No occupation is so well calculated to rivet upon the heart a love of country as that of agriculture. No profession is more honorable--but few are as conducive to health and above all others it insures peace, tranquillity and happiness. A calling independent in its nature--it is calculated to produce an innate love of Liberty.
The farmer stands upon a lofty eminence and looks upon the bustle of mechanism, the din of commerce and the multiform perplexities of the various literary professions, with feelings of personal freedom unknown to them. He acknowledges the skill and indispensable necessity of the first--the enterprise and usefulness of the second--the wide spread benefits of the last--then turns his mind to the pristine quiet of his agrarian domain and covets not the fame that clusters around them all. His opportunities for intellectual improvement are superior to the two first and in many respects not inferior to the last. Constantly surrounded by the varied beauties of nature and the never ceasing harmonious operation of her laws--his mind is led to contemplate the wisdom of the great Architect of worlds. The philosophy of the universe is constantly presenting new phases to his enraptured view. Aloof from the commoving arena of public life but made acquainted with what is passing there through the medium of the magic PRESS--he is able to form deliberate opinions upon the various topics that concern the good and glory of his country. In his retired domicil he is less exposed to that corrupt and corrupting party spirit that is raised by the whirlwind of selfish ambition and often rides on the tornado of faction. Before he is roused to a participation in violent commotions he hears much, reflects deeply, resolves nobly. When the oppression of rulers becomes so intolerable as to induce the yeomanry of a country to leave their ploughs and peaceful firesides and draw the avenging sword--let them beware and know the day of retribution is at hand.
Thus it was at the commencement of the American Revolution. When the implements of husbandry were exchanged for those of war and the farmers joined in the glorious cause of Liberty, the fate of England's power over the Colonies was hermetically sealed. The concentrated phalanx of commingling professions was irresistible as an avalanche in the full plenipotence of force.
Among the patriots of that eventful era who left their ploughs and rushed to the rescue was John Hart, born at Hopewell, Hunterdon County, N. J. about the year 1715. The precise time of his birth is not a matter of record--his acts in the cause of Liberty are. He was the son of Edward Hart, a brave and efficient officer who aided the mother country in the conquest of Canada and participated in the epic laurels that were gained by Wolfe on the heights of Abraham. He raised a volunteer corps under the cognomen of Jersey Blues--an appellation still the pride of Jerseymen. He fought valiantly and was recompensed with praise--not the gold of the mother country. John Hart was an extensive farmer, a man of strong mind improved by reading and reflection, ever ambitious to excel in his profession. In Deborah Scudder he found an amiable and faithful wife. In the affections and good conduct of a liberal number of sons and daughters he found an enjoyment which bachelors may affect to disdain but for which they often sigh. Eden's fair bowers were dreary until Heaven's first best gift to man was there.
Known as a man of sound judgment, clear perception, liberal views and pure motives, John Hart was called to aid in public business long before the Revolution. For twenty years he had served in various stations and was often a member of the legislature. He took a deep interest in the local improvements necessary in a new country. He was a warm advocate for education, was liberal in donations to seminaries of learning. He was a friend to social order and did much to produce an equilibrium in the scales of justice. In organizing the municipal government of his county he rendered essential service. He looked on public business as a duty to be performed when required--not as a political hobby-horse to ride upon. The public men of that day said but little. They despatched business promptly with an eye single to the general good. Sinecures were unknown--office hunters few and far between. Industry, frugality and economy in public and private matters were marked characteristics of the pilgrim fathers. Golden days! when will ye return in the majesty of your innocence and banish from our land the enervating follies, the poisonous weeds, the impugning evils that augur the destruction of our far famed Republic.
Mr. Hart was quick to discern the encroachments of the British ministry upon the chartered and constitutional rights of the colonies and prompt to resist them. The passage of the Stamp Act on the 22d of March 1765 was followed by a commotion that indicated a slender tenure of kingly power in America. This odious Act was repealed on the 18th of March 1776. But the ministerial alchemists were madly bent on new experiments. The colonists had borne the yoke of artful and increasing restrictions upon their trade and industry for fifty years. It was presumed their necks were hardened so as to bear a heavier burden. Deluded alchemists--they little understood the kind of metal put in their crucible. Direct taxation without representation was no part of the English constitution. This violation could not be tamely submitted to. The second edition of the revenue plan revised and stereotyped in 1767 by Charles Townshend, Chancellor of the Exchequer, imposing a duty on glass, paper, pasteboard, tea and painters' colors--kindled a flame in the Colonies that no earthly power could quench. Public meetings against the measure--resolutions of the deepest censure, remonstrances of the strongest character, arguments of the most conclusive logic were hurled back upon the ministry. Boston harbor was converted into a teapot and all the tea afloat used at one drawing. Non-importation agreements, committees of safety, preparations for defence, non-intercourse, bloodshed, war and Independence followed. In all these movements Mr. Hart concurred and firmly opposed the encroachments of the crown.
In 1774 he was elected to Congress and entered upon the high duties of his station with a deep sense of the responsibilities that rested upon that body at that particular time. Mild, deliberate, cautious, discreet and firm in his purposes--he became an important member in carrying out the measures then contemplated--reconciliation and a restoration of amity. On the 10th of May 1775 he again took his place in Congress. The cry of blood, shed on the 19th of the preceding April at Lexington, had infused a spirit among the members widely different from that which pervaded their minds at the previous meeting. It was then that the cool deliberation of such men as Mr. Hart was indispensable. The ardor and impetuosity of youth had passed away--propositions and arguments were placed in the balance of reason. Causes, effects, objects, ends, plans, means, consequences--all were put in the scales of justice and honestly weighed. In this manner every act was performed with clean hands, the cause of Liberty honored, prospered and crowned with triumphant success. At this time Mr. Hart was a member and Vice President of the Assembly of New Jersey and shortly after had the proud satisfaction of aiding in the funeral obsequies of the old government and joined in the festivities of forming a new one upon the broad platform of republicanism.
On the 14th of February 1776 he was again elected to the Continental Congress and when the Chart of Liberty was presented he carefully examined its bold physiognomy--pronounced its points, features, landmarks, delineations and entire combinations worthy of freemen gave it his vote, his signature and his benediction. At the close of the session he retired from public life and declined a re-election. As he anticipated, the British drove away his family, destroyed his property and after he returned hunted him from place to place and several times had him so nearly cornered that his escape seemed impossible. His exposure in eluding the pursuit of the relentless foe brought on illness that terminated his life in 1780. He was a worthy member of the Baptist church--a devoted Christian--an HONEST MAN.
Source: Sages and Heroes of the American Revolution, by L. Carroll Judson: Copyright, 1854 Available for download at the Project Gutenberg website.