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thought best, on the whole, to surrender him at once to the prerogative of his nature.
The crisis of his fate was past. At his own request, he was sent immediately to Burlington, and there confided to the care of Mr. Griscomb, to be initiated in the principles of navigation. Mere initiation was probably all that he required at the hands of an instructer, as he remained with this gentleman but three months-a term which seems to have included the extent of his nautical education. We hear of him afterward under no other preceptor. Giving his master, Griscomb, the utmost credit for fidelity in acquiring, as well as for faculty in communicating, the knowledge of his art, we are yet not to suppose that he could render the most apt and assiduous of scholars an accomplished navigator in only three months. The elements of the theory were certainly all he could have taught him; and these were enough. His mind, once receiving a proper direction, could go forward, at leisure, of its own motion. A guide was wanting only to show the path, and to mark out the course; it was for Lawrence to arrive alone at the goal. While exercising, afterwards, the duties of his profession, he was universally pronounced a most finish 1 seaman; and this proud character could not have been acquired, but by devoting himself exclusively to the acquisition of nautical science, with the advantage of combining practice with theory.
In the seventeenth year of his age-in the bloom of youth, and the pride of his strength-full of heart and hope, he applied for a station in the navy. Such was the correctness of his character, the promise of his life, and the interest in his person, that many of the oldest and wariest veteran worthies of the state came forward with alacrity, in aid of his application. The mail that carried it returned with a warrant for midshipman Lawrence; and he thus entered his country's service, on the 5th of September,
His first essay upon the ocean was a voyage to the West Indies, in the ship Ganges, under captain Thomas Tingey. This cruise, and others that followed it, passed, without any uncommon occurrence, leaving him only the benefits of experience, and the blessings of esteem, till, about two years after his first appointment, we find him promoted to an acting lieutenancy, on board the
Adams, captain Robinson, with whom he remained, in that capa city, till March, 1801, when the reduction of the navy deferred his hopes, and prevented a confirmation of his merited promotion.
But an incensed country soon required its indignation to be felt by the distant Turk, in his innermost castle. The bay of Tripoli may be considered, in some measure, as the nursery, and Preble the father of our present navy. Here it was our national mariners, almost all of them, served, and together--learned how to contend and confide: each emulous of the others' example, they conquered with glory, or else kindled a dazzling light about defeat, that threw even the glory of victory into the shade. They carried terror through the regions of the prophet, and excited astonishment in less barbarous countries.
In this war Lawrence was a commissioned lieutenant, and attached to the Enterprise, as first officer. In the night of the 3d of February, 1804, led on by Decatur, he volunteered, with about 70 men, in a ketch of four guns, to destroy a frigate of 44, in the harbour of Tripoli, within half gun-shot of the bashaw's loaded batteries. We now behold him "seeking the bubble reputation, even in the cannon's mouth." Two corsairs, full of armed foes, are riding near at the time: yet the frigate is destroyed, and not an American lost. In a struggle where " every thing was settled by the sword"-not so much as a pistol being fired by us--there can be no doubt the captain's gallantry was very powerfully seconded by a first lieutenant, with the spirit and uncommon personal prowess of Lawrence. In his official account to the commodore, captain Decatur thus writes:-"Every support that could be given was received from my officers; and, as each of their conduct was highly meritorious, I beg leave to enclose a list of their names." This was not a notice to call for gratitude from the first lieutenant, who, although looking up to his captain, at the time, as to the summit of his profession, probably regarded him as marked rather by care of his own, than solicitude for the character of others. This achievement has been compared, for brilliancy, with the recapture of the Hermione, by captain Hamilton, than which the British claim nothing bolder. For this, in the November following, the president of the United States was re
quested" to present, in the name of congress, to captain Stephen Decatur a sword, and to each of the officers and crew two months' pay"—a present which an officer of rank should consider as degrading to his dignity, and a sovereign of power as a derogation from his bounty. Lieutenant Lawrence declined the proffered gratuity, with an indignation scarcely repressed by respect for the hand that offered, or the name that sanctioned it. As these public acknowledgments derive all their consequence from the manner in which they are given, mere sailors only regarding pecuniary value, it is at all times desirable to distinguish between officers and men. A medal to Decatur, swords to the officers, and the pay to the crew, would have been more appropriate.
Some months after the destruction of the frigate Philadelphia, the bombardments of Tripoli commenced, and the temporary command of the Enterprise had devolved upon Lawrence. August 4th, mention is made, in the "general orders" of the day, that "lieutenant Lawrence, of the Enterprise, and lieutenant Reid, of the Nautilus (commanding those vessels, in the absence of their captains), merit their commander's thanks, for their active exertions, in towing out and protecting prizes."
