Col. Charles Clinton.

The name of CLINTON has been prominent for the last hundred years, both in the colonial and state history of New-York. For nearly forty years of that period, individuals of that name have held the high and responsible trust of governor, besides filling many other offices of a military, legislative, and judicial character. The different branches of the family were originally from England. The first of the name who was distinguished here was the colonial governor, George Clinton, who was the youngest son of Francis, sixth Earl of Lincoln, and who was governor of the province of New York from 1743 to 1753. He returned to England, and was afterwards appointed governor of Greenwich Hospital. He was the father of Sir Henry Clinton, who was in command of the English army during a part of the revolution.

William Clinton, the ancestor of De Witt Clinton, was an adherent to the cause of royalty in the civil wars of England, and an officer in the army of Charles I. After the death of that monarch he went to the continent, where he remained a long time in exile. He afterwards passed over to Scotland, where he married a lady of the family of Kennedy. From Scotland he removed to Ireland, where he died, leaving one son. This son, James Clinton, on arriving at manhood, made an unsuccessful effort to recover his patrimonial estates in England. While in England he married a Miss Smith, a daughter of a captain in the army of Cromwell, and with his wife returned and settled in Ireland.

CHARLES CLINTON, the son of this marriage, and the grandfather of DE WITT CLINTON, was born in the county of Longford, in Ireland, in 1690. In 1729 he determined to emigrate to America. Being a man of influence, he prevailed upon a large number of his neighbors and friends to remove with him. He sailed from Dublin in a vessel called the George and Anne, in May, 1729, and by a receipt preserved among his papers, it seems that he paid for the passages of ninety-four persons.

They were unfortunate in the selection of a vessel. The captain was a violent and unprincipled villain. They were poorly supplied with stores, and the voyage proving long, they suffered from disease and famine. A large number of passengers died, including a son and daughter of Mr. Clinton. They were finally landed upon the coast of Massachusetts. The captain refused to go to New York, or to Pennsylvania, though the latter was his original place of destination. Charles Clinton remained in Massachusetts until 1731, when he removed to the province of New York, and settled at a place called Little Britain, in a region designated as the precincts of the Highlands, afterwards a part of Ulster, and now a part of Orange county. Though within a few miles of the Hudson River, and within sixty or seventy miles of the city of New-York, the residence of Mr. Clinton was on the frontier of civilization. The virgin wilderness was around him. In the language of some of the inhabitants of Ulster county after this period, in a petition to the Colonial Legislature asking for protection, they say that they are bounded on the west by the desert -– a desert where, instead of the roaming Arab, the wild Indian erected his cabin, and "made his home and his grave." The inhabitants of that district were compelled to fortify their houses in order to guard against inroads of the savages. In the subsequent Indian and French wars Charles Clinton took an active and efficient part. In 1758 we find him in command of a regiment of provincial troops, stationed in the valley of the Mohawk, and in the summer of that year he joined the main army under General Bradstreet, on his way to Canada, and was present with him at the capture of Fort Frontenac. Colonel Charles Clinton was a good mathematical scholar, and frequently acted as surveyor of lands; an employment of considerable importance and emolument in a new country. He was also a judge of the court of Common Pleas of Ulster county. He sustained a pure and elevated character, was neat in his person and dignified in his manners, and exerted a great influence in the district of country where he lived.

In a letter to his son James, who was in the army, dated June, 1759, he says: "My advice to you is, to be diligent in your duty to God, your king and country, and avoid bad company as much as in your province lies; forbear learning habits of vice, for they grow too easily upon men in a public station, and are not easily broke off. Profane habits make men contemptible and mean. That God may grant you grace to live in his fear, and to discharge your duty with a good conscience, is the sincere desire of your affectionate father, Charles Clinton." Among his papers, carefully preserved and written upon parchment, is the following certificate. It was his Christian passport, which he carried with him when he embarked for the New World:

"Whereas the bearer, Mr. Charles Clinton, and his wife Elizabeth, lived within the bounds of this Protestant dissenting congregation from their infancy, and now design for America; this is to certify, that all along they behaved themselves soberly and inoffensively, and are fit to be received into any Christian congregation where Providence may cast their lot. Also, that said Charles Clinton was a member of our session, and discharged the office of ruling elder very acceptably; this, with advice of session, given at Corbay, in the county of Longford, Ireland.

"JOSEPH BOND, Minister."            

I need scarcely add that Charles Clinton took an active part in the promotion of the cause of religion and good morals. He sometimes also courted the muses, and in the Commonplace-Book of De Witt Clinton, the following lines were preserved:


Written by my grandfather CHARLES CLINTON, and spoken over the grave of a dear departed sister, who had often nursed and taken care of him in his younger days.

  "Oh canst thou know, thou dear departed shade,
The mighty sorrows that my soul invade;
Whilst o’er thy mouldering frame I mourning stand,
And view thy grave far from thy native land?
With thee my tender years were early trained,
Oft have thy friendly arms my weight sustained;
And when with childish fears or pains oppressed,
You with soft music lull’d my soul to rest."

He concludes his last Will, made in 1771, and a short time before his decease, with the following directions:

"It is my will I be buried in the grave-yard on my own farm, beside my daughter Catharine; and it is my will, the said grave-yard be made four rods square, and open free road to it at all times when it shall be necessary; and I nominate and appoint my said three sons, Charles, James, and George, executors of this my last will, to see the same executed accordingly; and I order that my said executors procure a suitable stone to lay over my grave, whereon I would have the time of my death, my age, and coat of arms cut. I hope they will indulge me in this last piece of vanity."

He died on the 19th of November, 1773, at his own residence, in the 83d year of his age, and in the full view of that revolution in which his sons were to act such distinguished parts. In his last moments he conjured them to stand by the liberties of America.

His wife, Elizabeth Denniston, to whom he was married in Ireland, was an accomplished and intelligent woman. She appears to have been well acquainted with the military operations of the times, and to have shared largely in the patriotic ardor of her husband and her sons. She died at the residence of her son James, on the 25th of December, 1779, in the 75th year of her age.

They left four sons: Alexander, Charles, James, and George. The two former were physicians of considerable eminence. Charles was a surgeon in the British navy at the capture of the Havana. George Clinton was the youngest son: he was a soldier and a statesman. He was engaged in the French war and in the Revolution; he was a member of the Provincial Assembly just before the Revolution, and in that body was a fearless advocate of his country’s liberty. He was the first governor of the State of New York, and for twenty-one years was continued in that high and responsible office, and exerted, perhaps, a larger influence than any other man over the then future destinies of the Empire State. He closed his eventful life while filling the chair of Vice-President of the United States.

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