LOG CABIN TO WHITE HOUSE SERIES
From Farm House to the White House
THE LIFE OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
HIS BOYHOOD, YOUTH, MANHOOD, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE LIFE AND SERVICES
By William M. Thayer
Author of "From Log Cabin to White House," "From Pioneer Home to White House," "From Tannery to White House," "From Boyhood to Manhood," etc., etc.
NEW YORK HURST & COMPANY PUBLISHERS
Log Cabin to White House Series.
UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME.
BY WILLIAM M. THAYER:
From Boyhood to Manhood—Life of Benjamin Franklin.
From Farm House to White House—Life of George Washington.
From Log Cabin to White House—Life of James A. Garfield, with eulogy by Hon. James G. Blaine.
From Pioneer Home to White House—Life of Abraham Lincoln, with eulogy by Hon. Geo. Bancroft.
From Tannery to White House—Life of Ulysses S. Grant.
BY EDWARD S. ELLIS:
From Ranch to White House—Life of Theodore Roosevelt.
Price Post-Paid, 75c. each, or $4.50 for the set.
HURST & COMPANY PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK.
Copyright, 1890, By JAMES H. EARLE.
To ALL WHO HONOR TRUE MANHOOD, This Volume, REPRESENTING THE ELEMENTS OF SUCCESS, From Boyhood to Manhood IN THE CAREER AND NOBLE CHARACTER OF GEORGE WASHINGTON, "THE FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY," Is Sincerely and Affectionately Dedicated.
Every American, old or young, should become familiar with the life of Washington; it will confirm their patriotism and strengthen their loyalty. Such a character will become an inspiration to them, eliciting nobler aims, and impelling to nobler deeds.
Washington himself wrote to his step-son, who was in college:
"You are now extending into that stage of life when good or bad habits are formed; when the mind will be turned to things useful and praiseworthy or to dissipation and vice. Fix on which ever it may, it will stick by you; for you know it has been said, and truly, 'The way the twig is bent the tree's inclined.' This, in a strong point of view, shows the propriety of letting your inexperience be directed by maturer advice, and in placing guard upon the avenues which lead to idleness and vice. The latter will approach like a thief, working upon your passions, encouraged, perhaps, by bad examples, the propensity to which will increase in proportion to the practice of it and your yielding. Virtue and vice cannot be allied, nor can idleness and industry; of course if you resolve to adhere to the former of these extremes, an intimacy with those who incline to the latter of them would be extremely embarrassing to you; it would be a stumbling block in your way, and act like a mill-stone hung to your neck; for it is the nature of idleness and vice to obtain as many votaries as they can....
"It is to close application and perseverance that men of letters and science are indebted for their knowledge and usefulness; and you are now at the period of life when these are to be acquired, or lost for ever. As you know how anxious your friends are to see you enter upon the grand theatre of life with the advantages of a finished education, a highly cultivated mind, and a proper sense of your duties to God and man, I shall only add one sentiment before I close this letter and that is, to pay due respect and obedience to your tutors, and affectionate reverence for the president of the college, whose character merits your highest regards. Let no bad example, for such is to be met in all seminaries, have an improper influence upon your conduct. Let this be such, and let it be your pride to demean yourself in such a manner as to obtain the good will of your superiors and the love of your fellow students."
Better advice than this was never given to a youth; and to enforce it, we present in this volume the life and character of the great man who so lovingly tendered it. By employing the colloquial style, anecdotal illustration, and thrilling incident, the author hopes more successfully to accomplish his purpose.
In the preparation of this work the author has availed himself of the abundant material furnished by Washington's well-known biographers, Ramsey, Weems, Marshall, Sparks, Bancroft, Irving, Everett, Custis, etc., together with the anecdotes of his earlier and later life, found in eulogies, essays, and literary articles upon his life and character, with which the literature of our country abounds. Incident is allowed to tell the life story of the subject. The incidents of his boyhood and youth are particularly narrated, that the achievements of ripe manhood may more clearly appear to be the outcome of a life well begun. To such an example parents and guardians can point with confidence and hope.
Believing that biography should be written and read so as to assure a sharp analysis of character, thereby bringing the real qualities of the subject to the front, and believing, also, that the biographies of the noblest men only should be written for the young, since "example is more powerful than precept," the author sends forth this humble volume, invoking for it the considerate indulgence of critics, and the blessing of Divine Providence.
W. M. T.
ANCESTORS AND BIRTH.
Ancestors in England—John and Lawrence Washington—Family of Note—The Washington Manor and Irving—Sir Henry Washington in War—English Fox Hunting—Washington and Franklin—The Washingtons in America—Birth of George—House where born—Ceremony of placing a Slab on it by Custis—Paulding describes the Place—The House described—George baptized—Removal to Banks of Rappahannock—Large Estates—Style of Living—Vast Wilderness—Militia—Depredations by Indians—Negro Slavery 23
Reliable Information about it—Visit to the Orchard, and the Rebuke to Selfishness—George's Name growing in the Garden—Its Lesson about God—The Hatchet, and it Lesson about Lying—Raising a Regiment of Soldiers—George's Brother in Uniform—Effect of Military Display on George—Playing Soldier—His Brother Lawrence a Good Soldier—Love Greater than War—George's Military Spirit increasing—George's Manly Bearing—Excels in Athletic Sports—What Fitzhugh said—The Sequel 36
His Brother Lawrence educated in England—Leaving Home—George at School when Five Years Old—His Teacher, Hobby—What a Biographer says of his Progress—The Homeschool—His Writing-book and Thoroughness—A Good Speller—Studying and Playing with all his Might—Best Runner, Wrestler, etc.—The School Grounds a Military Camp—An English and Spanish Army of Boys—Juvenile Commander-in-chief—A Quarrel that George could not Conquer—Truth-teller and Peacemaker—At Mr. Williams' School, and a Mother's Lesson—Studying Surveying—Mimic War—Surveying School-grounds—Later Surveying—Settling a Difficulty—Acting as Umpire—What Mr. Weems says—What Mrs. Kirkland says 52
METHOD AND THOROUGHNESS.
Doing Things Well—Dialogue with Lawrence—His "Book of Forms," and what a Schoolmate thought of it—His "Book of Problems:" its Use and Abuse—His "Book of Drawing"—Odd Moments—Preserving Bits of Prose and Verse—What Irving says—His "Rules of Behavior"—What Lawrence Washington and his Wife thought of them—Their Influence over him—Part of them Quoted—What Everett says of them—Author's Opinion—Sample Extract from his Copy-book—These show his Character—His Heart made a Level Head 72
FOUR INCIDENTS AND THEIR LESSONS.
His Father's Sudden Sickness—George at Chotauk—The Doctor's Opinion—Growing Worse, and Startling Revelation—George sent for—He arrived when his Father was dying—Affecting Scene—Death and Will—The Arabian Colt—Attempt to ride him—The Animal killed—George confessing his Wrong-doing—The "Lowland Beauty"—George in Love—A Human Heart after All—What Irving says about it—Naval Officers at Vernon—Wants to be a Midshipman—His Mother's Opposition, and Lawrence's Approval—Enlists—Appears before his Mother in Naval Costume—Her Grief—He does not go—His True Manliness asserts itself 82
Her Views of Correct Family Government—Secret of George's Correct Life—What Custis says about it—What Lawrence Washington said—Obedience commanded—How she commanded her Servants—Her One Book, next to the Bible, consulted—What Everett said of it—Quotations from it—They teach Honesty, Industry, Fidelity, Religion, etc.—Her Ancestry—Courage—Afraid of Lightning—Her Singular Dream—Weems' Explanation—Care of her Family—Mr. Sparks' Tribute—Irving's Tribute—Her Son visits her before going to War—Her Patriotism—Taking Charge of her Own Business—Her Joy over Cornwallis' Surrender—Her Son's Visit to her—The Ball, and his Staff introduced to her—Compared with Napoleon's Mother—Lafayette's Visit to her—Her Son's Visit to her before becoming President—Custis' description of the Scene—Her Death, Burial, and Monument—Jackson's Eulogy—John Adams' Words—The Mother of Such a Son, and the Son of Such a Mother 103
His Mother's Views about his Future—The Plea of Lawrence—Goes to Live at Mount Vernon—Lawrence's Eye on a Military Life for him—Lessons in "The Manual Exercise"—Lessons in "Fencing"—Reading Military Treatises—In the Family of William Fairfax—What the Latter thought of him—Meets Lord Fairfax—What Everett says of him—What Irving says—Reading Books and Fox Hunting—An Unexpected Proposition—Becomes a Surveyor—His Appearance now—Keeping a Journal—Extracts from Letter and Journal—Mode of Life described—Hardships—What Abbott and Everett say of his Hardships—Camping Out—In Indian Wigwam—His Journal describes a Scene—Other Entries—What he recorded—Sparks' Tribute to his Thoroughness as a Surveyor—Everett's Tribute—The Stevenson Family—Sports with the Seven Sons—Among his Officers, Later—Greenaway Court—Appointed Public Surveyor—In Training for the War of Seventy-six 132
The Proposition of Lawrence, and Discussion of it—Appointed Adjutant-general—Ill Health of Lawrence—Decides to spend the Winter in Barbadoes—George goes with him—Lawrence no Better—George has the Small-pox—Returns to Virginia in April—Lawrence returns in June and dies in Six Weeks—George one of his Executors—What Everett says of it—Enters Masonic Lodge—His Commission renewed—Duties pressing upon him—Signs of War—Encroachments by the French—The Claims of the Indians—What a Chief said—The Governor's Conference with Gist—Mission to the French proposed—George offers his Services—Interview with Governor Dinwiddie—A Copy of his Commission—His Companions—Visits his Mother—Letter to French Commander 150
MISSION TO THE FRENCH.
