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A Magazine of Literature, Science, and Art.
VOL. III.—JANUARY 1854.-NO. XIII.
WASHINGTON'S EARLY DAYS.
THERE may, perhaps, be among our to omit nothing that is interesting or
readers, especially the younger por. illustrative; and if, on this modest plan, as tion of them, some who are not as con may well happen, we fail to be “graphic,”: versant as they would desire, with every we shall be provided with what will more particular of the early life and character than supply the deficiency, in the aid of Mr. of him whom it is our pride and happiness Darley's unfailing pencil, which is to acto call the Father of our Country. For company our sketches with such lifelike the benefit of such we propose to give one presentation of striking points and incidents or two papers about his boyhood, think as our readers will know how to value. ing that the little that is known of a life Fortunately for us, Washington needs so interesting and important to us and to no embellishment from his biographer, the world, can never be brought before the nor invention in his illustrator. A simple public in too many forms. With no am recital of facts best shows the distinction bitious but rather a patriotic aim we do between him and common men. this. It is a character we love to contem be said that this difference is not discernplate, to dwell upon; one that we think ible in his youth; that he was a boy Americans of the rising race might profit among boys, and that an idea of his early ably study more closely than they do. excellence is merely a romantic deduction We find many intelligent persons who from the eminence of his virtue in after have only a very vague notion of the life. But even the few simple records Washington they admire ; they take for that remain, plainly show that he was granted his perfections, but put off the marked from the beginning; and the examination into him to some other time, theory that his youth gave no promise of or perhaps lack courage to attack thé his future, seems to us as little sustained large volumes in which authentic lives of by wisdom and experience as the wildest him are mostly shrouded.
notions of a precocious virtue would be. Monthly travels as on the wings of the It is only to be regretted that the discernwind; and modest and unassuming as it ment of those about him should not have is, wins easy way into parlors and work sufficed to make them treasure up every shops, ships and factories, wherever our fact of his conduct and every particular of tongue is spoken. Let it then be the his conversation, that we might at least bearer of a few words about our country's have tried to train up other boys to be hero, words so few that every body will the Washingtons of our days of peace and find time to read them, just to give a zest prosperity. to real, full, satisfactory histories now ex Washington was born in the State of isting or soon to be. We shall make use Virginia, county of Westmoreland, at a of all the authorities within our reach, place called Pope's Creek, near the banks not even rejecting tradition, which is often of the Potomac, that happy river, whose the vehicle of important truth
where cha every tree and wave seems now to be racter is to be estimated. We dare not glorified by close association with his promise any thing new, but we shall try memory. The dwelling was humble
looking, no doubt, on that 22d of Febru at the present day only a slab of freestone, ary, 1732, for it was a very ordinary placed there by the pious care of Mr. Virginia farm-house of that time; so Custis, shows the site of an event whose ordinary that the family, who soon re importance can hardly be fully apprecimoved from it, did not think it worth ated. The form of the dwelling is, howpreserving, but allowed it to perish; and ever, known by Mr. Custis and others,
who describe it as a plain, four-roomed woods. We do not wrest them from their farm-house, with a chimney at each end, highest meaning when we apply them to which chimney was carried all the way the place consecrated by the memory of up on the outside, as is the case with
Washington. many a building of the same date still standing. The surrounding landscape has
Call it not vain—they do not crr
Who say that when the llero dies, few features of interest, being graced with
Mute Nature mourns her worshipper little natural variety or careful cultivation.
