March 2, 2012

Matthew Lyon (1749 – 1822), Part 1: Obituary

This is the first part of several consecutive posts on Matthew Lyon.  I'll begin at the end with his obituary, in hopes it will serve as an introduction to those unacquainted with him.

Part 1: Obituary of Matthew Lyon
Part 2: Spitting in Roger Griswold's Face
Part 3: History of the Wooden Sword
Part 4: Duel with Griswold
Part 5: Lyon's Kentucky Duel

From page 3 of the Arkansas Weekly Gazette of Little Rock, Arkansas on August 13, 1822:


Died, at Spadre Bluff, Arkansas Territory, on Thursday, the 1st of Agust, after a short illness, Colonel MATTHEW LYON, United States Factor, for the Cherokee Nation on the Arkansas, aged about 76 years.

Colonel Lyon was born in Ireland, but emigrated to America, at a very early period of his life.  He was one of the first settlers in Vermont, and married a daughter of one of the early governors of that state.  During the Revolutionary War, he took an active part in support of the liberties and independence of his adopted country.  After the war, he was chosen to fill several important civil offices.  He was a member of the Convention that formed the Constitution of Vermont, and was several times elected to the Legislature of that state.  About the year 1796, he was elected a Representative to Congress by the people of Vermont.  In 1797, General Washington having retired from the helm of state, he was succeeded by Mr. Adams.  This gentlemen unfortunately permitted himself to be influenced by certain members of his cabinet, who evidently aimed at the destruction of our republican institutions; and with a view to silence all opposition, a standing army was raised, and a fatal blow was given to the liberty of speech and the freedom of the press, by the passage of an act, commonly called the SEDITION LAW.  Colonel Lyon not only voted against those unconstitutional measures, but exerted all his influence to render them unpopular.  On his return to his constituents, he expressed his sentiments freely and openly respecting the conduct of the administration, and caused to be published, a letter addressed to him by a distinguished American then in France, which contained severe animadversions on the measures pursued by the General Government.   For these "high crimes and misdemeanors" he (although a Representative chosen by the people) was arrested, brought before a Federal Marshall, and sentenced to be imprisoned for three months, and to pay a fine of one thousand dollars.

At the time this unjust and disgraceful sentence was carried into effect, Colonel L. was on the eve of his departure for the seat of Government, to attend to his duties as a Representatives in Congress.  He was taken to prison during an inclement season, and for some time was treated with as much rigor as though he had been a malefactor.  A general burst of indignation was evinced in every part of the Union, at this arbitrary and vindictive conduct; and Colonel Lyon, amid his sufferings, had the satisfaction to find that his constituents had not abandoned him--on the constrary, while in prison, he was re-elected to a seat in Congress.

Having been unsuccessful in an extensive manufacturing establishment in which he was engaged in Vermont, and having a young and growing family to provide for, Colonel L. determined to emigrate to the western Country.  Accordingly, about the year 1802, he removed to Eddyville, Kentucky, on the Cumberland river, where he was for some time extensively engaged in the exporting and ship building business.

In 1803, he was elected a Representative in Congress from Kentucky, and was re-elected during the succeeding twelve years.  He was, also, several times elected to the Legislature of that state.

While in Congress, no member was more attentive to the interests of his constituents than Colonel Lyon; he likewise evinced his usual zeal and patriotism on all important national question. During 20 years of his life, he has been a member of different state Legislatures, was a member of Congress during 14 sessions, and has been a member of 7 or 8 Conventions raised for revolutionary purposes, or for forming or amending state Constitutions.

Having embarked his all in promoting improvements in his new settlement on the Cumberland, he, like many othe renterprizing and useful men, was unfortunate, and in the decline of life, had the misfortune to find himself reduced from affluence to poverty.  His friends have made his misfortunes known to the Executve, he was, in 1820, appointed to the situation which he filled at the time of his death.

About 6 or 7 months after his arrival in this Territory, an election took place for Delegate to Congress.  He announced himself as a Candidate, and nontwithstanding his advanced age, the short time he had been in the Territory, and the respectable standing of his opponent, he nearly succeeded in being elected.

In private as well as public life, the character of Colonel Lyon stood fair; his manners were calculated to make friends; he was frank, generous and sincere, and never evinced any thing like a vindicitve disposition even toward his enemies.

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