Marion retires to his Farm, which he finds in Ruins -- Is returned to the Senate from St. John -- His Course on the Confiscation Act -- Anecdotes -- Is made Commandant at Fort Johnson -- His Marriage -- A Member of the State Convention in 1794 -- Withdraws from Public Life -- His Death.
It was with no reluctance but with the cheerful preference which Marion had always given, since manhood, to the life of the farmer, that he returned to its simple but attractive avocations. But the world with him was, as it were, to be begun anew; no easy matter to one whose habits had been necessarily rendered irregular by the capricious and desultory influences of a military career; still more difficult in the case of one who has entered upon the last period of life. The close of the Revolution found him destitute of means, almost in poverty, and more than fifty years old. His health was good, however; his frame elastic; his capacity for endurance, seemingly, as great as ever. But his little fortune had suffered irretrievably. His interests had shared the fate of most other Southern patriots, in the long and cruel struggle through which the country had gone. His plantation in St. John's, Berkeley, lay within a mile of one of the ordinary routes of the British army, and his career was not calculated to move them to forbearance in the case of one, whose perpetual activity and skill so constantly baffled their designs. His estate was ravaged, and subjected to constant waste and depredation. One-half of his negroes were taken away, and the rest only saved to him by their fidelity(FOC: I believe that negates what I had previously read that Marion did not use slaves). The refuge in swamp and forest was as natural to the faithful negro, on the approach of the British uniforms, as to the fugitive patriot. Ten workers returned to him, when he was prepared to resume his farm, but he was destitute of everything beside. The implements of culture, plantation utensils, household furniture, stock, cattle and horses, clothes and provisions for his people, were all wanting, and all to be purchased, and he penniless. He received no compensation for his losses, no reward for his sacrifices and services. The hope of half pay was held out to him by his more sanguine friends, but this promise was never realized. But, with that cheerful spirit which hopes all things from time, and a meek compliance with what it brings, Marion proceeded to work out his deliverance by manly industry, and a devotion to his interests as true as that which he had yielded to the interests of his country. He had become fond of rural life, and the temporary estrangement of war seemed only to increase his desire for that repose in action, which the agricultural life in the South so certainly secures. But he was not permitted to retire from public service. The value of his services was too well known, and there was too much yet to be done, towards the repose and security of the country, to suffer them to be dispensed with. He was again returned to the Senate of the State by the people of St. John's. In this situation, he still maintained those noble and disinterested characteristics which had made him equally beloved and venerated. Two anecdotes are preserved of him in his official character, which deserve mention. Both of these grew out of the events of the war. The importance of the Confiscation Act, passed at the session of January, 1782, at Jacksonborough, arose chiefly from the necessity of providing for the emergencies of the State and military, during the continuance of the war. Under existing circumstances, the measure was sustained by our partisan. But the case was altered when the British ministry abandoned their pretensions to the country, and when it was left by their armies. It was then that numerous offenders -- those who had been least conspicuous for their Tory predilections -- applied for the indulgence and forbearance of the State. Petitions were poured into the Legislature, sustained by such pleas and friends as the circumstances of the suppliants could procure -- excusing their conduct, asserting their repentance, and imploring the restoration of their possessions. Marion's course in regard to these suppliants may be inferred from his previous character. There was nothing vindictive in his nature. He was superior to the baser cravings of a dogged vengeance, and his vote and voice declared his magnanimity. It so happened that the first of these petitions upon which he was called to act, came from one of that class of timid, time-serving persons, who, with no predilections for virtue, no sympathy for principles or country, simply shape their course with regard to safety. He was a man of wealth, and the effect of wealth in perilous times is but too frequently to render selfishness equally cowardly and dishonest. The amount of his offence consisted in trimming, while the strife was doubtful, between Whig and Tory, and siding with the latter when the British gained the ascendency. He did not take up arms, took no active part in public affairs, and was content to shelter his person and possessions under a cautious insignificance. About eighteen months before, Marion had met the petitioner at a gathering of the people. The latter approached and offered our partisan his hand. But the juncture was one in which it behooveth patriotism to speak out at all hazards. The struggle was for life and death, on the part equally of Whig and Tory. Marion knew the character of the person, and disdained it. To the surprise of all, who knew how scrupulous of insult he was, -- how indulgent and forbearing, -- he turned away from the trimmer and the sycophant without recognition. This treatment was greatly censured at the time, and when Marion rose in the Senate, to speak on the subject of the petition of the man whom he had so openly scorned, it was taken for granted that he would again give utterance to feelings of the sort which moved him then. The miserable offender, who was himself present, grew pale, trembled, and gave up his cause as lost. What was his surprise and delight to hear the venerable patriot advocate his application! He was successful in obtaining for the suppliant the mercy which he implored. The opponents of the petitioner, some of whom were of that class of patriots who hunger for the division of the spoils, were aghast, and having counted on Marion's support, now loudly proclaimed his inconsistency. But to these his answer was equally prompt and satisfactory. His reasons were true to his principles. He had been governed in his previous views by the necessity of the case. With the disappearance of that necessity he recognized other laws and influences. "Then," said he, "it was war. It is peace now. God has given us the victory; let us show our gratitude to heaven, which we shall not do by cruelty to man."
