« PrejšnjaNaprej »
WASHINGTON'S INSTALLATION IN THE HOUSE OF BURGESSES HIS RURAL LIFE-MOUNT VERNON AND ITS VICINITY-ARISTOCRATICAL DAYS OF VIRGINIA WASHINGTON'S MANAGEMENT OF HIS ESTATE-DOMESTIC HABITS-FOX-HUNTING-LORD FAIRFAX-FISHING AND DUCK-SHOOTING THE POACHER-LYNCH LAW-AQUATIO STATE-LIFE AT ANNAPOLIS-WASHINGTON IN THE DISMAL SWAMP.
FOR three months after his marriage, Washington resided with his bride at the "White House." During his sojourn there, he repaired to Williamsburg, to take his seat in the House of Burgesses. By a vote of the House, it had been determined to greet his instalment by a signal testimonial of respect. Accordingly, as soon as he took his seat, Mr. Robinson, the speaker, in eloquent language, dictated by the warmth of private friendship, returned thanks, on behalf of the colony, for the distinguished military services he had rendered to his country.
Washington rose to reply; blushed-stammeredtrembled, and could not utter a word. "Sit down, Mr. Washington," said the speaker, with a smile; "your modesty equals your valor, and that surpasses the power of any language I possess."
Such was Washington's first launch into civil life, in which he was to be distinguished by the same judgment, devotion, courage, and magnanimity exhibited in his military career. He attended the House frequently during the remainder of the session, after which he conducted his bride to his favorite abode of Mount Vernon.
Mr. Custis, the first husband of Mrs. Washington, had left large landed property, and forty-five thousand pounds sterling in money. One third fell to his widow in her own right; two thirds were inherited equally by her two children,-a boy of six, and a girl of four years of age. By a decree of the General Court, Washington was intrusted with the care of the property inherited by the children; a sacred and delicate trust, which he discharged in the most faithful and judicious manner; becoming more like a parent, than a mere guardian to them.
From a letter to his correspondent in England, it would appear that he had long entertained a desire to visit that country. Had he done so, his acknowledged merit and military services would have insured him a distinguished reception; and it has been intimated, that the signal favor of government might have changed the current of his career. We believe him, however, to have been too pure a patriot, and too clearly possessed of the true interests of his country, to be diverted from the course which he ultimately adopted. His marriage, at any rate, had put an end to all travelling inclinations. In his letter from Mount Vernon, he writes: "I am now, I believe, fixed in this seat, with an agreeable partner for life, and I hope to
MOUNT VERNON AND ITS VICINITY.
find more happiness in retirement than I ever experi enced in the wide and bustling world."
This was no Utopian dream transiently indulged, amid the charms of novelty. It was a deliberate purpose with him, the result of innate and enduring inclinations. Throughout the whole course of his career, agricultural life appears to have been his beau ideal of existence, which haunted his thoughts even amid the stern duties of the field, and to which he recurred with unflagging interest whenever enabled to indulge his natural bias.
Mount Vernon was his harbor of repose, where he repeatedly furled his sail, and fancied himself anchored for life. No impulse of ambition tempted him thence; nothing but the call of his country, and his devotion to the public good. The place was endeared to him by the remembrance of his brother Lawrence, and of the happy days he had passed here with that brother in the days of boyhood; but it was a delightful place in itself, and well calculated to inspire the rural feeling.
The mansion was beautifully situated on a swelling height, crowned with wood, and commanding a magnificent view up and down the Potomac. The grounds immediately about it were laid out somewhat in the English taste. The estate was apportioned into separate farms, devoted to different kinds of culture, each having its allotted laborers. Much, however, was still covered with wild woods, seamed with deep dells and runs of water, and indented with inlets; haunts of deer, and lurking-places of foxes. The whole woody region along the Potomac from Mount Vernon to Belvoir, and far beyond, with its range of forests and hills,
and picturesque promontories, afforded sport of various kinds, and was a noble hunting-ground. Washington had hunted through it with old Lord Fairfax in his stripling days; we do not wonder that his feelings throughout life incessantly reverted to it.
"No estate in United America," observes he, in one of his letters, "is more pleasantly situated. In a high and healthy country; in a latitude between the extremes of heat and cold; on one of the finest rivers in the world; a river well stocked with various kinds of fish at all seasons of the year, and in the spring with shad, herrings, bass, carp, sturgeon, &c., in great abundance. The borders of the estate are washed by more than ten miles of tide water; several valuable fisheries appertain to it: the whole shore, in fact, is one entire fishery."
These were, as yet, the aristocratical days of Virginia. The estates were large, and continued in the same families by entails. Many of the wealthy planters were connected with old families in England. The young men, especially the elder sons, were often sent to finish their education there, and on their return brought out the tastes and habits of the mother country. The governors of Virginia were from the higher ranks of society, and maintained a corresponding state. The "established," or Episcopal Church, predominated throughout the "ancient dominion," as it was termed ; each county was divided into parishes, as in England,— each with its parochial church, its parsonage, and glebe. Washington was vestryman of two parishes, Fairfax and Truro; the parochial church of the former was at Alexandria, ten miles from Mount Vernon; of the lat
The church at
ter, at Pohick, about seven miles. Pohick was rebuilt on a plan of his own, and in a great measure at his expense. At one or other of these churches he attended every Sunday, when the weather and the roads permitted. His demeanor was reverential and devout. Mrs. Washington knelt during the prayers; he always stood, as was the custom at that time. Both were communicants.
Among his occasional visitors and associates were Captain Hugh Mercer and Dr. Craik; the former, after his narrow escapes from the tomahawk and scalpingknife, was quietly settled at Fredericksburg; the latter, after the campaigns on the frontier were over, had taken up his residence at Alexandria, and was now Washington's family physician. Both were drawn to him by campaigning ties and recollections, and were ever welcome at Mount Vernon.
A style of living prevailed among the opulent Virginian families in those days that has long since faded away. The houses were spacious, commodious, liberal in all their appointments, and fitted to cope with the free-handed, open-hearted hospitality of the owners. Nothing was more common than to see handsome services of plate, elegant equipages, and superb carriage horses-all imported from England.
The Virginians have always been noted for their love of horses; a manly passion which, in those days of opulence, they indulged without regard to expense. The rich planters vied with each other in their studs, importing the best English stocks. Mention is made of one of the Randolphs of Tuckahoe, who built a stable for his favorite dapple-gray horse, Shakespeare, with