Life of George Washington

Joncaire returned to an advanced post recently established on the upper
part of the river, whence he wrote to the Governor of Pennsylvania: “The
Marquis de la Jonquiere, Governor of New France, having ordered me to watch
that the English make no treaty in the Ohio country, I have signified to
the traders of your government to retire. You are not ignorant that all
these lands belong to the King of France, and that the English have no
right to trade in them.” He concluded by reiterating the threat made two
years previously by Celeron de Bienville against all intruding fur traders.

In the mean time, in the face of all these protests and menaces, Mr. Gist,
under sanction of the Virginia Legislature, proceeded in the same year to
survey the lands within the grant of the Ohio company, lying on the south
side of the Ohio river, as far down as the great Kanawha. An old Delaware
sachem, meeting him while thus employed, propounded a somewhat puzzling
question. “The French,” said he, “claim all the land on one side of the
Ohio, the English claim all the land on the other side–now where does the
Indians’ land lie?”

Poor savages! Between their “fathers,” the French, and their “brothers,”
the English, they were in a fair way of being most lovingly shared out of
the whole country.



The French now prepared for hostile contingencies. They launched an armed
vessel of unusual size on Lake Ontario; fortified their trading house at
Niagara; strengthened their outposts, and advanced others on the upper
waters of the Ohio. A stir of warlike preparation was likewise to be
observed among the British colonies. It was evident that the adverse claims
to the disputed territories, if pushed home, could only be settled by the
stern arbitrament of the sword.

In Virginia, especially, the war spirit was manifest. The province was
divided into military districts, each having an adjutant-general, with the
rank of major, and the pay of one hundred and fifty pounds a year, whose
duty was to attend to the organization and equipment of the militia.

Such an appointment was sought by Lawrence Washington for his brother
George. It shows what must have been the maturity of mind of the latter,
and the confidence inspired by his judicious conduct and aptness for
business, that the post should not only be sought for him, but readily
obtained; though he was yet but nineteen years of age. He proved himself
worthy of the appointment.

He now set about preparing himself, with his usual method and assiduity,
for his new duties. Virginia had among its floating population some
military relics of the late Spanish war. Among these was a certain Adjutant
Muse, a Westmoreland volunteer, who had served with Lawrence Washington in
the campaigns in the West Indies, and had been with him in the attack on
Carthagena. He now undertook to instruct his brother George in the art of
war; lent him treatises on military tactics; put him through the manual
exercise, and gave him some idea of evolutions in the field. Another of
Lawrence’s campaigning comrades was Jacob Van Braam, a Dutchman by birth; a
soldier of fortune of the Dalgetty order; who had been in the British army,
but was now out of service, and, professing to be a complete master of
fence, recruited his slender purse in this time of military excitement, by
giving the Virginian youth lessons in the sword exercise.

Under the instructions of these veterans Mount Vernon, from being a quiet
rural retreat, where Washington, three years previously, had indited love
ditties to his “lowland beauty,” was suddenly transformed into a school of
arms, as he practised the manual exercise with Adjutant Muse, or took
lessons on the broadsword from Van Braam.

His martial studies, however, were interrupted for a time by the critical
state of his brother’s health. The constitution of Lawrence had always been
delicate, and he had been obliged repeatedly to travel for a change of air.
There were now pulmonary symptoms of a threatening nature, and by advice of
his physicians he determined to pass a winter in the West Indies, taking
with him his favorite brother George as a companion.

They accordingly sailed for Barbadoes on the 28th of September, 1751.
George kept a journal of the voyage with logbook brevity; recording the
wind and weather, but no events worth citation. They landed at Barbadoes on
the 3d of November. The resident physician of the place gave a favorable
report of Lawrence’s case, and held out hopes of a cure. The brothers were
delighted with the aspect of the country, as they drove out in the cool of
the evening, and beheld on all sides fields of sugar cane, and Indian corn,
and groves of tropical trees, in full fruit and foliage.