The Journey begun—Route—A Storm—A Torrent—Baggage on Canal—Visit to Shingiss—Tanacharisson—Monochatica—Meeting Deserters—Learning of the Forts from there to New Orleans—The Half-king—Describes his Visit to Pierre Paul, now Dead—His Speech—Pierre Paul's Reply—Indian Council and Washington's Speech—Indian's Reply—Results of the Council—Indians to conduct them to the Fort—Journey delayed—Way to Venango—Arrival and Conference with the French—Dinner Scene—Information 163
The Next Fort—Introduction to Commander—Arrival of Paul's Successor—Receives Dinwiddie's Letter—Washington draws Plan of the Fort—His Inquiries about Certain Captures—Reparti's Reply to Dinwiddie—French attempt to bribe Indians—Injury to White Thunder, and Delay—Return Journey—Snow—Washington and Gist leave the Party—Their Adventure—The Indian Guide—He proves False—A Startling Episode—The Indian disposed of—Reaching the River—Building a Raft—Attempt to Cross—Washington straggling in the Water—They reach an Island—Escape—Twenty Indian Warriors—The Indian Queen—Arrival at Williamsburg—Interview with the Governor—His Journal printed 178
HIS FIRST BATTLE.
Effect of Washington's Mission—Orders from the King—Recruiting—The Governor's Bounty to Soldiers—Washington offered the Command—Talk with a Friend—Letter to Colonel Corbin—Does not accept Command—Payne knocks Washington down—How the Affair ended—What McGuire says of Washington's Magnanimity—Washington takes up his March—Meeting Captain Trent—Need of More Men—Courier announces Surrender of Fort—Declaration of War—Washington's Prompt Action—March to Red Stone Creek and Great Meadows—The French surprised, and a Battle—Jumonville killed—Entrenching at Great Meadows—Short of Supplies—His Own Chaplain—Order against Swearing—Marching to meet the Foe—Retreat to Great Meadows—A Hot Battle—Washington surrenders—Return to Williamsburg—Honors, and Larger Provisions—Death of Jumonville justified—Dinwiddie's Words 194
ON GENERAL BRADDOCK'S STAFF.
Governor Dinwiddie's Proposition—Washington dissents—Dinwiddie insists—Washington's Letter—His Rank reduced from Colonel to Captain—He resigns, and retires to Mount Vernon—The Enterprise abandoned—A Convention of the Colonies—The King sends General Braddock with Army—He demands the Services of Washington—Their Correspondence and Interview—Washington's Motive—On the Staff—Meeting with his Mother—The March begins—Grand Spectacle—Braddock's Talk with Dr. Franklin—Underrating Indian Tactics—Washington disabled by Sickness—Talk with Braddock about Indians—Army Wagons Useless—Braddock's Temper and Love of Drink—Good Disciplinarian—Washington's Advice rejected—Indian Allies—How deserted—What Scarvoyadi said—Surprised by Indians—Terrible Battle—Washington's Bravery—Dr. Craik's Word—An Eye-witness—How British fought—Braddock mortally wounded—Whole Command on Washington—Retreat—Braddock's Confession—Dies at Fort Necessity—Burial—Horrible Scenes at Duquesne—Testimony of a Prisoner—Words of Washington—Letter to his Mother—Letter to his Brother 211
ON THE FRONTIER.
General Dunbar a Coward—Goes into Winter Quarters in Philadelphia—Assembly meets—Washington's Advice to the Governor—The Assembly Timid—Washington appointed Commander-in-chief of Virginia Forces—Failure of the Other Expeditions—Conference with Fairfax—Headquarters at Winchester—A Great Scare—Its Funny Termination—Washington's Appeal to Dinwiddie—Trouble with Captain Dagworthy—Goes to Boston on Horseback—Meets Miss Phillips in New York—Honors—His Return—Love in New York—Sudden Alarm calls him to Winchester—Hurried Steps at Defence—Letter to Loudoun describing the Condition of Frontier—Appeal to Dinwiddie for the Terrified People—Indian Atrocities—Dreadful Scenes described by Washington—Washington Sick Four Months—Changes 232
A RIFT IN THE CLOUD.
Great Need of the Hour—The People Timid—Washington's Mother again—Another Expedition against Duquesne—Size of the Army—Goes to Williamsburg—Mr. Chamberlain's Salutation—Stops to Dine—Meets Mrs. Custis—A Widow Bewitching—Business done—Returning, stops to see Mrs. Custis—A Treaty of Love—The New Road Project—Washington opposes it—Elected to House of Burgesses—Delay—Army moved in September—Braddock's Folly repeated—Washington overruled—His Prophecy—Major Grant—His Reckless Course—Conceit of Grant and Forbes—Marching into an Indian Ambuscade—A Bloody Battle—Defeat of the English—Retreat—Where was Washington—His Views—Forbes proposes Winter Quarters—Washington proposes and leads Another Attack—The Enemy escapes from the Fort—Washington plants Flag over it—Leaves Force to rebuild—French War ended—Washington resigns—Goes to Mount Vernon—Testimonial of Officers 249
HIS WIFE AND HOME.
Who was Mrs. Custis—Rich and Beautiful—Washington's Marriage—What Negro said of him—Took Seat in House of Burgesses—Happy Man—The Legislature do him Honor—Removes to Mount Vernon—His Estates described—Sixteen Spinning Wheels—Mrs. Washington at the Head—Irving's Description—Rank necessarily maintained—Company, and English Style—Mrs. Washington's Wardrobe—His Wardrobe—Education of her Children—Their Wardrobe—Her Kindness to Slaves—Domestic Habits—Washington labored on Farm—Systematic Habits—Improvements on Farm—Reclaiming Dismal Swamp—Hunting in Winter—Interlopers, and the War against them—The Hunter conquered—Attending Episcopal Church—Mrs. Washington a Devout Christian—Building a House of Worship—Washington at Church—Death of Mrs. Washington's Daughter—The Son Wayward—Letter about Love—King's College, and Incident—Keeping his Books—In her Husband's Headquarters in Winter—Death—Mount Vernon now 270
More Indian Depredations, and War—Washington's Conference with Mason on English Tyranny—Taxation without Representation—Oppressive Acts multiplied—The Stamp Act—Patrick Henry in the Assembly—Treason—Governor dissolved the Assembly—A Re-election—Washington stands with Patrick Henry—Discussion with Fairfax on the State of Affairs—Dr. Franklin before a Committee of Parliament—Friends of America in Parliament—Next Assembly Bolder, and dissolved by Governor—Washington's Plan to use no Articles taxed—The Tax removed except on Tea—Tea thrown into Boston Harbor—Action of the Citizens against British Soldiers—Day of Fasting and Prayer—Effigies and Mock Processions Boston Port Bill—Washington's Journey to Ohio in Behalf of his Old Soldiers—First American Congress—The Chaplain Memorial to the King—Chatham's Defence of the Colonies—British Soldiers sent to Boston—The Patriots aroused—Battles of Lexington and Concord—The Revolution begun—Putnam and the Grand Rally—Second American Congress—Washington and Adams—Raise an Army, and choose Washington for Commander-in-chief—Adams' Opinion of him 295
IN THE SIEGE OF BOSTON.
Adams to Washington—Prepares to Take Command—Letter to Mrs. Washington—His Will—Another Letter—Starts—Meets a Courier—His Journey—Legislature—Assumes Command—Mrs. Adams' Opinion—Talk with Gen. Ward—Order and Discipline—Condition of the Army—Washington's first Order—Change Wrought—Scarcity of Powder—Feat of Knox—Washington's Headquarters—Day of Fasting—Arrival of Supplies—Cruelty of British to Prisoners—Remonstrance Against—Retaliation—Army Reduced—Feelings of Washington—Proposed Attack on Boston—His Plan—Cannonading Described—British Repulsed by Storm—Boston Evacuated—British Depredation—Washington Provides for Charity at Home—Mrs. Washington in Cambridge—His Rigid Discipline, an Incident—Old South and North Church—A Theatre and a Scare—British Pride Humbled—Action of Congress 321
DEFENDING NEW YORK.
