« ZurückWeiter »
ment of public surveyor, and upon the records of Culpepper county may be read, under date of July 20th, 1749 (O. S.), that "GEORGE WASHINGTON, Gent., produced a commission from the President and Master of William and Mary College, appointing him to be surveyor of this county, which was read, and thereupon he took the usual oaths to his Majesty's person and government, and took and subscribed the abjuration oath and test, and then took the oath of a surveyor, according to law." Part of each year he was beyond the Alleghanies, with no other instruments than compass and chain, acquiring strength of limb and purpose for future great achievements, and putting money in his purse at the rate of a doubloon and sometimes six pistoles a day. These expeditions he always remembered as the greatest pleasures of his youth.
After Washington's death, more than fifty years later, the simple compass and chain and other mathematical instruments of his earlier and later years, were distributed among his family connections, but only one of them, a small library instrument, was mentioned in his will, as follows:
"To David Stuart I give my large shaving and dressing table, and my telescope."
Dr. Stuart married the widow of John Parke Custis, the son of Mrs. Washington. The telescope is now in possession of his granddaughter, wife of the Reverend A. B. Atkins, of Germantown, Pennsylvania.
And now another and more extended field of action opened before the young resident at Mount Vernon. Beneath the roof of that pleasant mansion, toward the spring of 1751, he received from acting Governor Burwell the commission of adjutant of his military district, with the rank and pay of
major. It was an acceptable honor. His military spirit was kindling; for it had been fanned by old Major Muse, a fellow-soldier with Lawrence at Carthagena, who was a fre
quent and welcome guest at Mount Vernon, and by the stout Dutchman, Van Braam (who afterward figured ingloriously in history), who had taught him the art of fencing.
Young Washington had scarcely taken his initial steps in the performance of his new duties when he was drawn from. public life. Dark and ominous shadows were alternating with the sweet domestic sunlight that smiled so pleasantly around Mount Vernon. They were cast by the raven wing of the angel of disease. A hectic glow was upon the cheeks
of Lawrence Washington, and his physicians advised him to go to the more genial climate of Barbadoes in search of health. George went with him. It was in bright September, 1751, when they sailed, and in dark and stormy January he returned to tell the anxious wife of his brother that her loved one must go to Bermuda in the spring; for the hectic glow was growing brighter and his manly strength less. She was preparing to join him there, when word came that hope's promises had.faded forever, and that her husband was coming home to die. He came when the bloom of May was upon the land, and before the close of July he was laid in the grave, at the early age of thirty-four years, leaving a wife and infant child.
And now George Washington, a noble youth of twenty, his fine manly face a little scarred by the smallpox, that seized him while he was in Barbadoes, was at Mount Vernon as the faithful executor of the last will and testament of his brother. He was also prospective heir of that whole beautiful domain, Lawrence having left it to his daughter, with the proviso that in the event of her death that and other lands should become the property of George. That contingency soon occurred. Little Jenny died, and George Washington became the owner of Mount Vernon. Already, by the will of his father, he was the proprietor of the paternal estate on the Rappahannock. Now he ranked among the wealthier of the planters of the Old Dominion.
The development of great and stirring events soon called Washington to the forests, not with compass and chain, and field-book, but with sword and pistol, and diplomatic com mission. Then his hero-life began.
For a thousand years a national feud had existed between Gauls and Britons-French and English; and their colonists, seated a little way apart in the New World, cherished this sentiment of utter dislike. It was intensified by jealousy; for they were competitors for a prize no less than that of supreme dominion in America.
The English were planters-the French were traders; and while the stations of the latter were several hundred miles in the interior, away from the settlements of the former, on the seaboard, the equanimity of both parties was quite undisturbed. But when, after the capture of Louisburg by the English, in 1745, the French adopted vigorous measures for opposing the extension of British power in America; when they built strong vessels at the foot of Lake Ontario; made treaties of friendship and alliance with the Delaware and Shawnee tribes of Indians; strengthened their fortress at the mouth of the Niagara River, and commenced the erection of a cordon of fortifications, more than sixty in number, between Montreal and New Orleans, the English were aroused to immediate and effective action, in defence of the territorial rights conceded to them in their ancient charters. By virtue of these, they claimed absolute dominion westward to the Pacific Ocean, south of the latitude of the north shore of Lake Erie; while the French claimed a title to all the territory watered by the Mississippi and its tributaries, because they had made the first explorations and settlements in that region. The claims of the real owner-the Indian-were not considered. It was a significant question, asked by a messenger sent by sachems to Mr. Gist, agent of the English Ohio Com pany —“Where is the Indian's land? The English claim it
all on one side of the river, the French on the other. Where does the Indian's land lie?"
At length English traders who went to the Ohio region were driven away or imprisoned by the French, and the latter commenced building forts south of Lake Erie. Governor Dinwiddie, of Virginia, thought these proceedings rather insolent, and he sent Major Washington, then less than twentytwo years of age, to carry a letter of remonstrance to the French commander in that region.
Seven persons besides Major Washington composed the expedition, and among them was Van Braam, Washington's Dutch fencing-master, who could speak French fluently, and went as interpreter. They assembled at Williamsburg, and made every preparation for a journey of several hundred miles on horseback, through an unbroken wilderness. They were furnished by the governor with horses, pack-saddles, tent, arms, ammunition, a leathern camp-chest, provisions,
and every other necessary, and on the 31st of October, 1753, departed for the head-waters of the Ohio. They made a most