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The Life of George Washington, Volume I by Washington Irving

Part 5 out of 7

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"Our goods by the Liberty, Capt. Walker, came to hand in good order and
soon after his arrival, as they generally do when shipped in a vessel to
this river [the Potomac], and scarce ever when they go to any others; for
it don't often happen that a vessel bound to one river has goods of any
consequence to another; and the masters, in these cases, keep the packages
till an accidental conveyance offers, and for want of better opportunities
frequently commit them to boatmen who care very little for the goods so
they get their freight, and often land them wherever it suits their
convenience, not where they have engaged to do so. ... A ship from London
to Virginia may be in Rappahannock or any of the other rivers three months
before I know any thing of their arrival, and may make twenty voyages
without my seeing or even hearing of the captain."]

The products of his estate also became so noted for the faithfulness, as to
quality and quantity, with which they were put up, that it is said any
barrel of flour that bore the brand of George Washington, Mount Vernon, was
exempted from the customary inspection in the West India ports. [Footnote:
Speech of the Hon. Robert C. Winthrop on laying the corner-stone of
Washington's Monument.]

He was an early riser, often before daybreak in the winter when the nights
were long. On such occasions he lit his own fire and wrote or read by
candle-light. He breakfasted at seven in summer, at eight in winter. Two
small cups of tea and three or four cakes of Indian meal (called hoe
cakes), formed his frugal repast. Immediately after breakfast he mounted
his horse and visited those parts of the estate where any work was going
on, seeing to every thing with his own eyes, and often aiding with his own

Dinner was served at two o'clock. He ate heartily, but was no epicure, nor
critical about his food. His beverage was small beer or cider, and two
glasses of old Madeira. He took tea, of which he was very fond, early in
the evening, and retired for the night about nine o'clock.

If confined to the house by bad weather, he took that occasion to arrange
his papers, post up his accounts, or write letters; passing part of the
time in reading, and occasionally reading aloud to the family.

He treated his negroes with kindness; attended to their comforts; was
particularly careful of them in sickness; but never tolerated idleness, and
exacted a faithful performance of all their allotted tasks. He had a quick
eye at calculating each man's capabilities. An entry in his diary gives a
curious instance of this. Four of his negroes, employed as carpenters, were
hewing and shaping timber. It appeared to him, in noticing the amount of
work accomplished between two succeeding mornings, that they loitered at
their labor. Sitting down quietly he timed their operations; how long it
took them to get their cross-cut saw and other implements ready; how long
to clear away the branches from the trunk of a fallen tree; how long to hew
and saw it; what time was expended in considering and consulting, and after
all, how much work was effected during the time he looked on. From this he
made his computation how much they could execute in the course of a day,
working entirely at their ease.

At another time we find him working for a part of two days with Peter, his
smith, to make a plough on a new invention of his own. This, after two or
three failures, he accomplished. Then, with less than his usual judgment,
he put his two chariot horses to the plough, and ran a great risk of
spoiling them, in giving his new invention a trial over ground thickly

Anon, during a thunderstorm, a frightened negro alarms the house with word
that the mill is giving way, upon which there is a general turn out of all
the forces, with Washington at their head, wheeling and shovelling gravel,
during a pelting rain, to check the rushing water.

Washington delighted in the chase. In the hunting season, when he rode out
early in the morning to visit distant parts of the estate, where work was
going on, he often took some of the dogs with him for the chance of
starting a fox, which he occasionally did, though he was not always
successful in killing him. He was a bold rider and an admirable horseman,
though he never claimed the merit of being an accomplished fox-hunter. In
the height of the season, however, he would be out with the foxhounds two
or three times a week, accompanied by his guests at Mount Vernon and the
gentlemen of the neighborhood, especially the Fairfaxes of Belvoir, of
which estate his friend George William Fairfax was now the proprietor. On
such occasions there would be a hunting dinner at one or other of those
establishments, at which convivial repasts Washington is said to have
enjoyed himself with unwonted hilarity.

