This series about George Washington is inspired by a four volume set of books that is entitled “Life of George Washington”. Written by Washington Irving in 1855. This man was lucky enough to have access to a whole lot of original documents that most of them are now in the Smithsonian Institute today. Since I have this four volume set I decided to share some very valuable sections of these books. I will continue to read the other three volumes and dig out more of these treasures in the future, but for the moment here are some of the things that I got out of Volume 1.
Some of the different things that I would like you to take in is the character of this man, he was truly a man of devout character and this is shown throughout his interactions with his enemies as well as his countrymen. Enjoy the read!!!!!!!!!
P.95 year 1753 (Betrayed by an Indian guide)
Washington began to apprehend an ambuscade of savages. He knew the hostility of many of them to the English, and what a desirable trophy was the scalp of a white man. The Indian still kept on toward the north; he pretended to hear two whoops – they were from his cabin- it could not be far off.
They went on two miles further, when Washington signified his determination to encamp at the first water they should find. The guide said nothing but kept doggedly on. After a little while they arrived at an opening in the woods, and emerging from the deep shadows in which they had been travelling, found themselves in a clear meadow, rendered still more light by the glare of the snow upon the ground. Scarcely had they emerged when the Indian, who was about fifteen paces ahead, suddenly turned, levelled his gun, and fired. Washington was startled for an instant, but, feeling that he was not wounded, demanded quickly of Mr. Gist if he was shot. The latter answered in the negative. The Indian in the mean time had run forward, and screened himself behind a large white oak, where he was reloading his gun. They overtook, and seized him. Gist would have put him to death on the spot, but Washington humanely prevented him. They permitted him to finish the loading of his gun; but, after he had put in the ball, took his weapon from him, and let him see that he was under guard.
P. 114 & 115 year 1754 (Character & Honor)
“I am determined not to leave the regiment, but to be among the last men that leave the Ohio; even if I serve as a private volunteer, which I greatly prefer to the establishment we are upon. I have a constitution hardy enough to encounter and undergo the most severe trials, and I flatter myself resolution to face what any man dares as shall be proved when it comes to the test.”
And in a letter to his friend Colonel Fairfax- “For my own part,” writes he, “it is a matter almost indifferent whether I serve for full pay or as a generous volunteer; indeed, did my circumstances correspond with my inclinations, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter; for the motives that have led me here are pure and noble. I had no view of acquisition but that of honor, by serving faithfully my king and country.”
P. 118 year 1754 (First Fire Fight)
A plan was now concerted to come upon them by surprise: Washington with his men on the right; the half king with his warriors on the left; all as silently as possible. Washington was the first upon the ground. As he advanced from among the rocks and trees at the head of his men, the French caught sight of him and ran to their arms. A sharp firing instantly took place, and was kept up on both sides for about fifteen minutes. Washington and his party were most exposed, and received all the enemy’s fire. The balls whistled around him; one man was killed close by him, and three others wounded. The French at length having lost several of their number, gave way and ran. They were soon overtaken; twenty-one were captured, and but one escaped, a Canadian, who carried the tidings of the affair to the fort on the Ohio. The Indians would have massacred the prisoners had not Washington prevented them. Ten of the French had fallen in the skirmish, and one been wounded. Washington’s loss was the one killed and three wounded which we have mentioned. He had been in the hottest fire, and having for the first time heard balls whistle about him, considered his escape miraculous. Jumonville, the French leader, had been shot through the head at the first fire. He was a young officer of merit, and his fate was made the subject of lamentation in prose and verse-chiefly through political motives.
P.120 & 121 year 1754 (Perceptive of character)
The prisoners were accordingly conducted to the camp at the Great Meadows, and sent on the following day (29th), under a strong escort, to Governor Dinwiddie, then at Winchester. Washington had treated them with great courtesy; had furnished Drouillon and La Force with clothing from his own scanty stock, and, at their request, given them letters to the governor, bespeaking for them “the respect and favor due to their character and personal merit.”
A sense of duty, however, obliged him, in his general dispatch, to put the governor on his guard against La Force. “I really think, if released, he would do more to our disservice than fifty other men, as he is a person whose active spirit leads him into all parties, and has brought him acquainted with all parts of the country. Add to this a perfect knowledge of the Indian tongue, and great influence with the Indians.”