They took up their abode at a house pleasantly situated about a mile from
town, commanding an extensive prospect of sea and land, including Carlyle
bay and its shipping, and belonging to Captain Crofton, commander of James

Barbadoes had its theatre, at which Washington witnessed for the first time
a dramatic representation, a species of amusement of which he afterwards
became fond. It was in the present instance the doleful tragedy of George
Barnwell. “The character of Barnwell, and several others,” notes he in his
journal, “were said to be well performed. There was music adapted and
regularly conducted.” A safe but abstemious criticism.

Among the hospitalities of the place the brothers were invited to the house
of a Judge Maynards, to dine with an association of the first people of the
place, who met at each other’s house alternately every Saturday, under the
incontestably English title of “The Beefsteak and Tripe Club.” Washington
notes with admiration the profusion of tropical fruits with which the table
was loaded, “the granadilla, sapadella, pomegranate, sweet orange,
water-lemon, forbidden fruit, and guava.” The homely prosaic beefsteak and
tripe must have contrasted strangely, though sturdily, with these
magnificent poetical fruits of the tropics. But John Bull is faithful to
his native habits and native dishes, whatever may be the country or clime,
and would set up a chop-house at the very gates of paradise.

The brothers had scarcely been a fortnight at the island when George was
taken down by a severe attack of small-pox. Skilful medical treatment, with
the kind attentions of friends, and especially of his brother, restored him
to health in about three weeks; but his face always remained slightly

After his recovery he made excursions about the island, noticing its soil,
productions, fortifications, public works, and the manners of its
inhabitants. While admiring the productiveness of the sugar plantations, he
was shocked at the spendthrift habits of the planters, and their utter want
of management.

“How wonderful,” writes he, “that such people should be in debt, and not be
able to indulge themselves in all the luxuries, as well as the necessaries
of life. Yet so it happens. Estates are often alienated for debts. How
persons coming to estates of two, three, and four hundred acres can want,
is to me most wonderful.” How much does this wonder speak for his own
scrupulous principle of always living within compass.

The residence at Barbadoes failed to have the anticipated effect on the
health of Lawrence, and he determined to seek the sweet climate of Bermuda
in the spring. He felt the absence from his wife, and it was arranged that
George should return to Virginia, and bring her out to meet him at that
island. Accordingly, on the 22d of December, George set sail in the
Industry, bound to Virginia, where he arrived on the 1st February, 1752,
after five weeks of stormy winter seafaring.

Lawrence remained through the winter at Barbadoes; but the very mildness of
the climate relaxed and enervated him. He felt the want of the bracing
winter weather to which he had been accustomed. Even the invariable beauty
of the climate; the perpetual summer, wearied the restless invalid. “This
is the finest island of the West Indies,” said he; “but I own no place can
please me without a change of seasons. We soon tire of the same prospect.”
A consolatory truth for the inhabitants of more capricious climes.

Still some of the worst symptoms of his disorder had disappeared, and he
seemed to be slowly recovering; but the nervous restlessness and desire of
change, often incidental to his malady, had taken hold of him, and early in
March he hastened to Bermuda. He had come too soon. The keen air of early
spring brought on an aggravated return of his worst symptoms. “I have now
got to my last refuge,” writes he to a friend, “where I must receive my
final sentence, which at present Dr. Forbes will not pronounce. He leaves
me, however, I think, like a criminal condemned, though not without hopes
of reprieve. But this I am to obtain by meritoriously abstaining from flesh
of every sort, all strong liquors, and by riding as much as I can bear.
These are the only terms on which I am to hope for life.”

He was now afflicted with painful indecision, and his letters perplexed his
family, leaving them uncertain as to his movements, and at a loss how to
act. At one time he talked of remaining a year at Bermuda, and wrote to his
wife to come out with George and rejoin him there; but the very same letter
shows his irresolution and uncertainty, for he leaves her coming to the
decision of herself and friends. As to his own movements, he says, “Six
weeks will determine me what to resolve on. Forbes advises the south of
France, or else Barbadoes.” The very next letter, written shortly
afterwards in a moment of despondency, talks of the possibility of
“hurrying home to his grave!”

