« PreviousContinue »
and his good conduct at the capture of Bristol, in 1643, is noticed by Clarendon. Hume, in his account of the same event, (as quoted by Paulding,) has the following passage:-"One party, led by Lord Grandison, was beaten off, and its commander mortally wounded. Another, conducted by Lord Bellasis, met with a like fate. But Washington, with a less party, finding a place in the curtain weaker than the rest, broke in, and quickly made room for the horse to follow." He was afterwards governor of Worcester, and defended the place bravely for three months against the parliamentary forces. Two uncles of this Colonel Washington, John and Lawrence Washington, emigrated to Virginia about the year 1657, and settled at Bridge's Creek, afterwards called Pope's Creek, on the Potomac River, in the county of Westmoreland. John married Anne Pope of the same county, and gave his name to the parish in which he lived. He served as lieutenant-colonel in the wars against the Indians. He had two sons, Lawrence and John, and a daughter, Ann. To Lawrence Washington, the elder son, he bequeathed the estate on which he lived, then called the Pope's Creek Farm.
Lawrence Washington married Mildred Warner, daughter of Colonel Augustine Warner, by whom he had two sons, John and Augustine, and a daughter, Mildred.
Augustine Washington, the second son of Lawrence, was twice married. By his first wife, Jane Butler, he had four children, Butler, Lawrence, Augustine and Jane. Of these, Butler and Jane died in infancy. Lawrence and Augustine attained to manhood. His second wife was Mary Ball, a young lady of fortune, from one of the first families in Virginia. To her he was married on the 6th of March, 1730, being then in his thirty-seventh year. Of this union GEORGE was the first fruit. He was the eldest of six children, by the second marriage of his father, viz.: GEORGE, Betty, Samuel, John Augustine, Charles, and Mildred. Mildred died when sixteen months old.
GEORGE WASHINGTON was born in the parish of Washington, Westmoreland county, Virginia, on the 22d of February, 1732, being the great-grandson of John Washington, the founder of the family in America. The house in which he was born stood on Pope's Creek, about half a mile from the Potomac; but it was either burned or pulled down some time before the commencement of the Revolution. Its site is now designated by a stone, placed there by Mr. Custis, bearing this inscription-«Here on
the 11th of February, (Old Style) 1732, GEORGE WASHINGTON was born." Mr. Paulding thus describes the place:
"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 gentleman, 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."*
Washington's parents were members of the Episcopal Church, the prevailing form of religion at that time in Virginia; and, according to its forms, he was baptized on the 16th of April, 1732. His early instruction appears to have been of a religious, but by
* Paulding's Life of Washington.
no means of a bigoted or ascetic character.
That his father was
extremely anxious to imbue his mind with the love of truth, has been illustrated by several anecdotes; and that he was successful is evident, not less in the conduct of George's youth, than in the frankness of his political course, when, as President of the United States, he insisted on sincerity in all the diplomatic declarations of his public envoys.
From the indications which we have of George's earliest studies, the books presented to him by his father must have been carefully chosen with reference to their moral and religious tendency. The direction thus given to young aspirations, was towards that elevated character which his subsequent life exhibited; and the fact should not escape the attention of those parents who are desirous to train up their children in the paths of virtue and honour. "The child is father of the man. The moral tendencies, good or bad, of childhood, are seldom eradicated in after life. It is with this conviction, and at the risk perhaps of being considered as detracting from the dignity of our subject, that we give some incidents of Washington's life, which illustrate his father's system of early training.
Mr. Weems, the Rector of Mount Vernon parish, relates the following anecdote of an old lady who had spent many years of her youthful days in the Washington family.
"On a fine morning in the fall of 1737, Mr. Washington, having little George by the hand, came to the door and asked my cousin Washington and myself to walk with him to the orchard, promising he would show us a fine sight. On arriving at the orchard we were presented with a fine sight indeed. The whole earth, as far as we could see, was strewed with fruit, and yet the trees were bending under the weight of apples, which hung in clusters like grapes, and vainly strove to hide their blushing cheeks behind the green leaves. Now, George,' said his father, look here, my son! Don't you remember when this good cousin of yours brought you that fine large apple last spring, how hardly I could prevail on you to divide with your brothers and sisters, though I promised you that if you would but do it, the Almighty would give you plenty of apples this fall?' Poor George could not say a word, but hanging down his head, looked quite confused, while, with his little naked toes, he scratched the soft ground. Now look up, my son,' continued his father, look up George, and see there, how richly the Almighty 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 ever eat,.my son, in your lifetime.' George looked in silence on the wide wilderness of fruit; then lifting his eyes, filled with shining moisture, to his father, he softly said, 'Well, pa, only forgive me this time, see if I ever be so stingy any more.'