The expediency of humanity was always the uppermost sentiment with Marion. A nobler expression of it never fell from the lips of mortal.
The next anecdote of the legislative career of Marion is one which directly related to himself. At an early period in the action of the Assembly, after the war, it was deemed advisable to introduce a bill by which to exempt from legal investigation the conduct of the militia while the war had lasted. It was thought, justly enough, that, from the nature of the services in which they were engaged, and the necessities which coerced them, they might need, in numerous instances, to be sheltered from legal persecution. They had been compelled to war with a heavy hand, to seize frequently upon private property, and subject the possessions of the citizen to the exigencies of the community. The necessities of the service being recognized, the Legislature were ready to justify them; and the Act which was prepared for the purpose, included amongst others, thus specially exempted, the name of Marion. But, scarcely had it been announced from the paper, when the venerable man arose, and with flushed cheeks and emphatic brevity, demanded that his name should be expunged from the catalogue. He declared himself friendly to the Bill -- he believed it to be equally just and necessary; but for his own part, as he was not conscious of any wrong of which he had been guilty, he was not anxious for any immunity. "If," said he, "I have given any occasion for complaint, I am ready to answer in property and person. If I have wronged any man I am willing to make him restitution. If, in a single instance, in the course of my command, I have done that which I cannot fully justify, justice requires that I should suffer for it."
So proud was his integrity, so pure and transparent was his happy consciousness of a mind fixed only on good, and regulated by the sternest rules of virtue, and the nicest instincts of gentleness and love! The Bill passed into a law, but the name of Marion, omitted at his requisition, is nowhere present, as showing that he needed other security than that which is afforded to the meanest citizen under the keenest scrutiny of justice.
Marion did not confine his objections to the continued operation of the Confiscation Act, to the single instance which we have given. We have reason to believe that his labors to remedy its hardships, and restrain its severities, were uniform and unremitting. There is no doubt that he favored the original bill. He considered it a war measure, and necessary to the prosecution of the war. The propriety of the distinction which he made just after the war was over, obvious enough to us now, was not so evident at a season when the victors were looking after the division of the spoils. The subject became one of considerable excitement, and we may say in this place, that, after time had mollified the popular feeling in some degree, the State admitted the greater number of the offenders to mercy and restored their estates. But there is reason to believe that the humane sentiments which Marion taught, were not universal, and met with most violent opposition. His feelings on the subject were not only declared with frankness, but with warmth and energy. Dining at the table of Governor Matthews, while the strife was highest, he was called upon by his Excellency for a toast. Lifting his glass, with a smile, he promptly gave the following, -- "Gentlemen, here's damnation to the Confiscation Act."
