation by his successor, after his decease, unanimously voted as a testimony of respect to his memory, a marble pedestrian statue, to be erected in the capitol, which vote was carried handsomely into effect, and an admirable specimen of statuary produced by the first artist of London, preserving a very striking likeness of His Lordship. It was some years afterward. In a very mutilated condition, removed to the College of William and Mary by the late very worthy and respectable Bishop Madison, President of that ancient university, and now stands in the center of the walk in front of the building, as much a monument of the barbarousness which prevailed, or at least that there was very little disposition to discountenance, and no authority to reprove or curb, as a monument and likeness of a deceased former magistrate who had merited the good will and affection of a prosperous colony. The Earl of Dunmore succeeded to the government of Virginia at the death of Lord Botetourt.
Oblivion would be the mildest fate his memory could find in American annals, but American annals will not, it is probably, be so favorable to it. The administration of the Virginia government closes when the Revolutionary war commences, but not his flagitious existence. Good histories of that war are extant, particularly those by which are Tarleton’s, Lee’s and Audburg’s. Towards the last year of 1774, which was the eve of the commencement of the Revolutionary War in America, having previously purchased a seat upon the Powhatan, or as it has been illy named, modernly, James River, he took his departure from Nansemond county. The reversion of the patrimonial seat, with about 2,000 acres of land on the west side of the creek, which was the south side of the Nansemond River, and all the rest of the tract on the east side of the town of Suffolk (about the same number of acres), on which were grist and saw mills, he sold to his brother Andrew, and removed with his household, consisting of his mother, his wife and one son—David. Here it may be well to state what might more properly have been done sooner, that of his four brothers, namely, Richard Kidder, Andrew, John and Everard—Everard the third from himself, married Mary Thornton before he had completed his eighteenth year, Richard Kidder married Elizabeth Randolph, and Andrew, at about 20, married Susanna Stith. John died at 17 years of age, about the year 1771. Maycox, in Prince George County, the estate he purchased on James River, consisted of 600 acres of very poor land; a few acres only on the baniks were good and some more improvable. The site of the house was not inferior to the best on that river, where many are good. The mansion and grounds about it will be found much too favorably described in an annual quarto publication of the Boston Historical Society, communicated by the Rev. John Spooner.* Maycox, which is on the opposite side of the river to Westover and south of it, is memorable in the early settlements of Virginia. There are very strong indications of an Indian village having in times long prior to the first landing of the Europeans on the northern continent, been there, or otherwise that it was the resort of great numbers of them at certain seasons for the benefit of mussels, the shells of which are found in masses two feed deep upon the surface, the top of it converted into soil.
It was also the theater of much bloodshed at the time of a general massacre of the white inhabitants, by the natives, when Captain Maycox, or Maycock, the original patentee from whom the place took its name, lost his life amongst the number who perished by the tomahawk. Westover, opposite, on the north bank, was the well-known seat of two in succession of the name of Byrd, who were in their day the most distinguished and wealthiest men in North America. The first Colonel William Byrd was born in Virginia and held a very considerable estate, that part of which included the ground which Richmond occupies and all below to Gilles Creek and above to Westham, a distance of more that eight miles upon the river, and form the lower line of the Falls plantation tract on the opposite side of the river to Richmond, a distance up it of twenty-five miles, including what was then called Rocky Ridge, now Manchester, derived by some kind of title from an Captain Stag, as appears from family records. Westover was a royal grant. One hundred and fifty thousand acres on Dan River were given him by government for running the dividing line between Virginia and North Carolina in 1727, associated with several others of the Virginia Governor’s council as commissioners and other in that character of North Carolina, running from the sea to the east side of the Blue Ridge of mountains.
