Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER II.

THE WASHINGTONS.

Such was the world and such the community which counted as a small fraction the Washington family. Our immediate concern is with that family, for before we approach the man we must know his ancestors. The greatest leader of scientific thought in this century has come to the aid of the genealogist, and given to the results of the latter's somewhat discredited labors a vitality and meaning which it seemed impossible that dry and dusty pedigrees and barren tables of descent should ever possess. We have always selected our race-horses according to the doctrines of evolution, and we now study the character of a great man by examining first the history of his forefathers.

Washington made so great an impression upon the world in his lifetime that genealogists at once undertook for him the construction of a suitable pedigree. The excellent Sir Isaac Heard, garter king-at-arms, worked out a genealogy which seemed reasonable enough, and then wrote to the president in relation to it. Washington in reply thanked him for his politeness, sent him the Virginian genealogy of his own branch, and after expressing a courteous interest said, in his simple and direct fashion, that he had been a busy man and had paid but little attention to the subject. His knowledge about his English forefathers was in fact extremely slight. He had heard merely that the first of the name in Virginia had come from one of the northern counties of England, but whether from Lancashire or Yorkshire, or one still more northerly, he could not tell. Sir Isaac was not thoroughly satisfied with the correctness of his own work, but presently Baker took it up in his history of Northamptonshire, and perfected it to his own satisfaction and that of the world in general. This genealogy derived Washington's descent from the owners of the manor of Sulgrave, in Northamptonshire, and thence carried it back to the Norman knight, Sir William de Hertburn. According to this pedigree the Virginian settlers, John and Lawrence, were the sons of Lawrence Washington of Sulgrave Manor, and this genealogy was adopted by Sparks and Irving, as well as by the public at large. Twenty years ago, however, Colonel Chester, by his researches, broke beyond repair the most essential link in the chain forged by Heard and Baker, proving clearly that the Virginian settlers could not have been the sons of Lawrence of Sulgrave, as identified by the garter king-at-arms. Still more recently the mythical spirit has taken violent possession of the Washington ancestry, and an ingenious gentleman has traced the pedigree of our first president back to Thorfinn and thence to Odin, which is sufficiently remote, dignified, and lofty to satisfy the most exacting Welshman that ever lived. Still the breach made by Colonel Chester has not been repaired, although many writers, including some who should know better, cling with undiminished faith to the Heard pedigree. It is known that Colonel Chester himself believed that he had found the true line, coming, it is supposed, through & younger branch of the Sulgrave race, but he died before he had discovered the one bit of evidence necessary to prove an essential step, and he was too conscientiously accurate to leave anything to conjecture. Thus we are left with no certain knowledge of Washington's forefathers beyond the Virginian settlers, John and Lawrence. There can be, however, little doubt that the two emigrants came of the Sulgrave stock, although the exact connection has not been established. The identity of arms and of Christian names seems to prove them scions of that race, and the failure to connect them with any other family of the name in England corroborates this theory." In that interesting land where * Colonel Chester (N. E. Historical Register, vol. xxi., 1867, p.25) lays stress on the president's statement that his ancestor was said to come from Lancashire or Yorkshire, or some more northerly county, and seems to imply that this, excluding as it does Northamptonshire, makes against the identity of Sir Isaac Heard's John Washington with the Virginian emigrant. I have found a little evidence on this subject which seems to have been hitherto unnoticed, and which tends to show that the Virginia everything, according to our narrow ideas, is upside down, it is customary, when an individual arrives at distinction, to confer nobility upon his ancestors instead of his children. The Washingtons offer an interesting example of the application of this Chinese system in the Western world, for, if they have not been actually ennobled in recognition of the deeds of their great descendant, they have at least become the subjects of intense and general interest. Every one of the name who could be discovered anywhere has been dragged forth into the light, and has had all that was known about him duly recorded and set down. By scanning family trees and pedigrees, and picking up stray bits of information here and there, we can learn in a rude and general fashion what manner of men those were who claimed descent from William of Hertburn, and who bore the name of Washington in the mother-country. As Mr. Galton passes a hundred faces before the same highly sensitized plate, 1676 (Force's Hist. Tracts, i.), is addressed “to Mr. C. H., at Yardly, in Northamptonshire,” probably Yardly-Hastings, about eight miles from Northampton, and consequently very near Sulgrave Manor. At the beginning (p. 1) the writer refers to the commander of the Virginians in the first campaign against the Indians as “one Colonel Washington (him whom you have sometimes seen at your house).” This suggests very strongly that John Washington, the first Virginian of the name, was of Northamptonshire, and that he came from, or lived in the neighborhood of, Sulgrave Manor, and therefore belonged to that family. Had he lived all his life in Yorkshire it is not probable that Mr. C. H. would have seen him much at his house in Yardly. [Since the publication of these volumes, the researches of Mr. Waters have proved Washington's descent from the Sulgrave family and therefore the correctness of the theory advanced in the text.]

emigrants were not from the northerly counties. The well-known account of the Baconian troubles, written by Mrs. Ann Cotton in

and gets a photograph which is a likeness of no one of his subjects, and yet resembles them all, so we may turn the camera of history upon these Washingtons, as they flash up for a moment from the dim past, and hope to get what Professor Huxley calls a “generic * picture of the race, even if the outlines be somewhat blurred and indistinct. In the North of England, in the region conquered first by Saxons and then by Danes, lies the little village of Washington. It came into the possession of Sir William de Hertburn, and belonged to him at the time of the Boldon Book in 1183. Soon after, he or his descendants took the name of De Wessyngton, and there they remained for two centuries, knights of the palatinate, holding their lands by a military tenure, fighting in all the wars, and taking part in tournaments with becoming splendor. By the beginning of the fifteenth century the line of feudal knights of the palatinate was extinct, and the manor passed from the family by the marriage of Dionisia de Wessyngton. But the main stock had in the mean time thrown out many offshoots, which had taken firm root in other parts of England. We hear of several who came in various ways to eminence. There was the learned and vigorous prior of Durham, John De Wessyngton, probably one of the original family, and the name appears in various places after his time in records and on monuments, indicating a flourishing and increasing race. Lawrence Washington, in the sixteenth century, was the mayor of Northampton, and received from King Henry VIII, the manor of

« ZurückWeiter »