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sachusetts, 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 immediately 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
* 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 259,000 in specie. See some further details in the Memoirs and Correspondence of Jefferson, vol. i. p. 412.
3.775. GENERAL WASHINGTON. 45
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*, 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
* Extract from the Stemmata Shirleiana as communicated to me by Evelyn Philip Shirley, Esq. Both the late and the present Earls Ferrera (the former born in 1760J were christened Washesgtom. Life by Jared Sparks, p. 10. ed. 1839.
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 trouble"some passion in oblivion; and I am very well assured that "this will be the only antidote or remedy." *
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 Alleghany mountains, or on the southern branches of the Potomac. He says in one passage of his correspondence: "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.*** Almost immediately afterwards he was named
* Writings edited by Sparks, vol. ii. p. 419.
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 country-house 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 atCarthagena had been named Mount Vernon. Mrs. Washington had no children by the Colonel — a title that he still retained. He was always tenderly attached to her, and exemplary in that relation of life as in every other.
In his correspondence of that period he says: "I am "now, I believe, fixed at this seat with an agreeable partner "for life, and I hope to find more happiness in retirement "than I ever experienced amidst the wide and bustling "world." He mentions in the same letter, "the longing "desire which for many years I have had of visiting the "great metropolis of England."— "But," he adds, "I am "now tied and must set inclination aside." *
It is remarkable that his letters at that time, and until the Colonial storm had burst, frequently use the word "home" to designate the mother country.**
During many years did Washington continue to enjoy the pleasures and fulfil the duties of an independent country gentleman. Field-sports divided his time with the cultivation and improvement of his land and the sales of his tobacco;
* To Richard Washington, September 20. 1759.
he showed kindness to his dependents, and hospitality to his friends; and having been elected one of the House of Burgesses in Virginia, he was, whenever that House met, exact in his attendance. To that well-regulated mind nothing within the course of its ordinary and appointed avocations seemed unworthy of its care. His ledgers and daybooks were kept by himself; he took note of all the houses where he partook of hospitality, so that not even the smallest courtesies might pass by unremembered; and until his press of business in the Revolutionary War he was wont every evening to set down the variations of the weather during the preceding day. It was also his habit through life, whenever he wished to possess himself perfectly of the contents of any paper, to transcribe it in his own hand, and apparently with deliberation, so that no point might escape his notice. Many copies of this kind were after his death found among his manuscripts.*
We may observe, however, that in the mind of Washington punctuality and precision did not, as we often find them, turn in any degree to selfishness. On the contrary, he was rather careless of small points where only his own comfort was concerned. Thus he could seldom be persuaded to take any remedy, or desist from any business, whenever he caught a cold, but used to say, "let it go as it came!" **
Nor yet was his constant regularity of habits attended by undue formality of manner. In one of his most private letters there appears given incidentally, and as it were by chance, a golden rule upon that subject:— "As to the gentlemen "you mention I cannot charge myself with incivility, or what "in my opinion is tantamount, ceremonious civility." ***
In figure Washington was strongly built and tall (above six feet high), in countenance grave, unimpassioned, and benign. An inborn worth, an unaffected dignity, beamed forth in every look as in every word and deed. His first ap
* Writings, vol. ii. p. 505. and Introduction to that volume, p. xii. ** Life and Writings, vol. i. App. p. 556. This carelessness as to colds was at last the immediate cause of his death. *** Letter to Joseph Reed, December 16. 1775.