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Thus minutely journalizing his agricultural proceedings, keeping his own accounts, making all his own surveys, and, even before the Revolution, having an extensive correspond
20 "Beganto Manufacture my Wheat with the water of Piney Branch, which being insu, est to keep the Mill constantly al work, & County Custom com ing in no greet proogress родн
FAC-SIMILE OF ENTRY IN WASHINGTON'S DIARY.
ence, Washington found much daily employment for his pen. The labors in his library, and a visit to his stables, usually occupied the hours before breakfast. After making a frugal meal of Indian cakes, honey, and tea or coffee, he would mount his horse and visit every part of his estate where the current operations seemed to require his presence, leaving his guests to enjoy themselves with books and papers, or otherwise, according to their choice. He rode upon his farms entirely unattended, opening the gates, pulling down and putting up the fences, and inspecting, with a careful eye, every agricultural operation, and personally directing the manner in which many should be performed. Sometimes the tour of his farms, in the course of the morning might average, in distance, twelve or fifteen miles; and on these occasions his appearance was exceedingly plain. The late Mr. Custis, his adopted son, has left on record a description of him on one of these occasions, in
the latter years of his life, which he gave to a gentleman who was out in search of Washington:
"You will meet, sir," said young Custis to the inquirer, "with an old gentleman riding alone, in plain drab clothes, a broad-brimmed white hat, a hickory switch in his hand, and carrying an umbrella with a long staff which is attached to his saddle-bow-that, person, sir, is General Washington."* The umbrella was used to shelter him from the sun, for his skin was tender and easily affected by its rays.
His breakfast hour was seven o'clock in summer and eight in winter, and he dined at three. He always ate heartily, but was no epicure. His usual beverage was small beer or cider, and Madeira wine. Of the latter he often drank several small glasses at a sitting. He took tea and toast, or a little wellbaked bread, early in the evening, conversed with or read to his family, when there were no guests, and usually, whether there was company or not, retired for the night at about nine o'clock.
So carefully did Washington manage his farms, that they became very productive. His chief crops were wheat and tobacco, and these were very large-so large that vessels that came up the Potomac, took the tobacco and flour directly from his own wharf, a little below his deer-park in front of his mansion, and carried them to England or the West Indies. So noted were these products for their quality, and so faithfully were they put up, that any barrel of flour bearing the brand of “GEORGE WASHINGTON, MOUNT VERNON," was exempted from the customary inspection in the British West India ports.
* "Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington, by his Adopted Son,” page 168.
Upon the spot where that old wharf once stood, at the foot of a shaded ravine scooped from the high bank of the Potomac, through which flows a clear stream from a spring, is a rickety modern structure, placed there for the accommodation of visitors to Mount Vernon, who are conveyed thither by a steamboat twice a week. There may be seen the same ravine, the same broad river, the same pleasant shores of Maryland beyond; but, instead of the barrels of flour, the quintals of fish, and the hogsheads of tobacco which appeared there in Washington's time, well-dressed men and women-true pil
grims to a hallowed shrine, or mere idle gazers upon the burial place of a great man-throng that wharf as they arrive and depart on their errands of patriotism or of curiosity.
And now the dawn of great events, in which Washington was to be a conspicuous actor, glowed in the eastern sky. From the Atlantic seaboard, where marts of commerce had begun to spread their meshes (then small and feeble) for the world's traffic, came a sound of tumult; and the red presages of a tempest appeared in that glowing orient. At first, that sound was like a low whisper upon the morning air, and, finally, it boomed like a thunder-peal over the hills and valleys of the interior, arousing the inhabitants to the defence of the immunities of freemen and the inalienable rights of man.
Time after time, for the space of a hundred years, the decree had gone forth from British councils, that the Anglo-American colonists should be the commercial as well as political vassals of the crown; and chains of restrictions upon trade had been forged by an unwise and unrighteous policy, and fastened upon the lusty arms of the young giant of the West. And from time to time the giant, not all unconscious of his strength, yet docile because loyal, had spoken out mild remonstrances with deferential words. These had been heard with scorn, and answered by renewed offences.
An extravagant administration had exhausted the national exchequer, and the desperate spendthrift, too proud to borrow of itself by curtailing its expenditures, seemed to think nothing more honorable than a plea of bankruptcy, and sought to replenish its coffers by taking the money of the Americans without their consent, in the form of indirect taxation. This was in violation of the great republican postulate, that
TAXATION AND REPRESENTATION ARE INSEPARABLE.
And when the well-known stamp act was signed by the king, and its requirements and its penalties were proclaimed in America, the tempest of which we have spoken was aroused It swept from the sea to the mountains, and from the mountains to the sea, until those who had sown the wind, were alarmed at the harvest they were reaping.
At Mount Vernon there was a spirit that looked calmly, but not unconcernedly, upon the storm, and, with prophetic vision, seemed to perceive upon the shadowy political sky the horoscope of his own destiny. Washington was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, and had listened from his seat to the burning words of Patrick Henry, when he enunciated those living truths, for the maintenance of which the husbandman of Mount Vernon drew his sword a few years later. His soul was fired with the sense of oppression and the thoughts of freedom, yet his sober judgment and calculating prudence repressed demonstrative enthusiasm, and made him a firm, yet conservative patriot.
Among those who came to Mount Vernon at this time, and for years afterward, to consult with Washington respecting public affairs, was his neighbor and friend of Gunston Hall, George Mason. He was six years older than Washington, of large, sinewy frame, an active step and gait, locks of raven blackness, a dark complexion, and a grave countenance, which was lighted up by a black eye, whose glance was felt with power by those upon whom it chanced to fall. He was one of the most methodical of men, and most extensive of the Virginia planters at that time; and like Washington from Mount Vernon, shipped his crops from his own wharf, near his elegant