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The memory of Washington is the highest and most precious of national blessings, and, as such, cannot be approached by artist or author without reverence. To pervert the traits or to mar the unity of such a character is to wrong, not only his sacred memory, but the dearest rights of his countrymen. A poet once conceived a drama based on the fate of André; and, after striving to embody Washington in the piece, in a manner coincident with his own profound sense of his character, he found that the only way of effecting this, without detriment to his ideal, was to keep that august presence off the stage, and to hint its vicinity by the reverent manner in which the name and views of Washington were treated by all the dramatis persone. This instinct of dramatic propriety is a most striking proof of the native sacredness of the subject. The more fertile it may be to the poet and philosopher, the less right has the biographer to interfere with, overlay, or exaggerate, its primitive truth, and the more careful should he be in adhering to the lucid and conscientious statement of facts, in themselves, and for themselves, immeasurably precious.
“You have George the Surveyor,” said Carlyle, in his quaint way, to an American, when talking of heroes. Never had that vocation greater significance. It drew the young Virginian unconsciously into the best education possible in a new country for a military life. He was thereby practised in topographical observation ; inured to habits of keen local study; made familiar with
the fatigue, exposure, and expedients, incident to journeys on foot and horseback, through streams and thickets, over mountains and marshes; taught to accommodate himself to limited fare, strained muscles, the bivouac, the woods, the seasons, selfdependence, and effort. This discipline inevitably trained his perceptive faculties, and made him the accurate judge he subsequently became of the capabilities of land, from its position, limits, and quality, for agricultural and warlike purposes. A love of field-sports, the chief amusement of the gentry in the Old Dominion, and the oversight of a plantation, were favorable to the same result. Life in the open air, skilful horsemanship, and the use of the rifle, promoted habits of manly activity. To a youth thus bred in the freedom and salubrity of a rural home, we are disposed to attribute, in no small degree, the noble development of Washington. How naturally frank courage is fostered by such influences, all history attests. The strongest ranks in the old Roman armies were levies drawn from the agricultural laborers; the names of Tell and Hofer breathe of the mountains ; and the English yeomen decided the victory on the fields where their kings encountered the French in the early wars. Political economists ascribe the deterioration of modern nations, in those qualities which insure fortitude and martial enterprise, to the encroachments of town life; and the greatest cities of antiquity fell through the insidious luxury of commercial success. Nor are these general truths inapplicable to personal character. In crowded towns artifice prevails. In the struggle for the prizes of traffic, nobility of soul is apt to be lost in thrift. The best hours of the day, passed under roofs and in streets, bring not the requisite ministry to health, born of the fresh air. It enlarges the mind to gaze habitually upon the horizon unimpeded by marts and edifices. It keeps fresh the generous impulses to consort with hunters and gentlemen, instead of daily meeting “the hardeyed lender and the pale lendee." In a word, the interest in crops and herds, in woodland and upland, the excitement of deershooting, the care of a rural domain, and the tastes, occupations, duties, and pleasures, of an intelligent agriculturist, tend to conserve and expand what is best in human nature, which the spirit of trade and the competition of social pride are apt to dwarf and
overlay. Auspicious, therefore, were the influences around the childhood and youth of Washington, inasmuch as they left bis nature free, identified him with the least artificial of human pursuits, and nursed his physical while they left unperverted his moral energies. He became attached to the kind of life of which Burke and Webster were so enamored, that they ever turned with alacrity from the cares of state to flocks and grain, planting and reaping, the morning hunt, and the midsummer harvest. There would seem to be a remarkable affinity between the charm of occupations like these and the comprehensive and beneficent mission of the patriotic statesman. To draw near the heart of Nature, to become a proficient in the application of her laws, to be, as it were, her active coadjutor, has in it a manliness of aim and a refreshing contrast to the wearisome anxieties of political life, and the sordid absorption of trade, which charm such noble minds, and afford their best resource at once for pastime and utility.
There were, too, in that thinly-peopled region over which impends the Blue Ridge, beside the healthful freedom of nature, positive social elements at work. The aristocratic sentiment had a more emphatic recognition there than in any other of the English Cisatlantic colonies; the distinctions of landed property and of gentle blood were deeply felt; the responsibility of a high caste, and of personal authority and influence over a subject race, kept alive chivalric pride and loyalty; and, with the duties of the agriculturist, the pleasures of the hunt and of the table, and the rites of an established and unlimited hospitality, was mingled in the thoughts and the conversation of the people that interest in political affairs whence arise public spirit and patriotic enthusiasm. Thus, while estates carelessly cultivated, the absence of many conveniences, the rarity of modern luxuries, the free and easy habits of men accustomed rather to oversee workers than to work themselves, the rough highways, the unsubstantial dwellings and sparse settlements, might not impress the casual observer as favorable to elegance and dignity, he soon discovered both among the families who boasted of a Cavalier ancestry and transmitted noble blood. The Virginia of Sir Walter Raleigh -- a country where the most extravagant of his golden dreams were to be
realized — had given place to a nursery of men, cultivators of the soil, and rangers of the woods, where free, genial, and brave character found scope; and the name of the distant colony that graced Spenser's dedication of the Faerie Queene to his peerless sovereign, instead of being identified with a new El Dorado, was to become a shrine of Humanity, as the birthplace and home of her noblest exemplar.
These advantages, however, Washington shared with many planters of the South, and manorial residents of the North, and they were chiefly negative. A broader range of experience and more direct influences were indispensable to refine the manners and to test the abilities of one destined to lead men in war, and to organize the scattered and discordant elements of a young republic. This experience circumstances soon provided. His intimacy with Lord Fairfax, who, in the wilds of Virginia, emulated the courteous splendor of baronial life in England, the missions
upon which he was sent by the governor of the State, combining military, diplomatic, and surveying duties, and especially the acquaintance he gained with European tactics in the disastrous campaign of Braddock, -- all united to prepare him for the exigencies of his future career; so that, in early manhood, with the athletic frame of a hunter and surveyor, the ruddy health of an enterprising agriculturist, the vigilant observation of a sportsman and border soldier, familiar alike with Indian ambush, the pathless forest, freshets and fevers, he had acquired the tact of authority, the self-possession that peril can alone teach, the dignified manners of a man of society, the firm bcaring of a soldier, aptitude for affairs, and cheerfulness in privation. To the keen sense of honor, the earnest fidelity, the modesty of soul, and the strength of purpose, which belonged to his nature, the life of the youth in his native home, the planter, the engineer, the ambassador, the representative, the gentleman, and the military leader, had thus added a harmony and a scope, which already, to discriminating observers, indicated his future genius for public life, and his competency to render the greatest national services.
During these first years of public duty and private enterprise, it is remarkable that no brilliant achievement served to encourage