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LIFE OF WASHINGTON.
Birth and Death of Great Men--Ancestry of George Loss of his Father--Sent
to District School-Early History-Appointed Surveyor-Forest Life-Goes to Barbadoes with a Sick Brother--Appointed Major over the Militia-Sent a Commissioner to the French-Account of his Perilous Journey.
NATURE is not lavish of prodigies, and when she gives us one in the human species, men are always expecting she will indicate it by some outward sign. A lioness must cast her whelps in the streets when a monster is born--some convulsion of the earth, or strange appearance in the heavens, give token when a great soul has arrived on the earth, whose life is to change the current of history. We love to associate mysterious phenomena with strange and mysterious men. When Cromwell's stormy spirit was passing from this troubled sphere, the enraged winds and waves strewed the English coast with stranded vessels. As Napoleon lay struggling in the last throes of mortal life, the sea rose with a thundering sound over its barriers, as if striving to reach the spot where the great sufferer lay.
But no such violent changes of nature heralded the birth or accompanied the death of Washington.
Serenely like the sun, as if in harmony with the universe, he arose on the world—so bright and undimmed he moved over the firmament, and without a cloud to dim his splendor sunk gloriously to rest.
We take a deep interest in the childhood of great men, for we wish to detect, if possible, indications of their future greatness, and trace the mental processes by which they reached their elevation. Our curiosity in this respect is rather excited than gratified by the meagre accounts that have come down to us of Washington's early days. There are many traditions, all in harmony with his general character, but not substantiated as matters of history. His manly refusal to tell a lie to escape punishment, his generosity in winning a prize, by his superior strength, for another, and his love of the right exhibited in more instances than one, are so many floating traditions, which may or may not be true. The retired place of his birth, and the stern character of the times and men that surrounded his earlier years, would naturally cause his boyish conduct to pass unnoticed, leaving to the mother alone the pleasing task of hoarding up all his noble traits and generous deeds.
The ancestor of George held the manor of Sulgrave, in Northamptonshire, England, which was granted to him in 1538. His grandson Lawrence had several children, two of whom* (the second and fourth) emigrated to Virginia in 1657. They bought plantations in Westmoreland, on the Potomac, and became successful farmers. John Washington entered into active service against the Indians, and rose to the rank of colonel. He had two sons and a daughter. The elder son, Lawrence, married Mildred Warner, by whom he had three children, John, Augustine, and Mildred. Augustine, the second son, inarried Jane Butler, by whom he had four children, two of whom dying in infancy, left only Lawrence and Augustine. His wife also dying, he married in 1730 Mary Ball, by whom he had six children; George, who was born in Westmoreland county, February 22d, 1732, and Betty, Samuel, John, Augustine, Charles, and Mildred. The latter, however, died in infancy. While George was yet very young, his father removed to an estate which he owned in Stafford county, where he died in 1743. To each of his sons he left a plantation of several hundred acres. To George, at this time eleven years old, was reserved the estate on which he then lived. Four children younger than he constituted a large family of almost infants, to be brought up by the widowed mother. But she was a woman of uncommon character, combining in harmonious proportions all those qualities necessary to make the best and noblest of our species-- good and true mother. George was her eldest born, on whom she was to rely in her old age, and she watched his early development with that solicitude a pious mother only knows. She saw in him those generous and noble traits which afterward distinguished him--marked with pride his manly scorn of a lie, his hatred of wrong and oppression, whatever the forms they took, and his enthusiastic love of the great and the good. But she saw also a bold and impetuous nature, which, when thoroughly roused, was not easily laid-a fearlessness and recklessness of danger, that made her heart tremble, and it was with prayers and earnest teachings, that she sought to place that nature under the control of reason and the law of right. Around that bold and passionate heart she cast ligature after ligature, woven from truth and duty and conscience, and bound them with maternal fondness there, till even its wildest throbbings could not rend them asunder. Right well and faithfully was her work done. It stood the fiery trials of youth, the storms of battle and the temptations of ambition, and when at last, conqueror and hero, he leaned his head, covered with honors, on her aged shoulder, and wept as he bade her farewell to take his place at the head of the republic which he had saved, she reaped the fruit of her labors. How little she knew what destinies hung on her instructions, as that boy stood by her knee and listened to her counsel. With his passions cultivated instead of restrained, and his refleotive faculties
* John and Lawrence-the eldest, William, married a half-sister of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.