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masculine friends and relatives urged the scheme
upon Mrs. Washington, who Consented very reluc-
tantly, if at all, not liking the notion of parting
with her oldest son, even in her anxiety to have
him earn his bread. When it came to the point,



48 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

however, she finally decided against his going\, de-
termined probably by a very sensible letter from
her brother, Joseph Ball, an English lawyer. In
all the ornamented versions we are informed that
the boy was to enter the royal navy, and that a mid-
shipman's warrant was procured for him. There
does not appear to be any valid authority for the
royal navy, the warrant, or the midshipman. The
contemporary Virginian letters speak simply of
"going to sea," while Mr. Ball says distinctly that
the plan was to enter the boy on a tobacco ship,
with an excellent chance of being pressed on a man-
of-war, and a very faint prospect of either getting
into the navy, or even rising to be the captain of
one of the petty trading-vessels familiar to Vir-
ginian planters. Some recent writers have put Mr.
Ball aside as not knowing what was intended in
regard to his nephew, but in view of the difficulty
at that time of obtaining commissions in the navy
without great political influence, it seems probable
that Mrs. Washington's brother knew very well
what he was talking about, and he certainly wrote
a very sensible letter. A bold, adventurous boy,
eager to earn his living and make his way in the
world, would, like many others before him, look
longingly to the sea as the highway to fortune and
success. To Washington the romance of the sea
was represented by the tobacco ship creeping up
the river and bringing all the luxuries and many of
the necessaries of life from vaguely distant coun-
tries. No doubt he wished to go on one of these
vessels and try his luck, and very possibly the royal



THE WASHINGTONS. 49

navy was hoped for as the ultimate result. The
effort was certainly made to send him to sea, but it
failed, and he went back to school to study more
mathematics.

Apart from the fact that the exact sciences in
moderate degree were about all that Mr. Williams
could teach, this branch of learning had an imme-
diate practical value, inasmuch as surveying was
almost the only immediately gainful pursuit open
to a young Virginia gentleman, who sorely needed
a little ready money that he might buy slaves and
work a plantation. So Washington studied on for
two years more, and fitted himself to be a surveyor.
There are still extant some early papers belonging
to this period, chiefly fragments of school exercises,
which show that he already wrote the bold, hand-
some hand with which the world was to become
familiar, and that he made geometrical figures and
notes of surveys with the neatness and accuracy
which clung to him in all the work of his life,
whether great or small. Among those papers too
were found many copies of legal forms, and a set of
rules, over a hundred in nimiber, as to etiquette and
behavior, carefully written out. It has always been
supposed that these rules were copied, but it was
reserved apparently for the storms of a mighty
civil war to lay bare what may have been, if not the
source of the rules themselves, the origin and sug-
gestion of their compilation. At that time a little
volume was found in Virginia bearing the name of
George Washington in a boyish hand on the fly-



50 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

leaf, and the date 1742. The book was entitled,
" The Young Man's Companion." It was an Eng-
lish work, and had passed through thirteen edi-
tions, which was little enough in view of its varied
and extensive information. It was written by W.
Mather, in a plain and easy style, and treated of
arithmetic, surveying, forms for legal documents,
the measuring of land and lumber, gardening, and
many other useful topics, and it contained general
precepts which, with the aid of Hale's " Contempla-
tions," may readily have furnished the hints for the
rules found in manuscript among Washington's
papers.^ These rules were in the main wise and
sensible, and it is evident they had occupied deeply
the boy's mind.^ They are for the most part
concerned with the commonplaces of etiquette and
good manners, but there is something not only apt
but quite prophetic in the last one ; " Labor to
keep alive in your breast that little spark of celes-
tial fire called conscience." To suppose that Wash-
ington's character was formed by these sententious
bits of not very profound wisdom would be absurd ;
but that a series of rules which most lads would
have regarded as simply dull should have been
written out and pondered by this boy indicates a
soberness and thoughtfulness of mind which cer-

1 An account of this volume was given in the New York Trib-
une in 1866, and also in the Historical Magazine (x. 47).

^ The most important are given in Sparks' Writings of Wash-
ington^ ii. 412, and they may be found complete in the little pam-
phlet concerning them, excellently edited by Dr. J. M. Toner, of
Washington.