Where the Enemy is going—General Putnam in Command at New York—Washington Goes There—Hears from the Enemy—Condition of our Army in New York—Words of Washington—Letter to his Brother—Action of Congress—Plot to Seize Washington—A Conspirator Hung—Enemy in the Harbor—Declaration of Independence Read to the Army—Statue of George III. destroyed—Putnam and Hamilton—Sir Henry Clinton—Attacking Fort Moultrie—Cudjo—The Army encouraged—The Corporal rebuked—The Sabbath honored—Washington's Address—Army in Bad plight—Order against Profanity—The Enemy moving to capture Brooklyn Heights—Livingston's Message—Washington's Address to Army—Terrible Battle—Americans retreat under cover of Storm—What Sparks says of it—A Council of War—Deserters—Retreat from New York—Stand at Harlem—Nathan Hale—Washington's Daring—Great Fire in New York—Loss in Canada—Disaffection in Army—General Lee returns to Harlem—Council of War—Another Retreat necessary 349
FROM HARLEM TO TRENTON.
Fort Washington and Allies—Retreat to White Plains—Looking for a Position—The Enemy in Camp—A Battle—Falling back to North Castle—The Enemy withdraw—What Washington suspected—Advised to evacuate Fort Washington—The Enemy capture the Fort—Gloomy Times—Retreat over the Hackensack—Retreat to Newark—General Lee disobeying Orders—Further Retreat—Boats for Seventy Miles collected—Disappointment and a Plot—Opposition to Washington—Retreat to Trenton—Darkest Hour yet—Washington still hopeful—Will retreat over every River and Mountain—General Lee's Treasonable Course—General Heath's Firmness—Crossing the Delaware—Skill of Washington in Retreating—Lee still disobeys Orders—Lee's Folly and Capture—Magnanimity of Washington 372
BATTLES OF TRENTON AND PRINCETON.
Putnam fortifying Philadelphia—Congress investing Washington with More Power—Arrival of Troops—Startling Proposition by Washington—Recrosses the Delaware to Fight—His Address to his Army—The Battle—The Enemy driven—The Hessian Commander mortally wounded—Fruits of this Victory—The Welcome News spreads—Washington sees the Time for Another Blow—Over the Delaware again—Raises Money for the Army—Action of Congress—The Enemy marching from Princeton—A Battle—Cornwallis outwitted—God on the Side of the Weak Battalions—Battle of Princeton—An Affecting Incident—Cornwallis at his Wits End—Results of the Battle—Fall of General Mercer—His Bravery to the End—Washington goes to Morristown for Winter Quarters—The Enemy Panic-stricken—Driven out of Jersey—Wonderful Achievements in Ten Days—Tributes of Praise—Camp at Morristown broken up—Celebrating the Lord's Supper—Encamped at Germantown—British Fleet appears—Washington meets Lafayette, and appoints him on his Staff—Some Account of the Young Nobleman 389
DEFEAT AND VICTORY.
Plans of the British for 1777—A Temperance Officer—Battle of Bennington—Grand Victory—Battle at Fort Schuyler—Indian Butchery—Miss McCrea murdered by them—Battle of Brandywine—Lafayette wounded—Providential Care—Battle of Germantown, and Results—Washington's Daring—Forts reduced, and the Enemy take Philadelphia—Burgoyne captured, and his Supplies—Kosciusko—The British revelling in Philadelphia—Washington in Winter Quarters at Valley Forge—Famine in Camp, and Great Sufferings—Washington feeding a Soldier—A Conspiracy against the Chief—Dr. Craik—Hamilton—Mrs. Washington in Camp—Her Pity for Soldiers—Washington engaged in Prayer—Baron Stuben—Pulaski—Exchange of Distinguished Prisoners—Alliance with France—Council of War—British evacuate Philadelphia—Pursued—Battle of Monmouth—A Thrilling Incident, and Dr. Griffith—The Fifer Boy—Lee's Cowardly Conduct—Hamilton—Washington's Exposure to Death—Grand Victory—Enemy retreat—Lee Court-martialed—Arrival of French Fleet—Winter Quarters at Middlebrook—Cruelties of the Enemy—Massacres of Cherry Valley and Wyoming—Scenes at close of 1779—British Cruelty to Prisoners in the "Sugar House" and "Jersey Prison-ship" 405
CLOSE OF THE WAR.
Treason of Arnold—How Accomplished—Capture and Execution of Andre—Arnold serving in the British Army—Ravages in Virginia—Attacking Mount Vernon—Washington goes South—Calls at Mount Vernon—Joins Lafayette at Williamsburg—Attacks Cornwallis at Yorktown—Bombardment—Governor Nelson—Taking of Two Redoubts—Washington's Narrow Escape—Surrender of Cornwallis—Washington's Order—Fruits of the Victory—The Formal Delivery of Cornwallis' Sword—Delivery of Flags—Divine Service—Sickness and Death of his Step-son—Sad Scene—Help of French Fleet—God for Small Battalions again—Washington's War-horse—News of Cornwallis' Surrender in Philadelphia—Action of Congress, and Day of Thanksgiving—News in England—Washington's Plan to Push the War 426
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
Conference with Lafayette—Negotiations for War—Sir Henry Clinton—Treaty of Peace—What America Won, and England Lost—Washington Parting with his Soldiers—Meets Congress at Annapolis—Retires to Mount Vernon—Improvement of his Mansion and Plantations—Encourages Education—Refuses Gift of $40,000—Generosity to the Poor—A Pleasing Incident—Meeting Payne again—His Industry—In Convention to Form Constitution—Elected President—Reluctance to Accept—Journey to New York—Ovation at Trenton—At New York—His Cabinet—Style of Living—Grooming Horses—His Sickness—Tour through New England—Example of Punctuality—Too Late for Dinner—The Pair of Horses—Presidential Mansion—The Injured Debtor—Urged for Second Presidential Term—Elected—Fruits of it—Tour South, and Punctuality—Amount of his Work—Thoroughness—Civil Service Reform—Lafayette in Exile—Washington's Maxims—Offered a Third Term—Farewell Address—Retirement—His Opposition to Slavery—Emancipation of them—The Result 440
DEATH AND FUNERAL CEREMONIES.
Exposure and Cold—Ignores Wise Suggestions—Severe Attack—Rawlins bleeds him—Believes his End is Near, and Resignation—His Will—The Physicians arrive—All Remedies fail—His Last Request—Death—Mrs. Washington's Words—What Custis says of her—Sad Tidings spread—Action of Congress—The Senate's Letter to President Adams—The Funeral at Mount Vernon—Sorrow Universal—What Irving says—Eulogy by Fisher Ames—Lord Brougham's Estimate—Everett's Final Conclusion, and Father of His Country 484
Eulogy by General Henry Lee 491
LIFE OF WASHINGTON
ANCESTORS AND BIRTH.
More than two hundred years ago, when America was chiefly inhabited by Indians two brothers, in England, John and Lawrence Washington, resolved to remove hither. As they were not poor, doomed to eke out a miserable existence from a reluctant soil, it is supposed that politics was the immediate cause of their removal. It was during the reign of Cromwell, and he made it hot for his enemies. In 1655 a general insurrection was attempted, and the vengeance of Cromwell descended upon the heads of all the participants and not a few of their friends, making their land an uncomfortable place for a residence. There is no evidence that these brothers were engaged in the insurrection; but there is quite sufficient proof that the political situation was stormy, subjecting the Washington family to frequent molestation.
Edward Everett says: "There is no doubt that the politics of the family determined the two brothers, John and Lawrence, to emigrate to Virginia; that colony being the favorite resort of the Cavaliers, during the government of Cromwell, as New England was the retreat of the Puritans, in the period which preceded the Commonwealth."
We suspect that these brothers did not understand Indians as well as they did Cromwell, or they would not have been so willing to exchange the latter for the former. However, English colonists had settled in the wilderness of Virginia, and, possibly, some of their own acquaintances were already there. They knew somewhat of that particular portion of the new world, and what they knew was generally favorable. Being young men, too, unmarried, intelligent, adventurous and fearless, life in America appeared to them romantic rather than otherwise. Be this as it may, John and Lawrence Washington removed to this country in 1657, and settled in Westmoreland County, Virginia.
