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Congress.* Thus stealthily advancing they reached the shores of Lake Champlain. Captain De La Place, the commander at Ticonderoga, had under him forty-four soldiers, but believed himself in profound peace and most complete security. Early on the morning of the 10th of May he was surprised in bed by Ethan Allen and required to surrender. "By what authority?" said the astonished commander. "I demand it," answered Allen, "in the name of the Great Jehovah and of the "Continental Congress!" The summons though unusual could not be resisted; and in like manner the fort at Crown Point, which indeed had but twelve men for its garrison, was suddenly seized. And further still, the Enterprise sloop, the only vessel of the Royal Navy on Lake Champlain, yielded to the skill and energy of Arnold.
It is diverting to find several British writers, misled by Allen's birthplace in New England, and by his summons "in the name of the Great Jehovah," describe him as a formal or fanatic Puritan. So far from this he was not even a believer in the Christian Revelation, but composed a book against it, entitled "Reason the only "Oracle of Man." The void left in his mind by religous truth was, as we often see it, filled by silly fancies. According to some of his biographers he was wont to assure his friends that he expected to return to this life, not indeed once more as a biped, but in the form of a "large white horse !" f
The same day on which the Americans surprised Ticonderoga beheld the meeting of their second Congress at Philadelphia. Early in the year Lord Dartmouth had issued a Circular to the Governors of the several Colonies enjoining them to prevent, if possible, the election of delegates to that Congress as highly displeasing to the King. Nevertheless the elections took place without hindrance and without hesitation in the twelve Colonies which had already combined for that object. Dr. Franklin had arrived at Philadelphia on the 5th of May, and the very next morning by an unanimous vote
* Sparks's Life of Arnold, p. 8. and 14.
of the Assembly of the province he was added to the number of its delegates to Congress. Considering how long he had resided in the mother country, and how many of her leading statesmen he had seen and known, his testimony as to their real views and feelings was of course much relied on. And throwing as he did promptly and keenly his whole weight into the scale most adverse to Great Britain, his unfavourable representations and predictions had probably no little influence in making that scale preponderate.
Inflamed still further by the recent events at Lexington, the second Congress met in no complying humour. They chose for their President first Peyton Randolph, and on his retirement soon afterwards John Hancock, the owner of the Liberty sloop at Boston. They assumed as their future title The United Colonies. They rejected with little ceremony the conciliatory proposition of Lord North, which indeed had been already tossed aside by most of the Provincial Assemblies. They prohibited the export of provisions to the British fisheries, or to any Colony which still continued in obedience to Great Britain,—a measure which, as they intended, was productive for the time of great distress. In like manner they forbade the supply of any necessaries to the British army or navy in Massachusetts Bay, and the negotiation of bills of exchange drawn by any British officer. They declared that no obedience was due to the Act of Parliament repealing the Charter of Massachusetts, and they recommended to the people of that province until their Charter should be restored to elect an Assembly and Council, and exercise all powers of government on their own authority.
Votes such as these, especially with the temper by this time raised in England, could not be maintained without supplies both of men and money. For these the Congress early made provision. With respect to pecuniary means they decided to issue notes on their joint credit, or, as it was termed, Continental paper money, to the amount in the first instance of two millions of Spanish dollars. Such was the resource on which, rather than on free gifts or fresh taxes, the Americans mainly relied during the remainder of the contest. Considering the subsequent extension of their national wealth, and the great pride which they have ever felt in the origin and event of their Revolutionary War, it might be supposed that all the obligations contracted in and for that war had been promptly and punctually discharged. This, however, has by no means been the case. So lately as 1818 an English traveller in the United States observes: "The nation have not redeemed their "notes, nor I presume will they ever. I boarded at the "house of a widow lady in America whose whole family "had been utterly ruined by holding these notes."* With respect to a military force the Congress began with an unanimous vote "that these Colonies be immedi"ately put into a state of defence." They determined to raise and take into their pay new bodies of men to be distinguished from the Provincial Militia of each Colony, and to be called the Continental Troops, — a distinction and a name which it is essential to bear in mind through the whole remaining period of this war. Their next object was to appoint some person Commander-in-Chief not only of their principal army now engaged in the blockade of Boston, but also of all other armies raised or to be raised in North America. The right choice of such an officer was indeed, as they felt it, most vitally important to them,—the very corner-stone in the new structure that they sought to rear. Such a choice if well-directed might prosper, but if injudicious could not fail utterly to sink and ruin, their design. It was in a happy hour for themselves, and for their cause, that their choice fell on Colonel George Washington.
