« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
back to the discussion of hay and corn in the stable, and Washington, for the first and only recorded time of his life, enticed by pleasure, paused in the path of duty. In the morning he proceeded to Williamsburg; but the young widow resided at her seat, the White House, but a few miles from that city, and before Washington's mission was accomplished, his horse knew every pebble in the road that lay between. For the first time since his mil. itary experience began, the young commander had now the opportunity of pursuing his favorite theory of offeasive warfare-untrammeled by the imbecility of legislators and the clogging etiquette of service. This he improved to the utmost, bearing in mind, no doubt, the disaster that resulted from his temporizing policy with Miss Phillipse, and as a result, before he turned his back upon the White House to proceed to Winchester, the fair widow was his promised wife, and the wedding was set to occur immediately after the close of the coming Duquesne campaign. On the 6th day of January, 1759, the marriage took place at the White House, and Washington thus laid down his service of the king to assume a domestic allegiance that nothing ever served to shake. Mr. Custis had left for equal division among his widow and children a large landed estate and more than forty-five thousand pounds sterling. Washington's estate had prospered, in spite of his inattention, and he was a man of wealth sufficient to enable him to maintain his state with the best in the land. For a few weeks the newly married couple remained at the seat of the bride; then they removed to Mount Vernon, the noble estate which had come to Washington from one of his brothers, and there established themselves in the comfort of a tranquil country life, which, for the greater part of two decades, was only to be interrupted by the duties of Washington as a legislator, and by occasional calls of business and pleasure.
argument in favor of the effectiveness of the laws of heredity is found in the devotion of Washington to two modes of life-the military and that of the landed gentleman. He was first, last, and always a soldier, when military duty was to be done ; failing that he was a planter. He loved the quiet and order of rural life. He improved his estate by personal attention when others of the jeune noblesse of Virginia allowed theirs to deteriorate from neglect and loaded them with mortgages, to satisfy the demands of lives of prodigality. Even with the details of his plantation work, sometimes actually in the manual execution of his own orders, Washington was associated.
His establishment was conducted with all the widedoored hospitality that marked the Virginian life of thc day ; his table was furnished in the finest and most abundant manner, and was served by the
His wife went forth upon her stately round of visits in a coach and four, with footmen and outriders. Washington himself rode the choicest of English thoroughbreds, hunted after the finest hounds, rode upon the river in a beautiful barge manned by a crew of picked and uniformed
His friends, even the venerable Lord Fairfax who had given him
best of servants.
his first lessons in the chase, often came to Mount Vernon, and the stables were amply supplied with mounts for all. Sometimes a British man-of-war anchored in the Potomac—then there were successive feasts at Mount Vernon, Belvoir, and other seats, with reciprocation on the part of the royal officers.
Back of it all, aside from the demands of his estate and the numerous private trusts committed to his care, Washington had not a little of public business, to serve as a foil to the free and happy home life we have described. As a member of the House of Burgesses he was much at Williamsburg, the seat of government; public missions often led him to Winchester and other points in the province, and sometimes he was called even farther—to Philadelphia or to Annapolis, the ultra conservative and aristocratic seat of the province of Maryland, where he, recognized as the foremost Virginian, and his highbred and brilliant wife were prominent in the gaiety with which the officers of the province surrounded themselves.
This is, in brief, the life that, from the fall of Duquesne to the sounding of the alarm that heraided the Revolution, engrossed the future leader of the people. Was ever an atmosphere less suited to fostering republicanism ; was ever a man more fitted by association, education, taste, and interest to be a royalist, a tory, a recreant to the interests of his native soil ?
With these words this record leaves what may be termed the first of the three periods of Washington's public life. He has served his appren. ticeship and now awaits only the summons of the bugle, to move to his country's aid in a service destined to mark him as the one man in history who has been the creator of a popular government that has stood the shocks of a century.
RIPENING OF THE REVOLUTION.
LTHOUGH the surrender of Montreal in 1757 ended the actual hos
tilities between France and England, it was not until 1763 that a formal peace was concluded, at the convention of Fontainbleau. Thus, for the first time in ten years, the colonies seemed secure from any other warlike danger than that, always present, from the unstable and treacherous Indians. This very peril took definite form in May of that year, when the border Indians united in a conspiracy to simultaneously attack and overpower all the English forts from Detroit to Fort Pitt—the re-christened Fort Duquesne. This uprising resulted in the temporary loss of some of the smaller defences, and in a bloody massacre of settlers, but proved abortive as to its principal object. Washington's retirement to private life prevented his taking part in the defensive movement which followed, and his ardent desire to be allowed to remain a planter and a country gentleman, bade fair to be indefinitely gratified.