At midnight of the 28th of this month, Tripoli was bombarded by the gun-boats, "within pistol-shot of the rocks." A brisk firing upon the shipping, town, batteries, and bashaw's castle, was kept up, from 3 o'clock until daylight; when, nearly exhausted of ammunition, they retired upon the signal given. The captains were officially reported to have conducted their respective divisions with their usual firmness and address, and to have been well supported by their several officers. Lieutenant Lawrence, of the Enterprise, commanded, on this occasion, gun-boat No. 5; as also, in the bombardment of September Sd, which, from similar intrepidity, was followed with equal execution.
The bey is said by some to have sought shelter from these bombardments in his bomb-proof apartment. Others report that, when the rest of the Tripolitans fled the ramparts, he alone stood, surveying with calmness the enemy's operations, through his glass. But, coward or hero, the history of these vigorous hostilities Tenders not highly improbable a suggestion of the time, that, unless peace were proffered, and the captives set at liberty,
the Americans, ere long, "would bury the bashaw in the ruins of his castle."
Towards the end of August, or early in September, lieutenant Lawrence was removed from the Enterprise to the John Adams, under captain Chauncey. With him he was engaged in a variety of services, in what has been emphatically termed "a memorable warfare," until he sailed for America with that "determined commander," Edward Preble.
A short interval only had elapsed, after his arrival in the United States, when a novel situation awaited him, of no very pleasing interest. He was to be the first adventurer across the Atlantic, in that new species of vessel, a gun-boat. The command of gun-boat No. 6, was assigned him, with orders to return to Tripoli. Giving the orders implied an opinion that the execution of them was a possibility at least; and it was not in this officer to shrink from attempting what was thought to be possible. A gunboat is a sort of armed coaster, spoiled for a coaster by the weight of its guns, and spoiled for guns by the dimensions of a coaster. Some of the ablest European mariners have expressed their astonishment that any man could be found, with hardihood enough to hazard his life, over a tempestuous ocean, in such a crazy vehicle. Our American mariner despaired indeed of reaching his place of destination, but he did not give himself up to despair. He stepped on board his vessel, confiding in his fate; and the bark carried Lawrence and his fortunes in safety to the Mediter
He returned again not till after the establishment of peace, having been engaged in the wars with the Moors, Tunisians, and Tripolitans, nearly five years.
After his return, he was some time at New York, attached to the navy-yard in that city. While here, the attention of the naval gentlemen of the place was attracted by some "queries," in "The Public Advertiser," the object of which was to call commodore Rodgers to account, for not having exercised the powers, with which he was invested by government, respecting gun-boats, in a particular manner, on a then recent occasion. These remarks, in a country where the press is free to a fault, and its licentiousness appears to be digging the grave of its liberty,
Lawrence and his brethren had probably passed without notice, had they been confined to what concerned the commodore only and was without any personal reflections upon him. But having passed the commodore, glancing only at his official relations, this political archer thought proper to attack the inferior officers, and particularly, the commanders of gun-boats. "Why," he asks, "are the commanders of these gun-boats suffered to be swaggering through our streets, while they should be whetting their sabres?" So much insolence incensed the whole corps; and Lawrence, the senior officer then on that station, in behalf of them addressed this note to the printer.
"To Mr. Frank, editor of the Public Advertiser.
"Your queries, in the Public Advertiser of Monday, were of a nature to excite indignation in the coldest bosom, and procure for you the chastisement which a scoundrel deserves. In answer to your "Queries" which immediately relate to the navy—if you wish to be informed why commodore Rodgers did not employ the apparent force with which government has invested him, I would refer you to the constituted authorities. On this subject, they alone can gratify your curiosity. In regard to the commanders of gun-boats, whom you term swaggerers, I assure you their "sabres" are sufficiently keen to cut off your ears, and will inevitably be employed in that service, if any future remarks, injurious to their reputation, should be inserted in your paper.
"JAS. LAWRENCE, Lieut. U. S. Navy, "In behalf of the officers.
Navy-yard, New York, 6th Sept. 1807,"
Frank, it seems, had respect for the length of his ears, and took care not to tempt the sabres to the employment that was threatened.
Lawrence was next appointed first lieutenant to the Constitution, where he remained until promoted to the rank of master and commander. He was then forthwith directed to take command, in succession, of the Vixen, the Wasp, the Argus, and Hornet; and was twice sent with despatches to Europe-once to London, and afterwards to Paris.
In 1808 he married the daughter of a respectable merchant of New York, Miss Montaudevert.
He was in this city at the declaration of war, on the 18th of June, 1812; and, within a few days after an event, that of course