It appears by Colonel Byrd’s journal of the line, that all the commissioners deserted him, the greater part, including the Carolinians, before they crossed the Roanoke River or soon after. At Lower Lauratown, upon the Dan, he took up a great main thousand acres, and below, several miles above and several below the confluence of the Stanton and the Dan, several thousand more, besides the above mentioned tracts. It was said he had others. The elder Colonel Byrd was educated in England, where, with a very fine person and mind richly endowed by nature, his literary acquirements were so great, that for wealth, talents, rank, influence there was not at that time in the British Colonies an individual to rival him. As much above all others was his interest at the British Court. He had made early and intimate acquaintance of several English noblemen, distinguished by their worth, talents, prowess and influence, of whom there are at this time portraits in the dining room at Westover by Kneller (some, if not all,) of the great Captain, John, Duke of Argyle, the earl of Halifax, the Earl of Oxford, Lord Orrery, Sir Charles Wager, the Admiral, and the Chancellor, Lord Egmont, which were probably presented to him as tokens of their friendship. With some of them and other men of high rank he corresponded from the time of his return to Virginia to the time of his death, which was, as appears from the inscription on his monument (erected over his grave in the center of the kitchen garden at Westover), in the year 1750, then 70 years of age. In the library was a large trunk of manuscripts, of which were his correspondence with his English friends, and miscellaneous writings, chiefly in prose. He had married two wives, the first pretty early in life, the last at 50 years of age. By the first wife, who was the daughter of General Parks, Governor of the Leeward Islands (the governor was murdered by the gentleman of Antiqua on account of his amours), he had two daughters; by his second wife, a lady of Essex in England, with whom he received a considerable fortune, he had a son (the late Colonel Byrd of Westover) and three daughters. William Byrd, the only son of the great man of that name, was at his first setting out in life distinguished by his good origin, ample fortune, elegant manners and handsome person. Before he had reached his majority he went to England, where, it appears, he engaged in all the gayeties, prodigalities and dissipation to which young men of rank and fortune were addicted. An inordinate love of the sea was thought to be his most predominant passion. This, it would seem, was constitutional and hereditary in him, for his father, with more prudence (probably) and certainly with more erudition, had manifested the like strong propensity. Among the vices to which the younger Colonel Byrd was exposed, and in which he was engaged, was the terrible vice of gambling, a vice to which young men of fashion and opulence in all countries and in all ages have been prone. This vice being so repugnant to reason and good sense and to the precepts of religion and sound ethics, is yet unaccountably engaged in by many a young man of talents and fortune (if he has fortune) night after night at a gaming table with professed gamesters and desperate, moneyless adventurers. The least evil which he can have to expect, except the loss of time (which under certain circumstances, may chance to be one of great magnitude) will be to give expensive clothing and dieting to a parcel of unprincipled libertines who have no others means of subsistence but what they draw, often unfairly, from the purses of inconsiderate, honorable young men of fortune who are seduced by the example of their fellows to a pursuit which is reproved by their own cool judgment as dangerous to their own tranquility and utterly condemned by their consciences as immoral. Every youth should reflect on the inevitable consequences of the practice of this vice—namely poverty, want, misery and often suicide.
But to return to the subject from this not unapt digression. Gaming, as followed in the higher circles of society, Mr. Byrd gave into this as a fashionable amusement merely—avarice being then, and ever after, a passion alien to his breast. Much more than was true, it is probably, was said of the excess to which he carried that fatal propensity whilst in London. The habit thus acquired him to the last period of his life. A story was current in Virginia for fifty years, and may yet be so, that at one of the most noted gaming tables at the west end of the town he lost ten thousand pounds at a single sitting to the Duke of Cumberland. It may or may not have been so; neither the verity or falsity of it were ever proved by any kind of evidence. It must, however, be admitted