« PreviousContinue »
a substantial benefit. During these three years his home
was with his brother at Mount Vernon, as being nearer the 1751.
scene of his labors than his mother's residence ; but he often visited her, and assisted in the superintendence of
her affairs. Military In- At the age of nineteen his character had made so favorthe rank of able an impression, that he was appointed to an office of
considerable distinction and responsibility by the government of Virginia. The frontiers were threatened with Indian depredations and French encroachments, and, as a precautionary measure, it was resolved to put the militia in a condition for defence. To carry this into effect, the province was divided into districts, having in each an officer called an adjutant-general with the rank of major, whose duty it was to assemble and exercise the militia, inspect their arms, and enforce all the regulations for discipline prescribed by the laws. George Washington was commissioned to take charge of one of these districts. The post was probably obtained through the influence of his brother and William Fairfax, the former a delegate in the House of Burgesses, the latter a member of the governor's Council. The pay was one hundred and fifty pounds a year.
His military propensities had not subsided. They rather for military
increased with his years. In Virginia were many officers, besides his brother, who had served in the recent war. Under their tuition he studied tactics, learned the manual exercise, and became expert in the use of the sword. He read the principal books on the military art, and joined practice to theory as far as circumstances would permit. This new station, therefore, was in accordance with his inclinations, and he entered upon it with alacrity and zeal.
But he had scarcely engaged in this service, when he was called to perform another duty, deeply interesting in its claims on his sensibility and fraternal affection. Lawrence Washington, originally of a slender constitution, had been for some time suffering under a pulmonary attack, which was now thought to be approaching a dangerous
studies and exercises,
Sgils with his brother for Barbadoes
crisis. The physicians recommended a voyage to the West CHAPTER Indies, and the experiment of a warmer climate. The necessity of having some friend near him, and his attachment to George were reasons for desiring his company. They sailed for Barbadoes in the month of September, 1751, and landed on that island after a passage of five weeks. The change of air, the hospitality of the inhabitants, the Returns to
Virginia. novelty of the scene, and the assiduous attentions of his brother, revived the spirits of the patient, and seemed at first to renovate his strength. But the hope was delusive, and the old symptoms returned. The trial of a few weeks produced no essential alteration for the better; and he determined to proceed to Bermuda in the spring, and that in the mean time his brother should go back to Virginia, and accompany his wife to that island. Accordingly, George took passage in a vessel bound to the Chesapeake, and, after encountering a most tempestuous voyage, reached home in February, having been absent somewhat more than four months.
He had been but a short time in Barbadoes, when he was Has the seized with the smallpox. The disease was severe, but,
Barbadoes. with the aid of good medical attendance, he was able to go abroad in three weeks. The journal kept by him during the two voyages, and at Barbadoes, fragments of which have been preserved, shows the same habits of minute observation and power of deducing general results from small particulars, which distinguished him on all occasions. At sea he daily copied the log-book, noted the course of the winds, the state of the weather, the progress of the ship, and incidental occurrences, applying to navigation the knowledge he had gained of a kindred art. In the Island of Barbadoes, every thing attracted his notice; the soil, agricultural products, modes of culture, fruits, commerce, military force, fortifications, manners of the inhabitants, municipal regulations, and government; on all of which he wrote down summary remarks in his journal.*
The following is an extract from his journal, written at the time of his leaving the Island. “ The Governor of Barbadoes seems to keep
The first letter from his brother at Bermuda gave an encouraging account of his health, and expressed a wish
that his wife should join him there ; but it was followed July 26th. by another, of a different tenor, which prevented her deparDeath of his ture.
Finding no essential relief, he came home in the summer, and sank rapidly into his grave, at the age of thirty-four, leaving a wife, an infant daughter, and a large circle of friends, to deplore a loss keenly felt by them all. Few men have been more beloved for their amiable qualities, or admired for those higher traits of character, which give dignity to virtue, and a charm to accomplishments of mind and manners.