THE WASHINGTONS, 51

tainly are not usual at that age. The chief thought
that runs through all the sayings is to 2)ractice
self-control, and no man ever displayed that most
difficult of virtues to such a degree as George
Washington. It was no ordinary boy who took
such a lesson as this to heart before he was fif-
teen, and carried it into his daily life, never to be
forgotten. It may also be said that very few boys
ever needed it more ; but those persons who know
what they chiefly need, and pursue it, are by no
means common.



CHAPTER III.

ON THE FRONTIER.

While Washington was working his way
through the learning purveyed by Mr. Williams,
he was also receiving another education, of a
much broader and better sort, from the men and
women among whom he found himself, and with
whom he made friends. Chief among them was his
eldest brother, Lawrence, fourteen years his senior,
who had been educated in England, had fought
with Vernon at Carthagena, and had then re-
turned to Virginia, to be to him a generous father
and a loving friend. As the head of the family,
Lawrence Washington had received the lion's
share of the property, including the estate at
Hunting Creek, on the Potomac, which he chris-
tened Mount Vernon, after his admiral, and where
he settled down and built him a goodly house.
To this pleasant spot George Washington jour-
neyed often in vacation time, and there he came to
live and further pursue his studies, after leaving
school in the autumn of 1747.

Lawrence Washington had married the daugh-
ter of William Fairfax, the proprietor of Belvoir, a
neighboring plantation, and the agent for the vast



ON THE FRONTIER. 53

estates held by his family in Virginia. George
Fairfax, Mrs. Washington's brother, had married
a Miss Cary, and thus two large and agreeable
family connections were thrown open to the young
surveyor when he emerged from school. The chief
figure, however, in that pleasant winter of 1747-48,
so far as an influence upon the character of Wash-
ington is concerned, was the head of the family
into which Lawrence Washington had married.
Thomas, Lord Fairfax, then sixty years of age, had
come to Virginia to live upon and look after the
kingdom which he had inherited in the wilderness.
He came of a noble and distinguished race. Grad-
uating at Oxford with credit, he served in the army,
dabbled in literature, had his fling in the London
world, and was jilted by a beauty who preferred a
duke, and gave her faithful but less titled lover an
apparently incurable wound. His life having been
thus early twisted and set awry. Lord Fairfax,
when well past his prime, had determined finally
to come to Virginia, bury himself in the forests,
and look after the almost limitless possessions
beyond the Blue Ridge, which he had inherited
from his maternal grandfather. Lord Culpeper, of
unsavory Restoration memory. It was a piece of
great good-fortune which threw in Washington's
path this accomplished gentleman, familiar with
courts and camps, disappointed, .but not morose,
disillusioned, but still kindly and generous. From
him the boy could gain that knowledge of men and
manners which no school can give, and which is



54 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

as important in its way as any that a teacher can
impart.

Lord Fairfax and Washington became fast
friends. They hunted the fox together, and
hunted him hard. They engaged in all the rough
sports and perilous excitements that Virginia win-
ter life could afford, and the boy's bold and skilful
riding, his love of sports and his fine temper,
commended him to the warm and affectionate in-
terest of the old nobleman. Other qualities, too,
the experienced man of the world saw in his young
companion : a high and persistent courage, robust
and calm sense, and, above all, unusual force of
will and character. Washington impressed pro-
foundly everybody with whom he was brought into
personal contact, a fact which is one of the most
marked features of his character and career, and
one which deserves study more than almost any
other. Lord Fairfax was no exception to the rule.
He saw in Washington not simply a promising,
brave, open-hearted boy, diligent in practising his
profession, and whom he was anxious to help, but
something more ; something which so impressed
him that he confided to this lad a task which, ac-
cording to its performance, would affect both his
fortune and his peace. In a word, he trusted
Washington, and told him, as the spring of 1748
was opening, to go forth and survey the vast Fair-
fax estates beyond the Ridge, define their boun-
daries, and save them from future litigation.
With this commission from Lord Fairfax, Wash-



ON THE FRONTIER. 55

ington entered on the first period of his career.
He passed it on the frontier, fighting nature, the
Indians, and the French. He went in a schoolboy ;
he came out the first soldier in the colonies, and
one of the leading men of Virginia. Let us pause
a moment and look at him as he stands on the
threshold of this momentous period, rightly called
momentous because it was the formative period in
the life of such a man.