by all who can be at all qualified to form an opinion upon the premises, that it is highly probably he lost a very large sum of money one night in company with the Duke who, it was well known, gamed much), nor is it unlikely that a great part was to him. It appears that Mr. Byrd, while in England, dressed and gamed much, to which may be added another heavy item of expenditure, which altogether had generated a debt, which probably did not of itself along lay the foundation of his subsequent insolvency, but it is not unlikely, contributed some little towards it. Soon after he returned to Virginia, it may be presumed, he was advanced to the woolsack there, that is, he became a member of the governor’s council, with nearly, if not quite, all the powers and privileges of a peer in England, being of the upper government, and one of the judges of the Supreme Court, of Judicature, from which there was no appeal but to the King in Council. He early married his first wife, a daughter of Secretary Carter, by whom he had one daughter and four sons. Mr. Byrd continued with the army, first under the command of Lord Lowden, and afterwards under that of Sir Jeffrey Amherst, during which time it has been said, he supported a table as costly as that of the commander-in-chief, and it is fairly to be presumed that it was in that way he involved his fortune more than any other. The colony of Virginia raised two regiments for the service in 1755. Mr. Byrd was appointed to the command of one of them and the then Major Washington to the other, probably as the senior officer. Colonel Washington, long before the close of the war, marring Mrs. Custis, a rich widow, resigned his command, as Col. Byrd had the command of both regiments, in which position he appears to have continued to the end of the war. About the year 1760 he married a second wife in Philadelphia, Mary Willing, of the well-known family of that name, long established in the city, by whom he had five daughters and three sons, with whom, as well as with those of his first marriage (except Captain Byrd, of the British army, the eldest of the latter who died in France early in life), and both the parents, the subject of this sketch maintained a uniform, very intimate and grateful intercourse from the early commencement of it until it was interrupted by the decease of the two senior members and a considerable part of the junior individuals of that family.
At the breaking out of the American Revolutionary war Col. Byrd adhered so long to the old government as to render himself unpopular in Virginia. The violent acts of Lord Dunmore at length excited his indignation, and if his country could have been prevailed upon to put as much confidence in him as to have given him as high a military command as his rank, his honor and his high claims to preferment entitled him, he no doubt would have reinstated himself in the forfeited good opinion of it, and it the field of his operations had been sufficiently extensive he would have promoted its triumphs. Col. Byrd was in some respects the superior of General Washington, and in none his inferior. Let no man presume to appreciate distinguished characters, or dare to detract from their merit, unless they have been personally acquainted with them, have witnessed their conduct in private life, and in all life’s relations have communed much with them. Competency to judge of the essential qualifications that go to make up the hero or great man should also be considered. Many an ordinary man has been elevated to a high position through popular favor, while many a truly great man has been permitted to remain in obscurity through personal modesty on his part, and ignorance on the part of the people. The friends of Col. Byrd in the convention of Virginia proposed him for the command of the State line, with rank of Major General, but he had forfeited the confidence of the people and their representatives. He was rejected, and on the first day of January, 1777, resigned to his successors all his claims to temporal enjoyments and temporal honors, leaving behind him a widow who possessed a mind of powers superior to the generality of her sex, and a most generous benevolent and charitable heart. Mrs. Byrd, surviving three of her daughters, deceased in March, 1814, aged about 74 or 75 years. There were three sons and five of the most amiable daughters in the world. Before the death of Col. Byrd, R. K Meade was deprived of his wife, who died December, 1775, nor was she survived much more than a year by her brother, John Randolph, the father of the member of Congress of the same name, who distinguished himself by his adherence to the Republican party or administrators of the Government, and afterwards by a most intemperate opposition to the same.