One fact indicates that they belonged to a noble ancestry. Lawrence was educated at Oxford University, and was a lawyer by profession, and therefore was a young man of rank and promise, while John was engaged in business and resided on a valuable estate at South Cove in Yorkshire. They were young men of brains and tact, fitted by natural endowments and education to lay the foundation of things in a new country. They descended from an ancestry of honor and influence from the twelfth century. That ancestry lived in warlike times. Some of them were renowned for deeds of heroism. All of them were known for loyalty, intelligence and solidity of character. Washington Irving paid a visit to the ancient "Washington's manor" at Sulgrave, several years before he wrote the "Life of George Washington," and he said,—
"It was in a rural neighborhood, where the farm-houses were quaint and antiquated. A part only of the manor-house remained, and was inhabited by a farmer. The Washington crest, in colored glass, was to be seen in a window of what is now the buttery. A window, on which the whole family arms was emblazoned, had been removed to the residence of the actual proprietor of the manor. Another relic of the ancient manor of the Washingtons was a rookery in a venerable grove hard by. The rooks, those staunch adherents to old family abodes, still hovered and cawed about their hereditary nests. In the pavement of the parish church we were shown a stone slab, bearing effigies, on plates of brass, of Lawrence Washington, gent., and Anne his wife, and their four sons and eleven daughters. The inscription, in black letters, was dated 1564."
A nephew of John and Lawrence Washington, Sir Henry Washington, distinguished himself in the civil wars, under Prince Rupert, at the storming of Bristol, where he broke through the wall with a handful of infantry after the assailants had been beaten off, and led the forces to victory. For his prowess he was promoted, and was in command at Worcester, when that place was stormed, at a time when the king fled from Oxford in disguise and the loyal cause was in peril. He received a letter from General Fairfax, whose victorious army was at Haddington, demanding the immediate surrender of Worcester. Colonel Washington replied:
"SIR,—It is acknowledged by your books, and by report of your own quarter, that the king is in some of your armies. That granted, it may be easy for you to procure his majesty's commands for the disposal of this garrison. Till then, I shall make good the trust reposed in me. As for conditions, if I shall be necessitated, I shall make the best I can. The worst I know, and fear not; if I had, the profession of a soldier had not been begun, nor so long continued by your Excellency's humble servant." HENRY WASHINGTON.
For three months he withstood the siege, experiencing hunger and hardship, until his Majesty ordered capitulation.
Irving says of this heroic stand, "Those who believe in hereditary virtues may see foreshadowed in the conduct of this Washington of Worcester, the magnanimous constancy of purpose, the disposition to 'hope against hope,' which bore our Washington triumphantly through the darkest days of our revolution."
It appears that the Washingtons were first in war as well as in peace, centuries ago. There was wealth, fame and influence in the family, from generation to generation. Their prominence in the grand hunt of those times proves their high social and public position.
Irvington says, "Hunting came next to war in those days, as the occupation of the nobility and gentry. The clergy engaged in it equally with the laity. The hunting establishment of the Bishop of Durham (who belonged to the Washington family) was on a princely scale. He had his forests, chases and parks, with their train of foresters, rangers and park-keepers. A grand hunt was a splendid pageant, in which all his barons and knights attended him with horse and hound."
Later, the famous English fox-hunting, in which noblemen engaged with great pomp and expense, engaged the attention of the Washingtons. We refer to the fact here, because it will explain certain things connected with the life and times of our George Washington in Virginia.
Everett says, "It may be mentioned as a somewhat striking fact, and one I believe not hitherto adverted to, that the families of Washington and Franklin—the former the great leader of the American Revolution, the latter not second to any of his patriotic associates—were established for several generations in the same central county of Northamptonshire, and within a few miles of each other; the Washingtons at Brighton and Sulgrave, belonging to the landed gentry of the county, and in the great civil war supporting the royal side; the Franklins, at the village of Ecton, living on the produce of a farm of thirty acres, and the earnings of their trade as blacksmiths, and espousing,—some of them, at least, and the father and uncle of Benjamin Franklin among the number,—the principles of the non-conformists. Their respective emigrations, germs of great events, in history, took place,—that of John Washington, the great-grandfather of George, in 1657, to loyal Virginia,—that of Josiah Franklin, the father of Benjamin, about the year 1685, to the metropolis of Puritan New England."
This brief sketch of the Washington family in the mother country must suffice. Its history in our country began in 1657, on the West Bank of the Potomac, about fifty miles from its entrance into Chesapeake Bay, in Westmoreland County. The two brothers, John and Lawrence, purchased an estate of several thousand acres there, and erected thereon a comfortable dwelling. In process of time, John married Miss Anne Pope, and went to reside on Bridge's Creek. Two sons, Lawrence and John, and a daughter, were the fruits of his union. Lawrence, the oldest son, married Mildred Warner, daughter of Colonel Augustus Warner, by whom he had three children, John, Augustine and Mildred. The second son, Augustine, became the father of George Washington. He married Jane Butler, by whom he had four children—Butler, Lawrence, Augustine and Jane. His wife died; and two years thereafter, Mary Ball, a young lady of great beauty, became his second wife. They were married March 6, 1730. Their first child was George, who was born February 22, 1732. Five other children—Betty, Samuel, John Augustine, Charles and Mildred—were added to the family.
John Washington, grandfather of Augustine, distinguished himself in military affairs, and became lieutenant-colonel in the wars against the Indians. He was one of the largest planters in the colony, and became one of the most influential men. In time he became a magistrate and a member of the House of Burgesses. The name of the parish in which he lived—Washington—was derived from him.
Augustine Washington, father of George, lived on Pope's Creek when the latter was born, about one-half mile from the Potomac. The house in which George was born was pulled down or burned before the Revolution.
The site is now designated by a slab, bearing the inscription:
HERE, ON THE 11TH OF FEBRUARY (OLD STYLE), 1732, GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS BORN.
The slab was placed there by George Washington Parke Custis—his grandson—sixty-seven years ago. Thirty-six years after he performed the grateful act, he published the following account of it in the Alexandria Gazette:
"In June, 1815, I sailed on my own vessel, the 'Lady of the Lake,' a fine top-sail schooner of ninety tons, accompanied by two gentlemen, Messrs. Lewis and Grimes, bound to Pope's Creek, in the county of Westmoreland, carrying with us a slab of freestone, having the following inscription:
HERE, ON THE 11TH OF FEBRUARY, 1732, (OLD STYLE), GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS BORN.
"Our pilot approached the Westmoreland shore cautiously (as our vessel drew nearly eight feet of water), and he was but indifferently acquainted with so unfrequented a navigation.
"Desirous of making the ceremonial of depositing the stone as imposing as circumstances would permit, we enveloped it in the 'star-spangled banner' of our country, and it was borne to its resting place in the arms of the descendants of four revolutionary patriots and soldiers—SAMUEL LEWIS, son of George Lewis, a captain in Baylor's regiment of horse, and a nephew of Washington; WILLIAM GRIMES, the son of Benjamin Grimes, a gallant and distinguished officer of the Life-guard; the CAPTAIN of the vessel, the son of a brave soldier wounded in the battle of Guilford; and GEORGE W. P. CUSTIS, the son of John Parke Custis, aid-de-camp to the commander-in-chief before Cambridge and Yorktown.
"We gathered together the bricks of an ancient chimney that once formed the hearth around which Washington in his infancy had played, and constructed a rude kind of a pedestal, on which we reverently placed the FIRST STONE, commending it to the attention and respect of the American people in general, and to the citizens of Westmoreland in particular.
"Bidding adieu to those who had received us so kindly, we re-embarked and hoisted our colors, and being provided with a piece of canon and suitable ammunition, we fired a salute, awakening the echoes that had slept for ages around the hallowed spot; and while the smoke of our martial tribute to the birth-place of the Pater Patriae still lingered on the bosom of the Potomac, we spread our sails to a favoring breeze, and sped joyously to our homes."
Mr. Paulding, in his life of Washington, describes the place as follows:
"A few scanty relics alone remain to mark the spot, which will ever be sacred in the eyes of posterity. A clump of old decayed fig trees, probably coeval with the mansion, yet exists; and a number of vines and shrubs and flowers still reproduce themselves every year, as if to mark its site, and flourish among the hallowed ruins. The spot is of the deepest interest, not only from its associations, but its natural beauties. It commands a view of the Maryland shore of the Potomac, one of the most majestic of rivers and of its course for many miles towards the Chesapeake Bay. An aged gentlemen, still living in the neighborhood, remembers the house in which Washington was born. It was a low-pitched, single-storied frame building, with four rooms on the first floor, and an enormous chimney at each end on the outside. This was the style of the better sort of houses in those days, and they are still occasionally seen in the old settlements of Virginia."
Irving says that "the roof was steep, and sloped down into low, projecting eaves;" so that an artist's eye can readily see the house as it was.
Let the reader bear in mind that John Washington was the founder of the Washington family in America, and George Washington was his great-grandson.
George was baptized on the 5th of April following, when he was about six weeks old. Mrs. Mildred Gregory acted as godmother, and Mr. Beverly Whiting and Captain Christopher Brooks, godfathers.
When George was four or five years old, his father resolved to move to a plantation on the banks of the Rappahannock River, opposite Fredericksburg.
