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LOVE AND MARRIAGE. 97

state the " great and general court," dancing every
night at some ball, dining with and being feted by
the magnates of the town. His business done, he
returned to New York, tarried there awhile for
the sake of the fair dame, but came to no conclu-
sions, and then, like the soldier in the song, he
gave his bridle-rein a shake and rode away again
to the South, and to the harassed and ravaged
frontier of Virginia.

How much this little interlude, pushed into a
corner as it has been by the dignity of history, —
how much it tells of the real man ! How the statu-
esque myth and the priggish myth and the dull
and solemn myth melt away before it ! Wise and
strong, a bearer of heavy responsibility beyond his
years, daring in fight and sober in judgment, we
have here tlie other and the more human side of
Washington. One loves to picture that gallant,
generous, youthful figure, brilliant in color and
manly in form, riding gayly on from one little colo-
nial town to another, feasting, dancing, courting,
and making merry. For him the myrtle and ivy
were entwined with the laurel, and fame was
sweetened by youth. He was righteously ready to
draw from life all the good things which fate and
fortune then smiling upon him could offer, and he
took his pleasure frankly, with an honest heart.

We know that he succeeded in his mission and
put the captain of thirty men In his proper place,
but no one now can tell how deeply he was affected
by the charms of Miss Philipse. The only certain



98 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

fact is that he was able not long after to console
himself very effectually. Riding away from Mount
Yernon once more, in the spring of 1758, this time
to Williamsburg with despatches, he stopped at
William's Ferry to dine with his friend Major
Chamberlayne, and there he met Martha Dandridge,
the widow of Daniel Parke Custis. She was young,
j^retty, intelligent, and an heiress, and her society
seemed to attract the young soldier. The afternoon
wore away, the horses came to the door at the ap-
pointed time, and after being walked back and forth
for some hours were returned to the stable. The
sun went down, and still the colonel lingered. The
next morning he rode away with his despatches,
but on his return he paused at the White House,
the home of Mrs. Custis, and then and there
plighted his troth with the charming widow. The
wooing was brief and decisive, and the successful
lover departed for the camp, to feel more keenly
than ever the delays of the British officers and the
shortcomings of the colonial government. As soon
as Fort Duquesne had fallen he hurried home, re-
signed his commission in the last week of Decem-
ber, and was married on January 6, 1759. It
was a brilliant wedding party which assembled on
that winter day in the little church near the White
House. There were gathered Francis Fauquier,
the gay, free-thinking, high-living governor, gor-
geous in scarlet and gold ; British officers, red-
coated and gold-laced, and all the neighboring-
gentry in the handsomest clothes that London



LOVE AND MARRIAGE. 99

credit could fnrnisli. The bride was attired in silk
and satin, laces and brocade, with pearls on her
neck and in her ears ; while the bridegroom appeared
in blue and silver trimmed with scarlet, and with
gold buckles at his knees and on his shoes. After
the ceremony the bride was taken home in a coach
and six, her husband riding beside her, mounted on
a splendid horse and followed by all the gentlemen
of the party.

The sunshine and glitter of the wedding-day
must have appeared to Washington deeply appro-
priate, for he certainly seemed to have all that
heart of man could desire. Just twenty-seven, in
the first flush of young manhood, keen of sense and
yet wise in experience, life must have looked very
fair and smiling. He had left the army with a
well-earned fame, and had come home to take the
wife of his choice and enjoy the good-will and re-
spect of all men. While away on his last campaign
he had been elected a member of the House of
Burgesses, and when he took his seat on removing
to Williamsburg, three months after his marriage,
Mr. Robinson, the speaker, thanked him publicly
in eloquent words for his services to the country.
Washington rose to reply, but he was so utterly
unable to talk about himself that he stood before
the House stammering and blushing, until the
speaker said, " Sit down, Mr. Washington ; your
modesty equals your valor, and that surpasses the
power of any language I possess." It is an old
story, and as graceful as it is old, but it was all very



100 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

grateful to Washington, especially as the words of
the speaker bodied forth the feelings of Virginia.
Such an atmosphere, filled with deserved respect
and praise, was pleasant to begin with, and then he
had everything else too.

He not only continued to sit in the House year
after year and help to rule Virginia, but he served
on the church vestry, and so held in his hands
the reins of local government. He had married
a charming woman, simple, straightforward, and
sympathetic, free from gossip or j)retence, and as
capable in practical matters as he was himself.
By right of birth a member of the Virginian aris-
tocracy, he had widened and strengthened his con-
nections through his wife. A man of handsome
property by the death of Lawrence Washington's
daughter, he had become by his marriage one of
the richest men of the country. Acknowledged to
be the first soldier on the continent, respected and
trusted in public, successful and happy in private
life, he had attained before he was thirty to all
that Virginia could give of wealth, prosperity, and
honor, a fact of which he was well aware, for there
never breathed a man more wisely contented than
George Washington at this period.

He made his home at Mount Vernon, adding
many acres to the estate, and giving to it his best
attention. It is needless to say that he was suc-
cessful, for that was the case with everything he
undertook. He loved country life, and he was
the best and most prosperous planter in Virginia,



LOVE AND MARRIAGE. 101

which was really a more difficult achievement than
the mere statement implies. Genuinely profitable
farming in Virginia was not common, for the gen-
eral system was a bad one. A single great staple,
easily produced by the reckless exhaustion of land,
and varying widely in the annual value of crops,
bred improvidence and speculation. Everything
was bought upon long credits, given by the London
merchants, and this, too, contributed largely to
carelessness and waste. The chronic state of a
planter in a business way was one of debt, and the
lack of capital made his conduct of affairs extrava-
gant and loose. With all his care and method
Washington himself was often pinched for ready
money, and it was only by his thoroughness and
foresight that he prospered and made money while
so many of his neighbors struggled with debt and
lived on in easy luxury, not knowing what the
morrow might bring forth.

A far more serious trouble than bad business
methods was one which was little heeded at the
moment, but which really lay at the foundation of
the whole system of society and business. This
was the character of the labor by which the plan-
tations were worked. Slave labor is well known
now to be the most expensive and the worst form
of labor that can be employed. In the middle of
the eighteenth century, however, its evils were not
appreciated, either from an economical or a moral
point of view. This is not the place to discuss the
subject of African slavery in America. But it is



102 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

important to know Washington's opinions in regard
to an institution which was destined to have such a
powerful influence upon the country, and it seems
most appropriate to consider those opinions at the
moment when slaves became a practical factor in
his life as a Virginian planter.

Washington accepted the system as he found
it, as most men accept the social arrangements
to which they are born. He grew up in a world
where slavery had always existed, and where its
rightfulness had never been questioned. Being on
the frontier, occupied with surveying and with war,
he never had occasion to really consider the matter
at all until he found himself at the head of large
estates, with his own prosperity dependent on the
labor of slaves. The first practical question, there-
fore, was how to employ this labor to the best ad-
vantage. A man of his clear perceptions soon dis-
covered the defects of the system, and he gave great
attention to feeding and clothing his slaves, and to
their general management. Parkinson ^ says in a
general way that Washington treated his slaves
harshly, spoke to them sharply, and maintained a
military discipline, to which he attributed the Gen-
eral's rare success as a planter. There can be no
doubt of the success, and the military discipline is
probably true, but the statement as to harshness is
unsupported by any other authority. Indeed, Park-
inson even contradicts it himself, for he says else-
where that Washington never bought or sold a slave,

1 Tour in America, 1798-1800.



LOVE AND MARRIAGE. 103

a proof of the highest and most intelligent human-
ity ; and he adds in his final sketch of the General's
character, that he " was incapable of wrong-doing,
but did to all men as he would they should do to
him. Therefore it is not to be supposed that he
would injure the negro." This agrees with what we
learn from all other sources. Humane by nature,
he conceived a great interest and pity for these
helpless beings, and treated them with kindness
and forethought. In a word, he was a wise and
good master, as well as a successful one, and the
condition of his slaves was as happy, and their labor
as profitable, as was possible to such a system.

So the years rolled by ; the war came and then
the making of the government, and Washington's
thoughts were turned more and more, as was the
case with all the men of his time in that era of
change and of new ideas, to the consideration of
human slavery in its moral, political, and social as-
pects. To trace the course of his opinions in detail
is needless. It is sufficient to summarize them, for
the results of his reflection and observation are
more important than the processes by which they
were reached. Washington became convinced that
the whole system was thoroughly bad, as well as
utterly repugnant to the ideas on which the Revo-
lution was fought and the government of the United
States founded. With a prescience wonderful for
those days and on that subject, he saw that slavery
meant the up-growth in the United States of two
systems so radically hostile, both socially and eco-



104 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

nomically, that they could lead only to a struggle
for political supremacy, which in its course he
feared would imperil the Union. For this reason
he deprecated the introduction of the slavery ques-
tion into the debates of the first Congress, because
he realized its character, and he did not believe
that the Union or the government at that early day
could bear the strain which in this way would be
produced. At the same time he felt that a right
solution must be found or inconceivable evils would
ensue. The inherent and everlasting wrong of the
system made its continuance, to his mind, impos-
sible. While it existed, he believed that the laws
which surrounded it should be maintained, because
he thought that to violate these only added one
wrong to another. He also doubted, as will be seen
in a later chapter, where his conversation with John
Bernard is quoted, whether the negroes could be
immediately emancipated with safety either to them-
selves or to the whites, in their actual condition of
ignorance, illiteracy, and helplessness. The plan
which he favored, and which, it would seem, was his
hope and reliance, was first the checking of importa-
tion, followed by a gradual emancipation, with proper
compensation to the owners and suitable prepara-
tion and education for the slaves. He told the
clergymen Asbury and Coke, when they visited him
for that jiurpose, that he was in favor of emancipa-
tion, and was ready to write a letter to the assembly
to that effect.^ He wished fervently that such a

1 Magazine of American History, 1880, p. 158.



LOVE AND MARRIAGE. 106

spirit might take possession of the people of the
country, but he wrote to Lafayette that he de-
spaired of seeing it. When he died he did all that
lay within his power to impress his views upon his
countrymen by directing that all his slaves should
be set free on the death of his wife. His precepts
and his example in this grave matter went unheeded
for many years by the generations that came after
him. But now that slavery is dead, to the joy of
all men, it is well to remember that on this terrible
question Washington's opinions were those of a
humane man, impatient of wrong, and of a noble
and far-seeing statesman, watchful of the evils that
threatened his country.^

After this digression let us return to the Virgin-
ian farmer, whose mind was not disturbed as yet
by thoughts of the destiny of the United States, or
considerations of the rights of man, but who was
much exercised by the task of making an honest
income out of his estates. To do this he grappled
with details as firmly as he did with the general
system under which all plantations in that day
were carried on. He understood every branch of
farming; he was on the alert for every improve-
ment ; he rose early, worked steadily, gave to every-
thing his personal supervision, kept his own accounts
with wonderful exactness, and naturally enough his
brands of flour went unquestioned everywhere, his
credit was high, and he made money — so far as

1 For some expressions of Washington's opinions on slavery, see
Sparks, viii. 414, ix. 159-163, and x. 224.



106 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

it was possible under existing conditions. Like
Shakespeare, as Bishop Blougram has it, he

"Saved money, spent it, owned the worth of things."

He had no fine and senseless disregard for money
or the good things of this world, but on the con-
trary saw in them not the value attached to them
by vulgar minds, but their true worth. He was a
solid, square, evenly-balanced man in those days,
believing that whatever he did was worth doing
well. So he farmed, as he fought and governed,
better than anybody else.

While thus looking after his own estates at
home, he went further afield in search of invest-
ments, keeping a shrewd eye on the western lands,
and buying wisely and judiciously whenever he had
the opportunity. He also constituted himself now,
as in a later time, the champion of the soldiers, for
whom he had the truest sympathy and affection,
and a large part of the correspondence of this pe-
riod is devoted to their claims for the lands granted
them by the assembly. He distinguished care-
fully among them, however, those who were unde-
serving, and to the major of the regiment, who had
been excluded from the public thanks on account
of cowardice at the Great Meadows, he wrote as
follows : " Your impertinent letter was delivered
to me yesterday. As I am not accustomed to re-
ceive such from any man, nor would have taken
the same language from you personally without
letting you feel some marks of my resentment, I



LOVE AND MARRIAGE. 107

would advise you to be cautious in writing me a
second of the same tenor. But for your stuj^idity
and sottishness you might have known, by attend-
ing to the public gazette, that you had your full
quantity of ten thousand acres of land allowed
you. But suppose you had really fallen short, do
you think your superlative merit entitles you to
greater indulgence than others? . . . All my con-
cern is that I ever engaged in behalf of so un-
grateful a fellow as you are." The writer of this
letter, be it said in passing, was the man whom
Mr. Weems and others tell us was knocked down
before his soldiers, and then apologized to his as-
sailant. It may be suspected that it was well for
the recipient of this letter that he did not have a
personal interview with its author, and it may be
doubted if he ever sought one subsequently. Just,
generous, and magnanimous to an extraordinary
degree, Washington had a dangerous temper, held
well under control, but blazing out now and again
against injustice, impertinence, or oppression. He
was a peaceful man, leading a peaceful life, but the
fighting spirit only slumbered, and it would break
out at wrong of any sort, in a way which was ex-
tremely unpleasant and threatening to those who
aroused it.

Apart from lands and money and the manage-
ment of affairs, public and private, there were many
other interests of varied nature which all had their
share of Washington's time and thought. He was
a devoted husband, and gave to his step-children



108 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

the most affectionate care. He watched over and
protected them, and when the daughter died, after
a long and wasting ilhiess, in 1773, he mourned
for her as if she had been his own, with all the
tenderness of a deep and reserved affection. The
boy, John Custis, he made his friend and compan-
ion from the beginning, and his letters to the lad
and about him are wise and judicious in the high-
est degree. He spent much time and thought on
the question of education, and after securing the
best instructors took the boy to New York and
entered him at Columbia College in 1773. Young
Custis however did not remain there long, for he
had fallen in love, and the following year was mar-
ried to Eleanor Calvert, not without some misgiv-
ings on the part of Washington, who had observed
his ward's somewhat flighty disj^osition, and who
gave a great deal of anxious thought to his future.
At home as abroad he was an undemonstrative
man, but he had abundance of that real affection
which labors for those to whom it goes out more
unselfishly and far more effectually than that
which bubbles and boils upon the surface like a
shallow, noisy brook.

From the suggestions that he made in regard to
young Custis, it is evident that Washington val-
ued and respected education, and that he had that
regard for learning for its own sake which always
exists in large measure in every thoughtful man.
He read well, even if his active life prevented his
reading much, as we can see by his vigorous Eng-



LOVE AND MARRIAGE. 109

Hsh, and by his occasional allusions to history.
From his London orders we see, too, that every-
thing about his house must have denoted that its
possessor had refinement and taste. His intense
sense of propriety and unfailing instinct for what
was appropriate are everywhere apparent. His
dress, his furniture, his harnesses, the things for
the children, all show the same fondness for sim-
plicity, and yet a constant insistence that every-
thing should be the best of its kind. We can learn
a good deal about any man by the ornaments of
his house, and by the portraits which hang on his
walls ; for these dumb things tell us whom among
the great men of earth the owner admires, and in-
dicate the tastes he best loves to gratify. When
Washington first settled with his wife at Mount
Yernon, he ordered from Europe the busts of
Alexander the Great, Charles XII. of Sweden,
Julius Caesar, Frederick of Prussia, Marlborough,
and Prince Eugene, and in addition he asked for
statuettes of " two wild beasts." The combina-
tion of soldier and statesman is the predominant
admiration, then comes the reckless and splendid
military adventurer, and lastly wild life and the
chase. There is no mistaking the ideas and fan-
cies of the man who penned this order which has
drifted down to us from the past.

But as Washington's active life was largely out
of doors, so too were his pleasures. He loved the
fresh open-air existence of the woods and fields,
and there he found his one great amusement. He



110 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

sliot and fislied, but did not care much for these
pursuits, for his hobby was hunting, which gratified
at once his passion for horses and dogs and his
love for the strong excitement of the chase, when
dashed with just enough danger to make it really
fascinating. He showed in his sport the same
thoroughness and love of perfection that he dis-
played in everything else. His stables were filled
with the best animals that Virginia could furnish.
There were the " blooded coach-horses " for Mrs.
Washington's carriage, "Magnolia," a full-blooded
Arabian, used by his owner for the road, the
ponies for the children, and finally, the high-bred
hunters Chinkling and Valiant, Ajax and Blue-
skin, and the rest, all duly set down in the register
in the handwriting of the master himself. His first
visit in the morning was to the stables. The next
to the kennels to inspect and criticise the hounds,
also methodically registered and described, so that
we can read the names of Vulcan and Ringwood,
Singer and Truelove, Music and Sweetlips, to
which the Virginian woods once echoed nearly a
century and a half ago. His hounds were the sub-
ject of much thought, and were so constantly and
critically drafted as to speed, keenness, and bot-
tom, that when in full cry they ran so closely
bunched that tradition says, in classic phrase, they
could have been covered with a blanket. The
hounds met three times a week in the season,
usually at Mount Vernon, sometimes at Belvoir.
They would get off at daybreak, Washington in



LOVE AND MARRIAGE. Ill

the midst of liis houiicls, splendidly mounted, gen-
erally on his favorite Blueskin, a powerful iron-
gray horse of great speed and endurance. He wore
a blue coat, scarlet waistcoat, buckskin breeches,
and a velvet cap. Closely followed by his hunts-
man and the neighboring gentlemen, with the
ladies, headed, very likely, by Mrs. Washington
in a scarlet habit, he would ride to the appointed
covert and throw in. There was no difficulty in
finding, and then away they would go, usually
after a gray fox, sometimes after a big black fox,
rarely to be caught. Most of the country was wild
and unfenced, rough in footing, and offering hard
and dangerous going for the horses, but Washing-
ton always made it a rule to stay with his hounds.
Cautious or timid riders, if they were so minded,
could gallop along the wood roads with the ladies,
and content themselves with glimpses of the hunt,
but the master rode at the front. The fields, it is
to be feared, were sometimes small, but Washing-
ton hunted even if he had only his stepson or was
quite alone.

His diaries abound with allusions to the sport.
" Went a-hunting with Jacky Custis, and catched
a fox after three hours chase ; found it in the
creek." " Mr. Bryan Fairfax, Mr. Grayson, and
Phil. Alexander came home by sunrise. Hunted
and catched a fox with these, Lord Fairfax, his
brother, and Colonel Fairfax; all of whom, with
Mr. Fairfax and Mr. Wilson of England, dined
here." Again, November 26th and 29th, " Hunted



112 GEORGE WASHINGTON.

again with the same party." "1768, Jan. 8th.
Hunting again with same company. Started a fox
and run him 4 hours. Took the hounds off at
night." "Jan. 15. Shooting." " 16. At home all
day with cards ; it snowing." " 23. Rid to Muddy
Hole and directed paths to be cut for fox-hunting."
"Feb. 12. Catched 2 foxes." "Feb. 13. Catched
2 more foxes." "Mar. 2. Catched fox with bob'd
tail and cut ears after 7 hours chase, in which most
of the dogs were worsted." " Dec. 5. Fox-hunting
with Lord Fairfax and his brother and Colonel
Fairfax. Started a fox and lost it. Dined at
Bel voir and returned in the evening." ^

So the entries run on, for he hunted almost every
day in the season, usually with success, but always
with persistence. Like all true sportsmen Wash-
ington had a horror of illicit sport of any kind,
and although he shot comparatively little, he was
much annoyed by a vagabond who lurked in the
creeks and inlets on his estate, and slaughtered his
canvas-back ducks. Hearing the report of a gun
one morning, he rode through the bushes and saw
his poaching friend just shoving off in a canoe.
The rascal raised his gun and covered his pursuer,
whereupon Washington, the cold-blooded and pa-
tient person so familiar in the myths, dashed his
horse headlong into the water, seized the gun,
grasped the canoe, and dragging it ashore pulled
the man out of the boat and beat him soundly. If
the man had yielded at once he would probably

^ MS. Diaries in State Department.



LOVE AND MARRIAGE. 113


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