The seeds of discord between the colonies and the crown were, however, already sown, and the great agitation that led to a revolution which resulted in establishing the greatest republic of the world, was even then begun. England's policy toward the colonies is too well known to call for more than passing mention. At the time of which we are now speaking, the regard of the home country for her American dependencies was that of a purely commercial nation for a business investment. It is a matter of astonishment that there was mingled with this mercenary view so little feel
or sympathy. England neither gave to America the respect accorded to a foreign ally, nor the affection naturally subsisting between people of common blood and traditions. In America the feeling toward the mother country was still one of respect and love; long after the unjust policy of the crown had aroused an active resistance and that resistance had evoked a measure of retaliation, many Americans of the best class habitually reserred to England as "home," and at no time until months after
ing of kinship
the seizure of the American magazines and the first bloodshed at Concord, was it beyond the power of England, by simplest justice in legislation and executive action, to have closed the breach, and thus, for many years, prolonged her dominion in America.
The first public evidence of ill-feeling between the people of the old England and the new, came from those British merchants, who held the paper currency of the colonies, issued during the prolonged war, and found it depreciated upon their hands. The result of their outcry was an order declaring colonial scrip not legal tender for the payment of debts. This action greatly embittered a public feeling adverse to English commercial interference, already created by successive acts of restrictive legislation, thus, in effect, tersely stated by Irving: “Her (England's) navigation laws had shut their ports against foreign vessels; obliged them to export their productions only to countries belonging to the British crown; to import European goods solely from England, and in English ships, and had subjected the trade between the colonies to duties. All manufactures, too, in the colonies, that might interfere with those of the mother country, had been either totally prohibited or subjected to intolerable restrictions.” In short, it was sought to make the colonies separate and isolated communities of agricultural producers, which should sell their raw material to English merchants, without competition, thus giving one profit, and, by compulsion, purchase from the same men their manufactured goods, thus paying another. It was the same policy that, applied to Ireland, has made one of the most highly favored people in Europe a nation of tatterdemalions and paupers. It is not strange that this narrow and unjust policy called forth the violent opposition that it did, yet there was still stronger cause for protest in store.
Though the subject of direct taxation of the American colonies had viten been broached, the instant antagonism aroused, the firm stand taken by the Americans that no body in which they were unrepresented had a right to tax them, had thus far dissuaded the crown from adopting so arbitrary a measure. The close of the French war, however, leaving England secure in her sense of American proprietorship, brought a decided change of policy. British ships-of-war in American waters became floating and armed custom-houses, every naval commander was especially instructed to direct his effort at the breaking up of smuggling, and the result was the destruc. tion of a very profitable, though prohibited, trade between the American colonies of England and Spain. An effort was made to search houses and stores in Boston, in quest of contraband sugar, the case was tested in the courts, as a matter of constitutional right, with the result of exciting the popular indignation to the highest pitch, and arousing the first active oppo sition to the authority of the crown. It was reserved for George Grenville, in 1764, then prime minister of England, to rush in where wiser men than
he had feared to tread. He procured the passage of an act of Parliament declaring the right of England to tax the American colonies. Following upon this he gave notice of his intention to press, at the next session, for the adoption of a system of stamp duties to be enforced in the colonies. This action was the logical result of a growing policy which had, within the four years preceding, led to the adoption of no less than twenty-nine separate acts of Parliament, looking to the repression of American commerce and industry. The outburst of indignation which followed its announcement, would have altered the determination of a wiser minister, and terrified one less obstinate and hot-headed. New England, possessing the most immediate commercial interest, took the lead; New York and Virginia followed her. Petitions were framed, signed, and sent to king and Parliament, and every possible indication of popular disapproval, united to press for a reconsider ation. Yet, in March, 1765, the act was passed, providing that every instrument in writing, executed within the colonies, should be drawn upon stamped paper, purchased of agents of the crown, providing penalties for offenses against the act, and also that trials in all cases arising thereunder might be had in any royal, marine, or admiralty court, at any point within any of the colonies.
It may be stated here that the stamp act was never enforced, save to a very limited extent. The agents appointed to dispose of the paper, either shared the public feeling and refused to serve, or soon found it advisable to resign for their own safety. The first official protest against the iniquitous measure came from the conservative and loyal colony of Virginia. The House of Burgesses was then in session-Washington sitting among its members-a resolution was introduced by that fiery orator, Patrick Henry (then a young member of the House), declaring that the colony of Virginia had the exclusive right to tax its inhabitants and that whoever maintained the contrary should be deemed an enemy of the country. This position he defended in a speech that has passed into history as one of the most eloquent in the annals of American legislation. After little debate, and with small modification the resolutions were adopted, and the Lieutenantgovernor, alarmed at the spirit displayed, at once dissolved the House. This was a signal for other colonial legislatures to act, and an entire unanimity was evinced by the adoption, throughout the country, of similar resolutions, and the expressed determination to resist the enforcement of the act to all extremities. On the ist day of November, named as the time for the act to go into effect, there were everywhere demonstrations, the burning of royal agents in effigy, the tolling of bells, flags at half-mast, and other indications of both anger and sorrow.
Washington returned from the meeting of the dissolved House, deeply concerned for the safety of the colonies, impressed with the injustice of the English measures and, above all, as were most good men at that day.