George Washington or Life in America One Hundred Years Ago.
AMERICAN PIONEERS AND PATRIOTS.
Life in America One Hundred Years Ago.
JOHN S. C. ABBOTT.
DODD & MEAD, PUBLISHERS,
Copyright, Dodd & Mead, 1875.
As Columbus and La Salle were the mostprominent of the Pioneers of America, so wasWashington the most illustrious of its Patriots.In the career of Columbus we have a vivid sketchof life in the tropical portions of the New Worldfour hundred years ago.
The adventures of La Salle, in exploring thiscontinent two hundred years ago, from the NorthernLakes to the Mexican Gulf, are almost withoutparallel, even in the pages of romance. His narrativegives information, such as can nowhere else befound, of the native inhabitants, their number,character, and modes of life when the white manfirst reached these shores.
The history of George Washington is as repletewith marvels as that of either of his predecessors.The world during the last century has made4more progress than during the preceding five.The life of Washington reveals to us, in a remarkabledegree, the state of society in our land, themanners and customs of the people, their joys andgriefs, one hundred years ago.
We search history in vain to find a parallelto Washington. As a statesman, as a general,as a thoroughly good man, he stands pre-eminent.He was so emphatically the Father of his countrythat it may almost be said that he created theRepublic. And now, that we are about to celebratethe Centennial of these United States—the mostfavored nation upon which the sun shines—it isfitting that we should recall, with grateful hearts,the memory of our illustrious benefactor GeorgeWashington.
|The Youth of George Washington.||9|
|The First Military Expedition.||44|
|The French War.||78|
|The Warrior, the Statesman, and the Planter.||108|
|The Gathering Storm of War.||138|
|The Conflict Commenced.||170|
|Progress of the War.||202|
|The Siege of Boston.||232|
|The War in New York.||264|
|The Vicissitudes of War.||295|
|The Loss of Philadelphia, and the Capture of Burgoyne.||325|
The Youth of George Washington.
Lawrence and John Washington—Their Emigration—AugustineWashington—His Marriage with Jane Ball—Birth of George—TheParental Home—The Scenery—Anecdotes—The Mother ofWashington—Education—Lord Fairfax—The Surveying Tour—Georgeat the age of seventeen years—The Mansion of LordFairfax—Contrast between the English and the French—BritishDesperadoes—The Ferocity of War—Military Organization—Claimsof France and England—Scenes of Woe—Heroic Excursionof Washington to the Ohio.
About two centuries ago there were two youngmen, in England, by the name of Lawrence andJohn Washington. They were gentlemen of refinementand education, the sons of an opulent anddistinguished family. Lawrence was a graduate ofOxford University, and was, by profession, a lawyer.John entered into commercial and mercantile affairs,and was an accomplished man of business. The10renown of Virginia, named after Elizabeth, England’svirgin queen, was then luring many, even ofthe most illustrious in wealth and rank, to theshores of the New World. Lawrence and Johnembarked together, to seek their fortunes on thebanks of the Potomac.1
It was a lovely morning in summer when theship entered Chesapeake Bay, and sailing up thatmajestic inland sea, entered the silent, solitary,forest-fringed Potomac. Eagerly they gazed uponthe Indian wigwams which were clustered upon thebanks of many a sheltered and picturesque cove;and upon the birch canoes, which were propelled bythe painted and plumed natives over the placidwaters. The two brothers purchased an extensivetract of land, on the western bank of the Potomac,about fifty miles above its entrance into the bay.Here, with an estate of thousands of acres spreadingaround them, and upon a spot commanding a magnificentview of the broad river and the sublimeforests, they reared their modest but comfortablemansion.
11John married Miss Pope. We have none of thedetails of their lives, full of incidents of intensestinterest to them, but of little importance to thecommunity at large. Life is ever a tragedy. Fromthe times of the patriarchs until now, it has been, tomost of the families of earth, a stormy day with afew gleams of sunshine breaking through the clouds.Children were born and children died. There werethe joys of the bridal and the tears of the funeral.
Upon the death of John Washington, his secondson, Augustine, remained at home in charge of thepaternal acres. He seems to have been, like hisfather, a very worthy man, commanding the respectof the community, which was rapidly increasingaround him. He married Jane Butler, a young ladywho is described as remarkably beautiful, intelligent—andlovely in character. A very happy union wassadly terminated by the early death of Jane. Abroken-hearted husband and three little childrenwere left to weep over her grave.
The helpless orphans needed another mother.One was found in Mary Ball. She was all thathusband or children could desire. Subsequentevents drew the attention of the whole nation, andalmost of the civilized world, to Mary Washington,for she became the mother of that George, whosename is enshrined in the hearts of countless millions.12It is the uncontradicted testimony that the motherof George Washington was, by instinct and culture, alady; she had a superior mind, well disciplined bystudy, and was a cheerful, devout Christian.