P. 123 year 1754 (Letter to his brother/Excitement of War)
The fact is, that Washington was in a high state of military excitement. He was a young soldier; had been for the first time in action, and been successful. The letters we have already quoted show, in some degree, the fervor of his mind, and his readiness to brave the worst; but a short letter, written to one of his brothers, on the 31st, lays open the recesses of his heart.
“We expect every hour to be attacked by superior force; but if they forbear but one day longer we shall be prepared for them. We have already got intrenchments, and are about a palisade, which, I hope, will be finished today. The Mingoes have struck the French, and, I hope, will give a good blow before they have done. I expect forty odd of them here tonight, which, with our fort, and some reinforcements from Colonel Fry, will enable us to exert our noble courage with spirit.”
Alluding in a postscript to the late affair, he adds: “I fortunately escaped without any wound; for the right wing, where I stood, was exposed to, and received, all the enemy’s fire; and it was the part where the man was killed and the rest wounded. I heard the bullets whistle, and, believe me, there is something charming in the sound.”
P. 386 year 1773 (Boston being blockaded by the British)
“Boston is to be blockaded! Boston is to be reduced to obedience by force or famine!” The spirit of the yeomanry was aroused. They sent in word to the inhabitants promising to come to their aid if necessary; and urging them to stand fast to the faith. Affairs were coming to a crisis. It was predicted that the new acts of Parliament would bring on “a most important and decisive trial.”
P. 392 year 1773 (Washington addresses the Convention of representatives)
On the 1st of August, the Convention of representatives from all parts of Virginia assembled at Williamsburg. Washington appeared on behalf of Fairfax County, and presented the resolutions, already cited, as the sense of his constituents. He is said, by one who was present, to have spoken in support of them in a strain of uncommon eloquence, which shows how his latent ardor had been excited on the occasion, as eloquence was not in general among his attributes. It is evident, however, that he was roused to an unusual pitch of enthusiasm, for he is said to have declared that he was ready to raise one thousand men, subsist them at his own expense, and march at their head to the relief of Boston.
P. 394-396 year 1773 (The British try to crush the American Spirit)
Washington had formed a correct opinion of the position of General Gage. From the time of taking command at Boston, he had been perplexed how to manage its inhabitants. Had they been hot-headed, impulsive, and prone to paroxysm, his task would have been comparatively easy; but it was the cool, shrewd common sense, by which all their movements were regulated, that confounded him.
High-handed measures had failed of the anticipated effect. Their harbor had been thronged with ships; their town with troops. The port bill had put an end to commerce; wharves were deserted, warehouses closed; streets grass-grown and silent. The rich were growing poor, and the poor were without employ; yet the spirit of the people was unbroken. There was no uproar, however; no riots; every thing was awfully systematic and according to rule. Town meetings were held, in which public rights and public measures were eloquently discussed by John Adams, Josiah Quincy, and other eminent men. Over these meetings, Samuel Adams presided as moderator; a man clear in judgment, calm in conduct, inflexible in resolution; deeply grounded in civil and political history, and infallible on all points of constitutional law.
Alarmed at the powerful influence of these assemblages, government issued an act prohibiting them after the 1st of August. The act was evaded by convoking the meetings before that day, and keeping them alive indefinitely. Gage was at a loss how to act. It would not do to disperse these assemblages by force of arms; for, the people who composed them mingled the soldier with the polemic; and, like their prototypes, the covenanters of yore, if prone to argue, were as ready to fight. So the meetings continued to be held pertinaciously. Faneuil Hall was at times unable to hold them, and they swarmed from that revolutionary hive into old South Church. The liberty tree became a rallying place for any popular movement, and a flag hoisted on it was saluted by all processions as the emblem of the popular cause.
Opposition to the new plan of government assumed a more violent aspect at the extremity of the province, and was abetted by Connecticut. “It is very high,” writes Gage, (August 27th), “in Berkshire County, and makes way rapidly to the rest. At Worcester they threaten resistance, purchase arms, provide powder, cast balls, and threaten to attack any troops who may oppose them. I apprehend I shall soon have to march a body of troops into that township.”
The time appointed for the meeting of the General Congress at Philadelphia was now at hand. Delegates had already gone on from Massachusetts. “It is not possible to guess,” writes Gage, “what a body composed of such heterogeneous matter will determine; but the members from hence, I am assured, will promote the most haughty and insolent resolves; for their plan has ever been, by threats and high-sounding sedition, to terrify and intimidate.”