R. K. Meade, after the death of his wife, and having no children, being actuated by the most virtuous motives that ever actuated the mind of man, engaged first as a volunteer in the service of his country and raised a company, or rather was placed at the head of a company of Virginia ordered the raising of two regiments, he was appointed captain in the Second Regiment under Colonel Woodford, and in a very short time raised his company in the winter of 1776-7. The Second Regiment was ordered to join the army, then on the Delaware, in Jersey, under the command of the commander-in-chief. Before it left Virginia, he received his appointment of aide-de-camp to General Washington, and thereon without delay he repaired to headquarters. In his station of aide he preformed all the active duties of it better, perhaps, than any other of the General’s family. He was a handsome man, of athletic form and constitution—from his early years was fond of manly and hardy sports; was a good horseman, and was the best mounted aid-de-camp in the army. At the battle of Monmouth he escaped being made prisoner by the fleetness of the horse he rode, as he related to it himself. Being sent with orders to Major General Lee, when either going or returning, he fell in with a general officer and his suite, and was so near to them as to be in gunshot. He was sensible of the danger he was in, but confiding in the powers of his horse, he soon found himself out of their reach; but having a swamp to cross, his horse got so immersed in it as not to be able to extricate himself from captivity; he found himself under the necessity of dismounting, and abandoning the horse, which relieved from so great a load, with great exertion plunged out and fortunately recovered, was instantly remounted. Audbury, a British officer of the Saratoga Convention troops, in a history of some campaigns of that war, printed in two volumes octavo, narrated the above adventure to this effect: That the General and suite which R. K. Meade was so near being taken by, was no less a person than Sir Harry Clinton, the British commander-in-chief and his suite; that an officer in it desired the General to permit him to shoot at the American, which, to Sir Harry’s immortal credit, was generously, nobly and gloriously refused. The events of the Revolutionary War of North America are well recorded by different historians. From these histories, it does not appear that the aide-de-camp, Captain Meade, was in any way distinguished from his associate aides. It will not be to his discredit to have it remembered that he was particularly intimate with and had a friendship for General Alexander Hamilton, who, as a member of General Washington’s military family, in the quality of aide-de-camp, entering the service when he was scarcely out of his majority, continued tha that station until just before the siege of Little York, in Virginia. He there performed not only the humble duties of his office of aide-de-camp, but the more important one of counselor. His fame, however, was founded more, and no doubt properly, upon the share he had in the administration of the civil government of the United States after its independence was acknowledged by the peace of Paris. More credit was due to him probably for the share he had in the conduct of the war than was known to the American public or the word in general. It was been said that Hamilton had withdrawn from the General’s family before the capture of Earl Cornwallis, at York. It was presumed, upon some authority not to be despised, the he joined the French and American armies before the siege of that place not in the best of humor with the General. He nevertheless was there appointed to some honorable command, and it is a well-known historical fact that he was at the head of the American party which stormed and carried one of the British redoubts, while a French party, with more difficulty and some loss, carried another. If any inference was at this time drawn from the circumstance of Hamilton’s going to York without any commission and rather a malcontent, and his appointment to a position of importance in any manner unfavorable to the General, it was, no doubt by the very disaffected, who were not disposed to join the grateful multitude in its enthusiastic admiration and almost adoration of General Washington who became almost unaccountably popular, with little of that affability, address, or art which is generally considered essential to make one a popular hero. He was brave and prudent and active of body, but without one great essential in an accomplished commander, namely, decision; nor was he recommended by much experience. He was an honest statesman, though as chief magistrate, deficient in personal suavity and address. He had sound judgment, and was scarcely rivaled by any one in his conduct of private affairs. Without ambition, and probably actuated by a sincere desire to promote the public weal, his powers of mind were not doubt ever at their utmost stretch to attain his end. He seems to have been ordained by heaven to achieve great things in arms without great military talents, without great native genius, without classical learning, and with but little knowledge of the sciences. He sustained the State he had freed, by his civil administration. Without impertinently and maliciously prying into every recess to detect some venial frailty incident to human nature, as the slanderous adversaries of Mr. Jefferson have, to their shame, done it may be said of General Washington that his life and manners were correct and his morals irreproachable, to judge ordinarily form his general deportment. He was distinguished among the gentry of Virginia for punctuality in all his pecuniary engagements; was of acknowledged probity and honor, to which may be added that he was pre-eminently discreet in the management of his private affairs, at all seasons, not only in times of calm, but when his own as well as the public interests were in jeopardy. Of a saturnine temperament, he was reserved and austere, and better endowed by nature and habit for an Eastern monarch, than a republican general.