George Washington was born in 1732. His great grandfather, John Washington, had settled in Virginia about eighty years before, and was descended from an old gentleman's family in England. There was a common descent between them and the Earls of Ferrers f,
* Fearon's Sketches of America, p. 154. ed. 1819. From June 1775 till November 1779 the total amount of the paper money emitted by the Congress was nominally two hundred millions of dollars. The real depreciation did not commence till the spring of 1777, but increased so rapidly that the last issue of ten millions in November 1779 was held equivalent at most to only 259,00U in specie. See some further details in the Memoirs and Correspondence of Jefferson, vol. i. p. 412.
f Extract from the Stemmaia Siiikleiasa as communicated to whose ancient device—three Mullets above two Bars Argent—as blazoned in the Heralds' College, and as borne by that line of Earls, appears no less on the seal of the American General. He was the eldest son of his father's second marriage, and lost that father when only eleven years of age. His education was almost confined to geometry, trigonometry, and surveying, since his friends, it appears, when they could not prevail on his mother that he should enter the Royal Navy, designed and prepared him for the profession of Surveyor, one of the most lucrative in a newly settled country, though happily for that country the profession of arms was finally preferred. No aid was derived by him at any period from any other than his native tongue. He never even commenced the study of the ancient classics. The latest and best of his biographers informs us that when in the Revolutionary war the French officers came over he bestowed some attention on their language, but at no time could write or converse in it, or translate any paper from it.*
The passion of love, but of a pure and lofty kind, found early entrance in his breast. When only sixteen, and on a visit to Lord Fairfax in Virginia, he writes as follows to a friend: "There is a very agreeable young lady in "the house. But that only adds fuel to the fire, as being "often and unavoidably in company with her revives my "former passion for your Lowland beauty; whereas were "I to live more retired from young women I might in "some measure alleviate my sorrow by burying that chaste "and troublesome passion in oblivion; and I am very "well assured that this will be the only antidote or "remedy."f
For three years at this period, that is until almost twenty, Washington was constantly occupied, when the season would allow, in surveying wild lands among the Allegany mountains, or on the southern branches of the Potomac. He says in one passage of his correspondence:
me by Evelyn Philip Shirley, Esq. Both the late and the present Earls Ferrers (the former born in 1760) were christened WashIngton.
* life by Jared Sparks, p. 10. ed. 1839.
"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 bear-skin, "whichever was to be had, with man, wife, and children, "like dogs and cats,—and happy is he who gets the berth "nearest the fire!"
Engaging at nineteen in the Virginian Militia Washington was forthwith appointed Adjutant General of one of the districts, with the rank of Major and the pay of 150/. a year. In his first campaign of 1754 I have already had occasion to relate how he was overpowered and compelled to capitulate by a party of French.* But no blame attached to his conduct; on the contrary, the House of Burgesses of Virginia passed a vote of thanks to him and his officers "for their bravery and gallant defence." Next year he was a witness of Braddock's disaster, but again with honour to himself; he had four bullets through his coat and two horses killed under him.f Almost immediately afterwards he was named Colonel and commander of the whole Virginian force. In this post his behaviour was such as to gain the respect and affection of all his officers, who presented to him an address expressive of their deep regret when at the close of 1758 he determined on resigning his commission and retiring into private life.
A few days later—in January 1759—the main motive of his resolution became apparent by his marriage with Mrs. Martha Custis, a widow, who is described by his biographer as both handsome and accomplished. To his fortune, already not inconsiderable, she brought an accession of above one hundred thousand dollars. With this lady Washington established himself at his countryhouse on the banks of the Potomac, which he had inherited from his elder brother, and which in compliment to the Admiral under whom that brother served at Carthagena had been named Mount Vernon. Mrs. Washington had no children by the Colonel—a title that he still retained. He was always tenderly attached