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Part II. Nathaniel Hawthorne

V. The Rejected Blessing

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So Grandfather made an end of Cotton Mather, telling his auditors that he died in 1728, at the age of sixty-five, and bequeathed the chair to Elisha Cooke. This gentleman was a famous advocate of the people's rights.

The same year William Burner, a son of the celebrated Bishop Burnet, arrived in Boston with the commission of governor. He was the first that had been appointed since the departure of Colonel Shute, Governor Burnet took up his residence with Mr. Cooke while the Province House was undergoing repairs. During this period he was always complimented with a seat in Grandfather's chair; and so comfortable did he find it, that, on removing to the Province House, he could not bear to leave it behind him. Mr. Cooke, therefore, requested his acceptance of it.

"I should think," said Laurence, "that the people would have petitioned the king always to appoint a native-born New-Englander to govern them."

"Undoubtedly it was a grievance," answered Grandfather, "to see men placed in this station who perhaps had neither talents nor virtues to fit them for it, and who certainly could have no natural affection for the country. The king generally bestowed the governorships of the American colonies upon needy noblemen, or hangers-on at court, or disbanded officers. The people knew that such persons would be very likely to make the good of the country subservient to the wishes of the king. The Legislature, therefore, endeavored to keep as much power as possible in their own hands, by refusing to settle a fixed salary upon the governors. It was thought better to pay them according to their deserts."

"Did Governor Burner work well for his money?" asked Charley.

Grandfather could not help smiling at the simplicity of Charley's question. Nevertheless, it put the matter in a very plain point of view.

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He then described the character of Governor Bur-net, representing him as a good scholar, possessed of much ability, and likewise of unspotted integrity. His story affords a striking example how unfortunate it is for a man, who is placed as ruler over a country to be compelled to aim at anything but the good of the people. Governor Burnet was so chained down by his instructions from the king that he could not act as he might otherwise have wished. Consequently, his whole term of office was wasted in quarrels with the Legislature.

"I am afraid, children," said Grandfather, "that Governor Burner found but little rest or comfort in our old chair. Here he used to sit, dressed in a coat which was made of rough, shaggy cloth outside, but of smooth velvet within. It was said that his own character resembled that coat; for his outward manner was rough, but his inward disposition soft and kind. It is a pity that such a man could not have been kept free from trouble. But so harassing were his disputes with the representatives of the people that he fell into a fever, of which he died in 1729. The Legislature had refused him a salary while alive; but they appropriated money enough to give him a splendid and pompous funeral."

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Grandfather's Chair
Nathaniel Hawthorne

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