Though, in the language of Moultrie, "born a soldier", and yielding so many of his youthful and maturer years to the habits of the camp and field, there was nothing of a harsh or imperious nature in his temper or his manner. The deportment of the mere soldier seems to have been his aversion. He preferred the modest and forbearing carriage which is supposed to belong more distinctly to civil than to military life. No novelty of situation, no provocation of circumstance, nothing in the shape of annoyance or disaster, was suffered so to ruffle his mood as to make him heedless or indifferent to the claims or sensibilities of others. He never conceived that any of his virtues gave him a right to trespass upon the proprieties of social or public life. An anecdote is related of him which illustrates the veneration which he entertained for the regulations of society and law. It appears that, when the war was over, one of his closest intimates and nearest friends -- one whom he had trusted long, and who had shared with him in all his campaigns, stood within the perils of the law for some offence of which the facts have not been preserved. Presuming upon his well-known services, and the favor in which he was held by the public, he refused to submit to the ordinary legal process, and bade defiance to the sheriff. While maintaining this position, Marion sought him out. He used no argument to convince the offender of his error, for that, he felt assured, the other sufficiently knew. But he addressed him in a style, and with words, which conveyed much more than any ordinary argument. "Deliver yourself," said he, "into the hands of justice -- submit to the process of the sheriff, and my heart and hand are yours as before; -- resist, -- refuse, -- and we are separated for ever." It need not be said that under such an exhortation the refractory spirit was subdued. How much to be regretted it is that so few anecdotes have been preserved of his character, illustrating a life which, according to all testimony, was consistent throughout in a just appreciation of all that was pure, virtuous and becoming, in the character of the individual man.
Early in the year 1783, the following resolutions passed in the Senate of South Carolina, Marion, who was a member, not being present at the time:
Senate, South Carolina, February 26, 1783.
"RESOLVED, nem. con., That the thanks of this House be given to Brigadier General Marion, in his place, as a member of this House, for his eminent and conspicuous services to his country.
"RESOLVED, nem. con., That a gold medal be given to Brigadier General Marion, as a mark of public approbation for his great, glorious, and meritorious conduct."
Two days after, Marion being in his place in the Senate, the President took occasion to convey to him the sense of these resolutions, in a neat and highly laudatory speech. He said, among other things --
"When I consider the occasion which calls me to address you, I am filled with inexpressible pleasure; but when I reflect on the difficulty of doing justice to your distinguished merit, I feel my own inefficiency. What sentiments or words shall I make use of equal to the task! I scarce dare trust my own, especially after what has been said by several honorable persons on this floor, respecting your great, your glorious, and meritorious conduct; and I most earnestly wish, for my own sake, for yours, Sir, and for the honor of this House, that I could avail myself of their eloquence. . . . Your conduct merits the applause of your countrymen -- your courage, your vigilance, and your abilities have exceeded their most sanguine expectations; and have answered all their hopes. Whilst the virtue of gratitude shall form a part of our national character, your important services to this country can never be forgotten," &c.
To this Marion replied with simple brevity:
"MR. PRESIDENT: The approbation which this House have given of my conduct, in the execution of my duty, gives me very pleasing and heartfelt satisfaction. The honor which they have conferred on me this day, by their thanks, will be remembered with gratitude. I shall always be ready to exert my abilities for the good of the state and the liberties of her inhabitants. I thank you, Sir, for the polite manner in which you have conveyed to me the thanks of the Senate."
Whether the medal was really given, or only voted, is a fact that we have no means of ascertaining. It is to be feared that the action of the Senate went no farther than the resolution and the speech. It probably remains a reproach against the republic, in this, as in numerous other instances, that, knowing what gratitude required, we would yet forego the satisfaction of the debt. Cheaply, at best, was our debt to Marion satisfied, with a gold medal, or the vote of one, while Greene received ten thousand guineas and a plantation. We quarrel not with the appropriation to Greene, but did Marion deserve less from Carolina? Every page of her history answers "No!"
