Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/69

This page has been validated.
The Virginia Convention of 1788.

and finally an aide to General Lord Stirling. He was in active service nearly the whole war, and fought in the battles of Harlem Heights, White Plains, of Princeton and Trenton with Lafayette, in which last he was wounded; of Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth. At the end of the war he was elected to the House of Delegates. At the age of twenty-four he was deputed to Congress and was the youngest member which the Assembly had ever elected to that body. He was tall and erect in person, his face, with its high cheek bones, betokened his Caledonian origin; his manner kind and affectionate, but of martial stiffness. His demeanor was marked by gravity which concealed from the common observer a warm and generous heart. He was noted for the concentration and sincerity with which he devoted his talents to the business in hand and his truthfulness. He was entirely devoid of those accomplishments that assure interest and adorn the social sphere. He lacked the charm in conversation of many of his compeers. He was slow in comprehending a subject, but he was, as Henry remarked, "slow, but give him time and he was sure." His mental faculties were neither large nor bright, not much enriched by art or learning drawn from books, yet vigorous and practical. The secret of his unparalleled success is attributed to his industry, integrity and personal intrepidity, which he displayed amid the clashing of arms or the more fearful and wonderful clashing of tongues. He possessed in a pre-eminent degree common sense. He was neither a graceful nor an accomplished speaker. Pronunciation, elocution, emphasis, gesture, the art and charm of diction, style, never crossed his mind; he looked at the staple or the matter of the speech as the paramount object and he went at it in a truly matter of fact way. In the Convention he propounded the question, "What are the powers which the Federal government ought to possess?" and proceeded to answer it deliberately and with consumate tact, shorn of sophistry and rhetoric. Monroe's name is more conspicuously connected with, and his fame rests more prominently on, the famous "Monroe Doctrine" than any other event in his life. Briefly stated, this doctrine is that "the American Continents should no longer be subjects for new European colonial settlement." His argument, as reported in Elliott's Debates, while not oratorical, is candid,