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Ames, Fisher

AMES, FISHER (1758-1808), American statesman, orator and political writer, son of Nathaniel Ames, a physician, was born at Dedham, Massachusetts, on the 9th of April 1758. He graduated at Harvard College in 1774, and began the practice of the law at Dedham in 1781, but eventually abandoned that profession for the more congenial pursuit of politics. He was a prominent member of the Massachusetts convention which (February 1788) ratified for that state the Federal Constitution, and in the same year, having entered the lower house in the state legislature, he distinguished himself greatly by his eloquence and readiness in debate. During the eight years of Washington's administration (1789-1797) he was a prominent Federalist member of the national House of Representatives. On the 28th of April 1796, when the Republicans, hostile to the Jay Treaty, were on the point of holding up the appropriation necessary for its execution, Ames, who had just arisen from a sick-bed, made what has been considered the greatest speech of his life; before the delivery of his speech his opponents had claimed a majority of six, but the appropriation was finally passed, in the committee of the whole, by the casting vote of the chairman. When Washington retired from the presidency, Congress voted him an address and chose Ames to deliver it. In 1797 he returned to Dedham to resume the practice of the law, which the state of his health after a few years obliged him to relinquish. He published numerous essays, chiefly in relation to the contest between Great Britain and revolutionary France, as it might affect the liberty and prosperity of America. Ames was one of the group of New England ultra-Federalists known as the "Essex Junto," who opposed the French policy of President John Adams in 1798, and were conspicuous for their British sympathies. Four years before his death he was chosen president of Harvard College, an honour which his broken state of health obliged him to decline. He died on the 4th of July 1808.

His writings and speeches, which abound in sparkling passages, displaying great fertility of imagination, were collected and published, with a memoir of the author, in 1809, by the Rev. Dr J. T. Kirkland, in one large octavo volume. A more complete edition in two volumes was published by his son, Seth Ames, at Boston, Mass., in 1854.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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