History of Talbot county, Maryland, 1661-1861 (Volume 1 - Biographical Sketches)
The human mind can not be contented with the present. It is ever journeying through the trodden regions of the past, or making adventurous excursions into the mysterious realms of the future. Of the future, but little is known; clouds and darkness rest upon it. We stretch out our arms toward its shadowy inhabitants; we invoke our posterity, but they answer us not. We wander in its dim precincts till reason becomes confused, and at last we start back in fear, like mariners who have entered an unknown ocean, of whose winds, tides, currents, and quicksands they are wholly ignorant. Then it is, we turn for relief to the past, that mighty reservoir of men and things. There we have something tangible to which our sympathies can attach, upon which we can lean for support, from which we can gather knowledge and learn wisdom.. Our attention is aroused by the great moral events which have controlled the fortunes of those who have preceded us, and still influence our own. With curious wonder we gaze down the long aisles of the past upon the generations that are gone. We behold, as in a magic glass, men in form and feature like ourselves, actuated by the same motives, urged by the same passions, busily engaged in shaping both their destinies and ours. We approach them and they refuse not our invocation. But most of all, among the innumerable multitudes who peopled the past, we seek our own ancestors, drawn toward them by an irresistible sympathy. Indeed, they were our other selves. With reverent solicitude we examine into their characters and actions. We search with avidity the most trivial circumstances in their life history, and eagerly treasure up every memento of their fortunes. The instincts of our nature bind us indissolubly to them, and link our fates with theirs. Honor of ancestors, respect for their virtues, and love for their memory ennoble the people who cherish them. Men can not live without a past. It is as essential to them as a future. Into its vast confines I invite my readers to journey with me and to hold converse with the early worthies of Talbot County, the founders of this fair land, men who were prominent under proprietary rule and colonial conditions, and men also who laid the foundations of our State Government and its best institutions. We shall speak to them and they will answer us.
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The subject of this Memoir was born October 10, 1822, at Clay's Hope farm in Saint Michael's district, Talbot County, Maryland, fronting on the Tred-Avon river, directly opposite the town of Oxford. His parents were Alexander Bradford Harrison and Eleanor (Spencer) Harrison, daughter of Colonel Perry Spencer of "Spencer Hall," whose grandfather, James Spencer, Junior, married Anne Benson, daughter of Dr. James Benson, who emigrated from England to Maryland in 1670, and who commanded a troop of horse in Talbot County in colonial times.