Now and then his old friend and instructor in the noble art of venery, Lord
Fairfax, would be on a visit to his relatives at Belvoir, and then the
hunting was kept up with unusual spirit. [Footnote: Hunting memoranda from
Washington's journal, Mount Vernon.

Nov. 22.--Hunting with Lord Fairfax and his brother, and Colonel Fairfax.

Nov. 25.--Mr. Bryan Fairfax, Mr. Grayson, and Phil. Alexander came here by
sunrise. Hunted and catched a fox with these, Lord Fairfax, his brother,
and Col. Fairfax,--all of whom, with Mr. Fairfax and Mr. Wilson of England,
dined here. 26th and 29th.--Hunted again with the same company.

Dec. 5.--Fox-hunting with Lord Fairfax and his brother, and Colonel
Fairfax. Started a fox and lost it. Dined at Belvoir, and returned in the

His lordship, however, since the alarms of Indian war had ceased, lived
almost entirely at Greenway Court, where Washington was occasionally a
guest, when called by public business to Winchester. Lord Fairfax had made
himself a favorite throughout the neighborhood. As lord-lieutenant and
custos rotulorum of Frederick County, he presided at county courts held at
Winchester, where, during the sessions, he kept open table. He acted also
as surveyor and overseer of the public roads and highways, and was
unremitted in his exertions and plans for the improvement of the country.
Hunting, however, was his passion. When the sport was poor near home, he
would take his hounds to a distant part of the country, establish himself
at an inn, and keep open house and open table to every person of good
character and respectable appearance who chose to join him in following the

It was probably in quest of sport of the kind that he now and then, in the
hunting season, revisited his old haunts and former companions on the banks
of the Potomac, and then the beautiful woodland region about Belvoir and
Mount Vernon was sure to ring at early morn with the inspiring music of the

The waters of the Potomac also afforded occasional amusement in fishing and
shooting. The fishing was sometimes on a grand scale, when the herrings
came up the river in shoals, and the negroes of Mount Vernon were
marshalled forth to draw the seine, which was generally done with great
success. Canvas-back ducks abounded at the proper season, and the shooting
of them was one of Washington's favorite recreations. The river border of
his domain, however, was somewhat subject to invasion. An oysterman once
anchored his craft at the landing-place, and disturbed the quiet of the
neighborhood by the insolent and disorderly conduct of himself and crew. It
took a campaign of three days to expel these invaders from the premises.

A more summary course was pursued with another interloper. This was a
vagabond who infested the creeks and inlets which bordered the estate,
lurking in a canoe among the reeds and bushes, and making great havoc among
the canvas-back ducks. He had been warned off repeatedly, but without
effect. As Washington was one day riding about the estate he heard the
report of a gun from the margin of the river. Spurring in that direction he
dashed through the bushes and came upon the culprit just as he was pushing
his canoe from shore. The latter raised his gun with a menacing look; but
Washington rode into the stream, seized the painter of the canoe, drew it
to shore, sprang from his horse, wrested the gun from the hands of the
astonished delinquent, and inflicted on him a lesson in "Lynch law" that
effectually cured him of all inclination to trespass again on these
forbidden shores.

The Potomac, in the palmy days of Virginia, was occasionally the scene of a
little aquatic state and ostentation among the rich planters who resided on
its banks. They had beautiful barges, which, like their land equipages,
were imported from England; and mention is made of a Mr. Digges who always
received Washington in his barge, rowed by six negroes, arrayed in a kind
of uniform of check shirts and black velvet caps. At one time, according to
notes in Washington's diary, the whole neighborhood is thrown into a
paroxysm of festivity, by the anchoring of a British frigate (the Boston)
in the river, just in front of the hospitable mansion of the Fairfaxes. A
succession of dinners and breakfasts takes place at Mount Vernon and
Belvoir, with occasional tea parties on board of the frigate. The
commander, Sir Thomas Adams, his officers, and his midshipmen, are
cherished guests, and have the freedom of both establishments.