It was also the purpose of Mr. Washington to create in his son an early love of truth, and an abhorrence of every thing like deception. He often talked with him on this subject, and that his lectures were not wasted, but sown on good ground, is evident from the following anecdote, which rests on the same authority as the one recorded above.
"When George was about six years old, he became the happy owner of a hatchet, of which, like most little boys, he was immoderately fond, and was constantly going about chopping every thing that came in his way. One day in the garden, where he often amused himself, he unluckily tried the edge of his hatchet on the body of a beautiful young English cherry-tree, which he barked so terribly, that I believe the tree never got the better of it. The next morning, the old gentleman, finding out what had befallen his tree, which, by-the-by, was a great favourite with him, came into the house, and with much warmth asked for the mischievous author, declaring at the same time, that he would not have taken five guineas for his tree. Nobody could tell him any thing about it. Presently George and his hatchet made their appearance. George,' said his father, do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry-tree yonder in the garden?' George was taken by surprise, and for a moment staggered under the question; but he quickly recovered himself, and looking at his father with the sweet face of youth brightened with the inexpressible charm of all-conquering truth, he bravely cried out, I can't tell a lie, pa, you know I can't tell a lie; I cut it with my hatchet.' 'Run to my arms, my dearest boy,' cried the delighted father, run to my arms. Glad am I, George, that you killed the tree, for you have paid me for it a thousand fold! Such an act of heroism in my son, is worth more than a thousand trees, though their blossoms were silver and their fruits the purest gold."" Such lessons, communicated in such a way, it is not easy to eradicate.
At an early age George was sent to a school kept by a man named Hobby, who not only exercised the responsible functions of schoolmaster, but also those of sexton and grave-digger to the
parish of Washington. Accomplished teachers were not so common in those days as at present; and the practice which prevailed before the Revolution, of sending boys to England to be educated, was by no means favourable to the encouragement of good schools in the colonies. George's first schoolmaster appears to have been one of the humblest pretensions; and he was soon surpassed by his pupil. The old man lived, it is said, to see Washington in the meridian of his glory, and in his latter days he used to boast with a pardonable complacency, that it was he who laid the foundation of George Washington's greatness."
When George was about seven years old, his father removed from his farm on Pope's Creek, to another owned by him in Stafford county, on the eastern side of the Rappahannoc river, directly opposite Fredericksburg. There he lived till the 12th of April, 1743, when he died, after a short illness, at the age of forty-nine years.
Mr. Washington was taken sick during the Easter holidays, when George was absent on a visit to some of his acquaintances in Chotanct, King George's County. As soon as his sickness became serious, George was sent for, and he arrived in time to receive the parting, though silent blessing of his beloved parent. His father was speechless when he arrived, and the parting between them was extremely affecting. The moment he alighted, he ran into the chamber in which his father lay expiring; but who can paint the feelings that darted through his mind, as he beheld the change before him! Those eyes, lately so loving and bright, now robbed of all their lustre, were fixed on him from the depths of their sunken sockets; and, through swelling tears, in mute, but melting language, seemed to bid him a last farewell. With sobs and cries, he fell upon his father's neck, kissed him many times, and bathed his cold, pale face, with tears.
Though in the death of his father, George lost his best friend, his more immediate and hourly adviser, yet the event seems to have been consecrated to his good, by strengthening in his heart and memory the salutary lessons which that friend had taken so much care early to inculcate. It also threw him more into the society of his excellent mother, who completed the moral training which we have seen so happily commenced by his father.
Mr. Washington left to each of his sons a separate plantation. To Lawrence, the eldest, he bequeathed an estate near Hunting Creek, afterwards called Mount Vernon, and shares in productive