Augustine and Mary were married on the 6thof March, 1730. They received to their arms theirfirst-born child, to whom the name of George wasgiven, on the 22d of February, 1732. Little did theparents imagine that their babe would go out intothe world, from the seclusion of his home amid theforests of the Potomac, to render the name of Washingtonone of the most illustrious in the annals ofour race.
George Washington was peculiarly fortunate inboth father and mother. All the influences of hometended to ennoble him. Happiness in childhood isone of the most essential elements in the formationof a good character. This child had ever before himthe example of all domestic and Christian virtues.The parental home consisted of a spacious, one-storycottage, with a deep veranda in front. It was,architecturally, an attractive edifice, and it occupiedone of the most lovely sites on the banks of thebeautiful and majestic Potomac.
Soon after the birth of George, his father movedfrom the banks of the Potomac to the Rappahannock,nearly opposite the present site of Fredericksburg.13Here he died, on the 12th of April, 1743, at the ageof forty-nine.
The banks of the Rappahannock were coveredwith forests, spreading in grandeur over apparentlyan interminable expanse of hills and vales. In thosedays there were but few spots, in that vast region,which the axe of the settler had opened to the sun.But the smoke from the Indian camp-fires couldoften be seen curling up from the glooms of theforests, and the canoes of Indian hunters and warriorsoften arrested the eye, as they were glidingswiftly over the mirrored waters.
Trained by such parents, and in such a home,George, from infancy, developed a noble character.He was a handsome boy, gentlemanly in his manners,of finely developed figure, and of animated, intelligentfeatures. His physical strength, frankness,moral courage, courtesy, and high sense of honor,made him a general favorite. Every child hasheard the story of his trying the keen edge of hishatchet upon one of the favorite cherry trees of hisfather’s, and of his refusal to attempt to conceal thefault by a lie.2
14Augustine Lawrence, the father of George, diedwhen his son was but twelve years of age. Mary, agrief-stricken widow, was left with six fatherlesschildren. She proved herself amply competent todischarge the weighty responsibilities thus devolvingupon her. George ever honored his mother asone who had been to him a guardian angel. Inher daily life she set before him a pattern of everyvirtue. She instilled into his susceptible mindthose principles of probity and piety which everornamented his character, and to which he was indebtedfor success in the wonderful career uponwhich he soon entered.
In the final division of the parental property,Lawrence, the eldest child of Jane Butler, receivedthe rich estate called Mount Vernon, which includedtwenty-five hundred acres of land. George received,as his share, the house and lands on the Rappahannock.The paternal mansion in Westmorelandpassed to Augustine.
Lady Washington, as she was called, was deemed,before her marriage, one of the most beautiful girlsin Virginia. Through all the severe discipline of15life, she developed a character of the highest excellence.And thus she obtained an influence overthe mind of her son, which she held, unimpaired,until the day of her death.
The wealthy families of Virginia took muchpride in their equipage, and especially in the beautyof the horses which drew their massive carriages.Lady Washington had a span of iron-grays, of splendidfigure and remarkable spirit, and of which shewas very fond. One of these, though very docile bythe side of his mate in the carriage harness, hadnever been broken to the saddle. It was said thatthe spirited animal would allow no one to mounthim. George, though then a lad of but thirteenyears of age, was tall, strong, and very athletic.
One morning, as the colts were feeding upon thelawn, George, who had some companions visitinghim, approached the high-blooded steed, and aftersoothing him for some time with caresses, watchedhis opportunity and leaped upon his back. Thecolt, for a moment, seemed stupefied with surpriseand indignation. Then, after a few desperate, butunavailing attempts, by rearing and plunging, tothrow his rider, he dashed over the fields with thespeed of the wind.
George, glorying in his achievement, and inconsiderateof the peril to which he was exposing the16animal, gave the frantic steed the rein. When thehorse began to show signs of exhaustion, he urgedhim on, hoping thus to subdue him to perfectdocility. The result was that a blood-vessel wasburst, and the horse dropped dead beneath his rider.George, greatly agitated by the calamity, hastenedto his mother with the tidings. Her characteristicreply was:
“My son, I forgive you, because you have hadthe courage to tell me the truth at once. Had youskulked away, I should have despised you.”
In school studies George was a diligent scholar,though he did not manifest any special brilliance,either in his power of acquiring or communicatinginformation. He was endowed with a good mind, ofwell balanced powers. Such a mind is probably farmore desirable, as promotive of both happiness andusefulness, than one conspicuous for the excrescencesof what is called genius.