Occasionally he and Mrs. Washington would pay a visit to Annapolis, at that
time the seat of government of Maryland, and partake of the gayeties which
prevailed during the session of the legislature. The society of these seats
of provincial governments was always polite and fashionable, and more
exclusive than in these republican days, being, in a manner, the outposts
of the English aristocracy, where all places of dignity or profit were
secured for younger sons, and poor, but proud relatives. During the session
of the Legislature, dinners and balls abounded, and there were occasional
attempts at theatricals. The latter was an amusement for which Washington
always had a relish, though he never had an opportunity of gratifying it
effectually. Neither was he disinclined to mingle in the dance, and we
remember to have heard venerable ladies, who had been belles in his day,
pride themselves on having had him for a partner, though, they added, he
was apt to be a ceremonious and grave one. [Footnote: We have had an
amusing picture of Annapolis, as it was at this period, furnished to us,
some years since by an octogenarian who had resided there in his boyhood.
"In those parts of the country," said he, "where the roads were too rough
for carriages, the ladies used to ride on ponies, followed by black
servants on horseback; in this way his mother, then advanced in life, used
to travel, in a scarlet cloth riding habit, which she had procured from
England. Nay, in this way, on emergencies," he added, "the young ladies
from the country used to come to the balls at Annapolis, riding with their
hoops arranged 'fore and aft' like lateen sails; and after dancing all
night, would ride home again in the morning."]

In this round of rural occupation, rural amusements, and social
intercourse, Washington passed several tranquil years, the halcyon season
of his life. His already established reputation drew many visitors to Mount
Vernon; some of his early companions in arms were his occasional guests,
and his friendships and connections linked him with some of the most
prominent and worthy people of the country, who were sure to be received
with cordial, but simple and unpretending hospitality. His marriage was
unblessed with children; but those of Mrs. Washington experienced from him
parental care and affection, and the formation of their minds and manners
was one of the dearest objects of his attention. His domestic concerns and
social enjoyments, however, were not permitted to interfere with his public
duties. He was active by nature, and eminently a man of business by habit.
As judge of the county court, and member of the House of Burgesses, he had
numerous calls upon his time and thoughts, and was often drawn from home;
for whatever trust he undertook, he was sure to fulfil with scrupulous

About this time we find him engaged, with other men of enterprise, in a
project to drain the great Dismal Swamp, and render it capable of
cultivation. This vast morass was about thirty miles long, and ten miles
wide, and its interior but little known. With his usual zeal and hardihood
he explored it on horseback and on foot. In many parts it was covered with
dark and gloomy woods of cedar, cypress, and hemlock, or deciduous trees,
the branches of which were hung with long drooping moss. Other parts were
almost inaccessible, from the density of brakes and thickets, entangled
with vines, briers, and creeping plants, and intersected by creeks and
standing pools. Occasionally the soil, composed of dead vegetable fibre,
was over his horse's fetlocks, and sometimes he had to dismount and make
his way on foot over a quaking bog that shook beneath his tread.

In the centre of the morass he came to a great piece of water, six miles
long, and three broad, called Drummond's Pond, but more poetically
celebrated as the Lake of the Dismal Swamp. It was more elevated than any
other part of the swamp, and capable of feeding canals, by which the whole
might be traversed. Having made the circuit of it, and noted all its
characteristics, he encamped for the night upon the firm land which
bordered it, and finished his explorations on the following day.

In the ensuing session of the Virginia Legislature, the association in
behalf of which he had acted, was chartered under the name of the Dismal
Swamp Company; and to his observations and forecast may be traced the
subsequent improvement and prosperity of that once desolate region.



