Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
 

An astute writer has beautifully observed--"If the sea was ink, the trees pens and the earth parchment, they would not be sufficient to write down all the praises due to God for Liberty." How few there are in our wide spread Republic who realize the truth of this sublime sentiment. How few among the directors of the destiny of our nation who make the law of God the beginning of wisdom. This apothegm is based upon reason, justice and sound philosophy. No sophistry can controvert it--no casuistry entangle it. To shun all wrong and practise all right is the great _desideratum_ of earthly bliss. Vice is crowned with thorns and plumed with thistles. All the evil passions are a laboratory for the manufacture of the miseries of human life. The futile pleasures of earth-vanity, vain glory--the whole category may be richly clustered with blossoms but bear no nutritious fruit. We must look to the great Author of all good for substantial enjoyment. We must implicitly obey his laws to be truly wise. The greatest men who have ever graced the stage of action fully recognized the power and feared to offend the great Jehovah. The Sages and Heroes of the American Revolution were constantly under the influence of this salutary principle. This is inferred from their writings, examples and the proceedings of the Continental Congress. Days of humiliation and prayer were frequently fixed and recommended by legislative proclamation by the general government and by the states.

Among those of the sages who appear to have lived in the fear of God was William Hooper, born at Boston, Massachusetts, on the 17th of June 1742. He was the son of the Rev. William Hooper who came from Kelso, south of Scotland and was for many years pastor of Trinity Church in Boston. He was a man of high accomplishments, a finished scholar, a learned theologian, an eloquent preacher, a devoted Christian, a useful and beloved pastor. Being of a slender constitution William received the first rudiments of his education from his father. At the age of seven he entered the school of Mr. Lovell where he remained eight years. He then became a student of Harvard University. His talents were of a high order--his industry untiring. He was ever averse to fleeting pleasures and trifling amusements. During vacation he explored his father's library instead of indulging in a relaxation from study and mingling in the convivial circle. He had a great taste for the classics and belles lettres. He paid close attention to elocution and composition. He aimed at refinement in everything.

He graduated in 1760 and commenced the study of law under James Otis one of the most distinguished counselors of that time. From the piety he had exhibited from his youth his father had hoped he would incline to the pulpit but freely yielded to his choice. He was a thorough law student and was admitted to the Bar richly laden with the elements of his profession. By several wealthy connections residing in Wilmington, North Carolina, he was induced to locate at that place where he soon obtained a lucrative business. To convince the people that he contemplated a permanent residence and a fulfillment of all the noble designs of his creation--he married Anna Clark, a lady of unusual accomplishments, strength of mind and high attainments. His legal fame rose rapidly upon a substantial basis. In 1768 he was employed to conduct several important public trials which he managed with so much skill and address as to place him in the first rank of able advocates. He was treated with marked attention by Governors Tryon and Martin and by Chief Justice Howard. His estimable character, superior talents and extensive influence were worth securing for their royal master. The ulterior object they had in view it required no Daniel to interpret. Mr. Hooper was one who had no price. He was not a man of principle according to his personal interest but a noble patriot of the first water. He had received his legal education in Boston where the designs of the British ministers had been probed for years. He had imbibed liberal views, was a friend to equal rights and had planted himself upon the firm basis of eternal justice from which flattery could not seduce or dangers drive him.

Previous to the Revolution he gave a sample of his moral and personal courage worthy of record. In 1766 a dangerous association was formed in North Carolina called Regulators--composed mostly of poor, ignorant, desperate men who were led by those of more intelligence but with baser hearts who promised them large rewards in the end. They had increased so rapidly that in 1770 they amounted to three thousand. They opposed the civil authorities--drove the judges from the bench, committed personal outrages and threatened to destroy all order, defying civil and military power. Mr. Hooper took a bold stand against them--advised a prompt attack by the military--his plan was approved--a severe battle ensued--the insurgents were dispersed and quiet restored. In 1773 he was elected to the Assembly of his province at the very time the creatures of the crown attempted to throw a ministerial coil around the people. In William Hooper they found a troublesome customer--a bold, fearless, eloquent, uncompromising opponent to their schemes of tyranny. In the legislative hall he met them with unanswerable arguments. By a series of essays he spread their designs before the people. He was no longer flattered by the crown officers but became a favorite with those he esteemed more highly--the people who returned him again to the Assembly. A question came before that body that tested the powers of Mr. Hooper. The statute creating the judiciary had expired. In framing a new one an attempt was made to model it so as to meet the designs of the British cabinet. So powerful was the influence of this friend of the people that he kept his opponents at bay and the province was a year without courts. He was then fully before his constituents the champion of equal rights. By the people he stood approved and admired.

