Abbildungen der Seite

an English work, and had passed through thirteen editions, which was little enough in view of its varied and extensive information. It was written by W. Mather, in a plain and easy style, and treated of arithmetic, surveying, forms for legal documents, the measuring of land and lumber, gardening, and many other useful topics, and at the end it contained the rules for behavior found in manuscript among Washington's papers.1 These rules were in the main wise and sensible, and it is evident they made a deep impression on the boy's mind.2 There is something strangely prophetic about these little aphorisms, for all the serious rules are very characteristic of Washington throughout his life. What, for example, could be more apt than the last one, given by Mr. Sparks: "Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience." To suppose that Washington's character was formed by these sententious bits of not very profound wisdom would be absurd; but that a series of rules which most lads would have regarded as simply dull should have been pondered by this boy indicates a soberness and strength of mind which certainly are not usual at that age. The one thought that runs through all the sayings is to practise selfcontrol, and no man ever displayed that most difficult of virtues to such a degree as George Washington. It was no ordinary boy who took such a lesson as this to heart before he was fifteen, and carried it into his daily life, never to be forgotten. It may also be said that very few boys ever needed it more; but those persons who know what they chiefly need, and pursue it, are by no means common.

1 An account of this volume was given in the New York Tribune in 1866, and also in the Historical Magazine (x. 47). It is stated that the book was presented to General Grant, and, if so, it has now passed vato the keeping of the government.

2 The most important are given in Sparks' Writings of Washington, ii. 412,



While Washington was working his way through the learning purveyed by Mr. Williams, he was also receiving another education, of a much broader and better sort, from the men and women among whom he found himself, and with whom he made friends. Chief among them was his eldest brother, Lawrence, fourteen years his senior, who had been educated in England, had fought with Vernon at Carthagena, and had then returned to Virginia, to be to him a generous father and a loving friend. As the head of the family, Lawrence Washington had received the lion's share of the property, including the estate at Hunting Creek, on the Potomac, which he christened Mount Vernon, after his admiral, and where he settled down and built him a goodly house. To this pleasant spot George Washington journeyed often in vacation time, and there he came to live and further pursue his studies, after leaving school in the autumn of 1747.

Lawrence Washington had married the daughter of William Fairfax, the proprietor of Belvoir, a neighboring plantation, and the agent for the vast estates held by his family in Virginia. George Fairfax, Mrs. Washington's brother, had married a Miss Carey, and thus two large and agreeable family connections were thrown open to the young surveyor when he emerged from school. The chief figure, however, in that pleasant winter of 1747-48, so far as an influence upon the character of Washington is concerned, was the head of the family into which Lawrence Washington had married. Thomas Lord Fairfax, then sixty years of age, had come to Virginia to live upon and look after the kingdom which he had inherited in the wilderness. He came of a noble and distinguished race. Graduating at Oxford with credit, he served in the army, dabbled in literature, had his fling in the London world, and was jilted by a beauty who preferred a duke, and gave her faithful but less titled lover an apparently incurable wound. His life having been thus early twisted and set awry, Lord Fairfax, when well past his prime, had determined finally to come to Virginia, bury himself in the forests, and look after the almost limitless possessions beyond the Blue Ridge, which he had inherited from his maternal grandfather, Lord Culpeper, of unsavory Restoration memory. It was a piece of great good-fortune which threw in Washington's path this accomplished gentleman, familiar with courts and camps, disappointed, but not morose, disillusioned, but still kindly and generous. From him the boy could gain that knowledge of men and manners which no school can give, and which is as important in its way as any that a teacher can impart.

Lord Fairfax and Washington became fast friends. They hunted the fox together, and hunted him hard. They engaged in all the rough sports and perilous excitements that Virginia winter life could afford, and the boy's bold and skilful riding, his love of sports and his fine temper, commended him to the warm and affectionate interest of the old nobleman. Other qualities, too, the experienced man of the world saw in his young companion: a high and persistent courage, robust and calm sense, and, above all, unusual force of will and character. Washington impressed profoundly everybody with whom he was brought into personal contact, a fact which is one of the most marked features of his character and career, and one which deserves study more than almost any other. Lord Fairfax was no exception to the rule. He saw in Washington not simply a promising, brave, open-hearted boy, diligent in practising his profession, and whom he was anxious to help, but something more; something which so impressed him that he confided to this lad a task which, according to its performance, would affect both his fortune and his peace. In a word, he trusted Washington, and told, him, as the spring of 1748 was opening, to go forth and survey the vast Fairfax estates beyond the Ridge, define their boundaries, and save them from future litigation. With this commission from Lord Fairfax, Wash

« ZurückWeiter »