Page images
PDF
EPUB

at any moment, gentlemen, to wait on you." The fatal hour having arrived, a large detachment of troops was paraded, and an immense concourse of people assembled ; almost all our general and field officers, excepting his excellency and his staff, were present on horseback; melancholy and gloom pervaded all ranks --the scene was affecting and awful.

I was so near during the solemn march to the fatal spot, as to observe every movement and participate in every emotion which the melancholy scene was calculated to produce. Major André walked from the stone-house in which he had been confined, between two of our subaltern officers, arm in arm; the eyes of the immense multitude were fixed on him, who, rising superior to the fear of death, appeared as if conscious of the dignified deportment which he displayed. He betrayed no want of fortitude, but retained a complacent smile on his countenance, and politely bowed to several gentlemen whom he knew, which was respectfully returned. It was his earnest desire to be shot, as being the mode of death most conformable to the feelings of a military man, and he had indulged the hope that his request would be granted. At the moment, therefore, when suddenly he came in view of the gallows, he involuntarily started backward, and made a pause.

Why this emotion, sir?” said an officer by his side. Instantly recovering his composure, he said: “I am reconciled to my death, but I detest the mode."

While waiting and standing near the gallows, I observed some degree of trepidation-placing his foot on a stone, and rolling it over, and choking in his throat, as if attempting to swallow. So soon, however, as he perceived that things were in readiness, he stepped quickly into the wagon; and at this moment he appeared to shrink, but instantly elevating his head with firmness, he said: “ It will be but a momentary pang;" and taking from his pocket two white handkerchiefs, the provost-marshal with one loosely pinioned his arms, and with the other, the victim, after taking off his hat and stock, bandaged his own eyes with perfect firmness, which melted the hearts and moistened the cheeks not only of his servant, but of the throng of spectators. The rope being appended to the gallows, he slipped the noose over his head, and adjusted it to his neck without the assistance of the executioner. Colonel Scammell now informed him that he had an opportunity to speak, if he desired it. He raised the handkerchief from his eyes, and said: “I pray you to bear me witness, that I meet my fate like a brave man!” The wagon being now removed from under him, he was suspended, and instantly expired.'

Throughout the whole of this scene,' adds our American authority, from the time he left the house in which he was guarded till the last fatal moment, his demeanour was such as to excite the respect, sympathy, and sorrow of every beholder. His step was steady, his carriage easy and graceful, his countenance placid, but thoughtful and firm, indicating a solemn sense of his

impending fate, and a resolution to meet it in a manner consistent with his character and the previous tenor of his conduct. He was dressed in the uniform of a British officer. When life had departed, the body was taken down and interred within a few yards of the place of execution. The coat and other regimentals were given to his servant, who faithfully attended him to the last, and saw the grave close over his mortal remains. Such was the death of a man whose rare accomplishments had procured him the friendship and confidence of all to whom he was known, and opened the happiest presages of a future career of renown and glory. In ten short days his blooming hopes had been blighted, and his glowing visions dispersed. But it was his singular fortune to die not more beloved by his friends than lamented by his enemies, whose cause he had sought to ruin, and by whose hands his life was justly taken. Time has consecrated the feeling. There are few Americans, and few will there ever be, who can look back upon the fate of André without deep regret. His name is embalmed in every generous heart; and they who shall condemn his great error, and applaud the sentence of his judges, will cherish a melancholy remembrance of the unfortunate victim, and grieve that a life of so much promise, adorned with so many elevated and estimable qualities, was destined to an untimely and ignominious end.

After a lapse of upwards of seventy years, the fate of André has not ceased to be deplored, nor will it be while aught honourable and piteous is held in remembrance and respect. Nor will this sentiment suffer from the more enlightened view which is now taken of the nature of judicial punishments. It would be a waste of words to attempt an exculpation of André. He was doubtless a spy; but there were extenuating circumstances in the case. He was seduced by a general-officer of the enemy into a position of danger; and, should this be insufficient, let it be recollected that his condemnation came from the guileless and excessive candour of his own confessions. That he might have been tried and condemned under his feigned name, and in ignorance of his rank, is unquestionable ; still, the explicit course he adopted was so noble and confiding, that, if anything could avail, it merited a merciful consideration. All things considered, therefore, we are sorry we cannot unite in honouring Washington for suffering André to be led to the gallows, as if he had been a base and mercenary villain who habitually traded in treachery. Considering the extenuating

rcumstances of the case, the culprit might at least have been so at indulged as to be left a choice in the mode of his execution. puch, we believe, will now be the verdict of all who are uninfluenced y feelings of nationality or partisanship. If there be the slightest

nish on the character of the great Washington, it is that of oxing, under a too peremptory sense of duty, put the gallant d unfortunate André to an ignominious death. The intelligence of the melancholy event sent a chill through the British nation, and by none was the fate of André more acutely felt than by George III. By order of his majesty, a handsome marble monument was erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey, bearing the following inscription :

SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF

MAJOR JOHN ANDRÉ,
WHO, RAISED BY HIS VERIT, AT AN EARLY PERIOD OF HIS LIFE, TO THE RANK OF

ADJUTANT-GENERAL OF THE BRITISH FORCES IN AMERICA,
AND EMPLOYED IN AN IMPORTANT BUT HAZARDOUS ENTERPRISE,
FELL A SACRIFICE TO HIS ZEAL FOR HIS KING AND COUNTRY,

ON THE 2D OF OCTOBER 1780, AGED 29,
UNIVERSALLY BELOVED AND ESTEEMED BY THE ARMY IN WHICH HE SERVED,

AND LAMENTED EVEN BY HIS FOES :

HIS GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN, KING GEORGE III., HAS CAUSED THIS

MONUMENT TO BE ERECTED.

