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WORKING FOR UNION
HAVING resigned his commission, Washington stood not upon the order of his going, but went at once to Virginia, and reached Mount Vernon the next day, in season to enjoy the Christmas-tide at home. It was with a deep sigh of relief that he sat himself down again by his own fireside, for all through the war the one longing that never left his mind was for the banks of the Potomac. He loved home after the fashion of his race, but with more than common intensity, and the country life was dear to him in all its phases. He liked quiet occupations and wholesome sports, and, like most strong and simple natures, he loved above all an open-air existence. He felt that he had earned his rest, with all the temperate pleasures and em-, ployments which came with it, and he fondly believed that he was about to renew the habits which he had abandoned for eight weary years. Four days after his return he wrote to Governor Clin
ton: “The scene is at last closed. I feel myself eased of a load of public care. I hope to spend the remainder of my days in cultivating the affections of good men and in the practice of the domestic virtues.” That the hope was sincere we may well
suppose, but that it was more than a hope may
be doubted. It was a wish, not a belief, for Washington must have felt that there was still work which he would surely be called to do. Still for the present the old life was there, and he threw himself into it with eager zest, though age and care put some of the former habits aside. He resumed his hunting, and Lafayette sent him a pack of splendid French wolf-hounds. But they proved somewhat fierce and unmanageable, and were given up, and after that the following of the hounds was never resumed. In other respects there was little change. The work of the plantation and the affairs of the estate, much disordered by his absence, once more took shape and moved on successfully under the owner's eye. There were, as of old, the long days in the saddle, the open house and generous hospitality, the quiet evenings, and the thousand and one simple labors and enjoyments of rural life. But with all this were the newer and deeper cares, born of the change which had been wrought in the destiny of the country. The past broke in and could not be pushed aside, the future knocked at the door and demanded an an. swer to its questionings.
He had left home a distinguished Virginian; he
returned one of the most famous men in the world, and such celebrity brought its usual penalties. Every foreigner of any position who came to the country made a pilgrimage to Mount Vernon, and many Americans did the same. Their coming was not allowed to alter the mode of life, but they were all hospitably received, and they consumed many hours of their host's precious time. Then there were the artists and sculptors, who came to paint his portrait or model his bust.
“In for a penny, in for a pound is an old adage,” he wrote to Hopkinson in 1785. “I am so hackneyed to the touches of painters' pencils that I am now altogether at their beck, and sit ‘like patience on a monument,' whilst they are delineating the lines of my face. It is a proof, among many others, of what habit and custom can accomplish." Then there were the people who desired to write his memoirs, and the historians who wished to have his reminiscences, in their accounts of the Reyolu. tion. Some of these inquiring and admiring souls came in person, while others assailed him by letter and added to the vast flood of correspondence which poured in upon him by every post. His correspondence, in fact, in the needless part of it, was the most formidable waste of his time. He seems to have formed no correct idea of his own fame and what it meant, for he did not have a secretary until he found not only that he could not arrange his immense mass of papers, but that he could not even keep up with his daily letters. His corre
spondence came from all parts of his own country, and of Europe as well. The French officers who had been his companions in arms wrote him with af. fectionate interest, and he was urged by them, one and all, and even by the king and queen, to visit France. These were letters which he was only too happy to answer, and he would fain have crossed the water in response to their kindly invitation; but he professed himself too old, which was a mere excuse, and objected his ignorance of the language, which to a man of his temperament was a real obstacle. Besides these letters of friendship, there were the schemers everywhere who sought his counsel and assistance. The notorious Lady Huntington, for example, pursued him with her project of Christianizing the Indians by means of a missionary colony in our western region, and her persistent ladyship cost him a good deal of time and thought, and some long and careful letters. Then there was the inventor Rumsey, with his steamboat, to which he gave careful attention, as he did to everything that seemed to have merit. Another class of correspondents were his officers, who wanted his aid with Congress and in a thousand other ways,
and to these old comrades he never turned a deaf ear.
In this connection also came the affairs of the Society of the Cincinnati. He took an active part in the formation of the society, became its head, steered it through its early difficulties, and finally saved it from the wreck with which it was threatened by unreasoning popular