He was as exempt from the great vices and minor merit as a majority of the frail descendants of our first parents; but, at the same time, it must be admitted that he was a man of sterling virtues. It may be objected, perhaps, that the person who guides the registry pen of this family record, writes under the influence of prejudice, or some base passion, a suspicion to which all those who dare to attempt to stem any popular torrent of error and credulity will be subjected; but it is to be noted that these pages are not intended and never will be exposed to public inspection, and intended only for the amusement and, peradventure, the edification of the house of Meade (which has no pretension to celebrity, but so far from it has been sunk into obscurity), but more particularly the progeny of the subject of this brief biography. The writer indignantly disclaims any affinity to the spirit of detraction, but he dares to record what he believes upon sufficient grounds to be the truth, although it should, by gaining credit within a very limited circle, and there, in opinion, tarnish the romantic luster with which a name has been varnished by popular belief. He can have no motive whatever for detracting from the good qualities and accomplishments which have been attributed to General Washington. He surely has not in the foregoing pages betrayed any disposition to conceal them. He could not possibly envy his high fame, for he was conscious that his own powers of mind and very humble acquirements were of so mean a grade as to render emulation folly in the extreme. He was moreover personally acquainted with him at least a dozen years before the breaking out of the Revolutionary War, and not less so with the greater part of the worthies who representing Virginia associated with him in the first and subsequent sessions of Congress, of which number were the venerable Col. Richard Bland, Mr. P. Randolph, then Attorney General, and first president of Congress, Mr. Wythe, and Mr. Jefferson; with these, although much the junior, except of the last, and may others of distinction, he had lived many years in a reciprocation of fellowship and equality, except in years, talents and in some cases, of fortune, and in some, of virtue. He is so much of a republican and philosopher, as to claim no political or physical superiority, or to acknowledge his inferiority on account of power or pageantry. He detests envy and detraction, but loves truth. He rejects the policy of encouraging false estimates of character and events, by giving them coloring and varnish, not, perhaps, out of nature, but contrary to fact, and altogether inapplicable to the subject. Such a course is useless, improper, and calculated to generate doubt, and absolutely to destroy the confidence which we ought to have in the verity of history and biography, which is necessary to render it greatly useful to posterity, by mending their manners and morals, and rendering mankind happier through the experience of past times. Yet it was thought necessary during the progress of the Revolutionary War, to the success of it, as indeed there was some reason for believing it was, that men should appear to have embraced the popular and romantic sentiment that Heaven had given Washington as a precious, inestimable boon to America, a man endowed with all the attributes of the hero, preordaining him for the savior of his country. Surely no true patriot would, during the continuance of the war, whatever might have been his real creed, have been so imprudent as publicly to have controverted the popular sentiment then, but since the great object of the war has been fully attained, and the whole generation by which it was achieved nearly passed away, very few individuals who were agents in the stupendous undertaking now surviving, the obligation has long ceased to restrain a full expression of sentiment upon the character of the chief of those agents. It is, perhaps, a duty we owe to posterity, to contribute our mite toward elucidating facts which have occurred in our own time and the observed traits in the characters of famous contemporaries; private memoirs are generally more faithful records than history and biographies sanctioned by printing presses and public approbation. But, returning to R. K. Meade, a subject more interesting to the writer. The history of R. K. Meade’s participation in the Revolutionary War involved an historical fact, which is probably not to be found in any of the histories of that war, and exhibits the character of Sir H. Clinton in colors variant from those in which he was painted by H. Lee, in his memoirs, and in which he was generally viewed by the public. During the suspension of Major Andre’s fate, in the interval between his capture and execution, frequent letters were exchanged between the two commanders- in-chief , upon the subject of that accomplished officer’s case.