Tidings of peace gladdened the colonies in the spring of 1763. The
definitive treaty between England and France had been signed at
Fontainbleau. Now, it was trusted, there would be an end to those horrid
ravages that had desolated the interior of the country. "The desert and the
silent place would rejoice, and the wilderness would blossom like the

The month of May proved the fallacy of such hopes. In that month the famous
insurrection of the Indian tribes broke out, which, from the name of the
chief who was its prime mover and master spirit, is commonly called
Pontiac's war. The Delawares and Shawnees, and other of those emigrant
tribes of the Ohio, among whom Washington had mingled, were foremost in
this conspiracy. Some of the chiefs who had been his allies, had now taken
up the hatchet against the English. The plot was deep laid, and conducted
with. Indian craft and secrecy. At a concerted time an attack was made upon
all the posts from Detroit to Fort Pitt (late Fort Duquesne). Several of
the small stockaded forts, the places of refuge of woodland neighborhoods,
were surprised and sacked with remorseless butchery. The frontiers of
Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, were laid waste; traders in the
wilderness were plundered and slain; hamlets and farmhouses were wrapped in
flames, and their inhabitants massacred. Shingis, with his Delaware
warriors, blockaded Fort Pitt, which, for some time, was in imminent
danger. Detroit, also, came near falling into the hands of the savages. It
needed all the influence of Sir William Johnson, that potentate in savage
life, to keep the Six Nations from joining this formidable conspiracy; had
they done so, the triumph of the tomahawk and scalping knife would have
been complete; as it was, a considerable time elapsed before the frontier
was restored to tolerable tranquillity.

Fortunately, Washington's retirement from the army prevented his being
entangled in this savage war, which raged throughout the regions he had
repeatedly visited, or rather his active spirit had been diverted into a
more peaceful channel, for he was at this time occupied in the enterprise
just noticed, for draining the great Dismal Swamp.

Public events were now taking a tendency which, without any political
aspiration or forethought of his own, was destined gradually to bear him
away from his quiet home and individual pursuits, and launch him upon a
grander and wider sphere of action than any in which he had hitherto been

The prediction of the Count de Vergennes was in the process of fulfilment.
The recent war of Great Britain for dominion in America, though crowned
with success, had engendered a progeny of discontents in her colonies.
Washington was among the first to perceive its bitter fruits. British
merchants had complained loudly of losses sustained by the depreciation of
the colonial paper, issued during the late war, in times of emergency, and
had addressed a memorial on the subject to the Board of Trade. Scarce was
peace concluded, when an order from the board declared that no paper,
issued by colonial Assemblies, should thenceforward be a legal tender in
the payment of debts. Washington deprecated this "stir of the merchants" as
peculiarly ill-timed; and expressed an apprehension that the orders in
question "would get the whole country in flames."

We do not profess, in this personal memoir, to enter into a wide scope of
general history, but shall content ourselves with a glance at the
circumstances and events which gradually kindled the conflagration thus
apprehended by the anxious mind of Washington.

Whatever might be the natural affection of the colonies for the mother
country,--and there are abundant evidences to prove that it was deep-rooted
and strong,--it had never been properly reciprocated. They yearned to be
considered as children; they were treated by her as changelings. Burke
testifies that her policy toward them from the beginning had been purely
commercial, and her commercial policy wholly restrictive. "It was the
system of a monopoly."

Her navigation laws had shut their ports against foreign vessels; obliged
them to export their productions only to countries belonging to the British
crown; to import European goods solely from England, and in English ships;
and had subjected the trade between the colonies to duties. All
manufactures, too, in the colonies that might interfere with those of the
mother country had been either totally prohibited, or subjected to
intolerable restraints.

The acts of Parliament, imposing these prohibitions and restrictions, had
at various times produced sore discontent and opposition on the part of the
colonies, especially among those of New England. The interests of these
last were chiefly commercial, and among them the republican spirit
predominated. They had sprung into existence during that part of the reign
of James I. when disputes ran high about kingly prerogative and popular

The Pilgrims, as they styled themselves, who founded Plymouth Colony in
1620, had been incensed while in England by what they stigmatized as the
oppressions of the monarchy, and the established church. They had sought
the wilds of America for the indulgence of freedom of opinion, and had
brought with them the spirit of independence and self-government. Those who
followed them in the reign of Charles I. were imbued with the same spirit,
and gave a lasting character to the people of New England.