He had just passed his sixteenth birthday. He
was tall and muscular, approaching the stature of
more than six feet which he afterwards attained.
He was not yet filled out to manly proportions, but
was rather spare, after the fashion of youth. He
had a well-shaped, active figure, symmetrical ex-
cept for the unusual length of the arms, indicating
uncommon strength. His light brown hair was
drawn back from a broad forehead, and grayish-
blue eyes looked happily, and perhaps a trifle so-
berly, on the pleasant Virginia world about him.
The face was open and manly, with a square, mas-
sive jaw, and a general expression of calmness and
strength. ''Fair and florid," big and strong, he
was, take him for all in all, as fine a specimen of
his race as could be found in the English colonies.

Let us look a little closer through the keen eyes
of one who studied many faces to good purpose.
The great painter of portraits, Gilbert Stuart, tells
us of Washington that he never saw in any man
such large eye-sockets, or such a breadth of nose
and forehead between the eyes, and that he read



56 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

there the evidences of the strongest passions pos-
sible to human nature. John Bernard the actor, a
good observer, too, saw in Washington's face, in
1797, the signs of an habitual conflict and mastery
of passions, witnessed by the compressed mouth
and deeply indented brow. The problem had been
solved then; but in 1748, passion and will alike
slumbered, and no man could tell which would pre-
vail, or whether they would work together to great
purpose or go jarring on to nothingness. He rises
up to us out of the past in that early springtime a
fine, handsome, athletic boy, beloved by those about
him, who found him a charming companion and
did not guess that he might be a terribly dangerous
foe. He rises up instinct with life and strength, a
being capable, as we know, of great things whether
for good or evil, with hot blood pulsing in his veins
and beating in his heart, with violent passions and
relentless will still undeveloped, and no one in all
that jolly, generous Virginian society even dimly
dreamed what that development would be, or what
it would mean to the world.

It was in March, 1748, that George Fairfax and
Washington set forth on their adventures, and
passing through Ashby's Gap in the Blue Ridge,
entered the valley of Virginia. Thence they worked
their way up the valley of the Shenandoah, survey-
ing as they went, returned and swam the swollen
Potomac, surveyed the lands about its south branch
and in the mountainous region of Frederick County,
and finally reached Mount Vernon again on April



ON THE FRONTIER. 57

12th. It was a rough experience for a beginner,
but a wholesome one, and furnished the usual vicis-
situdes of frontier life. They were wet and cold
and hungry, or warm and dry and well fed, by
turns. They slept in a tent, or the huts of the scat-
tered settlers, and oftener still beneath the stars.
They met a war party of Indians, and having plied
them with liquor, watched one of their mad dances
round the camp-fire. In another place they came
on a straggling settlement of Germans, dull, pa-
tient, and illiterate, strangely unfit for the life of
the wilderness. All these things, as well as the
progress of their work and their various resting-
places, Washington noted down briefly but method-
ically in a diary, showing in these rough notes the
first evidences of that keen observation of nature
and men and daily incidents which he developed to
such good purpose in after-life. There are no
rhapsodies and no reflections in these hasty jottings,
but the employments and the discomforts are all
set down in a simple and matter-of-fact way, which
omitted no essential thing and excluded all that
was worthless. His work, too, was well done, and
Lord Fairfax was so much pleased by the report
that he moved across the Blue Ridge, built a hunt-
ing lodge preparatory to something more splendid
which never came to pass, and laid out a noble
manor, to which he gave the name of Greenway
Court. He also procured for Washington an ap-
pointment as a public surveyor, which conferred
authority on his surveys and provided him with



58 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

regular work. Thus started, Washington toiled at
his profession for three years, living and working as
he did on his first expedition. It was a rough life,
but a manly and robust one, and the men who live
it, although often rude and coarse, are never weak
or effeminate. To Washington it was an admirable
school. It strengthened his muscles and hardened
him to exposure and fatigue. It accustomed him
to risks and perils of various kinds, and made him
fertile in expedients and confident of himself, while
the nature of his work rendered him careful and
industrious. That his work was well done is shown
by the fact that his surveys were considered of the
first authority, and stand unquestioned to this day,
like certain other work which he was subsequently
called to do. It was part of his character, when he
did anything, to do it in a lasting fashion, and it is
worth while to remember that the surveys he made
as a boy were the best that could be made.

