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and must, as I have been obliged to do in a variety of instances, yield to necessity; that is, to use a vul. gar phrase, 'shape his coat according to his cloth,' or in other words, if he cannot do as he wishes, he must do what he can.' The philosophy is homely and common enough, but the manner in which the reproof was administered shows kindly tact, one of the most difficult of arts. Here is another passage, touching on something outside the range of war and politics. He was writing to Lund Washington in regard to Mrs. Washington's daughterin-law, Mrs. Custis, who was contemplating a second marriage. “For my own part,” he said, “I never did, nor do I believe I ever shall, give advice to a woman who is setting out on a matrimonial voyage: first, because I never could advise one to marry without her own consent; and secondly, because I know it is to no purpose to advise her to refrain when she has obtained it.
A woman very rarely asks an opinion or requires advice on such an occasion till her resolution is formed; and then it is with the hope and expectation of obtaining a sanction, not that she means to be governed by your disapprobation, that she applies. In a word, the plain English of the application may be summed up in these words : ‘I wish you to think as I do; but if unhappily you differ from me in opinion, my heart, I must confess, is fixed, and I have gone too far now to retract.'
In the same spirit, but this time with a lurking smile at himself, did he write to the secretary of
Congress for his commission: “If my commission is not necessary for the files of Congress, I should be glad to have it deposited among my own papers. It may serve my grandchildren, some fifty or a hundred years hence, for a theme to ruminate upon, if they should be contemplatively disposed.”
He knew human nature well, and had a smile for its little weaknesses when they came to his mind. It was this same human sympathy which made him also love amusements of all sorts; but he was as little their slave as their enemy.
No man ever carried great burdens with a higher or more serious spirit, but his cares never made him forbidding, nor rendered him impatient of the pleasure of others. He liked to amuse himself, and knew the value of a change of thought and scene, and he was always ready, when duty permitted, for a chat. He liked to take a comfortable seat and have his talk out, and he had the talent so rare in great men of being a good and appreciative listener. We hear of him playing cards at Tappan during the war, and he was always fond of a game in the evening, realizing the force of Talleyrand's remark to the despiser of cards: “Quelle triste vieillesse vous vous préparez.' In 1779 it is recorded that at a party he danced for three hours with Mrs. Greene without sitting down or resting, which speaks well for the health and spirits both of the lady and the gentleman. Even after Yorktown, he was ready to walk a minuet at a ball, and to the end he liked to see young people dance, as he had danced himself in his youth. As
has been seen from his treatment of Bernard, he liked the theatre and the actors, and when he was in Philadelphia he was a constant attendant at the play, as he had been ever since he went to see “ George Barnwell” in the Barbadoes. His love of horses stayed with him to the last. He not only rode and drove and trained horses, but he enjoyed the sport of the race-course. He was probably aware, like the Shah of Persia who declined to go to the Derby, that one horse could run faster than another, but nevertheless he liked to see them run, and we hear of him, after he had reached the presidency, acting as judge at a race, and seeing his own colt Magnolia beaten, which he no doubt considered the next best thing to winning.
He had, indeed, in all ways a thoroughly well. balanced mind and temper. In great affairs he knew how to spare himself the details to which others could attend as well as he, and yet he was in no wise a despiser of small things. Before the Revolution, there was a warm discussion in the Truro parish as to the proper site for the Pohick Church. Washington and George Mason led respectively the opposing forces, and each confidently asserted that the site he preferred was the most convenient for the largest number of parishioners. Finally, after much debate and no conclusion, Washington appeared at a vestry meeting with a collection of statistics. He had measured the distance from each proposed site to the house of each parishioner, and found, as he declared, that his site was nearer
to more people than the other. It is needless to add that he carried his point, and that the spot he desired for the church was the one chosen.
The fact was that, if he confided a task of any sort to another, he let it go on without meddling ; but if he undertook anything himself, he did it with the utmost thoroughness, and there is much success in this capacity to take pains even in small things. He managed his plantations entirely himself when he was at home, and did it well. He knew the qualities of each field, and the rotation of its crops. No improvement in agriculture and no ingenious invention escaped his attention, although he was not to be carried away by mere novelty, which had such a fascination for his ex-secretary at Monticello. Every resource of his estate was turned to good use, and his flour and tobacco commanded absolute confidence with his brand upon
them. He followed in the same painstaking way all his business affairs, and his accounts, all in his own hand, are wonderfully minute and accurate. He was very exact in all business as well as very shrewd at a bargain, and the tradition is that his neighbors considered the General a formidable man in a horse-trade, that most difficult of transactions. Parkinson mentions that everything purchased or brought to the house was weighed, measured, or counted, generally in the presence of the master himself. In this respect he undoubtedly wasted time and strength, but his untiring industry and his capacity for work were so great that he accom.
plished all this drudgery without ever neglecting more important duties. It was a satisfaction to him to do it; for he was methodical and exact to the last degree, and he was never happy unless he held everything in which he was concerned easily within his grasp.
He had the same attention to details in external things, and he wished everything about him to be of the best, if not “express'd in fancy." He had the handsomest carriages and the finest horses always in his stables. It was necessary that the furniture of his house should be as good as could be procured, and he was most particular in regard to it. Wben he was preparing as President to move to Philadelphia, he made the most searching inquiries as to horses, stables, servants, schools for young Custis, and everything affecting the household. He sent at the same time most minute directions to his agents as to the furniture of his house, touching upon everything, down to the color of the curtains and the form of his wine-coolers. He had a like feeling in regard to dress. His fancy for handsome and appropriate dress in his youth has already been alluded to, but he never ceased to take an interest in it; and in a letter to McHenry, written in the last year of his life, he discusses with great care the details of the uniform to be prescribed for himself as commander-in-chief of the new army. It would be a mistake, of course, to infer that he was a dandy, or that he gave to dress and furniture the importance set upon them