By the Legislative session of 1784, Fort Johnson, in the harbor of Charleston, was fitted up and garrisoned by the State. In the unstable condition of things, so immediately after the war, some such fortress might well be deemed essential to the security of the port. Marion was appointed Commandant of the Fort, with an annual salary of 500 Pounds. The office was in all probability made for him. His necessities were known, and its salary was intended to compensate him for his losses during the war. But the duties of the office were nominal. Even its possible uses soon ceased to be apparent; and, with a daily increasing sense of security, the people murmured at an appropriation which they considered unnecessarily burdensome. The common mind could not well perceive that the salary was not so much yielded for what was expected of the office, as for what had already been performed. It was not given for present, but for past services. It was the payment of a debt incurred, not a simple appropriation for the liquidation of one growing out of current performances. Legislative reformers waged constant war against it, and it was finally cut down to five hundred dollars. A smile of fortune, -- one of the fairest perhaps, that had ever shone on our hero, -- just then relieved him from the mortifying necessity of holding a sinecure which his fellow citizens pronounced an encumbrance. It had been observed by his friends that there was a lady of good family and considerable wealth, who appeared to take a more than ordinary interest in hearing of his exploits. Modest and reserved himself, Marion was not conscious of the favorable impression which he had made upon this lady. It was left for others to discover the state of her affections. They remarked the delight with which, like "The gentle lady wedded to the Moor," she listened to the tale of his achievements, his "Hair-breadth 'scapes in th' imminent deadly breach, Of being taken by the insolent foe." -- and they augured favorably of the success of any desire which he might express to make her the sharer in his future fortunes. On this hint he spake. Miss Mary Videau, like himself, came of the good old Huguenot stock, the virtues of which formed our theme in the opening chapter of this narrative. He proposed to her and was accepted. Neither of them was young. It was not in the heyday of passion that they loved. The tie that bound them sprang from an affection growing out of a just appreciation of their mutual merits. She is reported to have somewhat resembled him as well in countenance as character. She certainly shared warmly in his interests and feelings. She readily conformed to his habits no less than his wishes -- partook of his amusements, shared his journeys -- which were frequent -- and still, in his absence, could listen with as keen a zest to his praises, as before their marriage. During the summer months, it was his almost yearly custom to retire to the mountains of the interior. She was always his companion. On such occasions, he was guilty of a piece of military ostentation of which nobody could have accused him while a military man. He had preserved carefully, as memorials of an eventful history, his marquee, camp bed, and cooking utensils, just as he had done while in the Brigade, during the last twelve months of his military life. These were carefully taken with him; and, with his faithful servant Oscar, and his two sumpter mules, were still the companions of his wanderings. They were coupled no doubt with many associations as interesting to his heart as they were trying to his experience. They were, perhaps, doubly precious, as they constituted the sum total of all that he had gathered -- besides an honorable fame -- from his various campaignings.
The marriage of Marion, like that of Washington, was without fruits. This may have baffled some hopes, and in some degree qualified his happiness, but did not impair his virtues. He adopted the son of a relative, to whom he gave his own name, in the hope of perpetuating it in the family, but even this desire has been defeated, since the heir thus chosen, though blessed with numerous children, was never so fortunate as to own a son.
