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HISTORICAL READINGS.

THE EARLY LIFE OF GEORGE WASHINGTON.

IRVING'S “LIFE OF WASHINGTON."

The early years of Washington are described with Irving's characteristic clearness. His school life, his exploits in the wilds of Virginia, his experience as a surveyor, the conspicuous part he played in Braddock's ill-starred campaign, lis meeting with the lovely Mrs. Custis—are all full of interest to the young student. Washington was born on the 11th of February, 1732; why do we celebrate the 22d as his birthday?

· Not long after the birth of George Washington his 1 father removed to an estate in Stafford County, opposite Fredericksburg. The house was similar in style to the one at Bridge's Creek, and stood on a rising ground overlooking a meadow which bordered the Rappahannock. This was the home of George's boyhood; the meadow was his playground, and the scene of his early athletic sports; but this home, like that in which he was born, has disappeared; the site is only to be traced by fragments of bricks, china, and earthenware.

In those days the means of instruction in Virginia 2 were limited, and it was the custom among the wealthy planters to send their sons to England to complete their

education. This was done by Augustine Washington with his eldest son Lawrence, then about fifteen years of age,

and whom he no doubt considered the future head of the family. George was yet in early childhood : as his intellect dawned, he received the rudiments of education in the best establishment for the purpose that the neighborhood afforded. It was what was called, in popular parlance, an “old field schoolhouse,” humble enough in its pretensions, and kept by one of his father's tenants named Hobby, who, moreover, was sexton of the parish. The instruction doled out by him must have been of the simplest kind-reading, writing, and ciphering, perhaps ; but George had the benefit of mental and moral culture

at home from an excellent father. 3 Several traditional anecdotes have been given to the

world, somewhat prolix and trite, but illustrative of the familiar and practical manner in which Augustine Washington, in the daily intercourse of domestic life, impressed the ductile mind of his child with high maxims of religion and virtue, and imbued him with a spirit of justice and generosity, and, above all, a scrupulous love

of truth. 4 When George was about seven or eight years old his

brother Lawrence returned from England, a well-educated and accomplished youth. There was a difference of fourteen years in their

ages,

which may have been one cause of the strong attachment which took place between them. Lawrence looked down with a protecting eye upon the boy, whose dawning intelligence and perfect rectitude won his regard; while George looked up to his manly and cultivated brother as a model in mind and manners. We call particular attention to this brotherly interchange of affection, from the influence it had on all the future career of the subject of this memoir.

Lawrence Washington had something of the old mili- 5 tary spirit of the family, and circumstances soon called it into action. Spanish depredations on British commerce had recently provoked reprisals. Admiral Vernon, commander-in chief in the West Indies, had accordingly captured Porto Bello, on the Isthmus of Darien. The Spaniards were preparing to revenge the blow; the French were fitting out ships to aid them. Troops were embarked in England for another campaign in the West Indies; a regiment of four battalions was to be raised in the colonies, and sent to join them at Jamaica. There was a sudden outbreak of military ardor in the province; the sound of drum and fife was heard in the villages with the parade of recruiting parties. Lawrence Washington, 6 now twenty-two years of age, caught the infection. He obtained a captain's commission in the newly-raised regiment, and embarked with it for the West Indies in 1740. He served in the joint expeditions of Admiral Vernon and General Wentworth, in the land forces commanded by the latter, and acquired the friendship and confidence of both of those officers. He was present at the siege of Carthagena when it was bombarded by the fleet, and when the troops attempted to escalade the citadel. It was an ineffectual attack; the ships could not get near enough to throw their shells into the town, and the scaling-ladders proved too short. That part of the attack, however, with which Lawrence was concerned, distinguished itself by its bravery. The troops sustained unflinching a destructive fire for several hours, and at length retired with honor, their small force having sustained a loss of about six hundred in killed and wounded.

We have here the secret of that martial spirit so often 7 cited of George in his boyish days. He had seen his brother fitted out for the wars. He had heard by letter

and otherwise of the warlike scenes in which he was mingling. All his amusements took a military turn. He made soldiers of his schoolmates, they had their mimic parades, reviews, and sham fights; a boy named William Bustle was sometimes his competitor, but George was

commander-in-chief of Hobby's school. 8 Lawrence Washington returned home in the autumn

of 1742, the campaigns in the West Indies being ended, and Admiral Vernon and General Wentworth being recalled to England. It was the intention of Lawrence to rejoin his regiment in that country, and seek promotion in the army, but circumstances completely altered his plans. He formed an attachment to Anne, the eldest daughter of the Honorable William Fairfax, of Fairfax County; his addresses were well received, and they became engaged. Their nuptials were delayed by the sudden and untimely death of his father, which took place on the 12th of April, 1743, after a short but severe attack of gout in the stomach, and when but forty-nine years of age. George had been absent from home on a visit during his father's illness, and just returned in time to receive a parting look

of affection. 9 Augustine Washington left large possessions, dis

tributed by will among his children. To Lawrence, the estate on the banks of the Potomac, with other real property, and several shares in iron works. To Augustine, the second son by the first marriage, the old homestead and estate in Westmoreland. The children by the second marriage were severally well provided for, and George, when he became of age, was to have the house and lands

on the Rappahannock. 10 In the month of July the marriage of Lawrence with

Miss Fairfax took place. He now gave up all thoughts

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