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AMONG every people, whether rude or civilized, ignorant or learned, old age is an object of pious veneration. It is regarded as a badge of wisdom, and is privileged to instruct as a source of authority, and is entitled to counsel, direct, and control. It is a circumstance of human existence sacred and holy, commanding instinctively the homage of the heart, and conciliating to its purposes and enlisting in its behalf, the best and noblest affections of our nature. Hence the origin of patriarchal government, the earliest and most natural form of the social compact-hence the filial submission with which the kings and heroes of Greece are represented to have listened to the counsels of the aged Nestor--and, nence, even at the present day, the respectful deference paid by the savage warriors of America to the experience and advice of their venerable sachems.
But if old age considered in itself be an object of such profound veneration and respect, how much more so must it be when dignified by every excellence, and adorned by every virtue ? When the powers of the mind receive a lustre from the qualities
of the heart, when public eminence is harmoniously blended with private worth, when a spirit of piety elevates the sentiments, and mingles its influence with the actions of life, and a polish and interest are given to the picture by taste, hospitality, refinement of manners, and the whole train of social virtues?— When old age is encircled and exalted by attributes like these, it is of all earthly objects the most venerable and impressive. Freed from the clouds and wild misrule of the passions, and gilded by the calm sunshine of reason, virtue and piety, it seems to stand on middle ground, and to partake of a middle nature, between human and divine. No wonder, then, that a rude barbarian soldiery mistook the Roman senate for an assembly of gods! And no wonder that to individuals standing on the verge of a protracted and exemplary life, superstition has oftentimes attributed powers and privileges of a supernatural order-powers and privileges of no less amount than that of penetrating through the curtain of time, and receiving an antepast of the enjoyments of another world!
Into this train of reflection I have been insensibly led by a retrospect of the character of him who is to constitute the subject of the present memoir. For, though I will not say that the closing years of his life furnished a perfect example of hallowed old age, such as I have endeavoured to represent it, yet, those who knew him best, are best able to judge, how difficult it would be to find an example more perfect.
Benjamin Chew was a native of Maryland, a state celebrated în no ordinary degree, for giving birth to characters of eminence and worth. His father, Samuel Chew, was a practitioner of medicine. Though deservedly ranked at the head of his profession, he was not more esteemed for his talents, learning, and skill, than he was beloved for the benevolence of his disposition, the affibility of his manners, the disinterestedness of his affections, and the charities of his heart. But his mind active, erudite and enterprizing, was not formed for an exclusive devotion to medical pursuits. Besides being extensively read in theology and history, he had a profound knowledge of the science of law, more particularly of the laws of his country, and of the British. Constitution. Attainments so various and important as these
still heightened in their lustre by a spotless integrity of character, while they conciliated private friendship and esteem, could not fail to attract public notice and consideration. Doctor Chew was accordingly appointed to the office of chief justice of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex, counties which were subsequently erected into the state of Delaware. Thus elevated by his merit to a conspicuous and honourable station, he bore no inconsiderable part in many of the public transactions of the day. Having passed a life of patriotism, virtue, and distinguished usefulness, he died on the 16th day of June, 1744, leaving behind him three sons and three daughters.
His son, Benjamin, the much lamented subject of the present memoir, was born on the 29th day of November (old style) 1722. Of the events of his childhood we know but little, and that little is too much obscured by the mists of time to be worthy of recital. For such was the protracted span of his life, that long before its close, there lived not a single companion of his youth, to tell the story of his early years. All we can state with certainty is, that he received the best education the schools of the country, were at that time calculated to afford. And from the accuracy and excellence of his clasical scholarship, there is no reason to doubt, that his assiduity was exemplary and his progress honourable.
The flattering promise which young Chew exhibited on the close of his academical career, designated him as a youth amply qualified to acquire distinction in one of the learned professions. For in addition to talents of an elevated order, and a stock of acquired knowledge unusual for his years, he possessed a dignity of sentiment, and an emulation of spirit, which, while they pointed to eminence, raised his attention far above the level of common pursuits. He felt, and, had his native modesty permitted, would even have been privileged to glory in the consciousness, that, capable as he was of superior usefulness in society, he had Nature's warrant to aim at a superior standing. Conformably to these proud but highly laudable views and sentiments, the law became the profession of his choice. For on glancing over the various walks of civil society, he discovered