The last was no empty foreboding. He did indeed hasten back, and just
reached Mount Vernon in time to die under his own roof, surrounded by his
family and friends, and attended in his last moments by that brother on
whose manly affection his heart seemed to repose. His death took place on
the 26th July, 1752, when but thirty-four years of age. He was a
noble-spirited, pure-minded, accomplished gentleman; honored by the public,
and beloved by his friends. The paternal care ever manifested by him for
his youthful brother, George, and the influence his own character and
conduct must have had upon him in his ductile years, should link their
memories together in history, and endear the name of Lawrence Washington to
every American.

Lawrence left a wife and an infant daughter to inherit his ample estates.
In case his daughter should die without issue, the estate of Mount Vernon,
and other lands specified in his will, were to be enjoyed by her mother
during her lifetime, and at her death to be inherited by his brother
George. The latter was appointed one of the executors of the will; but such
was the implicit confidence reposed in his judgment and integrity, that,
although he was but twenty years of age, the management of the affairs of
the deceased were soon devolved upon him almost entirely. It is needless to
say that they were managed with consummate skill and scrupulous fidelity.



The meeting of the Ohio tribes, Delawares, Shawnees, and Mingoes, to form a
treaty of alliance with Virginia, took place at Logstown, at the appointed
time. The chiefs of the Six Nations declined to attend. “It is not our
custom,” said they proudly, “to meet to treat of affairs in the woods and
weeds. If the Governor of Virginia wants to speak with us, and deliver us a
present from our father (the King), we will meet him at Albany, where we
expect the Governor of New York will be present.” [Footnote: Letter of Col.
Johnson to Gov. Clinton.–Doc. Hist. N. Y. ii., 624.]

At Logstown, Colonel Fry and two other commissioners from Virginia,
concluded a treaty with the tribes above named; by which the latter engaged
not to molest any English settlers south of the Ohio. Tanacharisson, the
half-king, now advised that his brothers of Virginia should build a strong
house at the fork of the Monongahela, to resist the designs of the French.
Mr. Gist was accordingly instructed to lay out a town and build a fort at
Chartier’s Creek, on the east side of the Ohio, a little below the site of
the present city of Pittsburg. He commenced a settlement, also, in a valley
just beyond Laurel Hill, not far from the Youghiogeny, and prevailed on
eleven families to join him. The Ohio Company, about the same time,
established a trading post, well stocked with English goods, at Wills’
Creek (now the town of Cumberland).

The Ohio tribes were greatly incensed at the aggressions of the French, who
were erecting posts within their territories, and sent deputations to
remonstrate, but without effect. The half-king, as chief of the western
tribes, repaired to the French post on Lake Erie, where he made his
complaint in person.

“Fathers,” said he, “you are the disturbers of this land by building towns,
and taking the country from us by fraud and force. We kindled a fire a long
time since at Montreal, where we desired you to stay and not to come and
intrude upon our land. I now advise you to return to that place, for this
land is ours.

“If you had come in a peaceable manner, like our brothers the English, we
should have traded with you as we do with them; but that you should come
and build houses on our land, and take it by force, is what we cannot
submit to. Both you and the English are white. We live in a country between
you both; the land belongs to neither of you. The Great Being allotted it
to us as a residence. So, fathers, I desire you, as I have desired our
brothers the English, to withdraw, for I will keep you both at arm’s
length. Whichever most regards this request, that side will we stand by and
consider friends. Our brothers the English have heard this, and I now come
to tell it to you, for I am not afraid to order you off this land.”

“Child,” replied the French commandant, “you talk foolishly. You say this
land belongs to you; there is not the black of my nail yours. It is my
land, and I will have it, let who will stand up against me. I am not afraid
of flies and mosquitoes, for as such I consider the Indians. I tell you
that down the river I will go, and build upon it. If it were blocked up I
have forces sufficient to burst it open and trample down all who oppose me.
My force is as the sand upon the sea-shore. Therefore here is your wampum;
I fling it at you.”

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