P. 398 – 401 year 1774 (First Assembly of Congress)
Congress assembled on Monday, the 5th of September, in a large room in Carpenter’s Hall. There were fifty-one delegates, representing all the colonies excepting Georgia.
The meeting has been described as “awfully solemn.” The most eminent men of the various colonies were now for the first time brought together; they were known to each other by fame, but were, personally, strangers. The object which had called them together, was of incalculable magnitude. The liberties of no less than three millions of people, with that of all their posterity, were staked on the wisdom and energy of their councils.
“It is such an assembly,” writes John Adams, who was present, “as never before came together on a sudden, in any part of the world. Here are fortunes, abilities, learning, eloquence, acuteness, equal to any I ever met with in my life. Here is a diversity of religions, educations, manners, interests, such as it would seem impossible to unite in one plan of conduct.”
There being an inequality in the number of delegates from the different colonies, a question arose as to the mode of voting; whether by colonies, or by the poll, or by interests.
Patrick Henry scouted the idea of sectional distinctions or individual interests. “All America,” said he, “is thrown into one mass. Where are your landmarks- your boundaries of colonies? They are all thrown down. The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers and New Englanders, are no more. I am not a Virginian, but an American.”
After some debate, it was determined that each colony should have but one vote, whatever might be the number of delegates. The deliberations of the House were to be with closed doors, and nothing but the resolves promulgated, unless by order of the majority.
To give proper dignity and solemnity to the proceedings of the House, it was moved on the following day, that each morning the session should be opened by prayer. To this is was demurred, that as the delegates were of different religious sects, they might not consent to join in the same form of worship.
Upon this, Mr. Samuel Adams arose, and said: “He would willingly join in prayer with any gentleman of piety and virtue, whatever might be his cloth, provided he was a friend of his country;” and he moved that the reverend Mr. Duche’, of Philadelphia, who answered to the description, might be invited to officiate as chaplain. This was one step towards unanimity of feeling, Mr. Adams being a strong Congregationalist, and Mr. Duche’ an eminent Episcopalian clergyman. The motion was carried into effect; the invitation was given and accepted.
In the course of the day, a rumor reached Philadelphia that Boston had been cannonaded by the British. It produced a strong sensation; and when Congress met on the following morning (7th), the effect was visible in every countenance. The delegates from the East were greeted with a warmer grasp of the hand by their associates from the South.
The reverend Mr. Duche’, according to invitation, appeared in his canonicals, attended by his clerk. The morning service of the Episcopal church was read with great solemnity, the clerk making the responses. The Psalter for the 7th day of the month includes the 35th Psalm, wherein David prays for protection against his enemies.
“Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me.
“Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help.
“Draw out, also, the spear, and stop the way of them that persecute me. Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation,” &c., &c.
The imploring words of this psalm, spoke the feelings of all hearts present; but especially of those from New England. John Adams writes in a letter to his wife: “You must remember this was the morning after we heard the horrible rumor of the cannonade of Boston. I never saw a greater effect upon an audience. It seemed as if heaven had ordained that psalm to be read on that morning. After this, Mr. Duche’ unexpectedly struck out into an extemporary prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present. Episcopalian as he is, Dr. Cooper himself never prayed with such fervor, such ardor, such earnestness and pathos, and in language so eloquent and sublime, for America, for the Congress, for the province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially the town of Boston. It has had an excellent effect upon every body here.”
It has been remarked that Washington was especially devout on this occasion-kneeling, while others stood up. In this, however, each no doubt observed the attitude in prayer to which he was accustomed. Washington knelt, being an Episcopalian.
P. 405 year 1774 (Quote about Washington)
Patrick Henry, being asked, on his return home, whom he considered the greatest man in Congress, replied: “If you speak of eloquence, Mr. Rutledge, of South Carolina, is by far the greatest orator; but if you speak of solid information and sound judgment, Colonel Washington is unquestionably the greatest man on that floor.”
P. 439 year 1775 (Quote from Washington)
Washington’s feelings were of a mingled nature. They may be gathered from a letter to his friend and neighbor, George William Fairfax, then in England, in which he lays the blame of this “deplorable affair” on the ministry and their military agents; and concludes with the following words, in which the yearnings of the patriot give affecting solemnity to the implied resolve of the soldier: “Unhappy it is to reflect that a brother’s sword had been sheathed in a brother’s breast; and that the once happy and peaceful plains of America are to be either drenched with blood or inhabited by slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice?”