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and only his infant years were passed under the roof where he first saw the light; for fire destroyed the house, and his father removed to an estate in Stafford county, near Fredericksburg,' and dwelt in an equally plain mansion, pleasantly seated near the north bank of the Rappahannock River.
Of the birth-place of Washington nothing now remains but chimney and a few scattered bricks and stones; and around it, where the smiles of highest culture were once seen, there is an aspect of desolation that makes the heart feel sad. Some decayed fig trees and tangled shrubs and vines, with here and there a pine and cedar sapling, tell, with silent eloquence, of neglect and ruin, and that decay has laid its blighting fingers
upon every work of man there. The vault of the Washington family, wherein many were buried, is so neglected that some of the remains exposed to view have been carried away by plunderers. All around it are stunted trees, shrubs, and briers; and near it may be seen fragments of slabs once set up in commemoration of some of that honored family.
On the spot where Washington was born, the late George Washington Parke Custis, a grandson of Mrs. Washington, placed a piece of freestone in 1815, with the simple inscription:
GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS BORN
“We gathered together," says Mr. Custis, in a published account, "the bricks of the ancient chimney that once formed the hearth around which Washington, in his infancy, had played, and constructed a rude kind of pedestal, on which we reverently placed the FIRST STONE, commending it to the respect and protection of the American people in general, and the citizens of Westmoreland in particular.” But such respect and protection have been withheld, and that stone is now in fragments and overgrown with brambles.
In this vicinity lived some of the Lees, always a distinguished family in Virginia; and one of the most intimate of Washington's friends, in his earliest childhood, was Richard Henry Lee, afterward the eminent statesman and patriot. They were very nearly of the same age, Lee being one month the oldest. I have before me a copy of a letter written by each when they were nine years old, and which are supposed to be among the earliest, perhaps the very first, epistles penned by these illustrious men. They were sent to me a few years ago, by a son of Richard Henry Lee (who then possessed the originals), and are as follows:
RICHARD HENRY LEE TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.
“Pa brought me two pretty books full of pictures he got them in Alexandria they have pictures of dogs and cats and tigers and elefants and ever so many pretty things cousin bids me send you one of them it has a picture of an elefant and a little indian boy on his back like uncle jo’s sam pa says if I learn my tasks good he will let uncle jo bring me to see you will you ask your ma to let you come to see me.
“Richard henry Lee.”
GEORGE WASHINGTON'S REPLY.
“Dear Dickey I thank you very much for the pretty picture book you gave me.
Sam asked me to show him the
pictures and I showed him all the pictures in it; and I read to him how the tame Elephant took care of the master's little boy, and put him on his back and would not let any body touch his master's little son. I can read three or four pages sometimes without missing a word. Ma says I may go to see you and stay all day with you next week if it be not rainy. She says I may ride my pony Hero if Uncle Ben will go with me and lead Hero. I have a little piece of poetry about the picture book you gave me, but I mustnt tell you who wrote the poetry.*
“G. W.'s compliments to R. H. L.,
“Your good friend,
“I am going to get a whip top soon, and you may see it ind whip it."
Augustine Washington died in the spring of 1743, when his son George was eleven years of age, and by his last will and testament bequeathed his estate of Hunting Croek, upon a bay and stream of that name, near Alexandria, to Lawrence Washington, a son by his first wife, Jane Butler.
It was a
* In a letter to me, accompanying the two juvenile epistles, Mr. Lee writes "The letter of Richard Henry Lee was written by himself, and, uncorrected, was sent by him to his boy-friend, George Washington. The poetical effusion was, I have heard, written by a Mr. Howard, a gentleman who used to visit at the house of Mr. Washington."
noble domain of many hundred acres, stretching for miles along the Potomac, and bordering the estates of the Fairfaxes, Masons, and other distinguished families.
Lawrence, who seems to have inherited the military spirit of his family, had lately been to the wars. Admiral Vernon, commander-in-chief of England's navy in the West Indies, had lately chastised the Spaniards for their depredations upon British commerce, by capturing Porto Bello, on the isthmus of Darien. The Spaniards prepared to strike an avenging blow, and the French determined to help them. England and her colonies were aroused. Four regiments, for service in the West Indies, were to be raised in the American col