By this melancholy event, new duties and responsibilities devolved upon George. Large estates were left by the deceased brother, the immediate care of which demanded his oversight. He had likewise been appointed one of the executors of the will, in which was an eventual interest of considerable magnitude pertaining to himself. The estate at Mount Vernon was bequeathed to the surviving daughter; and, in case of her demise without issue, this estate
Settles the atlairs of his brother's estute,
a proper state, lives very retired and at little expense, and is a gentleman of good sense. As he avoids the errors of his predecessor, he gives no handle for complaint; but, at the same time, by declining much familiarity, he is not over-zealously beloved. Hospitality and a genteel behavior are shown to every gentleman stranger by the gentlemen inhabitants. Taverns they have none, except in the towns ; so that travellers are obliged to go to private houses. The people are said to live to a great age where they are not intemperate. They are, however, very unhappy in regard to their officers' fees, which are not paid by any law. They complain particularly of the provost-marshal, or sheriffgeneral, of the island, patented at home and rented at eight hundred pounds a year. Every other officer is exorbitant in his demands. There are few, who may be called middling people. They are very rich or very poor ; for by a law of the island every gentleman is obliged to keep a white person for every ten acres, capable of acting in the militia, and consequently the persons so kept cannot but be very poor. They are well disciplined, and appointed to their several stations ; so that in any alarm every man may be at his post in less than two hours. They have large intrenchments cast up wherever it is possible to land, and, as nature has greatly assisted, the island may not improperly be said to be one entire fortification."
and other lands were to descend to George, with the reservation of the use of the same to the wife during her lifetime. Although he was the youngest executor, yet his acquaint- 1752. ance with his brother's concerns, and the confidence always reposed in him by the deceased, were grounds for placing the business principally in his hands. His time and thoughts, for several months, were taken up with these affairs, complicated in their nature, and requiring delicacy and caution in their management.
His private employments, however, did not draw him his duties away from his public duties as adjutant-general. Indeed general. the sphere of that office was enlarged. Soon after Governor Dinwiddie came to Virginia, the colony was portioned into four grand military divisions. Major Washington's appointment was then renewed, and the northern division was allotted to him. It included several counties, each of which was to be visited at stated times by the adjutant, in order to train and instruct the militia officers, review the companies on parade, inspect the arms and accoutrements, and establish a uniform system of maneuvres and discipline. These exercises, so congenial to his taste, were equally advantageous to himself and to the subordinate officers, who could not fail to be animated by his example, activity, and enthusiasm.
The French make Encroachments on the Western Frontiers of Virginia.
Claims of the French and English to the Western Territory considered. Major Washington is sent by the Governor of Virginia to warn the Intruders to retire. — Crosses the Allegany Mountains. — Meets Indians on the Ohio River, who accompany him to the French Garrison. - Indian Speech. - Interviews with the French Commander. — Perilous Adventures during his Journey, and in crossing the Allegany River. Returns to Williamsburg and reports to the Governor. — His Journal published. – He is appointed to the Command of Troops to repel the Invasion of the Frontiers. Governor Dinwiddie.
Encroachments of the
The time was now at hand, when the higher destinies
of Washington were to unfold themselves. Intelligence 1753. came from the frontiers, that the French had crossed the
Lakes from Canada in force, and were about to establish French and posts and erect fortifications on the waters of the Ohio. It
was rumored, also, that, alarmed for their safety, the friendly Indians were beginning to waver in their fidelity; and the hostile tribes, encouraged by the presence and support of the French, exhibited symptoms of open war. The crisis, in the opinion of Governor Dinwiddie and his Council, called for an immediate inquiry. A messenger had already been sent over the mountains, in the character of a trader, with presents of powder, lead, and guns for the Indians, instructed to ascertain their temper, penetrate their designs, and, above all, to trace out the artifices and movements of the French.
This messenger, either intimidated or deceived by the savages, executed his mission imperfectly. He went as far as the Ohio River, met some of the friendly sachems, delivered his presents, stayed a few days with them, and then returned. He brought back various reports concerning the French, narrated to him by the Indians, who had been in their camp at Lake Erie, and who magnified their strength and formidable appearance, telling him, that they took every Englishman prisoner, whom they found beyond the Allega