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LIVES OF THE PRESIDENTS.
There is no individual whose life is more completely identified with the history of his country, than is that of George Washington. Notwithstanding the order, dignity, and beauty of his priate character, there are many whose private life would furnish much more interesting subjects to the pen of a biographer. The interest of his life depends upon more important circumstances than personal adventure, or romantic incident. It rests upon his connexion with the great events, which led to the independence of his country, and which, in their still spreading and accumulating effects, may break up the institutions of tyranny all over the globe.
GEORGE WASHINGTON was born at Bridge's Creek, in Westmoreland county, Virginia, on the twenty-second of February, 1732. He was the son of Augustine Washington, a descendant of one of the earliest settlers of the first English colony in America, who died when his son George was about ten years of age. The education of the orphan devolved upon his mother, who devoted herself to the task with a zeal and industry, for which she afterwards reaped an ample reward. The means of education at that period were of course very limited, and a grammatical knowledge of the English language, mathematics, history, natural and moral philosophy, formed the course of his youthful studies. Of this education, mathematics formed by far the most important part. This was of great advantage to him in early life, in qualifying him for the office of practical surveyor, and in later years in its connexion with military science. At the age of fifteen, he was desirous to enter into active life, and obtained the birth of a midshipman in the British navy; but the anxiety of an affectionate mother dissuaded him from the adoption of this course of life.
Of the early youth of Washington, no authentic anecdotes have been preserved. He has been described by his contemporaries as grave, silent, and thoughtful; diligent in his business ; correct in his deportment, and strictly honorable in all his conduct. His patrimony was small, but inanaged with prudent industry. Of the estimation in which he was held, even when quite young, we may judge, from his being appointed one of the adjutants general of Virginia, at the age of nineteen. When hardly twenty-one, he was employed by the government of his native colony in an enterprise of very considerable importance.
The French were the first European discoverers of the Mississippi, and claimed all those extensive regions whose waters emptied into that river. They had just formed a plan of connecting their possessions in America, by the union of Louisiana with Canada. In pursuance of this design, a line of military posts from the lakes to the Ohio had been commenced in the year 17 3. This territory was situated within the boundaries of Virginia, and the governor of that province deemed it his duty to remonstrate against encroachments, which he considered in violation of previous treaties. He determined to send an agent to the French commandant on the Ohio, to convey his views upon this important and delicate subject For this purpose Mr. Washington was the person selected.
In discharge of this trust, he set out about the middle of November, from Wills' Creek, then an extreme frontier settlement, and pursued his course over an unexplored tract of morasses and forests, over rivers of diffi cult passage, and
among tribes of hostile Indians. Reaching the Monongahela on the twenty-second, he there learned that the French general was dead, and that the greater part of the army had retired into winter quarters. He spent a few days among the Indians, and very wisely secured the services of some of their chiefs, who guided him to the fort at French Creek, where he found the commanding officer on the Ohio. Delivering his letters, in three or four days he received an official reply, and immediately set out on his return. Finding the snow deep, and his horses weakened with fatigue, he determined to pursue his way on foot. He took his necessary papers, a gun and a pack, and wrapping himself in his watch-coat, set out with a single companion. On the day following, they fell in with a party of French Indians, one of whom fired upon them. They took this Indian
vere the first European discoverers of the Mississippi, and se extensive regions whose waters emptied into that river. ormed a plan of connecting their possessions in America,
Louisiana with Canada. In pursuance of this design, a posts from the lakes to the Ohio had been commenced in
This territory was situated within the boundaries of Vira overnor of that province deemed it his duty to remonstrate chments, which he considered in violation of previous etermined to send an agent to the French commandant on avey his views upon this important and delicate subject - Mr. Washington was the person selected.
of this trust, he set out about the middle of November, -k, then an extreme frontier settlement, and pursued his nexplored tract of morasses and forests, over rivers of diffi
among tribes of hostile Indians. Reaching the Mononenty-second, he there learned that the French general was e greater part of the army had retired into winter quarters. ays among the Indians, and very wisely secured the serheir chiefs, who guided him to the fort at French Creek,
he commanding officer on the Ohio. Delivering his letur days he received an official reply, and immediately set
Finding the snow deep, and his horses weakened with nined to pursue his way on foot. He took his necessary
a pack, and wrapping himself in his watch-coat, set out panion. On the day following, they fell in with a party 5, one of whom fired upon them. They took this Indian
prisoner, and kept him until nine o'clock in the evening, when they released him, and walked without stopping all the rest of the night, in order to be out of the reach of pursuit.
As the answer of the French commandant indicated no disposition to withdraw from the disputed territory, the Assembly of Virginia determined to maintain by force the rights of the British crown. A regiment was immediately raised of three hundred men. The command of this body was given to Mr. Fry, and Washington was appointed lieutenant colonel. Desirous to engage in active service, and take as early measures as possible in defence of the colony, Washington obtained permission to march in advance of the other troops, to Great Meadows. On reaching this place, he learned from the friendly Indians that a party of the French were encamped in a valley a few miles to the west. The night was dark and rainy, and entirely concealed the movements of the troops. They surrounded the French camp, and took it completely by surprise. The commanding officer was killed, one person escaped, and all the rest immediately surrendered.
Soon after this affair, Colonel Fry died, and the command of the regiment devolved upon Washington, who speedily collected forces at Great Meadows, to the number of four hundred men. A small stockade was erected, called Fort Necessity, in which a few soldiers were stationed to guard the horses and provisions, while the main body moved forward to dislodge the French from Fort Du Quesne. They had not proceeded more than thirteen miles, when they were informed by friendly Indians, “that the French, as numerous as pigeons in the woods, were advancing in an hostile manner towards the English settlements, and also, that Fort Du Quesne had been recently and strongly reinforced.” In this critical situation it was resolved to retreat to the Great Meadows, and every exertion was made to render Fort Necessity tenable. Before the completion of the works erecting for that purpose, the fort was attacked by a considerable force. The assailants were protected by trees and high grass. The Americans received them with great intrepidity, and Washington distinguished himself by his coolness and address. The engagement continued from ten in the morning until dark, when the French general demanded a parley, and offered terms of capitulation. These were refused, but in the course of the night other proposals were accepted. The fort was surrendered on condition that the garrison should march out with the honors of war, should be permitted to retain their arms and baggage, and to proceed without molestation into the inhabited parts of Virginia. A public vote of thanks was given to Washington and the officers under his command, for their conduct in this affair ; and three hundred pistoles were distributed among the soldiers.
The controversy in respect to the Ohio lands, which commenced in Virginia, was taken up with much zeal in Great Britain, and two regiments were sent to America to support the pretensions of his Britannic majesty. They arrived early in 1755, under the command of General Braddock, who invited Washington to serve the campaign as a volunteer aid-de-camp. This invitation he at once accepted, and joined the regiment on its march to Fort Cumberland. Here the army was detained till the twelfth of June,