"There are many advantages in that locality," he remarked to his wife; "besides, the land is better."
"There can't be much fault found with the land anywhere in this part of the country," responded Mrs. Washington. "It needs little but using."
"Very true; but somehow I have taken a great liking to the banks of the Rappahannock," continued Mr. Washington. "The children will like the change, I know."
"That may be; children like change; a novelty just suits them," answered Mrs. Washington. "I have never known them to express dissatisfaction with this place. They are about as happy as children can well be."
"There can be no doubt of that, judging from daily observation," responded her husband, somewhat facetiously. "If a change does not add to the sum total of their happiness, I trust that it will not subtract much from it."
"Understand me," continued Mrs. Washington, "I am not setting myself up in opposition to your plan of removing. It may prove the very best thing for us all. We sha'n't know till we try."
"Well, I think I shall try it," added Mr. Washington.
And he did try it. He removed to the aforesaid locality in the year 1737. The estate was already his own.
The reader must know from what has been said already, that estates of two, three and five thousand acres, in Virginia, at that time, were common. Many wealthy English families, fond of rural life, and coveting ample grounds for hunting and roaming, had settled in the "Old Dominion," where land was cheap as well as fertile. The Washington family was one of them. From the day that John Washington and his brother settled in Virginia, they and their numerous descendants were large landholders. When George was forty-one years of age, just before the stirring scenes of the Revolution, we find him writing to a Mr. Calvert of George Washington Parke Custis:
"Mr. Custis' estate consists of about fifteen thousand acres of land, a good part of it adjoining the city of Williamsburg, and none of it forty miles from that place; several lots in the said city; between two and three hundred negroes, and about eight or ten thousand pounds upon bond, and in the hands of his merchants. This estate he now holds independent of his mother's dower, which will be an addition to it at her death."
Wealthy families at that time lived in expensive style. They kept their "turn-outs and liveried servants," as we call them now, and made an imposing appearance on public occasions. The proprietors were "gentlemen farmers," whose mansions were conducted on a grand scale of hospitality. Everybody was welcome, even Indians.
When George's father removed to the banks of the Rappahannock, one vast, unbroken forest, on either side, met his view. The woodman's axe had opened only here and there a patch of the woods to the light of the sun. These forests abounded with game, and had long been the hunting ground of the red men. The river swarmed with water-fowl of various names and plumage, and often the Indian's birch canoe darted over its waters like a spirit.
The Colony supported a military organization at that time. The Indians were friendly to the English colonists, but they might not continue to be. England and France were friendly to each other, also, yet both had an eye upon the same possessions in the new world. There was no telling how soon a resort to arms might be inevitable. The militia must be maintained against the time of need.
George was almost too young to appreciate the danger when his ears first listened to tales of Indian depredations.
"Several families murdered in cold blood by roving savages," was the news Mr. Washington brought home one day.
"Where? Where?" Mrs. Washington inquired, with evident anxiety.
"A long way from here," her husband replied, "but it shows the murderous spirit of Indians all the same."
"A treacherous race!" remarked Mrs. Washington.
"Yes; treacherous indeed!" her husband replied, "There is no telling what is in store for us, in my opinion."
"There is no more reason for their murdering white men and woman so far away than there is for their doing it near by us," suggested Mrs. Washington.
"None whatever. Revenge, or desire for plunder, prompted the deed, no doubt; and revenge or hope of plunder is just as likely to move them here as there to killing and burning," Mr. Washington said.
Occasional startling news of this kind, discussed in the family, was listened to by George, whose precocity took in the situation well for one so young. Early in life he had a good understanding of Indian character, and of the trouble that might come to the colonists through these savage denizens of the forest. There is good evidence that apprehensions of Indian hostilities filled him with anxiety long before they actually commenced.
At that time, also, negro slavery existed among the colonists. The large estates were worked by slave labor. The Washington family held slaves. Some planters owned several hundred. As there was no question raised about the right or wrong of the slave system, it is probable that George's mind was not exercised upon the subject. He grew up in the midst of the institution without calling in question its rectitude. We mention the fact here, because it was one of the early influences of his ancestry and birth-place which must have been offset by home instructions and the rapid unfolding of a singularly manly character.
It is fortunate that the materials of Washington's early life were preserved by one who was rector of the Mount Vernon parish while members of the family and other friends survived. Rev. M. L. Weems ministered there seventy-five years ago, and he gathered information from a woman who was neighbor to the Washingtons in her childhood, and from John Fitzhugh, who was often with George in his early home. In addition, descendants of the family, who had fondly preserved valuable incidents of their illustrious ancestor's boyhood and manhood, furnished them for his biography by their pastor. We are indebted to Mr. Weems for most of the facts relating to Washington's boyhood.
In the autumn of 1737, Mr. Washington went to the door of a neighbor and relative, leading George by the hand. The woman who related the incident to Mr. Weems was a little girl at that time, and was visiting the family.
"Will you take a walk with us?" inquired George's father, addressing himself to the girl just mentioned, and her cousin, whose name was Washington.
"We are going to take a walk in the orchard," continued Mr. Washington. "It is a fine sight now."
Both of the parties addressed promptly accepted the invitation, delighted to take a stroll among the trees that were bending under their burden of fruit.
A walk of a half-mile brought them to the orchard, where an unusual spectacle awaited them.
"Oh, see the apples!" exclaimed George. "Such a lot of them!" And he clapped his hands and fairly danced in his excitement.
"I never saw such a sight," said the girl who accompanied them.
"It is a spectacle, indeed!" responded Mr. Washington. "It is not often we see so much fruit in one field as we see here."
It was not so much the enormous crop of apples upon the trees, as it was the great quantity on the ground beneath them that attracted George. The winds had relieved the trees of a portion of their burden, and the ground was literally covered with the luscious fruit. George had never beheld such a display of apples, and his young heart bounded with delight over the scene.
They roamed through the orchard for a time, chatting and enjoying the occasion thoroughly, when Mr. Washington rather disturbed the flow of animal spirits by saying,—
"Now, George, look here, my son! Don't you remember when this good cousin of yours (referring to the lad who was with them) brought you that fine large apple last spring, how hardly I could prevail on you to divide it with your brothers and sisters, though I promised you that if you would but do it God would give you plenty of apples this fall."
George made no reply but hung his head in shame. He had not forgotten his selfishness on that occasion, and he was greatly mortified.
His father continued,—
"Now, look up, my son; look up, George! See how richly the blessed God has made good my promise to you. Wherever you turn your eyes, you see the trees loaded with fine fruit; many of them, indeed, breaking down; while the ground is covered with mellow apples, more than you could eat, my son, in all your life-time."
George made no reply. His young companions stood in silence, gazing at him, as if wondering what all this counsel meant. Mr. Washington waited for his son to speak; and just as he was concluding that George had nothing to say for himself, the latter turned manfully to his father, and said:
"Well, pa, only forgive me this time, and see if I am ever stingy any more."
Mr. Washington had a purpose in going to the orchard, and it was well accomplished. His son got one nobler idea into his head, and one nobler resolve into his heart. Henceforth the noble boy would treat selfishness as a foe instead of a friend.
Mr. Washington resorted to the following device to impress his son with a proper conception of God as the Creator of all things. In the spring he carefully prepared a bed in the garden, beside the walk, where George would frequently go for pleasure. When the bed was prepared, he wrote George's name in full in the pulverized earth, and sowed the same with cabbage seed. In due time, of course, the seed appeared in green, thrifty shoots, forming the letters as clearly as they stand in the alphabet. George discovered them one day. He was then seven or eight years old. He stood for a moment in silent wonder.
"Those are letters sure enough," he thought.
Then he read them aloud, "G-E-O-R-G-E W-A-S-H-I-N-G-T-O-N."
With wondering eyes he rushed to the house, and excitedly broke the news.
"Oh, pa, come here! come here!"
"What's the matter, my son? what's the matter?" responded his father.
"Oh, come here, I tell you, pa; come here!" and the boy could scarcely contain himself, so great was his excitement.
"But what is it, my son? Can't you tell me what has happened?"
"Come here, and I'll show you the greatest sight you ever saw in your life!"
By this time he was pulling his father along towards the garden, the latter understanding full well what had happened. Very soon they reached the bed, where the bright, thrifty cabbage plants had spelled the name of GEORGE WASHINGTON in full.
"There, pa!" exclaimed George, pointing to his name in cabbage plants, and exhibiting the greatest astonishment by his appearance. "Did you ever see such a sight in all your life-time?"
"Well, George, it does seem like a curious affair sure enough," his father answered. "But who should make it there, pa? Who made it there?"
"Why, it grew there, of course, my son."
"No, pa! No, no! somebody put it there."
"Then you think it did not grow there by chance?"
"No, indeed, it never did. That couldn't be."
"How is that, my son? Don't it look very much like chance?"