And celebrates his obsequies ; Its trees are very ordinary trees—wild Who say that hill and forest lono figs, pines and hemlocks ;—the land has For the departed Chief make moan; no extraordinary fertility, but shows Through his loved groves that breezes sigh
And oaks in deeper groan reply ; plainly enough the effect of imperfect till
And rivers teach their rushing wave age and laissez aller habits in the people,
To murmur dirges round his grave. who make one suspect that the energy and determination which might have serv One needs little stretch of Fancy to ed the entire region was absorbed by hear the name of Washington whispered George Washington, model as he was of in every breeze that ruffles the bosom of promptness and thoroughness in all things, the Potomac he loved so dearly. from the greatest to the least. But what He always lived near it when he could. a charm hovers over the whole! What It was ever in his eye at home, and in his other spot on earth makes the soul thrill heart when he was absent. All his dreams like this ? A vine-leaf-a sprig of cedar of quiet happiness—and he cherished such a pebble, from that hallowed ground, is a through life — were connected with its possession, not only to the American but banks. It doubtless influenced his characto every noble heart. The poet's words, ter, as every great feature of nature must so true to nature, rise unbidden to the influence those who study and delight in memory as we pace those silent fields and her as Washington did. IIis father re
moved soon after his birth to another plain came to be called Washington's Manor. farm-house, situated on_the Rappahan If the first proprietor of the manor had nock River, not far from Fredericksburgh, eleven children, his eldest son was yet and not very far from the attractive Poto more fortunate, having been blest with mac. This house, too, has been destroyed, sixteen, and his eldest son, again, was the but a drawing of it exists, showing it to father of fourteen,-seven sons and seven have been not exactly what a ger eman daughters. The second and fourth of farmer of the present day would be satis these sons were John and Laurence fied with; plain even to homeliness, and Washington, who came to Virginia about scarcely affording what we think decent 1657. This John Washington was the accommodation for a large family. Mr. great-grandfather of the greatest of the Augustine Washington was twice married; family. He was employed as general he had by the first marriage four children, against the Indians in Maryland, and the and by the second six, of which last parish in which he lived was called after George was the eldest. Two of the first him. family died in infancy, and two sons, General Washington himself took but Lawrence and Augustine, remained. Of little interest in his pedigree. When he the brothers and sisters of George Wash had become famous, Sir Isaac Heard, then ington, "Betty" became Mrs. Fielding Garter King at Arms in London, took Lewis; Samuel was five times married ; some pains to trace back his ancestry, and John Augustine married the daughter of wrote to him for such particulars as might Colonel John Bushrod; Charles married be in his possession. In the answer, Mildred Thornton, daughter of Colonel Washington observes, " This is a subject Francis Thornton, of Spotsylvania County ; to which I confess I have paid very little and all left families, which intermarried attention. My time has been so much in every direction, and spread the connec occupied in the busy and active scenes of tion all over the country, so that one life from an early period of it, that but a would think Virginia must be well inocu small portion could have been devoted to lated from this excellent stock.
researches of this nature, even if my The ancestors of the Washington family inclination or particular circumstances came from Northamptonshire, in England, should have prompted to the inquiry.” about 1657, during Cromwell's time. The When family affection and kindness were name of Washington appears as early as in question, he seems to have been active the twelfth century. The family name in tracing relationships; but we can discover was originally Hertburn, but William de no research inspired by pride or ambition. Hertburn, about the latter part of the Perhaps the occupations and services thirteenth century, assumed the name of which make every little item of his history his property, the manor of Wessyngton, so important to us, preserved him against afterwards written Washington. Deeds unbecoming solicitude about reflected and monumental inscriptions still extant honors. He had neither time nor inclinashow the wealth and importance of the tion to turn aside to visit the tomb of any original stock at that early day. In 1692, superfluous Jupiter Ammon of the old Joseph Washington, an eminent lawyer, world. We should have been surprised translated from the Latin one of Milton's to find him opening a correspondence with political works, a fact which must be ac the King of the IIeralds. cepted as an indication of his political senti The first wife of Augustine Washington ments. Another of the family, Sir Henry was Jane Butler, the second, Mary Ball, Washington, is renowned in English an characterized on her tomb and known to nals, as having defended the city of Wor history as “Mary, the mother of Washingcester against the Parliamentary forces, ton,” a sufficient distinction. She seems to in 1646, so there seems to have been at have been a woman of strong understanding least a balance of conservatism among and decided will; kind and gentle through them. The mother of this gentleman principle rather than feminine instinct; was half-sister to George Villiers, Duke and noted for judgment and self-command. of Buckingham.
