Fellow-citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
A distinguished son of Massachusetts
has said of the Virginia
of the Revolutionary period, that ‘We must go back to Athens
to find another instance of a society so small in number and yet capable of such an outburst of ability and force.’
Into this society, in the County
of King George, on 6th of September, 1797, was born William Smith
The public opinion of the day was dominated by the sentiments which had caused the War
of Independence and carried it to a successful conclusion.
From his earliest infancy, his mind was fed and his character formed with stories of heroic deeds.
At the fireside he would hear recounted incidents of the stern struggle for freedom in which all with whom he was brought into association were engaged.
The mighty figure of Washington
still lingered upon the stage; Light-Horse Harry Lee
, the hero of the Southern
campaigns, great in himself, but to be remembered in all coming time as the father of Robert Edward Lee
; and Jefferson, Madison
were at the zenith of their great careers while William Smith
was in the tender and receptive days of his early youth.
What lessons he learned!
What examples he saw around him!
What inspiration to form his ideals upon that which is noble in life, and what incentives to high achievement!
In order to rouse his ambition, to kindle the sacred fire in his soul, there was no need to turn to books of chivalry or romance, to pore over Plutarch's Lives or Livy's pictured page.
It was a saying of the great Doctor Johnson
that ‘The man is little to be envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon
, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona
If such be the force of environment, how great must have been its influence upon a boy of ardent temperament, of fine intellectual gifts, reared in such an atmosphere and among such surroundings!
We shall see that in the breast of William Smith
it kindled a fervid love of country which age could not cool, and which, to the end of a long life, retained all its warmth, like Hecla with its crown of snow and heart of fire.
Fitted by a liberal academic and professional education, on reaching man's estate he entered upon the practice of law, and attained distinction in that profession, which along with other business pursuits, furnished an ample field for the display of his talents and