"Why, no, pa; did you ever know anybody's name in a plant bed before?"
"Well, George, might not such a thing happen though I never saw it before?"
"Yes, pa; but I never saw plants grow up so as to make a single letter of my name before. How could they grow up so as to make all the letters of my name! And all standing one after another so as to spell my name exactly—and all so nice and even, too, at top and bottom! Somebody did it. You did it, pa, to scare me, because I am your little boy."
"Well, George, you have guessed right," answered Mr. Washington. "I did do it, but not to scare you, my son, but to teach you a great truth which I wish you to understand. I want to introduce you to your true Father."
"Ain't you my true father, pa?"
"Yes, I am your father, George, as the world calls it, and love you with a father's love. Yet, with all my love for you, I am but a poor father in comparison with your true Father."
"I know well enough whom you mean," continued George. "You mean God, don't you?"
"Yes, I mean Him, indeed, my son. He is your true Father," was Mr. Washington's hearty answer.
George went on with his inquiries, and his father, answered, adding at last:
"Well, then, as you could not believe that chance had made and put together so exactly the letters of your name (though only sixteen), then how can you believe that chance could have made and put together all those millions and millions of things that are now so exactly fitted for your good! Eyes to see with; ears to hear with; nose to smell with; a mouth to eat with; teeth to bite with; hands to handle with; feet to walk with; a mind to think with; a heart to love with; a home to live in; parents to care for you, and brothers and sisters to love you! Why, look at this beautiful world in which you live, with its golden, light to cheer you by day, and its still night to wrap you in sleep when you are too tired to play; its fruits, and flowers and fields of grass and grain; its horses to draw you and cows to give you milk; its sheep to furnish wool to cloth you, and meat for your food; its sun, moon and stars to comfort you; bubbling springs to quench your thirst; wood to burn that you may be warm in winter; and ten thousand other good things—so many that my son could never number them all, or even think of them! Could chance bring about all these things so exactly as to suit your wants and wishes?"
"No, pa, chance could not do it," answered George, really taking in this new view of the world around him.
"What was it, then, do you think, my son?" continued his father.
"God did it," George replied.
"Yes, George, it is all the work of God, and nobody else," responded his father. "He gives us all."
"Does God give me everything? Don't you give me some things?" George inquired.
"I give you something!" exclaimed his father. "How can I give you anything, George? I who have nothing on earth I can call my own; no, not even the breath I draw!"
"Ain't the house yours, and the garden, and the horses and oxen and sheep?" still inquired George, failing to comprehend the great truth of God's ownership.
"Oh, no, my son, no! Why, you make me shrink into nothing, George, when you talk of all these things belonging to me, who can't even make a grain of sand! How could I give life to the oxen and horses, when I can't give life even to a fly, my son?"
George was introduced into a new world by this lesson, as his father intended that he should be. His precocious mind grasped, finally, the great idea of his "true Father," and the lesson never had to be repeated.
We have rehearsed this incident somewhat in detail as given by Mr. Weems, because its influence will be found interwoven with George's future private and public life.
Another story told by Mr. Weems is the famous hatchet story, which has been rehearsed to so many children, since that day, to rebuke falsehood and promote truth-telling.
His father made him a present of a hatchet with which George was especially delighted. Of course he proceeded forthwith to try it, first hacking his mother's pea-sticks, and, finally, trying its edge upon the body of a beautiful "English cherry-tree." Without understanding that he was destroying the tree, he chopped away upon it to his heart's content, leaving the bark, if not the solid wood underneath, in a very dilapidated condition. The next morning his father discovered the trespass, and, rushing into the house, under much excitement, he exclaimed:
"My beautiful cherry-tree is utterly ruined. Who could hack it in that manner?"
"I would not have taken five guineas for it," he added, with a long-drawn sigh. The words had scarcely escaped from his lips before George appeared with his hatchet.
"George," said his father, "do you know who killed that cherry-tree in the garden?"
George had not stopped to think, until that moment, that he had used his hatchet improperly. His father's question was a revelation to him; and he hung his head in a guilty manner for a moment.
"George, did you do it?" urged his father.
Raising his head, and looking his father fully in the face, he replied:
"I can't tell a lie, pa; you know I can't tell a lie, I did cut it with my hatchet."
Mr. Washington was well-nigh overcome by this frank and honest reply. For a moment he stood spell bound; then recovering himself, he exclaimed:
"Come to my arms, my boy! You have paid for the cherry-tree a thousand times over. Such an act of heroism is worth more to me than a thousand trees!"
Mr. Weems regards this honest confession the out-growth of previous instructions upon the sin of lying and the beauty of truthfulness. He represents Mr. Washington as saying to his son:
"Truth, George, is the loveliest quality of youth. I would ride fifty miles, my son, to see the little boy whose heart is so honest, and his lips so pure, that we may depend on every word he says."
"But, oh, how different, George, is the case with the boy who is so given to lying that nobody can believe a word he says. He is looked at with aversion wherever he goes, and parents dread to see him come among their children. O George, rather than see you come to this pass, dear as you are to me, I would follow you to your grave."
Here George protested against being charged with lying. "Do I ever tell lies?" he asked.
"No, George, I thank God you do not; and I rejoice in the hope that you never will. At least, you shall never, from me, have cause to be guilty of so shameful a thing. You know I have always told you, and now tell you again, that, whenever by accident you do anything wrong, which must often be the case, as you are but a little boy, without experience or knowledge, never tell a falsehood to conceal it; but come bravely up, and tell me of it; and your confession will merit love instead of punishment."
As we proceed with this narrative, after having enjoyed this glimpse of George's earliest years, the charming lines of Burleigh will find a fitting application.
"By honest work and inward truth The victories of our life are won, And what is wisely done in youth For all the years is wisely done; The little deeds of every day Shape that within which lives for aye.
"No thought so buried in the dark It shall not bear its bloom in light; No act too small to leave its mark Upon the young hearts tablet white; Our grand achievements, secret springs, Are tempered among trivial things.
"No soul at last is truly great That was not greatly true at first; In childhood's play are seeds of fate Whose flower in manhood's work shall burst. In the clinched fist of baby Thor Might seem his hammer clutched for war.
* * * * *
"The firmest tower to heaven up-piled Hides deepest its foundation-stone; Do well the duty of the child, And manhood's task is well begun; In thunders of the forum yet Resounds the mastered alphabet."
George was about eight years old when a great excitement arose among the colonists in Virginia, and the fife and drum were heard, to announce that England, the mother country, needed soldiers.
"A regiment of four battalions is called for, by the king, for a campaign in the West Indies," announced Mr. Washington to his son Lawrence, a young man twenty-two years of age.
"A good opportunity for me," answered Lawrence, who possessed much of the military spirit of his ancestors. "Perhaps I can get a commission."
"Perhaps so," responded his father; "your education ought to place you above the common soldier."
Lawrence had just returned from England, where he had spent seven years in study, enjoying the best literary advantages the country could afford.
"Well, I can enlist and then see what can be done," continued Lawrence. "The regiment will be raised at once, and I can soon find out whether there is an appointment for me."
Soon recruiting parties were parading at the sound of fife and drum, and the military spirit was aroused in the hearts of both young and old. The enthusiasm spread and grew like a fire in the wilderness. The colonists were truly loyal to the king, and their patriotism led them, heartily and promptly, into the defence of the English cause in the West Indies against the Spaniards.
Recruiting advanced rapidly, and the regiment was soon raised. Lawrence obtained a captain's commission, and appeared wearing the insignia of his office. Music, drilling, parading, now became the order of the day, and it was a new and exciting scene to George. Soldiers in uniform, armed and equipped for war, marching at the sound of music, captivated his soul. It awakened all the ancestral spirit of chivalry that was in his heart. The sight of his big brother at the head of his company, drilling his men in military tactics, filled him with wonder. Gladly would he have donned a soldier's suit and sailed with the regiment to the West Indies, so wrought upon was his young heart.
In due time the regiment embarked for the West Indies, and George was obliged to part with his noble brother, to whom he had become strongly attached since his return from England. The departure of so many colonists, and the cessation of military display, left George in a serious frame of mind. For the first time in his life he experienced the sensation of loneliness.
However, he had caught the military spirit, and he found relief in playing soldier with his companions. There is no doubt that George inherited somewhat the love and tact for military life for which his English ancestors were renowned; and now that born element of his character was called into active exercise. The recruiting campaign converted him into an amateur soldier.
From that time George found more real pleasure in mimic parades and battles than he found in any other sport. A stick, corn-stalk or broom-handle, answered for gun or sword, and the meadow in front of his father's house became his muster-field. Here Lewis Willis, John Fitzhugh, William Bustle, Langhorn Dade, and other companions, marched and counter-marched, under the generalship of their young commander, George. Soldiering became the popular pastime of the region, in which the boys played the part of the Englishmen and Spaniards better than boys can do it now.