Other colonies, having been formed under other circumstances, might be
inclined toward a monarchical government, and disposed to acquiesce in its
exactions; but the republican spirit was ever alive in New England,
watching over "natural and chartered rights," and prompt to defend them
against any infringement. Its example and instigation had gradually an
effect on the other colonies; a general impatience was evinced from time to
time of parliamentary interference in colonial affairs, and a disposition
in the various provincial Legislatures to think and act for themselves in
matters of civil and religious, as well as commercial polity.

There was nothing, however, to which the jealous sensibilities of the
colonies were more alive than to any attempt of the mother country to draw
a revenue from them by taxation. From the earliest period of their
existence, they had maintained the principle that they could only be taxed
by a Legislature in which they were represented. Sir Robert Walpole, when
at the head of the British government, was aware of their jealous
sensibility on this point, and cautious of provoking it. When American
taxation was suggested, "it must be a bolder man than himself," he replied,
"and one less friendly to commerce, who should venture on such an
expedient. For his part, he would encourage the trade of the colonies to
the utmost; one half of the profits would be sure to come into the royal
exchequer through the increased demand for British manufactures.
_This_" said he, sagaciously, "_is taxing them more agreeably to
their own constitution and laws_."

Subsequent ministers adopted a widely different policy. During the progress
of the French war, various projects were discussed in England with regard
to the colonies, which were to be carried into effect on the return of
peace. The open avowal of some of these plans, and vague rumors of others,
more than ever irritated the jealous feelings of the colonists, and put the
dragon spirit of New England on the alert.

In 1760, there was an attempt in Boston to collect duties on foreign sugar
and molasses imported into the colonies. Writs of assistance were applied
for by the custom-house officers, authorizing them to break open ships,
stores, and private dwellings, in quest of articles that had paid no duty;
and to call the assistance of others in the discharge of their odious task.
The merchants opposed the execution of the writ on constitutional grounds.
The question was argued in court, where James Otis spoke so eloquently in
vindication of American rights, that all his hearers went away ready to
take arms against writs of assistance. "Then and there," says John Adams,
who was present, "was the first scene of opposition to the arbitrary claims
of Great Britain. Then and there American Independence was born."

Another ministerial measure was to instruct the provincial governors to
commission judges. Not as theretofore "during good behavior," but "during
the king's pleasure." New York was the first to resent this blow at the
independence of the judiciary. The lawyers appealed to the public through
the press against an act which subjected the halls of justice to the
prerogative. Their appeals were felt beyond the bounds of the province, and
awakened a general spirit of resistance.

Thus matters stood at the conclusion of the war. One of the first measures
of ministers, on the return of peace, was to enjoin on all naval officers
stationed on the coasts of the American colonies the performance, under
oath, of the duties of custom-house officers, for the suppression of
smuggling. This fell ruinously upon a clandestine trade which had long been
connived at between the English and Spanish colonies, profitable to both,
but especially to the former, and beneficial to the mother country, opening
a market to her manufactures.

"Men-of-war," says Burke, "were for the first time armed with the regular
commissions of custom-house officers, invested the coasts, and gave the
collection of revenue the air of hostile contribution. ... They fell so
indiscriminately on all sorts of contraband, or supposed contraband, that
some of the most valuable branches of trade were driven violently from our
ports, which caused an universal consternation throughout the colonies."
[Footnote: Burke on the state of the nation.]

As a measure of retaliation, the colonists resolved not to purchase British
fabrics, but to clothe themselves as much as possible in home manufactures.
The demand for British goods in Boston alone was diminished upwards of
10,000 sterling in the course of a year.

In 1764, George Grenville, now at the head of government, ventured upon the
policy from which Walpole had so wisely abstained. Early in March the
eventful question was debated, "whether they had a right to tax America."
It was decided in the affirmative. Next followed a resolution, declaring it
proper to charge certain stamp duties in the colonies and plantations, but
no immediate step was taken to carry it into effect. Mr. Grenville,
however, gave notice to the American agents in London, that he should
introduce such a measure on the ensuing session of Parliament. In the mean
time Parliament perpetuated certain duties on sugar and
molasses--heretofore subjects of complaint and opposition--now reduced and
modified so as to discourage smuggling, and thereby to render them more
productive. Duties, also, were imposed on other articles of foreign produce
or manufacture imported into the colonies. To reconcile the latter to these
impositions, it was stated that the revenue thus raised was to be
appropriated to their protection and security; in other words, to the
support of a standing army, intended to be quartered upon them.

We have here briefly stated but a part of what Burke terms an "infinite
variety of paper chains," extending through no less than twenty-nine acts
of Parliament, from 1660 to 1764, by which the colonies had been held in

The New Englanders were the first to take the field against the project of
taxation. They denounced it as a violation of their rights as freemen; of
their chartered rights, by which they were to tax themselves for their
support and defence; of their rights as British subjects, who ought not to
be taxed but by themselves or their representatives. They sent petitions
and remonstrances on the subject to the king, the lords and the commons, in
which they were seconded by New York and Virginia. Franklin appeared in
London at the head of agents from Pennsylvania, Connecticut and South
Carolina, to deprecate, in person, measures so fraught with mischief. The
most eloquent arguments were used by British orators and statesmen to
dissuade Grenville from enforcing them. He was warned of the sturdy
independence of the colonists, and the spirit of resistance he might
provoke. All was in vain. Grenville, "great in daring and little in views,"
says Horace Walpole, "was charmed to have an untrodden field before him of
calculation and experiment." In March, 1765, the act was passed, according
to which all instruments in writing were to be executed on stamped paper,
to be purchased from the agents of the British government. What was more:
all offences against the act could be tried in any royal, marine or
admiralty court throughout the colonies, however distant from the place
where the offence had been committed; thus interfering with that most
inestimable right, a trial by jury.

It was an ominous sign that the first burst of opposition to this act
should take place in Virginia. That colony had hitherto been slow to accord
with the republican spirit of New England. Founded at an earlier period of
the reign of James I., before kingly prerogative and ecclesiastical
supremacy had been made matters of doubt and fierce dispute, it had grown
up in loyal attachment to king, church, and constitution; was
aristocratical in its tastes and habits, and had been remarked above all
the other colonies for its sympathies with the mother country. Moreover, it
had not so many pecuniary interests involved in these questions as had the
people of New England, being an agricultural rather than a commercial
province; but the Virginians are of a quick and generous spirit, readily
aroused on all points of honorable pride, and they resented the stamp act
as an outrage on their rights.

Washington occupied his seat in the House of Burgesses, when, on the 29th
of May, the stamp act became a subject of discussion. We have seen no
previous opinions of his on the subject. His correspondence hitherto had
not turned on political or speculative themes; being engrossed by either
military or agricultural matters, and evincing little anticipation of the
vortex of public duties into which he was about to be drawn. All his
previous conduct and writings show a loyal devotion to the crown, with a
patriotic attachment to his country. It is probable that on the present
occasion that latent patriotism received its first electric shock.

Among the Burgesses sat Patrick Henry, a young lawyer who had recently
distinguished himself by pleading against the exercise of the royal
prerogative in church matters, and who was now for the first time a member
of the House. Rising in his place, he introduced his celebrated
resolutions, declaring that the General Assembly of Virginia had the
exclusive right and power to lay taxes and impositions upon the
inhabitants, and that whoever maintained the contrary should be deemed an
enemy to the colony.

The speaker, Mr. Robinson, objected to the resolutions, as inflammatory.
Henry vindicated them, as justified by the nature of the case; went into an
able and constitutional discussion of colonial rights, and an eloquent
exposition of the manner in which they had been assailed; wound up by one
of those daring flights of declamation for which he was remarkable, and
startled the House by a warning flash from history: "Caesar had his Brutus;
Charles his Cromwell, and George the Third--('Treason! treason!' resounded
from the neighborhood of the Chair)--may profit by their examples," added
Henry. "Sir, if this be treason (bowing to the speaker), make the most of

The resolutions were modified, to accommodate them to the scruples of the
speaker and some of the members, but their spirit was retained. The
Lieutenant-governor (Fauquier), startled by this patriotic outbreak,
dissolved the Assembly, and issued writs for a new election; but the
clarion had sounded. "The resolves of the Assembly of Virginia," says a
correspondent of the ministry, "gave the signal for a general outcry over
the continent. The movers and supporters of them were applauded as the
protectors and assertors of American liberty." [Footnote: Letter to
Secretary Conway, New York, Sept. 23.--_Parliamentary Register_.]



Washington returned to Mount Vernon full of anxious thoughts inspired by
the political events of the day, and the legislative scene which he
witnessed. His recent letters had spoken of the state of peaceful
tranquillity in which he was living; those now written from his rural home
show that he fully participated in the popular feeling, and that while he
had a presentiment of an arduous struggle, his patriotic mind was revolving
means of coping with it. Such is the tenor of a letter written to his
wife's uncle, Francis Dandridge, then in London. "The stamp act," said he,
"engrosses the conversation of the speculative part of the colonists, who
look upon this unconstitutional method of taxation as a direful attack upon
their liberties, and loudly exclaim against the violation. What may be the
result of this, and of some other (I think I may add ill-judged) measures,
I will not undertake to determine; but this I may venture to affirm, that
the advantage accruing to the mother country will fall greatly short of the
expectation of the ministry; for certain it is, that our whole substance
already in a manner flows to Great Britain, and that whatsoever contributes
to lessen our importations must be hurtful to her manufactures. The eyes of
our people already begin to be opened; and they will perceive, that many
luxuries, for which we lavish our substance in Great Britain, can well be
dispensed with. This, consequently, will introduce frugality, and be a
necessary incitement to industry. ... As to the stamp act, regarded in a
single view, one of the first bad consequences attending it, is, that our
courts of judicature must inevitably be shut up; for it is impossible, or
next to impossible, under our present circumstances, that the act of
Parliament can be complied with, were we ever so willing to enforce its
execution. And not to say (which alone would be sufficient) that we have
not money enough to pay for the stamps, there are many other cogent reasons
which prove that it would be ineffectual."

A letter of the same date to his agents in London, of ample length and
minute in all its details, shows that, while deeply interested in the
course of public affairs, his practical mind was enabled thoroughly and
ably to manage the financial concerns of his estate and of the estate of
Mrs. Washington's son, John Parke Custis, towards whom, he acted the part
of a faithful and affectionate guardian. In those days, Virginia planters
were still in direct and frequent correspondence with their London factors;
and Washington's letters respecting his shipments of tobacco, and the
returns required in various articles for household and personal use, are
perfect models for a man of business. And this may be remarked throughout
his whole career, that no pressure of events nor multiplicity of cares
prevented a clear, steadfast, undercurrent of attention to domestic
affairs, and the interest and well-being of all dependent upon him.

In the mean time, from his quiet abode at Mount Vernon, he seemed to hear
the patriotic voice of Patrick Henry, which had startled the House of
Burgesses, echoing throughout the land, and rousing one legislative body
after another to follow the example of that of Virginia. At the instigation
of the General Court or Assembly of Massachusetts, a Congress was held in
New York in October, composed of delegates from Massachusetts, Rhode
Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware,
Maryland, and South Carolina. In this they denounced the acts of Parliament
imposing taxes on them without their consent, and extending the
jurisdiction of the courts of admiralty, as violations of their rights and
liberties as natural born subjects of Great Britain, and prepared an
address to the king, and a petition to both Houses of Parliament, praying
for redress. Similar petitions were forwarded to England by the colonies
not represented in the Congress.

