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sterling in money. Onc third of this property his widow held in her own right, the other two thirds being equally divided between her, a son, and daughter, the former six years old, the latter four, at the time of her second marriage.
An accession of more than one hundred thousand dollars was made to Colonel Washington's fortune by his marriage, in addition to what he already possessed in the estate of Mount Vernon, and other lands which he had selected during his surveying expeditions, and obtained at different times. His extensive private affairs now required his constant attention. He was also guardian to the two children of Mrs. Washington, and this trust he discharged with all the care of a father, till the son became of age, and the daughter died in her nineteenth year. This union was in every respect felicitious, and continued forty years ; the lady surviving her distinguished husband, only about eighteen months. To her intimate acquaintances, and to the nation, the character of Mrs. Washington was ever a theme of praise. Affable, courteous, and charitable, exemplary in her deportment; unostentatious and without vanity, she was much esteemed in private life, and filled with dignity every station in which she was placed.*
To the delightful retreat of Mount Vernon, the late commander of the Virginia forces, released from the cares of a military life, and in possession of everything that could make life agreeable, withdrew, three months after his marriage and gave himself up to domestic pursuits. These were conducted with so much judgment, steadiness, and industry, as greatly to enlarge and improve his estate. He had a great fondness for agricultural pursuits, and in all the scenes of his public career, there was no subject upon which his mind dwelt with so lively an interest as on that of agriculture. The staple product of Virginia, particularly in the lower counties, was tobacco, to the culture of which Washington chiefly directed his care. This he exported to England for a market, importing thence, as was then the practice of the Virginia planters, implements of agriculture, wearing apparel, and most other articles of common family use. For the study of English literature he had a decided taste, and his name is frequently to be found as subscriber to such works as were published in the colonies.
The enjoyments of private life at Mount Vernon, and the exercise of a generous hospitality at that mansion, continued uninterrupted for a period of about fifteen years; with the exception of his absence from home during the session of the Virginia legislature, to the house of burgesses of which colony Washington was first elected a representative from the county of Frederic, during his last military campaign, without his personal solicitation or influence. He took his seat in that body at Williamsburg in 1759, and from that time till the beginning of the revolution, a period of fifteen years, he was constantly a member of the house of burgesses,
being returned by a majority of votes at every election. For seven years he represented jointly with another delegate the county of Frederic, and afterward the county of Fairfax, in which he resided. There were commonly two sessions in a year, and sometimes three. He gave his attendance punctually and from the beginning to the end of almost every session. .
His influence in public bodies was produced more by the soundness of his judgment, his quick perceptions, and his directness and sincerity, than by eloquence or art. He seldom spoke, never harangued, and it is not known that he ever made a set speech, or entered into a stormy debate. But his attention was at all times awake, and he was ever ready to act with decision and firmness. His practice may be inferred by the following counsel. In a letter to a nephew, who had been chosen and taken his seat as a member of the assembly, he says : “The only advice I will offer, if you have a mind to command the attention of the house, is to speak seldom, but on important subjects, except such as properly relate to your constituents, and in the former case make yourself perfectly master of the subject. Never exceed a decent warmth, and submit your sentiments with diffidence. A dictatorial style, though it may carry conviction, is always accompanied with disgust."
In the Virginia legislature, Washington acquitted himself with reputation, and gained no inconsiderable knowledge of the science of civil government. During this period the clashing claims of Great Britain and her colonies were frequently brought before the colonial assembly. In every instance he took a decided part in the opposition made to the principle of taxation claimed by the mother-country, and went heart and hand with Henry, Randolph, Lee, Wythe, and the other prominent leaders of the time. His disapprobation of the stamp-act was expressed in unqualified terms. He spoke of it in a letter written at the time, as an “ unconstitutional method of taxation,” and “a direful attack on the liberties of the colonists." And subsequently he said : “ The repeal of the stampact, to whatever cause owing, ought much to be rejoiced at. All, therefore, who were instrumental in procuring the repeal, are entitled to the thanks of every British subject, and have mine cordially." He was present in the Virginia legislature, when Patrick Henry offered his celebrated resolutions on this subject, and from his well-known sentiments expressed on other occasions, it is presumed that Washington concurred with the patriotic party which supported these early movements in favor of colonial rights and liberties.
In the subsequent acts of the people of the colonies in resisting the claims and aggressions of the British government, Washington cordially sympathized, and approved of the most decisive measures proposed in opposition, particularly of the agreements not to import goods from Great Britain. “ The northern colonies,” he remarks in a letter to George Mason," it appears, are endeavoring to adopt this scheme. In my opinion,
it is a good one, and must be attended with salutary effects, provided it can be carried pretty generally into execution.” In these sentiments Mr. Mason concurred, and with a view to bring about a concert of action between Virginia and the northern colonies, he drew up a series of articles in the form of an association. The house of burgesses met in May, 1769, and as Mr. Mason was not a member, Washington took charge of the non-importation agreement paper, which, on being presented by him, after the dissolution of the assembly, was unanimously adopted by the members who assembled in a body at a private house. Every member subscribed his name 10 it, and it was then printed and distributed in the country for the signatures of the people. Washington was scrupulous in observing this agreement, enjoining his correspondents in London to send him none of the articles enumerated in the agreement of association, unless the offensive acts of parliament should be repealed.
In the autumn of 1770, Washington, accompanied by a friend, visited the western lands of Virginia on the Ohio river, for the purpose of selecting tracts awarded to the officers and soldiers for their services in the French war. Proceeding to Pittsburg on horseback, he there embarked in a canoe, and descended the Ohio river to the Great Kenhawa, a distance of 265 miles. After examining the lands on the latter river and making selections, he returned up the Ohio, and thence to Mount Vernon.