Her husband, a man of large landed In 1539, the manor of Sulgrave, near estate, dying at forty-nine, left her in full Northampton, was granted to Laurence control of his property, which she man. Washington, to whose memory and that aged for her children till they successively of his wife, is found in the parish church came of age. All that is known of her, there, a monument with an inscription, including Washington's life-long respect and effigies in brass of four sons and and duty towards her, speaks well of her, seven daughters.” The manor of Sul but that all is little to what we could desire grave continued long in the family, and to be told. She declined in her latter
days becoming a resident of her son George's family, saying that her wants were few and that she preferred being independent; and when her son-in-law, Mr. Lewis, offered to take charge of her business, as she was failing in health, she told him he might keep her accounts, because his eyes were better than hers, but she chose to manage her own affairs. Tradition says she used to be consulted by the neighbors on the management of their farms and other business, and also that she mingled but little in society, finding her pleasures as well as her occupations within her own doors.
Mr. Weems says, she was a beauty in her youth, and, making due allowance for his somewhat luxuriant imagination, we find little difficulty in supposing the report to be correct, since her eldest son, at least, was a symmetrical being, in all respects; having a face full of expression, a rich complexion, a clear blue eye, a winning smile, and a fine, erect, athletic figure. His sister, Mrs. Lewis, can hardly have been as handsome, for a woman; for we are told that she was so like her brother, that, with his military hat and cloak on, she might have claimed the usual honors from the sentinels in his stead. Yet there was in Washington's face, especially as he grew older, an expression of modesty and even of tenderness, which might well become that of a woman, though we never know whether that was derived from his mother. He honored her, however, and perhaps the formality which appears in what we know of their intercourse may be due, in part, at least, to the manners of the time. It is recorded that at their last parting he wept and trembled, while his mother maintained, so far as we are told, her usual selfcommand.
Besides the inestimable blessing of a good and reasonable mother, we have various reasons for believing that Washington had a man of sense and virtue for his father. So deep-laid and well-built a foundation of right-mindedness as was evinced in the life we are considering could hardly be accounted for else; so we may accept the result as in some measure confirming the tradition, even though the tradition be suspected of having been modified by the result. Tradition loves the marvellous, and therefore might as easily have presented Washington as the miraculously excellent product of bad antecedents, like Eugene Sue's heroes and heroines. As good authority as we have for the famous story of the hatchet which brought to light a love of truth well
known to have characterized Washington in every conjuncture, gives us one or two anecdotes, not quite so threadbare, which go to show that Augustine Washington, the worthy descendant of a long line of English country gentlemen, was not one of those parents who leave to chance the prompting of good thoughts in the minds of their children. An occurrence mentioned by good Mr. Weems,
formerly Rector of Mount Vernon parish,”—who professes to have gathered his materials from the lips of people familiar with the Washington family, we shall quote here, since it seems characteristic and is certainly picturesque:
“On a fine morning in the fall of 1737, Mr. Washington, having little George by the hand, came to the door "-(an old lady is the narrator)—"and asked my cousin Washington and myself to walk with him into 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.
Now George, said his father, look here, my son ! Don't you remember, when that 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, God would give you plenty of apples this fall ?' Poor George couldn't say a word, but hanging down his head, looked quite confused, while with his little naked toes he scratched in the soft ground. “Now look up, my son, continued the father, look up, George! and see there how richly the blessed God 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 eat in all your lifetime. George looked in silence on the wide wilderness of fruit, and lifting his eyes, filled with shining moisture, to his father, he softly said "Well, Pa, only forgive me this time, and see if I ever be so stingy any more !!'»
We must allow Mr. Weems the praise of a good narrator, and his generous enthusiasm makes him an inspiring one. As to his facts, we must accept them as honestly believed by a gentleman and a clergyman; and many of them can claim the benefit of internal evidence. If not literally true, Ils méritent bien de l'être.' Take an