At this time the American army was occupying different encampments in Jersey, not remote from the city of New York, where were the chief British forces under the commander-in-chief. The American General, watching with more than ordinary solicitude the movements at New York, as an expedition was apprehended from thence up the North River against West Point, and it was of the highest importance that General Washington should receive correct information of the destination oof the armament then preparing in New York, also the moment it should sail. In this state of things at the American camp, the unfortunate Andre then had his trial and condemnation as a spy, and R. K. Meade was sent with a flag and a letter directed to Sir Henry Clinton, commander-in-chief of the British army in New York. A blunt, ingenuous, honest-hearted lieutenant of the navy was sent to receive the flag and the letter. The lieutenant, upon receiving the letter and looking at the superscription, pronounced without hesitation or reflection that it was not directed properly for General Ralston, not Clinton, commanded in New York, by which he disclosed a secret which General Washington considered of the utmost importance to him. General Washington moved with the army, or a considerable detachment, first up the North River, immediately after the return of the conference of the British lieutenant of the navy and R. K. Meade. The honest lieutenant, with much appearance of feeling, several times repeated his inquiries of R. K. Meade, whether he thought they would hang Major Andre. “And will they?” says he, repeating the question for the second or third time, “hang that d---d fine fellow Andre?” And being reluctantly answered in the affirmative, after a pause and as sigh: “Well then,” says he, “if you do hang Andre, the world will know what a d—d blockhead Sir Harry Clinton is.”
R. K Meade left the army before the peace of Paris in 1783, and settled permanently in Frederick County, State of Virginia, where he spent and agricultural and very retired life, beloved by all who were acquainted with him, esteemed and respected by his neighbors and every one that had ever heard of his worth. The gout had been long his principal complaint, but had been confined to his extremities; at length it assaulted his vitals, and on the---day---of 1781, his decease deprived his family of the best husband, parent and master that was ever born in this world. Three sons and four daughters were the fruit of his second marriage with the widow of Wm. Randolph. Her maiden name was Mary Grymes, the daughter of Benjamin Grymes. His first wife was Elizabeth Randolph, daughter of the first Richard Randolph of Curles, in Henrico County, and aunt to John Randolph, who has much distinguished himself in public life.
This may be a proper place here in the family record to notice the other brothers of David Meade, the primary subject of it. Everard Meade, the third son of his father, as well as the two older, spent a considerable part of his minority at school in England, and returned to Virginia about the year 1764. When not quite eighteen years of age he clandestinely formed a hymeneal connection with Mary Thornton, abou this own age, the daughter of a gentleman who was a member of a numerous and very respectable family, by which wife he had tow sons and a daughter, who died before him. He afterwards married the widow of Benjamin Ward, by who he had two sons, and deceased. His widow is yet living, January 7, 1820. Andrew the fourth brother, died, leaving a widow, a most estimable woman, the daughter of Buckner Stith of Brownswick, with two sons and three daughters. John, the fifth son, deceased a minor, being about seventeen years old, 1772.
David Meade, the subject of this record, having resided at Maycox, in Prince George County, for twenty-two years, removed in the summer of 1796 to the now State of Kentucky, having landed with a numerous family from boats at Limestown, now Maysville, on the morning of the 4th of July, and permanently settled on a small tract of land previously purchased by his eldest son, David, at the head spring of Jessamine Creek, a lateral branch of the Kentucky River, then Fayette (now Jessamine) County, being a portion of the former taken from it in 1797. The name of Jessamine was derived from that of an unfortunate girl, the daughter of a Scotch-man, a staymaker in the then capital of Virginia, who became a patentee of a tract of land lying at the head of a lateral branch of the Kentucky, having on it a copious spring, which from his daughter’s name he called Jessamine Spring, which gave name to the creek from which the county was named. Such was the origin of the name of the fertile county of Jessamine the unfortune Jesse (or Jessamine) Douglas whom remorse and a laudable sense of shame for having yielded to the importunities of her lover, prompted to commit suicide.
At the precise period of recording this, he, David Meade, has resided in tranquil retirement thirty years with a numerous household, at his seat of Chaumiere des Prairies, where his days have been engaged in the wholesome and agreeable, and, he trusts, innocent occupation of the improvement of his grounds after the mode of horticulture, calculated more to please the eye, than to result in the acquirement of what the world generally deems the more substantial goods of life.Thus ends the Autobiography of David Meade II. The story of David Meade II's life in Virginia and Kentucky, as well as observations of some of our founding fathers comprises about half of the book, edited by Henry Peet in 1883, titled, "The Chaumiere Papers, Containing Matters of Interest to the Descendants of David Meade, of Nansemond County, VA." My fifth great-grandfather was David Meade II, who went from British subject to American citizen during his lifetime.
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