Colonial Hall -- Biographies of America's Founding Fathers

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Page 4

Richard Stockton


   Mr. Stockton was at length released; but his confinement had been so strict, and his sufferings so severe, that his constitution could never after recover the shock. Besides this, his fortune, which had been ample, was now greatly reduced. His lands were devastated; his papers and library were burnt; his implements of husbandry destroyed; and his stock seized and driven away. He was now obliged to depend, for a season, upon the assistance of friends, for even the necessaries of life. From the time of his imprisonment his health began to fail him; nor was it particularly benefited by his release, and a restoration to the society of his friends. He continued to languish for several years, and at length died at his residence, at Princeton, on the 28th of February, 1781, in the fifty-third year of his age.
   His death made a wide chasm among the circle of his friends and acquaintance. He was, in every respect, a distinguished man ; an honor to his country, and a friend to the cause of science, freedom, and religion, throughout the world. The following extract from the discourse delivered on the occasion of his interment, by the Rev. Dr. Samuel S. Smith, will convey to the reader a just account of this distinguished man:
   "Behold, my brethren, before your eyes, a most sensible and affecting picture of the transitory nature of mortal things, in the remains of a man who hath been long among the foremost of his country for power, for wisdom, and for fortune; whose eloquence only wanted a theatre like Athens, to have rivaled the Greek and the Roman fame; and who, if what honors this young country can bestow, if many and great personal talents, could save man from the grave, would not thus have been lamented here by you. Behold there 'the end of all perfection.'
   "Young gentlemen, (the students of the college,) another of the fathers of learning and eloquence is gone. He went before in the same path in which you are now treading, and hath since long presided over, and helped to confirm the footsteps of those who were here laboring up the hill of science and virtue. While you feel and deplore his loss as a guardian of your studies, and as a model upon which you might form yourselves for public life, let the memory of what he was excite you to emulate his fame; let the sight of what he is, teach you that every thing human is marked with imperfection.
   "At the bar he practiced for many years with unrivalled reputation and success. Strictly upright in his profession, be scorned to defend a cause that he knew to be unjust. A friend to peace and to the happiness of mankind, be has often with great pains and attention reconciled contending parties, while he might fairly, by the rules of his profession, have drawn from their litigation no inconsiderable profit to himself. Compassionate to the injured and distressed, he hath often protected the poor and helpless widow unrighteously robbed of her dower, hath heard her with patience, when many wealthier clients were waiting, and hath zealously promoted her interest, without the prospect of reward, unless he could prevail to have right done to her, and to provide her an easy competence for the rest of her days.

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Last modified January 1, 2004