Lawrence served two years under Admiral Vernon in the West Indies campaign, and returned to Virginia in the autumn of 1742. He proved himself a hero in war. Irving says: "He was present at the siege of Carthagena, when it was bombarded by the fleet, and when the troops attempted to escalade the citadel. It was an ineffectual attack; the ships could not get near enough to throw their shells into the town, and the scaling ladders proved too short. That part of the attack, however, with which Lawrence was concerned, distinguished itself by its bravery. The troops sustained, unflinching, a destructive fire for several hours, and at length retired with honor, their small force having sustained a loss of about six hundred in killed and wounded."
Lawrence intended to return to England after a brief stay at home.
"My record will insure me a promotion in the army," he said to his father, who was averse at first to his return.
"Very true; but army life is objectionable in many ways," his father replied. "The honors hardly pay."
"But my experience for two years has fitted me for that service more than for any other, and that is to be thought of," suggested Lawrence.
"Yes; but other avenues to business are always open to young men of spirit," remarked his father. "Nor is it necessary for them to leave the country in order to accomplish a noble purpose."
However, Mr. Washington withdrew his objections to his son's return to the army; though, subsequently, he was pleased that he abandoned the project under the following circumstances.
There lived an educated English gentleman in Fairfax County by the name of William Fairfax. He had charge of a very large estate belonging to his cousin, Lord Fairfax, of England. This William Fairfax had a daughter, Anne, as well educated and accomplished as Lawrence. Mutual respect between Lawrence and Anne ripened into mutual love, and they became engaged. This unexpected episode in the lives of the promising couple changed the plans of Lawrence; and he voluntarily abandoned the idea of returning to the army.
The martial spirit of George did not abate when Lawrence came home from the war; it rather increased than otherwise. For his ears were regaled with many stories of army life, in which bravery, peril, bloodshed, and hairbreadth escapes were strangely mixed. There was a singular fascination in these tales of war to George; and he never tired of listening to them. The more he heard, the more he enjoyed playing soldier. He was constantly learning military tactics, too, from the lips of his brother. Being a bright, intelligent boy, he readily comprehended and appropriated information upon a subject that was so congenial to his heart. Lawrence was impressed by the precocity of his little brother, as well as his tact at soldiering, so that he was all the more gratified to nurture his martial spirit by rehearsing his experience in war. Lawrence was twenty-four years of age, and George but ten, so that the latter looked up to the former somewhat as a son looks up to a father, drinking in his words as words of wisdom, and accepting his experience as that of an officer of rank. Lawrence became his military teacher, really; and the opportunity to George proved a sort of West Point.
Lawrence, and others, too, were very much charmed by George's manly bearing, even before he was ten years old. John Fitzhugh said of him, "He was born a man."
He was very handsome, large of his age, tall and straight, graceful and dignified in his movements. These qualities were so conspicuous as to attract the attention of strangers.
He was very athletic, too, and loved more active sports than playing marbles. He excelled in running, wrestling, leaping, and throwing the bar, sports that were popular at that time. In these things he took the lead.
John Fitzhugh said of him, as a runner: "He ran wonderfully. We had nobody hereabouts that could come near him. There was a young Langhorn Dade, of Westmoreland, a clean-made, light young fellow, a mighty swift runner, too—but then he was no match for George: Langy, indeed, did not like to give it up, and would brag that he had sometimes brought George to a tie. But I believe he was mistaken; for I have seen them run together many a time, and George always beat him easy enough."
He would throw a stone further then any other boy. Col. Lewis Willis, who was one of his boon companions, said that he "had often seen George throw a stone across the Rappahannock, at the lower ferry of Fredericksburg." No other boy could do it.
His great physical strength was early displayed in lifting and carrying burdens.
The sequel will show how well his marked physical development served him in public life. A boy of less muscular power could not have made a general of such endurance under privations and hardships.
Much more relating to the boyhood of George Washington will appear in subsequent chapters. Enough has been said in this chapter to accomplish our purpose.
"We must come to some conclusion before long about Lawrence's education," remarked Mr. Washington to his wife. "It is certain that not much more can be done for him here."
"He deserves and must have something better than the schools of this colony can give him," answered Mrs. Washington. "Besides, it will do the boy good to go from home, and mix in such cultivated society as he will have in England."
They had often discussed the matter of sending Lawrence to England to be educated. The wealthier classes of Virginia were accustomed to send their sons to the mother country for a higher education than was possible at home. Indeed, it was sending them "home" in one sense, for England was their "home." They were only colonists here, where the schools were poor indeed. Neither their good-will nor their money alone could make good schools. They lacked suitable teachers and other facilities, which neither money nor good intentions could furnish.
"He should go, if he goes at all, as soon as possible," continued Mr. Washington. "There is no time to lose when a boy gets to be fifteen years old. Eight years at school there will make him twenty-three when he gets through; and by that time he should be prepared to enter upon some pursuit for life."
"Eight years is a longer time than it is absolutely necessary for him to spend," suggested Mrs. Washington. "Five or six years may be sufficient unless he decides to enter one of the learned professions."
"He can't be too well educated, whether he enters a learned profession or not," responded Mr. Washington. "Too much education is quite as impossible as too much honesty; and I do not expect he will ever have too much of the latter."
"I shall not deny that," replied Mrs. Washington. "I shall rejoice as much as you in the best opportunities he can have. I was only suggesting what might be if absolutely necessary to save time or expense."
Their conclusion was (as stated in the second chapter), to send Lawrence to England as soon as his wardrobe could be made ready, in which determination the lad rejoiced more than his parents ever knew. His ambition for an English education was strong; and, boy-like, he coveted a residence in England for a while.
Within a few weeks he sailed for the mother country, leaving a sensible void in the family. George did not interest himself particularly in the affair, although he might have added an occasional "coo"; for he was only one year old when his big brother left for England. His inexperience was sufficient excuse for his indifference to so important an affair.
George went to school when he was five years of age. A man by the name of Hobby lived in one of his father's tenements, and he served the public in the double capacity of parish sexton and school-master. It is claimed that he was a wounded soldier with a wooden leg, a kind, Christian gentleman, whose very limited education may have qualified him to dig graves and open the house of worship, but not to teach the young. However, he did teach school quite a number of years, and some of his pupils called him "Old Wooden Leg"—a fact that confirms the story of his having but one leg. He could "read, write and cipher" possibly, for that day, but beyond that he made no pretensions. Yet, that was the best school George could have at that time.
"We hope he will have a better one sometime," his father remarked. "I may not be able to send him to England, but I hope we shall see better schools here before many years have passed."
"Mr. Hobby can teach him A, B, C, as well as any body, I suppose," answered Mrs. Washington; and he can make a beginning in reading and writing with him, perhaps.
"Yes, and he may give him a start in arithmetic," added Mr. Washington. "Hobby knows something of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. But a bright boy will run him dry in two or three years."
"Mr. Hobby will do the best he knows how for George or any other boy," continued Mrs. Washington. "He is a good man, and looks after the morals of his scholars; and that is a good deal in educating children."
"Of course it is; it is everything," replied Mr. Washington. "In that respect, Hobby has the confidence of all who know him. He does the very best he can, and the most cultivated people can do no better than that."
George was soon on the very best terms with his teacher. The attraction was mutual. Hobby saw a bright, studious, obedient boy in George, and George saw a kind, loving and faithful teacher in Hobby. In these circumstances commendable progress was immediate in George's career.
One of his biographers says of him in Hobby's school:
"The rapid progress George made in his studies was owing, not so much to his uncommon aptitude at learning, as to the diligence and industry with which he applied himself to them. When other boys were staring out of the window, watching the birds and squirrels sporting among the tree-tops; or sitting idly with their hands in their pockets, opening and shutting their jack-knives, or counting their marbles, or munching apples or corn-dodgers behind their books, or, naughtier still, shooting paper bullets at Hobby's wooden leg; our George was studying with all his might, closing his ears to the buzz of the school-room; nor would he once raise his eyes from his book till every word of his lesson was ready to drop from his tongue's end of its own accord. So well did he apply himself, and so attentive was he to everything taught him, that, by the time he was ten years old, he had learned all that the good old grave-digger knew himself; and it was this worthy man's boast, in after years, that he had laid the foundation of Washington's future greatness. But what Hobby could not teach him at school, George learned at home from his father and mother, who were well educated for those days; and many a long winter evening did these good parents spend in telling their children interesting and instructive stories of olden times, of far-off countries and strange people, which George would write down in his copy book in his neatest, roundest hand, and remember ever afterwards."
What this biographer claims was not all the instruction which George received at home. His instruction at Hobby's school was supplemented by lessons in reading, penmanship and arithmetic by his father, who was much better qualified than Hobby to teach the young. Mr. Washington was a wise man, and he saw that George's school would prove far more beneficial to him when enforced by such lessons as he himself could impart at home. Thus Hobby's school really became a force in the education of George, because it was ably supported by the home school. Otherwise that first school which George attended might have proved of little value to him.