In the decline of life, in the modest condition of the farmer, Marion seems to have lived among his neighbors, very much as the ancient patriarch, surrounded by his flock. He was honored and beloved by all. His dwelling was the abode of content and cheerful hospitality. Its doors were always open; and the chronicler records that it had many chambers. Here the stranger found a ready welcome, and his neighbors a friendly counsellor, to the last. His active habits were scarcely lessened in the latter years of life. His agricultural interests were managed judiciously, and his property underwent annual increase. Nor did his domestic interests and declining years prevent him from serving the public still. He still held a commission in the militia, and continued to represent the parish of St. John's, in the Senate of the State. In May, 1790, we find him sitting as a member of the Convention for forming the State Constitution; but from this period he withdrew from public life, and, in 1794, after the reorganization of the State militia, he resigned his commission in that service to which he had done so much honor. On this occasion he was addressed by an assembly of the citizens of Georgetown, through a special committee of four, in the following language.*
-- * The committee consisted of Messrs. William D. James, Robert Brownfield, Thomas Mitchell, and Joseph Blythe. --
"CITIZEN GENERAL -- At the present juncture, when the necessity of public affairs requires the military of this State to be organized anew, to repel the attacks of an enemy from whatever quarter they may be forced upon us; we, the citizens of the district of Georgetown, finding you no longer at our head, have agreed to convey to you our grateful sentiments for your former numerous services. In the decline of life, when the merits of the veteran are too often forgotten, we wish to remind you that yours are still fresh in the remembrance of your fellow citizens. Could it be possible for men who have served and fought under you, to be now forgetful of that General, by whose prudent conduct their lives have been saved and their families preserved from being plundered by a rapacious enemy? We mean not to flatter you. At this time it is impossible to suspect it. Our present language is the language of freemen, expressing only sentiments of gratitude. Your achievements may not have sufficiently swelled the historic page. They were performed by those who could better wield the sword than the pen -- by men whose constant dangers precluded them from the leisure, and whose necessities deprived them of the common implements of writing. But this is of little moment. They remain recorded in such indelible characters upon our minds, that neither change of circumstances, nor length of time, can efface them. Taught by us, our children shall hereafter point out the places, and say, `HERE, General Marion, posted to advantage, made a glorious stand in defence of the liberties of his country -- THERE, on disadvantageous ground, retreated to save the lives of his fellow citizens.' What could be more glorious for the General, commanding freemen, than thus to fight, and thus to save the lives of his fellow soldiers? Continue, General, in peace, to till those acres which you once wrested from the hands of an enemy. Continue to enjoy dignity accompanied with ease, and to lengthen out your days blessed with the consciousness of conduct unaccused of rapine or oppression, and of actions ever directed by the purest patriotism."
The artless language of this address was grateful to the venerable patriot. In its truth and simplicity lay its force and eloquence. It had truly embodied in a single sentence the noble points of his career and character. He lived in the delightful consciousness of a pure mind, free from accusation -- and no higher eulogy could be conferred upon the captain of citizen soldiers, than to say, he never wantonly exposed their lives, but was always solicitous of their safety. To this address his answer was verbal. He no longer used the pen. The feebleness of nature was making itself understood. That he felt himself failing may be inferred from his withdrawal from all public affairs. But his mind was cheerful and active to the last. He still saw his friends and neighbors, and welcomed their coming -- could still mount his horse and cast his `eye over his acres.' The progress of decline, in his case, was not of that humiliating kind, by which the faculties of the intellect are clouded, and the muscles of the body made feeble and incompetent. He spoke thoughtfully of the great concerns of life, of death, and of the future; declared himself a Christian, a humble believer in all the vital truths of religion. As of the future he entertained no doubt, so of the awful transition through the valley and shadow of death, he had no fear. "Death may be to others," said he, "a leap in the dark, but I rather consider it a resting-place where old age may throw off its burdens." He died, peaceful and assured, with no apparent pain, and without regret, at his residence in St. John's parish, on the 27th day of February, 1795, having reached the mature and mellow term of sixty-three years. His last words declared his superiority to all fears of death; "for, thank God," said he, "I can lay my hand on my heart and say that, since I came to man's estate, I have never intentionally done wrong to any."
Thus died Francis Marion, one of the noblest models of the citizen soldier that the world has ever produced. Brave without rashness, prudent without timidity, firm without arrogance, resolved without rudeness, good without cant, and virtuous without presumption. His mortal remains are preserved at Belle-Isle, in St. John's parish. The marble slab which covers them bears the following inscription: -- "Sacred to the memory of Brigadier-General Francis Marion, who departed this life on the 29th of Feb., 1795, in the sixty-third year of his age, deeply regretted by all his fellow citizens. History will record his worth, and rising generations embalm his memory, as one of the most distinguished patriots and heroes of the American Revolution; which elevated his native country to honor and Independence, and secured to her the blessings of liberty and peace. This tribute of veneration and gratitude is erected in commemoration of the noble and disinterested virtues of the citizen, and the gallant exploits of the soldier, who lived without fear, and died without reproach."
This inscription was the tribute of an individual, not of the country. The State of South Carolina has conferred his name upon one of its district divisions. But a proper gratitude, not to speak of policy, would seem to require more
[End of original text.]
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