conduct throughout life.

[ocr errors]

of foreign service, and settled himself on his estate on
the banks of the Potomac, to which he gave the name of
MOUNT VERNON, in honor of the admiral.

Augustine took up his abode at the homestead on 11 Bridge's Creek, and married Anne, daughter and coheiress of William Aylett, Esquire, of Westmoreland


George, now eleven years of age, and the other chil- 12 dren of the second marriage, had been left under the guardianship of their mother, to whom was intrusted the proceeds of all their property until they should severally come of age. She proved herself worthy of the trust. Endowed with plain, direct good sense, thorough conscientiousness, and prompt decision, she governed her family strictly, but kindly, exacting deference while she inspired affection. George, being her eldest son, was thought to be her favorite, yet she never gave him undue preference, and the implicit deference exacted from him in childhood .continued to be habitually observed by him to the day of her death. He inherited from her a high temper and a spirit of command, but her early precepts and example taught him to restrain and govern that temper, and to square his conduct on the exact principles of equity and

Tradition gives an interesting picture of the widow, 13 with her little flock gathered round her, as was her daily wont, reading to them lessons of religion and morality out of some standard work.

Her favorite volume was “ Sir Matthew Hale's Contemplations,” moral and divine. The admirable maxims therein contained, for outward action as well as self-government, sank deep into the mind of George , and, doubtless, had a great influence in forming They certainly were exemplified in his

This mother's manual, bearing


his character.


his mother's name, Mary Washington, written with her own hand, was ever preserved by him with filial care, and may still be seen in the archives of Mount Ver

A precious document! Let those who wish to know the moral foundation of his character consult its

pages. 14 Having no longer the benefit of a father's instructions

at home, and the scope of tuition of Hobby, the sexton, being too limited for the growing wants of his pupil, George was now sent to reside with Augustine Washington, at Bridge's Creek, and enjoy the benefit of a superior school in that neighborhood, kept by a Mr. Williams. His education, however, was plain and practical. He never attempted the learned languages, nor manifested any inclination for rhetoric or belles-lettres. His object, or the object of his friends, seems to have been confined to fitting him for ordinary business.

His manuscript school-books still exist, and are models of neatness and accuracy. One of them, it is true, a ciphering book, preserved in the library at Mount Vernon, has some school-boy attempts at calligraphy—nondescript birds, executed with a flourish of the pen, or profiles of faces, probably intended for those of his schoolmates; the rest are all grave and business-like. Before he was thirteen years of age, he had copied into a volume forms for all kinds of mercantile and legal papers—bills of

exchange, notes of hand, deeds, bonds, and the like. 15 This early self-tuition gave him throughout life a law

yer's skill in drafting documents, and a merchant's exactness in keeping accounts; so that all the concerns of his various estates, his dealings with his domestic stewards and foreign agents, his accounts with Government, and all his financial transactions, are to this day to be seen posted up in books, in his own hand

writing, monuments of his method and unwearied accuracy.

He was a self-disciplinarian in physical as well as 16 mental matters, and practiced himself in all kinds of athletic exercises, such as running, leaping, wrestling, pitching quoits, and tossing bars. His frame, even in infancy, had been large and powerful, and he now excelled most of his playmates in contests of agility and strength. As a proof of his muscular power, a place is still pointed out at Fredericksburg, near the lower ferry, where, when a boy, he flung a stone across the Rappahannock. In horsemanship, too, he already excelled, and was ready to hack, and able to manage, the most fiery steed. Traditional anecdotes remain of his achievements in this respect.

Above all, his inherent probity and the principles of 17 justice on which he regulated all his conduct, even at this early period of life, were soon appreciated by his schoolmates; he was referred to as an umpire in their disputes, and his decisions were never reversed. As he had formerly been military chieftain, he was now legislator of the school, thus displaying in boyhood a type of the future man,



“ THE Last Days OF WASHINGTON” is inserted in the hope of inducing the student to read Irving's “Life of Washington ” for himself. Many estimates of the character of Washington have been made by eminent writers.

Among these may be mentioned Macaulay's celebrated parallel between Washington and Hampden; Ed

ward Everett's oration; Webster's speeches; Guizot's “Life of Washington.” The American student should devote himself to the diligent study of his life and character. “Washington's Letters," edited by Sparks, will greatly assist in the task.


WINTER had now set in, with occasional wind and rain and frost, yet Washington still kept up his active round of in-door and out-door avocations, as his diary records. He was in full health and vigor, dined out occasionally, and had frequent guests at Mount Vernon, and, as usual, was part of every day in the saddle, going the rounds of his estates, and, in his military phraseology,“ visiting the

outposts." 2 He had recently walked with his favorite nephew

about the grounds, showing the improvements he intended to make, and had especially pointed out the spot where he purposed building a new family vault, the old one being damaged by the roots of trees which had overgrown it and caused it to leak. “This change,” said he, “I shall make the first of all, for I may require it before the rest." 3 “When I parted from him," adds the nephew," he

stood on the steps of the front door, where he took leave of myself and another. . . . It was a bright frosty morning; he had taken his usual ride, and the clear, healthy flush on his cheek and his sprightly manner brought the remark from both of us that we had never seen the General look so well. I have sometimes thought him decidedly the handsomest man I ever saw; and when in a lively mood, so full of pleasantry, so agreeable to all with whom he associated, that I could hardly realize he was the same Washington whose dignity awed all who

approached him.” ... 4 For some time past Washington had been occupied in

digesting a complete system on which his estate was to

be managed for several succeeding years; specifying the cultivation of the several farms, with tables designating the rotations of the crops. It occupied thirty folio pages, and was executed with that clearness and method which characterized all his business papers. This was finished on the 10th of December, and was accompanied by a letter of that date to his manager or steward. It is a valuable document, showing the soundness and vigor of his intellect at this advanced stage of his existence, and the love of order that reigned throughout his affairs. “My greatest anxiety,” said he on a previous occasion, “is to have all these concerns in such a clear and distinct form that no reproach may attach itself to me when I have taken my departure to the land of spirits.”

It was evident, however, that, full of health and vigor, 5 he looked forward to his long-cherished hope, the enjoyment of a serene old age in this home of his heart.

According to his diary, the morning on which these voluminous instructions to his steward were dated was clear and calm, but the afternoon was lowering. The next day (11th) he notes that there was wind and rain, and “at night a large circle round the moon."

The morning of the 12th was overcast. That morning 6 he wrote a letter to Hamilton, heartily approving of a plan for a military academy, which the latter had submitted to the Secretary of War. “The establishment of an institution of this kind upon a respectable and extensive basis,” observes he," has ever been considered by me an object of primary importance to this country; and while I was in the chair of Government I omitted no proper opportunity of recommending it, in my public speeches and otherwise, to the attention of the Legislature. But I never undertook to go into a detail of the organization of such an academy, leaving this task to

« ElőzőTovább »