The Virginia assembly, which had been prorogued by the governor, Lord Dunmore, from time to time, until March, 1773, is distinguished as having brought forward the resolves instituting a committee of correspondence, and recommending the same to the legislatures of the other colonies; Washington was present and gave his support to those resolves. At the next session, which took place in May, 1774, the assembly adopted still more decisive measures. The news having reached Williamsburg at the commencement of the session, of the passage of the act of the British parliament for shutting up the port of Boston, the sympathy and patriotic feelings of the burgesses were strongly excited, and they forthwith passed an order deprecating this procedure, and setting apart the first of June to be observed as a day of fasting and prayer to implore the Di. vine interposition in behalf of the colonies. The governor thereupon dissolved the house the next morning.
The delegates, eighty-nine in number, immediately repaired to the Raleigh tavern, organized themselves into a committee, and drew up and signed an association, among other matters, advising the committee of correspondence to communicate with the committees of the other colonies, on the expediency of appointing deputies to meet in a general correspondence, Although the idea of a congress had been suggested by Doctor Franklin the year before, and proposed by town meetings at Providence (Rhode Island), Boston, and New York, yet this was the first public assembly by which it was formally recommended.
Twenty-five of the Virginia delegates, who had remained in Williamsburg, among whom was Washington, met on the twenty-ninth of May, and issued a circular letter to the people of Virginia, recommending a meeting of deputies from the several counties at Williamsburg, on the first of August, for the purpose of a more full and deliberate discussion. Meetings were accordingly held in the several counties, resolutions were adopted, and delegates appointed to the proposed convention. In Fairfax county, Washington presided as chairman, and was one of a committee to prepare a series of resolves, expressive of the sense of the people. These resolves are twenty-four in number, and were drawn by George Mason; they constitute an able and luminous exposition of the points al issue between Great Britain and the colonies. They are of special interest as containing the opinions of Washington at a critical time, when he was soon to be raised by his countrymen to a station of the highest trust and responsibility.*
In a letter to his friend Bryan Fairfax, dated July 20, 1774, Washington writes as follows:
“Satisfied, then, that the acts of the British parliament are no longer governed by the principles of justice, that they are trampling upon the valuable rights of Americans, confirmed to them by charter and by the constitution they themselves boast of, and convinced beyond the smallest doubt, that these measures are the result of deliberation, and attempted to be carried into execution by the hand of power, is it a time to trifle, or risk our cause upon petitions, which with difficulty obtain access, and af. terward are thrown by with the utmost contempt? Or should we, because heretofore unsuspicious of design, and then unwilling to enter into disputes with the mother-country, go on to bear more, and forbear to enumerate our just causes of complaint ? For my own part, I shall not undertake to say where the line between Great Britain and the colonies should be drawn; but I am clearly of opinion that one ought to be drawn, and our rights clearly ascertained. I could wish, I own, that the dispute kad been left to posterity to determine, but the crisis is arrived when we must assert our rights, or submit to every imposition that can be heaped upon us, till custom and use shall make us tame and abject slaves."
One of the principal acts of the Virginia convention, which met at Williamsburg on the first of August, 1774, of which body Washington was a member, was to adopt a new association, whose objects were resistance to parliamentary aggressions, by non-intercourse with Great Britain. The convention appointed Peyton Randolph, Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Richard Bland, and Edmund Pendleton, delegates to the first continental Congress, which met at Philadelphia, on the fifth of September. Two of Washington's associates, Mr. Henry and Mr. Pendleton stopped on their way at Mount Vernon,
* These resolves are in Washington's writings, vol. ii., appendis, page 488.
whence they all pursued their journey together and were present at the opening of the Congress. As the debates of that distinguished assembly were never made public, the part performed by each individual can not now be known. In its transactions, however, Washington took an active part, and Mr. Wirt in his life of Patrick Henry relates an anecdote which shows in what estimation he was held by his associate members of Congress. Soon after Patrick Henry returned home, being asked whom he thought the greatest man in Congress, he replied: “If you speak of eloquence, Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina is by far the greatest orator; but if you speak of solid information and sound judgment, Colonel Washington is unquestionably the greatest man on that floor."
Replying to a letter from his friend Captain Mackenzie of the British army, then stationed at Boston, in which that officer spoke of the rebellious conduct of the Bostonians, their military preparations, and their secret aim at independence, Washington wrote, while attending the Congress, giving his sentiments and views on the state of public affairs. The following are extracts :
“ Although you are taught to believe that the people of Massachusetts are rebellious, setting up for independence, and what not; give me leave, my good friend, to tell you that you are abused, grossly abused. Give me leave to add, and I think I can announce it as a fact, that it is not the wish or interest of that government, or any
this continent, separately or collectively, to set up for independence ; but this you may at the same time rely on, that none of them will ever submit to the loss of those valuable rights and privileges which are essential to the happiness of every free state, and without which, life, liberty, and property, are rendered totally insecure.
Again, give me leave to add, as my opinion, that more blood will be spilled on this occasion, if the ministry are determined to push matters 10 extremity, than history has ever yet furnished instances of in the annals of North America, and such a vital wound will be given to the peace of this great country, as time itself can not cure, or eradicate the remembrance of."
What is here said of independence is confirmed by the address of the first Congress to the people of Great Britain. “ You have been told that we are seditious, impatient of government, and desirous of independency. Be assured that these are not facts, but calumnies.” That such were at this time the sentiments of the leaders in America, there can be no reasonable doubt; being accordant with all their public acts and private declarations.
It is not easy to determine at what precise date the idea of independence was first entertained by the principal persons in America. The spirit and form of their institutions led the colonists frequently to act as an independent people, and to set up high claims in regard to their rights and