On the 25th of August he was elected to the general Congress in which he rendered efficient services. He was one of the important committee that prepared a statement of the rights of the colonies, the manner these rights had been infringed and the most probable means of effecting their restoration. He was one of the committee that reported the statutes that affected the trade and manufactures of the colonies. Upon the report of these two committees the proceedings of that Congress were based which raises a fair presumption that the very best men were placed upon them. The next year he was returned to Congress and was chairman of a committee to prepare an address to the people of Jamaica relative to British oppression. It was written by him in a bold and vigorous style and proved conclusively that ministerial insolence was lost in ministerial barbarity--that resistance or slavery had become the issue.

On the 12th of June 1775 Mr. Hooper offered the following preamble and resolution which were passed by Congress, corroborating the intimation in the exordium to this article.

"It is at all times an indispensable duty devoutly to acknowledge the superintending providence of the great Governor of the world, especially in times of impending danger and public calamity--to reverence and adore His immutable justice as well as to implore his merciful interposition for our deliverance--therefore

Resolved--That it is recommended by Congress that the people of the American Colonies observe the 20th day of July next as a day of public humiliation, fasting and prayer."

The zeal and exertions of this ardent patriot in the glorious cause of freedom were constant and vigorous. He served industriously in committee rooms and was greatly esteemed as a forcible debater in the House. In the spring of 1776 he was a member of the conventions that convened at Hillsborough and Halifax in N. C. and was one of the leading and most eloquent speakers. He also prepared an address to the people of the British empire which was written with great nerve and energy. He then took his seat in Congress and boldly supported the Declaration of Independence. He had long been convinced of its necessity and rejoiced to find his views so warmly supported by the ablest men of that eventful era. When the thrilling moment arrived to take the final question his vote and signature sanctioned the bold measure.

In February 1777 he obtained leave of absence from Congress and returned to his family. When the news of the defeat of Washington at Germantown reached him he was surrounded by a circle of his friends who seemed dismayed at the intelligence. He rose calmly from his seat and earnestly remarked--"We have been disappointed but now that we have become the assailants there can be no doubt of the issue." Before his return from Congress his property at Wilmington had suffered from royal vengeance. His personal safety was then in jeopardy--he was compelled to flee to the interior to avoid the hemp. His family had removed several times. He and all the signers had made arrangements with the French minister to remove to one of the French West India islands in the event of the failure to maintain Independence. He did not return to Wilmington until it was evacuated by the enemy in 1781. During his absence his family remained exposed to the proverbial insults of his Christian majesty's officers and soldiers. He remained in the province for the purpose of rousing the people to action and was an efficient member of the new government. In 1782 he removed to Hillsborough for the purpose of resuscitating his long neglected private affairs and again took his place at the Bar. In 1786 he was appointed by Congress a member of the court organized to determine the controversy between New York and Massachusetts relative to disputed territory which was amicably settled by the parties.

Mr. Hooper continued to aid in the legislation of his adopted state and pursue his profession until 1787 when his health became impaired which compelled him to retire from public life and the bar and seek that repose in domestic enjoyment that had always been more congenial to his mind than public stations however lofty. In his retirement he carried with him the esteem of his fellow citizens and the gratitude of a nation of freemen. Not a blemish soiled the bright escutcheon of his public character or private reputation. He had served his country faithfully and sacrificed his fortune on the altar of liberty. With the strictest fidelity he had discharged the duties of husband, father, friend, citizen, lawyer, patriot, statesman. From the high eminence of conscious integrity he looked down upon a life well spent. With the eyes of faith he looked forward to a crown of unfading glory. In October 1790 he closed his eyes in death and returned to the bosom of that God whom to fear is the beginning of wisdom. Dear relatives, ardent friends and a grateful nation mourned his premature death. Mr. Hooper was of the middle height, slender and elegant in form, gentlemanly and engaging in his manners, with strangers rather reserved, with his friends frank and familiar, free from affectation, of a serious turn, at all times candid and sincere. His countenance beamed with intelligence and benignity, his powers of conversation were pleasing, instructive, chaste and classical. His habits were in strict accordance with the religion he exemplified. His disposition was benevolent, hospitable and kind. As a public speaker he was eloquent, logical, persuasive, sometimes sarcastic. As a whole he was among the best specimens of man as he comes from the clean hands of the Creator. Whilst we admire his virtues let us imitate his examples. 

Source: Sages and Heroes of the American Revolution, by L. Carroll Judson: Copyright, 1854 Available for download at the Project Gutenberg website.