He wrote to a friend at this time : " Since you
received my letter of October last, I have not slept
above three or four nights in a bed, but, after
walking a good deal all the day, I have lain down
before the fire upon a little hay, straw, fodder, or a
bearskin, whichever was to be had, with man, wife,
and children, like dogs and cats ; and hapj^y is he
who gets Jhe berth nearest the fire. Nothing would
make it pass off tolerably but a good reward. A
doubloon is my constant gain every day that the
weather will permit of my going out, and sometimes
six pistoles." He was evidently a thrifty lad, and



ON THE FRONTIER, 69

honestly pleased with honest earnings. He was no
mere adventurous wanderer, but a man working
for results in money, reputation, or some solid
value, and while he worked and earned he kept an
observant eye upon the wilderness, and bought up
when he could the best land for himself and his
family, laying the foundations of the great landed
estate of which he died possessed.

There was also a lighter and pleasanter side to
this hard-working existence, which was quite as
useful, and more attractive, than toiling in the
woods and mountains. The young surveyor passed
much of his time at Greenway Court, hunting the
fox and rejoicing in all field sports which held high
place in that kingdom, while at the same time he
profited much in graver fashion by his friendship
with such a man as Lord Fairfax. There, too, he
had a chance at a library, and his diaries show that
he read carefully the history of England and the
essays of the " Spectator." Neither in early days
nor at any other time was he a student, for he had
few opportunities, and his life from the beginning
was out of doors and among men. But the idea
sometimes put forward that Washington cared
nothino; for readino; or for books is an idle one.
He read at Greenway Court and everywhere else
when he had a chance, and he read well and to
some purpose, studying men and events in books as
he did in the world, and though he never talked of
his reading, preserving silence on that as on other
things concerning himself, no one ever was able



60 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

to record an instance in which he showed himself
ignorant of history or of literature. He was never
a learned man, but so far as his own language
could carry him he was an educated one. Thus
while he developed the sterner qualities by hard
work and a rough life, he did not bring back the
coarse habits of the backwoods and the camp-fire,
but was able to refine his manners and improve his
mind in the excellent society and under the hospi-
table roof of Lord Fairfax.

Three years slipped by, and then a domestic
change came which much affected Washington's
whole life. The Carthagena campaign had under-
mined the strength of Lawrence Washington and
sown the seeds of consumption, which showed itself
in 1749, and became steadily more alarming. A
voyage to England and a summer at the warm
springs were tried without success, and finally, as a
last resort, the invalid sailed for the West Indies,
in September, 1751. Thither his brother George
accompanied him, and we have the fragments of a
diary kept during this first and last wandering out-
side his native country. He copied the log, noted
the weather, and evidently strove to get some idea
of nautical matters while he was at sea and leading
a life strangely unfamiliar to a woodsman and
pioneer. When they arrived they were imme-
diately asked to breakfast and dine with Major
Clarke, the military magnate of the place, and our
young Virginian remarked, with characteristic
prudence and a certain touch of grim humor, "We



ON THE FRONTIER. 61

went, вАФ myself with some reluctance, as the small-
pox was in the family." He fell a victim to his
good manners, for two weeks later he was " strongly
attacked with the smallpox," and was then housed
for a month, getting safely and successfully through
this danoerous and then almost universal ordeal.
Before the disease declared itself, however, he went
about everywhere, innocently scattering infection,
and greatly enjoying the pleasures of the island.
It is to be regretted that any part of this diary
should have been lost, for it is pleasant reading, and
exhibits the writer in an agreeable and characteris-
tic fashion. He commented on the country and
the scenery, inveighed against the extravagance of
the charges for board and lodging, told of his din-
ner-parties and his friends, and noted the marvel-
ous abundance and variety of the tropical fruits,
which contrasted strangely with the British dishes
of beefsteak and tripe. He also mentioned being
treated to a ticket to see the play of " George Barn-
well," on which he offered this cautious criticism :
"The character of Barnwell and several others
were said to be well performed. There was music
adapted and regularly conducted."

