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ANY of those bold patriots who pledged life, fortune, and honor, in support of the independence of the United States of America, left behind them but few written memorials of the scenes in which they took a conspicuous part,
and hence the biographers who first engaged in the task of delineating the characters and acts of those men, were obliged to find their materials in scattered fragments among public records, or from the lips of surviving relations or compatriots. Such was the case of Thomas Stone, the subject of this brief sketch, whose un
assuming manners and attachment to domestic life kept him in apparent obscurity except when called forth by the commands of duty.
Thomas Stone was born at the Pointoin Manor, in the Province of Maryland, in the year 1743. After receiving a good English education, and some knowledge of the classics, he entered upon the study of the law, and at the age of twenty-one years he commenced its practice. Where he began business in his profession, is not certainly known, but it is supposed to have been in Annapolis.
Although quite unambitious of personal fame, he nevertheless, from the impulses of a patriotic heart, espoused the cause of the patriots and took an active part in the movements preliminary to the calling of the first General Congress in 1774. He was elected one of the first five delegates thereto from that state, and after actively performing his duties throughout that first short session, * he again retired to private life. But his talents and patriotism had become too conspicuous for his fellow citizens to allow him to remain inactive, and toward the latter part of 1775, he was again elected to the General Congress. As we have before observed, the people of Maryland, although warmly opposed to the oppressive measures of the British government, and determined in maintaining their just rights, yet a large proportion of them were too much attached to the mother-country, to harbor a thought of political independence. They therefore instructed their delegates not to vote for such a proposition, and thus Mr. Stone, like his colleagues, who were all for independence, felt themselves fettered by an
* The first Continental Congress convened on the fourth day of September, 1774, and adjourned on the twenty-sixth day of October following — a session of only fifty-two days. Yet within that time they organized, or made provisions for those efficient movements which afterward took place in favor of freedom; and they sent forth to the world those able addresses and petitions, which so much excited the admiration of the statesmen of Europe. - See note, Life of Philip Livingston.
bond. But the restriction was removed in June, 1776, and Mr. Stone, like Paca and others, voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence. And it is worthy of record that on the fourth of July, the very day on which the vote for Independence was given, Mr. Stone and his colleagues from Maryland, were re-elected by the unanimous voice of the same convention, which, about six weeks previously forbade them thus to act.
The unobtrusive character of Mr. Stone kept him from becoming a very prominent member of Congress, yet his great good sense and untiring industry in the business of important committees, rendered him a very useful one. He was one of the committee who framed the Articles of Confederation, which were finally adopted in November, 1777. He was again elected to Congress that year, and finally retired from it early in 1778, and entered the Legislature of his own State, where he earnestly advocated the adoption, by that body, of the Articles of Confederation. The Maryland Legislature was too strongly imbued with the ultra principles of State rights and absolute independence of action to receive with favor the proposition for a general political Union, with Congress for a Federal head, and it was not until 1781 that that State agreed to the confederation.
Mr. Stone was again elected to Congress in 1783, and was present when General Washington resigned his military commission into the hands of that body. In 1784, he was appointed President of Congress, pro tempore; and had not his native modesty supervened, he would doubtless have been regularly elected to that important station, then the highest office in the gift of the people. On the adjournment of Congress, he returned to his constituents and resumed the duties of his profession at Port Tobacco, the place of his residence, where he died, on the fifth of October, 1787, in the forty-fifth year of his age,
ILLIAM PACA was the descendant of a wealthy planter on the east shore of Maryland. He was born at Wye Hall, his paternal residence, in the year
1740. His early moral and intellectual training was carefully attended to, and at a proper age he was placed in the Philadelphia College, whence he graduated, after a course of arduous and profitable study, with great credit to himself. He then commenced the study of the law with Mr. Hammond and Mr. Hall, of Annapolis, and Samuel Chase, his subsequent Congressional colleague, was a fellow student.
Mr. Paca, was admitted to the bar at the age of twenty, and the next year (1761), he was chosen a member of the Provincial Assembly. When the Stamp Act, in 1765, aroused the people of the colonies to their common danger, Mr. Paca, with Mr. Chase and Mr. Carroll, warmly opposed its operation. And every succeeding measure of the British government, asserting its right to tax the Americans without their consent, was fearlessly condemned by him, and thus he soon obtained the disapprobation of the royal governor of the Province, and of those who adhered to the king and parliament. Like Mr. Chase, he became very popular with the people by his patriotic conduct.
He approved of the proposition for a General Congress in 1774, and he zealously promoted the meeting of the people in county conventions to express their sentiments upon this point. He was appointed by a State Convention of Maryland, one of its five representatives in the Continental Congress, who were instructed to “ agree to all measures which might be deemed necessary to obtain a redress of American grievances.” Mr. Paca was re-elected in 1775, and continued a member of Congress until 1778, when he was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of his state.
Like Mr. Chase, Mr. Paca was much embarrassed in Congress by the opposition of his constituents to independence, and their loyal adherence to the British Crown, as manifested in their instructions, frequently repeated in the early part of 1776.* Even as late as the middle of May, they passed a resolution prohibiting their delegates from voting for independence; but on the twenty-eighth of the
* The people of Maryland, as represented in its State Convention, were alarmed lest their enthusiastic delegates should favor independence, and early in 1776, they sent them instructions, in which they forbade their voting for such a measure. They also passed a resolution that Maryland would not be bound by a vote of a majority of Congress to declare independence."