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to sixty days, was published by authority, and laid the foundation of Washington's fame, as it gave strong evidence of his sagacity, fortitude, and sound judgment.
As the French commandant on the Ohio showed no disposition, in his answer sent by Washington, to withdraw his forces from that country, the assembly of Virginia determined to authorize the governor and council to raise a regiment of three huudred men, to be sent to the frontier, for the purpose of maintaining the rights of Great Britain to the territory invaded by the French. The command of this regiment was given to Colonel Fry. Major Washington was appointed lieutenant-colonel, and obtained permission to march with two coinpanies in advance of the other troops the Great Meadows. In a dark rainy night, May 28, 1754, Colonel Washington surrounded and surprised a detachment of the French troops, a few miles west of the Great Meadows. The Americans fired about daybreak upon the French, who immediately surrendered. One man only escaped, and the commanding officer of the party, M. de Jumonville, and ten of his men were killed. Being soon after joined by the residue of the regiment, also by two companies of regulars, and Colonel Fry having died, the command devolved on Colonel Washington. This body of men, numbering less than four hundred, were, in the following month of July, attacked by about fifteen hundred French and Indians, at Fort Necessity, situated at the Great Meadows, and after a contest which lasted a whole day, the French offered terms of capitulation, and articles were signed, by which the fort was surrendered, and the garrison allowed the honors of war, and permitted to return unmolested into the inhabited parts of Virginia. Great credit was given to Colonel Washington by his countrymen, for the courage displayed on this occasion, and the legislature were so satisfied with the conduct of the party as to vote their thanks to him and the officers under his command. They also ordered three hundred pistoles to be distributed among the soldiers, as a reward for their bravery.
Soon after this campaign, Washington retired from the militia service, in consequence of an order from the war department in England, which put those of the same military rank in the royal army over the heads of those in the provincial forces. This order created great dissatisfaction in the colonies, and Washington, while resusing to submit to the degradation required, declared that he would serve with pleasure when he should be enabled to do so without dishonor.
The unfortunate expedition of General Braddock followed in 1755. 'The general, being informed of the merit of Washington, invited him to enter into his family as a volunteer and aid-de-camp. This invitation Colonel Washington accepted, as he was desirous to make one campaign under an officer supposed to possess some knowledge in the art of war. The disastrous result of Braddock's expedition is well known. In the battle of the Monongahela, in which General Braddock was killed, Wash
ington had two horses shot under him, and four balls passed through his coat, as his duty and situation exposed him to every danger.
Such was the general confidence in his talents, that he may be said to have conducted the retreat.
Soon after his return to his home at Mount Vernon, Colonel Washington was appointed by the legislature of the colony, commander-in-chief of all the forces raised and to be raised in Virginia, which appointment he accepted, and for about three years devoted his time to recruiting and organizing troops for the defence of the colony. In the course of his duties in this service, he had occasion to visit Boston on business with General Shirley, who was then the British commander-in-chief in America. This journey of five hundred miles, Washington, accompanied by his aid and another officer, persormed on horseback in the winter of 1756. He stopped several days in the principal cities on the route, where his military character and services in the late campaign procured for him much notice.
While 'in New York he was entertained at the house of Mr. Beverly Robinson, between whom and himself an intimacy subsisted till it was broken off by their opposite fortune twenty years afterward in the revolution. The sister of Mrs. Robinson, Miss Mary Phillips, was an inmate of the family, and being a young lady of rare accomplishments, her charms made a deep impression upon the heart of the Virginia colonel. He imparted his secret to a confidential friend whose letters kept him informed of every important event. He soon learned that a rival was in the field, and was advised to renew his visits; but he never saw the lady again, till she was married to that same rival, Captain Morris, his former associate in arms, and one of Braddock's aids-de-camp.*
In 1758, Colonel Washington commanded an expedition to Fort Du Quesne, which terminated successfully, and the French retired from the western frontier. By gaining possession of the Ohio the great object of the war in the middle colonies was accomplished, and having abandoned the idea he had entertained of making an attempt to be united to the British establishment, he resigned his commission in the colonial service, in December, 1758, after having been actively engaged in the service of his country more than five years.
Having paid his addresses successfully the preceding year to Mrs. Martha Custis, Colonel Washington was married to that lady on the sixth of January, 1759. She was three months younger than himself, and was the widow of John Parke Custis, and daughter of John Dandridge. Distinguished alike for her beauty, accomplishments, and wealth, she was possessed also of those qualities which adorn the female character, and contribute to render domestic life attractive and happy. Mr. Custis, her first husband, had left large landed estates, and forty-five thousand pounds
Sparks's Life of Washington.
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
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 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
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 stitutional 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 patrioric 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 concur
curred, 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 to 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 dis. tance 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 correspond
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.