Soon after his recovery Washington returned to
Virginia, arriving there in February, 1752. The
diary concluded with a brief but perfectly effective
description of Barbadoes, touching on its resources
and scenery, its government and condition, and the
manners and customs of its inhabitants. All
through these notes we find the keenly observant



62 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

spirit, and the evidence of a mind constantly alert
to learn. We see also a pleasant, happy tempera-
ment, enjoying with hearty zest all the pleasures
that youth and life could furnish. He who wrote
these lines was evidently a vigorous, good-hu-
mored young fellow, with a quick eye for the world
opening before him, and for the delights as well as
the instruction which it offered.

From the sunshine and ease of this tropical win-
ter Washington passed to a long season of trial
and responsibility at home and abroad. In July,
1752, his much-loved brother Lawrence died, leav-
ing George guardian of his daughter, and heir to
his estates in the event of that daughter's death.
Thus the current of his home life changed, and re-
sponsibility came into it, while outside the mighty
stream of public events changed too, and swept
him along in the swelling torrent of a world-wide
war.

In all the vast wilderness beyond the mountains
there was not room for both French and English.
The rival nations had been for years slowly ap-
proaching each other, until in 1749 each people
proceeded at last to take possession of the Ohio
country after its own fashion. The French sent a
military expedition which sank and nailed up
leaden plates; the English formed a great land
company to si3eculate and make money, and both
set diligently to work to form Indian alliances. A
man of far less perception than Lawrence Wash-
ington, who had become the chief manager of the



ON THE FRONTIER. 63

Ohio Company, would have seen that the conditions
on the frontier rendered war inevitable, and he ac-
cordingly made ready for the future by preparing
his brother for the career of a soldier, so far as it
could be done. He brought to Mount Vernon two
old companions-in-arms of the Carthagena time.
Adjutant Muse, a Virginian, and Jacob Van
Braam, a Dutch soldier of fortune. The former
instructed Washington in the art of war, tactics,
and the manual of arms, the latter in fencing and
the sword exercise. At the same time Lawrence
Washington procured for his brother, then only
nineteen years of age, an appointment as one of
the adjutants-general of Virginia, with the rank of
major. To all this the young surveyor took kindly
enough so far as we can tell, but his military avo-
cations were interrupted by his voyage to Barba-
does, by the illness and death of his brother, and
by the cares and responsibilities thereby thrust
upon him.

Meantime the French aggressions had continued,
and French soldiers and traders were working their
way up from the South and down from the North,
bullying and cajoling the Indians by turns, taking
possession of the Ohio country, and selecting
places as they went for that chain of forts which
was to hem in and slowly strangle the English set-
tlements. Governor Dinwiddie had sent a com-
missioner to remonstrate against these encroach-
ments, but his envoy had stopped a hundred and
fifty miles short of the French posts, alarmed by



64 GEORGE WASHINGTON,

the troublous condition of things, and by the de-
feat and slaughter which the Frenchmen had al-
ready inflicted upon the Indians. Some more vig-
orous person was evidently needed to go through
the form of warning France not to trespass on
the English wilderness and thereupon Governor
Dinwiddle selected for the task George Washing-
ton, recently reappointed adjutant-general of the
northern division, and major in the Virginian
forces. He was a young man for such an under-
taking, not yet twenty-two, but clearly of good
reputation. It is plain enough that Lord Fairfax
and others had said to the governor, " Here is the
very man for you ; young, daring, and adventur-
ous, but yet sober-minded and responsible, who
only lacks opportunity to show the stuff that is in
him."

Thus, then, in October, 1753, Washington set
forth with Van Braam, and various servants and
horses, accompanied by the boldest of Virginian
frontiersmen, Christopher Gist. He wrote a re-


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