At the same time, a pension was bestowed on the mother of André; and, in order to wipe away all stain from the family, the honour of knighthood was conferred on his brother. It may be further stated, that the remains of André, which had been buried at the place of execution, were taken up in 1821, and being removed to England, were deposited near the monument in Westminster Abbey.

It is not without a feeling of pain that we close our account of the fate of André, and turn to that of the wretch who had inveigled him to his doom. Arnold was received with favour by the British authorities, as an officer of rank who had seen fit to quit the service of the 'rebels,' and resume his allegiance. He was confirmed in his station of major-general, and was employed shortly afterwards in some military operations in Virginia. The last exploit in which he was concerned, was that of attacking and destroying his native town; and it is said he enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing it burnt to the ground.

At the end of the war, Arnold felt that the States were no longer safe as a home, and he removed with his family to England, where he lived unnoticed for a number of years. Subsequently, he took up his residence in St Johns, New Brunswick, and carried on a trade with the West Indies. Finally, he returned to England, and died in London in 1801, aged sixty-one years. Despised by the world, and no doubt conscious of his guilt as a traitor, it is worth mentioning, as an instructive revelation of human inconsistency, that Arnold, till the last, spoke and wrote as an ill-used man. Congress had never settled his accounts, from which he certainly suffered an inexcusable injury; the error of not promoting him according to his standing as an officer, was a second ground of complaint; and to extend his catalogue of wrongs, he declared that he could not but feel offended by the alliance of the Amer ricans with the French-a thing not reckoned upon at the beginning of the war! Such are the kind of excuses by which intense Selfishness ordinarily seeks to justify a departure from rectitude.

[graphic]

ANTE’S poem, entitled by himself the Divina Commedia, is a vision of Hell, Purgatory,

and Paradise, and consists accordingly of three To distinct parts-L’Inferno, Il Purgatorio, and Il

Paradiso. As it abounds with allusions both to the personal history of its author, and the events which had recently taken place in his country, it is proper that we should present a brief notice of his life and times, so far as is necessary to enable us to understand the poem of which we propose to furnish an outline.

Dante was born at Florence in the spring of 1265, of the noble family of the Alighieri. They were in politics attached to the Guelph or papal party, which had now gained the ascendancy in opposition to the Ghibelline or imperial ; and Dante was carefully educated in their opinions, as well as in classic

No. 16.

literature, music, drawing, horsemanship, and falconry. In due time, therefore, he appeared in public at once a zealous politician, an accomplished scholar, and a high-bred man of the world. But before he could have been any of these, he had become an ardent lover, having, it is said, when only nine years old, fixed his affections on a little lady about his own age, named Beatrice or Bice. The attachment seems to have continued on both sides through life as pure and romantic as it was tender and constant; but we are not told why it was never consummated by marriage. The death of the lady took place about her twenty-fifth year; and his passion, the poet informs us, was 'not extinguished but purified by this event; not buried with her body, but translated with her soul, which alonę was its object. He would have us believe, indeed, that the posthumous affection of Beatrice troubled her spirit amid the bliss of paradise; and that the visions of the eternal world with which he was favoured, were the fruit of a device of hers for preparing him for everlasting companionship with herself. ! At the age of twenty-four, Dante took arms on the side of the Florentine Guelphs, distinguished himself in the battle of Campaldino against the Ghibellines in 1289; and in that against the Pisans in 1290. These military services were followed by several important embassies; and in 1300 he was elected prior or supreme magistrate of Florence, an honour from which he dated all his subsequent misfortunes. During his priorship, the Guelphs split into two minor factions, called the Neri and the Bianchi, as bitterly opposed to each other as they had been collectively to the Ghibellines. The Neri entered into negotiations with the pope, to appoint Charles de Valois for the mediation of differences and the reform of abuses; the Bianchi violently opposed this measure, as likely to prove fatal to the liberties of the people. The whole territory became involved in contention, and was thrown into confusion ; both parties were under arms, and nothing could avert a fearful struggle but prompt and decisive action. The magistrates, accordingly, by the advice of their chief, banished the leaders of both factions; but as public tranquillity was still far from being established, Dante, at the expiration of his term of office in 1302, undertook an embassy to Rome, to solicit the mediation of the pope apart from foreign interference. But the intervention which he had gone to deprecate, took place in his absence. Charles of Valois entered Florence at the head of an army, recalled the Neri, who were his partisans, and assumed an absolute dictatorship. A pretext was found for exciting the people against Dante, who was supposed to favour the Bianchi; and ere he could return home, his dwelling was demolished, his property confiscated, and himself and his friends condemned to perpetual exile, with the provision, that if taken, they should be burnt alive. Hearing of this, Dante retired to Arezzo, which became a rallying point for all that were dissatisfied with the existing régime; and two years afterwards, they made an

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »