Samuel G. (Samuel Griswold) Goodrich.

Lives of benefactors; online

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Online LibrarySamuel G. (Samuel Griswold) GoodrichLives of benefactors; → online text (page 1 of 21)
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Ii is not the purpose of this volume to present the lives of all, or any
considerable portion, of those persons who have acquired the most enviable
of litlea— that of benefactors op mankind. Nothing more is attempted
than to lay before the reader brief sketches of a few of those persons who
may lay claim to this designation, either for their deeds, their example, or
their influence.

There are several reflections suggested by our subject, which are worthy
of consideration. In the first place, it is to be remarked, that a book op
BENEFACTORS, thougli it be devoted to the memory of those most truly hon-
ored of mankind, docs not include mere warriors, wits, geniuses, states-
men and millionares — those who arc apt to fancy that they are the master-
spirits of mankind.

Another reflection is this — that goodness — beneficence — is felt and ac-
knowledged by mankind. Though accidental circumstances — fleeting pas-
sions or prejudices — may obscure the light of virtue, so that it is unseen for a
time — still, that light is ever tending to struggle out from the mists, and
always commands the homage of the human heart, when it is perceived. It
is clear, therefore, that there is a moral as well as a physical sun in the uni-
verse, and that its rays are as truly adapted to a soul within, as the pencils
of natural light to the optic nerve.

Another reflection, and a grateful one to the American bosom, is, that our
country has furnished the finest character — that acknowledged by the civil-
ized world to be the finest — in the annals of our race, at least in modern
times. The value of Washington's example, aside from his great deeds in
our behalf, is beyond calculation, if we use it aright. His character is not
only of inestimable worth, as a model upon which to mould our youth ; but



is it not also of great significance, in respect to our institutions, and indeed
to the cause of liuman advancement, that it should have been formed in
resisting monarchical despotism and in laying the foundations of a republic?
The reader will remark that we have not confined our selections of bene-
factors to those who stand before the world, professedly, as such. Those who
have been eminently useful, though in the pursuit of their own avocations,
we have esteemed as doers of good to mankind, and given them a place in our
pages. Of this class are Fulton, Whitney, Arkwright and others. For the
brief sketches of some of this class, toward the close of the volume, we are
largely indebted to the valuable little work, entitled Exemplary Biography,
by Chambers, of Edinburgh.

C^-.' ■ ■ -■. . '



Washinoton, 7

Jay, 57

Henry, 89

Fkanklin, 113

La Fayette, 160

Kosciusko, 191

William Tell, 202

HOWAKD, ....... . 214

Jenner, 224

Oberliit, 231

gottenbeso, 242

Hakgraves, 249

Akkwright, 283

Whitney, 260

Fulton, 267

Copernicus, 274

Galileo, 277


BowDiTCH, 283

Hueer, 305

Herschel, 309

Davy, 317





This great man, — "the first in war, the first in
peace, the first in the hearts of his countrymen," — was
the third son of Augustine Washington,* and was
born near the Potomac, in Westmoreland county,
Virginia, February 22nd, 1732. He was sent to a
common country school, Avhere little was taught
beyond the mysteries of reading, writing and arith-
metic. But he profited largely by the slender
advantages he possessed. He was inquisitive, dili-
gent and docile, and readily appropriated to himself
all the knowledge possessed by his teacher.

It would appear that he had other instruction at a
later period ; for, at the age of thirteen, he commenced
the study of mathematics. When he finally left
school, he had become a proficient in geometry, trigo-
nometry and surveying, for which last he had a decided
partiality. During the last summer he was at school,

* The Washington family appears to have been of some
antiquity, and of high respectability in England. John and
Lawrence Washington emigrated to Virginia, about the year
1657, and settled at Bridge's Creek, near the Potomac, and
became successful planters. John married Anne Pope, by
whom he had two sonSj La^vrence and John, and a daughter.


he surveyed the lands adjoining the school-house,
of which the plans, measurements and calculations
were found among his papers after his death.

Among the interesting remains of this remarkable
man, there are manuscript school-books, which afford
us the means of ascertaining his early habits and
pursuits. "When he was about thirteen years of
age, he copied, with much care and in a neat hand,
the forms of business papers, such as notes of hand,
bills of exchange, receipts, bonds, indentures, bills of
sale, land warrants, leases, deeds and wills — all evinc-
ing great patience and care. In the same book are
selections in rhyme, distinguished for their religious
and moral tone, rather than for their poetical merit.

A very interesting portion of one of these manuscript
books is a Code of Politeness or Rules of Behavior,
which appear to have been compiled by himself when
he was about thirteen years of age. They are, on
the whole, drawn up with much good sense and
propriety of feeling, and we are doubtless to ascribe
something of that consistency, decorum, dignity, con-
descension and mildness, which distinguished Wash-
ington through life, to the principles thus early adopted
and established.

In the year 1746, when he was fourteen years old,
he was offered a midshipman's berth in the British
navy. This was obtained by his brother Lawrence,
who had been an officer in the British army and
served at the siege of Carthegena. Young George
was pleased with the appointment, and prepared with
a buoyant spirit to enter upon its duties; but as the
time approached for his departure, the solicitude of


his mother interposed, and the scheme was abandoned.
He was her eldest son, and she was now a widow.
We may therefore easily conceive the feelings which
led her to such a decision.

Washington's school education was finished in
the autumn preceding his sixteenth birth-day. His
acquirements were confined to reading, writing, arith-
metic and the simpler portions of mathematics. It
does not appear that he had any instruction in gram-
mar, and therefore, the excellent style of wiuting, of
which he was afterwards the master, must have been
the result of subsequent practice and study. Nor did
he ever enter upon the study of the ancient classics.
After the French ofliccrs had joined the army, during
the revolution, he paid some little attention to their
language, yet never was able to read, write or trans-
late it. From these statements, it appears that the
actual amount of knowledge acquired by George
Washington at school, was greatly inferior to that
which is taught at the present high schools throughout
the country. Indeed, most of the children in our New
England seminaries, at the age of twelve years, have
compassed a wider field of learning , than the hero of
our story when he had reached the beginning of his

But if his acquisitions Avere not great, he had
established habits which were of even higher utility.
He had subjected himself to a judicious code of man-
ners ; he had acquired habits of patience and order,
even in the dry and irksome details of business ; he
had obtained the mastery of his quick and vehement
passions ; he had accustomed himself to be g aided by


duty rather than inclination. He had, indeed, habit-
uated himself to so complete a system of discipline,
that he seems to have taken pleasure in what would
have been revolting to others. He could find amuse-
ment, even at thirteen, in forming and writing out,
with the utmost nicety of arrangement and in a fair
hand, elaborate mathematical calculations, diagrams,
&c. !

" These particulars," says his biographer, Mr.
Sparks, " will not be thought too trivial to be men-
tioned, when it is known that he retained similar
habits through life. His business papers, day-books,
legers and letter-books, in which, before the revolu-
tion, no one wrote but himself, exhibit specimens of
the same studious care and exactness. Every fact
occupies a clear and distinct place ; the hand-writing
is round and regular, without interlineations, blots or
blemishes ; and if mistakes occurred, the faulty words
were so skilfully erased and corrected, as to render
the defect invisible except to a scrutinizing eye.

" The constructing of tables, diagrams and other
figures relating to numbers or classifications was an
exercise in which he seems at all times to have taken
much delight. If any of his farms were to be divided
into new lots, a plan was first drawn on paper ; if he
meditated a rotation of crops, or a change in the mode
of culture, the various items of expense, labor, products
and profits were reduced to tabular forms ; and, in his
written instructions to his managers, which were
annually repeated, the same method was pursued.

" While at the head of the army, this habit was of
especial service to him. The names and rank of the


officers, the returns of the adjutants, commissaries
and quarter-masters, were compressed by him into
systematic tables, so contrived as to fix strongly in
his mind the most essential parts, without being
encumbered with details. When the army was to
march, or perform any movements, requiring com-
bination and concert, a scheme was first delineated ;
and at the beginning of an active campaign, or in the
preparation for a detached enterprise, the line of
battle was projected and sketched on paper, each
officer being assigned to his post, with the names of
the regiments and strength of the forces he was to

" During the presidency, it was likewise his custom
to subject the treasury reports and accompanying
documents to the process of tabular condensation, with
a vast expenditure of labor and patience ; but it ena-
bled him to grasp and retain in their order a series of
isolated facts, and the results of a complicated mass
of figures, which could never have been mastered so
effectually by any other mode of approaching them."
Such were some of the great results of the habits
adopted by Washington in his school-boy days, —
though these were doubtless dictated in some degree
by his natural disposition.

The character of Washington during this period of
iiis life, is thus drawn by his biographer : " Tradition
reports that he was inquisitive, docile and diligent ;
but it adds that his military propensities and passion
for active sports, displayed themselves in his boyhood ;
tliat he formed his schoolmates into companies, who
paraded, marched and fought mimic battles, in which


he was always the commander of one of the parties.
He had a fondness for the athletic amusements of
runnhig, jumping -wrestling, tossing bars, and other
feats of agility and bodily exercise. Indeed, it is well
known that these practices were continued by him
after he had arrived at the age of mature life. It has
also been said that, while at school, his probity and
demeanor were such as to win the deference of the
otlier boys, who were accustomed to make him the
arbiter of their disputes and never failed to be satisfied
with his judgment."

At the time of George "Washington's birth, his father
resided near the banks of the Potomac, in Westmore-
land county ; but he removed not long afterwards to
an estate owned by him in Stafford county, on the
cast side of the Rappahannoc river, opposite Freder-
icksburg. Here he lived till his death, which hap-
pened, after a sudden and short illness, on the 12th of
April, 1743, at the age of forty-nine. He was buried
at Bridge's Creek, in the tomb of his ancestors.*

Washington's mother was now left with the weighty
charge of five young children; George, the eldest,
being eleven years old. She was, however, a woman

* Augiisline Washington was twice married, and had ten
children — four by the fi rst, and six by the second vnk. The sub-
ject of our memoir was the first-born of the latter, — Mary Bull.
Little is known of the character or history of Augustine Wash-
ington, but, as he possessed a valuable estate, chiefly acquired
by his own industry, it is fair to infer that he was in business
methodical, skilful and upright. He was a planter, and each
of his sons inherited from him a separate plantation. Mount
Vernon was given to Augustine, and afterwards became the
property of George.


of good sense, and devotee! herself with great energy
to the complicated duties of her trust. Her assiduity
and fidelity overcame every obstacle, and she lived
long to enjoy the best reward of a mother's solicitude,
— the success and happiness of her children. George
continued with his mother till he left school, soon
after which, he went to reside with his brother Law-
rence, then proprietor of the country seat which is
well known by the title of Mount Vernon. Here he
spent the winter, devoting himself to the study of
mathematics and the exercise of surveying. He also
became acquainted with Lord Fairfax, and other
members of the Fairfax family established in that part
of Virginia, with whom his brother Lawrence was
connected by marriage.

Lord Fairfax was the proprietor of an immense
tract of wild land in Virginia, extending even into the
recesses of the Allegany mountains. Learning-
young George's turn for surveying, he employed him
to survey a portion of these lands. In pursuit of this
appointment, he set out upon his first surveying
expedition shortly after he was sixteen years old.
The enterprise was arduous and partook not a little
of adventure. It was March, but winter still lingered
on the summits of the mountains, and the rivers were
swollen with freshets. Still, the youthful leader, with
his baud of attendants, pressed eagerly forward. They
soon plunged into the trackless wilderness, crossed the
first ridge of the AUeganies, and entered upon their
duties. Here, ip. the solitude of the forest, they
remained for several months, often with no shelter but
the sky, and far removed from human habitations,
VI.— 2


except those of the savages, who dwelt in scattered
bands amid these wild regions. At last, having
accomplished his task, he returned, and had the satis-
faction of receiving the full approbation of his em-

Young Washington's reputation as a surveyor was
now established, and he received a commission from
the governor of the colony, which gave authority to
his surveys. He devoted three years steadily to this
pursuit ; and, as there were few surveyors in that
quarter, the compensation he received was liberal.
At the same time, he was forming a character for
probity and correct business habits. During this
period his home was with his brother at Mount
Vernon, as being nearer the scene of his labors than
his mother's residence ; but he made her frequent
visits, and assisted her largely in the conduct of her

At the age of nineteen, he received, from the gov-
ernment of Virginia, the appointment of military
inspector, with the rank of major, and the pay of one
hundred and fifty pounds a year. His military pro-
pensities appear to have been more rapidly developed
by this event. Under the tuition of some British
officers who had served in the recent war, he studied
tactics, learned the manual exercise, and became
expert in the use of the sword. He read the principal
books on the military art, and joined practice to theory
as far as circumstances would permit.

But he had scarcely entered upon the business of
his new office, when he was called to other duties.
Lawrence Washington had been long suffering under


a pulmonary attack, and his disease was now so
threatening that his medical advisers recommended
him to try the climate of the West Indies. As it was
necessary that some person should attend him, he
desired George to be his companion, and the two sot
sail for Barbadoes in September, 1751, uhcre they
soon arrived. The change of air produced a transient
alleviation of the patient's disease, but the unfavorable
symptoms soon returned, and he determined to proceed
to Bermuda. George set out for Virginia, for the
purpose of accompanying the wife of his brother to
that island, and, after an absence of somewhat more
than four months, he reached his home. During his
residence in Barbadoes, he had been seized with the
small pox, and though the attack was severe, he recov-
ered in about three weeks.

The same habits which Washington had adopted
at home, attended him during this expedition. He
kept a minute journal during his absence, which has
been preserved. From this it appears that at sea he
daily copied the log-book, noted the course of the
winds, the state of the weather, the progress of the
ship, and other incidental occurrences. In the island
of Barbadoes everything attracted his notice — the
soil, agriculture, fruits, commerce, military force, for-
tifications, manners of the people, municipal regula-
tions and government. Thus everything became an
object of observation and study ; ever^' scene was a
book, from which he was constantly adding to his
stock of knowledge.

The accounts from his brother in Bermuda w<jie at
first flattering ; but these fair prospects were soon


blighted, and finding' no essential relief, he returned
to Virginia, -where he sank rapidl}^ into the grave, at
the early age of thirty-four. George was one of his
executors, and was chiefly entrusted with the settle-
ment of his large estate. These private emplojTnents
occupied much of his time, but they did not draw him
from his public duties as inspector or adjutant-general.
These indeed occupied a large share of his attention,
and he appears to have been frequently engaged in
instructing the militia officers, reviewing companies
on parade, inspecting arms and accoutrements, and
establishing an uniform system of manoeuvres and

Washington had now reached the age of twenty-
one, and the time had arrived when he was to enter
upon that public career which has immortalized his
name. Intelligence had reached the governor of
Virginia that the French, who had long occupied the
territory of Canada, had crossed the northern lakes in
force, and were about to establish posts and erect forti-
fications on the waters of the Ohio. It was also
rumored that the Indians in that quarter, friendly to
the English, now began to waver in their fidelity; and
that the hostile tribes, encouraged by the French, exhib-
ited symptoms of open war. The crisis seemed to
demand immediate attention.

Yet some time passed before any active measures
were taken, — during which the French prosecuted
their designs with rigor. Already had troops, with
munitions of war and other supplies, been sent across
the lakes, while bodies of men had ascended the Mis-
sissippi from New Orleans. These several detach-


ments had united, and already established themselves
on the southern banks of the Ohio.

It is a question of some interest to whom the lands
thus occupied, belonged, and about wliich a contest
was now to arise, destined to kindle the flames of war
throughout Europe, and result in severing from
France the largest portion of her American settle-
ments; yet a careful inquiry would probably leave us
in doubt, or bring us to the conclusion that neither of
the contending parties had any just claim to the terri-
tory in dispute.

Governor Dinwiddle, of Virginia, having received
orders from England to build two forts upon the
Ohio, for the purpose of maintaining the British claim,
resolved, as a first step, to send a commissioner to
the French agents, with authority to inquire, in due
form, into their designs and proceedings. This
important trust was confided to the youthful Wash-
ington. He departed from Williamsburg, October 1st,
1753. On his route, he collected his attendants, who
amounted to seven persons. They were provided
with horses, tents, baggage and provisions, suited to
the expedition.

The party of adventurers set boldly forward upon
their enterprise. The whole length of their journey
was about five hundred and sixty miles, and lay, for
the most part, through an unbroken wilderness, and
where, as yet, no traces of civilization Avcro to be found.
They were also to traverse the lofty ridges of the
Alleganies, and to pass through territories inhabited
by Indian tribes. It is rare, indeed, that an enter-
B 2*


prise so bold and hazardous, has been conducted by
so youthful a leader.

Some twenty miles below the point where the
Monongahela and Allegany unite to form the Ohio,
Washington summoned a council of the neighboring
sachems, to whom he communicated the views of the
governor of Virginia. Attended by four Indians as
guides, he then proceeded on his journey; making his
way over mountain and valley, crossing rivers and
marshes, threading the tangled forests, and, overcoming
every obstacle, he at last reached the head quarters of
the French settlements. Here he was civilly treated
by the commandant, ]M. de St. Pierre, to whom he
delivered his message. While this Avas under con-
sideration, he took occasion to look around and
examine the fort. His attendants were instructed to
make similar observations. The fort was situated on
French Creek, about fifteen miles south of Lake Erie.
Washington succeeded in taking an accurate plan of
it, and ascertained the number of cannon, canoes and
other articles belonging to the establishment. The
reply of M. de St. Pierre was that he would communi-
cate the substance of Governor Dinwiddle's letter to
the governor of Canada, under whose instructions he
acted. The terms in which this was couched were
respectful, but it was at the same time uncomplying
and determined.

Winter was now rapidly approaching, and Wash-
ington, who had been treated with great civility by
the commandant, and was liberally supplied by him
with provisions, set out for his return. He pro-
ceeded with his party in a canoe to the distance of


one hundiled and thirty miles, where he found his
horses, which had been sent forward. Soon after,
they reached the Allegany river, which they expected
to cross on the ice. In this they were disappointed;
for it was only frozen a few yards from the banks.
After spending the night upon the snow, with no
other •overing than their blankets, they set about
making a raft. Having only one miserable hatchet,
this was not completed till sunset. The raft was now
launched, and they set off' from the shore. The
current of the river was rapid, and large masses of ice
were floating down. The raft was soon jammed in
between these, and appeared to be on the point of
sinking. At this moment, Washington endeavored
to guide it with his setting pole, which, however, was
suddenly struck by the ice, and he was jerked to a
considerable distance into the river. Exerting his
powerful strength to the utmost, he seized upon one
of the logs of the raft, and recovered his position.
With their utmost efforts, they were unable to reach
the shore, and, as they were now approaching an island,
they left the raft, and waded to the land. Here they
spent the night, suffering intensely from the cold, and
one of the party having his hands and feet frozen. In
the niorning, the ice had formed so as to bear their
weight, and they crossed to the eastern bank of the
river without accident. After various adventures,
Washington arrived at Williamsburg, on the 16th of
January, and made his report to the governor. He
had been absent eleven Aveeks.

It was now obvious that a necessity existed for

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Online LibrarySamuel G. (Samuel Griswold) GoodrichLives of benefactors; → online text (page 1 of 21)