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The Life of General Francis Marion   By: (1759-1825)

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Weems' Life of General Francis Marion

[Note on text: Italicized words or phrases capitalized. Some obvious errors have been corrected.]


This biography, though historically based, should not be considered factual. It is not that there was no such man indeed there was, and other accounts indicate that Francis Marion is as deserving of praise as this account would indicate or moreso. It is not that the events described did not take place most of them, at least, did.

It is simply that Parson Weems (Mason Locke Weems, 1759 1825), in an honest effort to teach a high patriotism, nobility, and morality, sometimes embellished or exaggerated his stories to the point of falsehood, as with his invention of the cherry tree anecdote in his Life of Washington. It seems strange that such a devotion to moral teaching should use falsehoods to reach its audience, but he apparently felt the means justified by the end.

Not everyone agreed with his methods, and Gen. Peter Horry wrote to him: "I requested you would (if necessary) so far alter the work as to make it read grammatically, and I gave you leave to embellish the work, but entertained not the least idea of what has happened . . . You have carved and mutilated it with so many erroneous statements your embellishments, observation and remarks, must necessarily be erroneous as proceeding from false grounds. . . . Can you suppose I can be pleased with reading particulars (though so elevated, by you) of Marion and myself, when I know such never existed." Though Horry did not want to be known as the co author of this work, I have suffered to let his name remain, with this notice, as it has traditionally been connected with it.

For all this, the basic ideas, gleaned largely from facts provided by Peter Horry and Robert Marion (the nephew of Francis), remain largely unchanged. Even in this decadent state, Weems' biography brought the nation's attention to Francis Marion, and inspired numerous other writers to touch on the subject two of these works, biographies by James and Simms, are especially noteworthy. Therefore, for the literary, rather than strictly historical, value, the following is presented to the reader.

Alan Light, Birmingham, Alabama, 1997.

======== Weems' Life of General Francis Marion [Mason Locke Weems, American (Maryland) author & Anglican priest. 1759 1825.] ========

The Life of General Francis Marion, a Celebrated Partisan Officer, in the Revolutionary War, against the British and Tories in South Carolina and Georgia

by Brig. Gen. P. Horry, of Marion's Brigade, and M. L. Weems, formerly rector of Mount Vernon Parish.

"On VERNON'S CHIEF why lavish all our lays; Come, honest Muse, and sing great MARION'S praise."


"O that mine enemy would write a book." This, in former times, passed for as sore an evil as a good man could think of wishing to his worst enemy. Whether any of my enemies ever wished me so great an evil, I know not. But certain it is, I never dreamed of such a thing as writing a book; and least of all a `war book'. What, I! a man here under the frozen zone and grand climacteric of my days, with one foot in the grave and the other hard by, to quit my prayer book and crutches, (an old man's best companion,) and drawing my sword, flourish and fight over again the battles of my youth.

The Lord forbid me such madness! But what can one do when one's friends are eternally teasing him, as they are me, and calling out at every whipstitch and corner of the streets, "Well, but, sir, where's Marion? where's the history of Marion, that we have so long been looking for?"

'Twas in vain that I told them I was no scholar; no historian. "God," said I, "gentlemen, has made `many men of many minds;' one for this thing and another for that. But I am morally certain he never made me for a writer. I did indeed once understand something about the use of a broadsword; but as to a pen, gentlemen, that's quite another part of speech... Continue reading book >>

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