George became Mr. Hobby's most important pupil, because he was an example of obedience, application, method and thoroughness.
"George always does his work well," Mr. Hobby would say, exhibiting his writing-book to the school. "Not one blot, no finger-marks, everything neat and clean."
In contrast with some of the dirty, blotted pages in other writing-books, that of George was a marvel of neatness and excellence.
"It is just as easy to do the best you can as it is to do poorly," Mr. Hobby continued, by way of rebuke and encouragement to dull and careless scholars. "George does not have to work any harder to be thorough than some of you do to be scarcely passible. He is a little more careful, that is all."
His writing-book, held up to the view of the school with the one most badly defaced, honored George's thoroughness, and sharply reproved the other boy's carelessness. Mr. Hobby sought to arouse dull scholars by encouragement full as much as he did by punishment. Hence, George's neat, attractive writing-book, contrasted with one of the opposite qualities, became a stimulus to endeavor. All could keep their fingers clean if they would, even if they had to go to the banks of the Rappahannock to wash them; and no pupil was fated to blot his book, as Mr. Hobby very plainly showed; so that George's example was a constant benediction to the school.
"The scholar who does as well as he can in one thing will do as well as he can in another," said Mr. Hobby. "George has the best writing-book in school, and he is the best reader and speller. It is because his rule is to do the best he can."
It was not expected that George would fail in spelling. He did fail occasionally on a word, it is true, but so seldom that his schoolmates anticipated no failure on his part. In spelling-matches, the side on which he was chosen was expected to win. If all others failed on a word, George was supposed to be equal to the occasion.
"Well, George, we shall be obliged to depend on you to help us out of this difficulty," Mr. Hobby had frequent occasion to say, when all eyes would turn to George for the solution.
"There is a thousand times more enjoyment in doing things well than there is in doing them poorly," Mr. Hobby said. "The happiest boy in this school is the boy who is thorough in his studies."
The pupils understood the remark perfectly. It was not necessary that their teacher should say whether he meant a particular boy or not. They made their own application. The boy who does his work well is not hid in a corner. It is impossible to hide him.
Yet, George was at home on the play-ground. He loved the games and sports of his school-days. No boy enjoyed a trial at wrestling, running or leaping, better than he did. He played just as he studied—with all his might. He aspired to be the best wrestler, runner and leaper in school. William Bustle was his principal competitor. Many and many a time they were pitted against each other in a race or wrestle.
"George is too much for him," was the verdict of Lewis Willis and Langhorn Dade and others.
"In a race George will always win," remarked John Fitzhugh. "He runs like a deer."
"And he wrestles like a man," said Lewis Willis. "No boy is so strong in his arms as he is. I am nowhere when he once gets his long arms around me. It's like getting into a vice."
"William is about a match for him, though," suggested Lewis Willis, referring to William Bustle. "George has the advantage of him in being taller and heavier."
"And quicker," suggested Willis. "He is spry as a cat."
"Old Wooden Leg was about right when he said that the boy who would write and spell well would do everything else well," remarked Langhorn Dade. "It is true of George, sure."
So George was master of the situation on the play-ground. By common consent the supremacy was conceded to him. He was first in frolic, as, years thereafter, he was "first in war."
When the excitement of recruiting for the campaign against the Spaniards in the West Indies prevailed, and George's military ardor was aroused, he proposed to convert the play-ground into a muster-field, and make soldiers of his schoolmates.
"Let us have two armies, English and Spanish," he said. "I will command the English and William (William Bustle) the Spanish." And so they recruited for both armies. Drilling, parading, and fighting, imparted a warlike appearance to the school-grounds. All other sports were abandoned for this more exciting one, and Mr. Hobby's pupils suddenly became warriors.
"The Spaniards must be conquered and driven out of English territory," shouted George to his men.
"The Spaniards can't be expelled from their stronghold," shouted back their defiant commander, William Bustle. "You advance at your peril."
"You resist at your peril," replied George. "The only terms of peace are surrender, SURRENDER!"
"Spaniards never surrender!" shouted General Bustle; and his men supplemented his defiant attitude with a yell. "We are here to fight, not to surrender!"
"Forward! march," cried the English general in response to the challenge: and the hostile forces, with sticks and corn-stalks, waged mimic warfare with the tact and resolution of veterans. Charges, sieges and battles followed in quick succession, affording great sport for the boys, who were, unconsciously, training for real warfare in the future.
William Bustle was the equal of George in ability and skill to handle his youthful army, but the latter possessed a magnetic power that really made him commander-in-chief of Hobby's school. He was regarded as the military organizer of these juvenile forces, and hence the meritorious author of their greatest fun.
One of the stories that has come down to us from George's school-days is honorable to him as a truth-telling boy. A difficulty arose among several boys in school, and it grew into a quarrel. Three or four of George's companions were engaged in the melee, and some hard blows were given back and forth. Other boys were much wrought upon by the trouble, and allowed their sympathies to draw them to the side of one party or the other. Thus the school was divided in opinion upon the question, each party blaming the other with more or less demonstration.
"What is this that I hear about a quarrel among you, boys?" inquired Master Hobby, on learning of the trouble. "Dogs delight to bark and bite."
The boys made no answer, but looked at each other significantly, some of them smiling, others frowning. Mr. Hobby continued:
"Is it true that some of my boys have been fighting?"
No one answered. Evidently Mr. Hobby knew more about the affair than any of them supposed.
"Well, I am not surprised that you have nothing to say about it," added Mr. Hobby. "There is not much to be said in favor of fighting. But I must know the truth about it. How is it, William (addressing William Bustle), what do you know about it?"
William glanced his eye over the school-room and hesitated, as if the question put him into a tight place. He had no desire to volunteer information.
"Speak out," urged his teacher; "we must know the truth about it. I fear that this was not a sham fight from all I can learn. Did you fight?"
"Yes, sir, I did my part," William finally answered with considerable self-possession.
"Your part?" repeated Mr. Hobby, inquiringly. "Who assigned such a part to you?"
"Nobody but myself. I don't like to stand and look on when boys are abused."
"Don't? eh! I wish you would act on that principle when you see some lessons in your class abused, and come to the rescue by learning them. That would be acting to some purpose." This was a sharp rejoinder by the teacher; and William, as well as the other boys, understood its application.
"But that talk is neither one thing nor another, William," continued Mr. Hobby. "Waste no more time in this way, but let us have the truth at once. Be a man now, though you were not when engaged in a quarrel with your companions."
William was now reassured by his master's tone, and he proceeded to give his version of the affair. His statement was simply a vindication of his side of the trouble, and Mr. Hobby so regarded it.
"Now, Lewis (addressing Lewis Willis), we will hear what you have to say," continued Mr. Hobby. "You were engaged in this disgraceful affair, I believe."
Lewis admitted that he was, but he hesitated about replying.
"Well, let us have it, if you have anything to say for yourself. There is not much to be said for boys who fight."
Lewis mustered courage enough to tell his story, which was as one-sided as that of William. He presented his side of the difficulty as well as he could, whereupon Mr. Hobby remarked:
"Both of you cannot be right. Now, I would like to know how many of you think that William is right. As many scholars as think that William's statement is correct may raise their hands."
Several hands went up.
"Those who think that Lewis is right may raise their hands."
Several hands were raised. George did not vote.
"Did no one attempt to prevent or reconcile this trouble?" inquired Mr. Hobby—a question that was suggested by the facts he had learned.
"George did," answered one of the smaller boys.
"Ah! George tried to keep the peace, did he? That was noble! But he did not succeed?" Mr. Hobby added, by way of inquiry.
"No, sir," replied the lad. "They did not mind him."
"Well, I think we will mind him now, and hear what he says," responded the teacher. "A boy who will plead for peace when others fight deserves to be heard; and I think we can depend upon his version of the affair. Now, George (turning to George Washington), shall we hear what you have to say about this unfortunate trouble?"
George hesitated for a moment, as if he would gladly be excused from expressing his opinion, when Mr. Hobby encouraged him by the remark:
"I think we all shall be glad to learn how the quarrel is regarded by a peace-maker."
George hesitated no longer, but hastened to give an account of the affair. He did not agree with either of the boys who had spoken, but discovered blame upon both sides, which was a correct view of the case.
"And you interposed and tried to reconcile the angry parties?" inquired Mr. Hobby.
"I tried to," modestly answered George, as if conscious that his efforts were of little avail with the belligerents.
"Your effort is just as commendable as it would have been if it had proved successful," responded Mr. Hobby in a complimentary manner. "And now, I want to know how many of my scholars, girls and boys, agree with George. You have heard his story. As many of you as agree with George may signify it by raising your hands."