The very preparations for enforcing the stamp act called forth popular
tumults in various places. In Boston the stamp distributor was hanged in
effigy; his windows were broken; a house intended for a stamp office was
pulled down, and the effigy burnt in a bonfire made of the fragments. The
lieutenant-governor, chief justice, and sheriff, attempting to allay the
tumult, were pelted. The stamp officer thought himself happy to be hanged
merely in effigy, and next day publicly renounced the perilous office.

Various were the proceedings in other places, all manifesting public scorn
and defiance of the act. In Virginia, Mr. George Mercer had been appointed
distributor of stamps, but on his arrival at Williamsburg publicly declined
officiating. It was a fresh triumph to the popular cause. The bells were
rung for joy; the town was illuminated, and Mercer was hailed with
acclamations of the people. [Footnote: Holmes's Annals, vol. ii., p. 138.]

The 1st of November, the day when the act was to go into operation, was
ushered in with portentous solemnities. There was great tolling of bells
and burning of effigies in the New England colonies. At Boston the ships
displayed their colors but half-mast high. Many shops were shut; funeral
knells resounded from the steeples, and there was a grand auto-da-fe, in
which the promoters of the act were paraded, and suffered martyrdom in

At New York the printed act was carried about the streets on a pole,
surmounted by a death's head, with a scroll bearing the inscription, "The
folly of England and ruin of America." Colden, the lieutenant-governor, who
acquired considerable odium by recommending to government the taxation of
the colonies, the institution of hereditary Assemblies, and other Tory
measures, seeing that a popular storm was rising, retired into the fort,
taking with him the stamp papers, and garrisoned it with marines from a
ship of war. The mob broke into his stable; drew out his chariot; put his
effigy into it; paraded it through the streets to the common (now the
Park), where they hung it on a gallows. In the evening it was taken down,
put again into the chariot, with the devil for a companion, and escorted
back by torchlight to the Bowling Green; where the whole pageant, chariot
and all, was burnt under the very guns of the fort.

These are specimens of the marks of popular reprobation with which the
stamp act was universally nullified. No one would venture to carry it into
execution. In fact no stamped paper was to be seen; all had been either
destroyed or concealed. All transactions which required stamps to give them
validity were suspended, or were executed by private compact. The courts of
justice were closed, until at length some conducted their business without
stamps. Union was becoming the watch-word. The merchants of New York,
Philadelphia, Boston, and such other colonies as had ventured publicly to
oppose the stamp act, agreed to import no more British manufactures after
the 1st of January unless it should be repealed. So passed away the year

As yet Washington took no prominent part in the public agitation. Indeed he
was never disposed to put himself forward on popular occasions, his innate
modesty forbade it; it was others who knew his worth that called him forth;
but when once he engaged in any public measure, he devoted himself to it
with conscientiousness and persevering zeal. At present he remained a quiet
but vigilant observer of events from his eagle nest at Mount Vernon. He had
some few intimates in his neighborhood who accorded with him in sentiment.
One of the ablest and most efficient of these was Mr. George Mason, with
whom he had occasional conversations on the state of affairs. His friends
the Fairfaxes, though liberal in feelings and opinions, were too strong in
their devotion to the crown not to regard with an uneasy eye the tendency
of the popular bias. From one motive or other, the earnest attention of all
the inmates and visitors at Mount Vernon, was turned to England, watching
the movements of the ministry.

The dismissal of Mr. Grenville from the cabinet gave a temporary change to
public affairs. Perhaps nothing had a greater effect in favor of the
colonies than an examination of Dr. Franklin before the House of Commons,
on the subject of the stamp act.

"What," he was asked, "was the temper of America towards Great Britain,
before the year 1763?"

"The best in the world. They submitted willingly to the government of the
crown, and paid, in all their courts, obedience to the acts of Parliament.
Numerous as the people are in the several old provinces, they cost you
nothing in forts, citadels, garrisons, or armies, to keep them in
subjection. They were governed by this country at the expense only of a
little pen, ink, and paper. They were led by a thread. They had not only a
respect, but an affection for Great Britain, for its laws, its customs, and
manners, and even a fondness for its fashions, that greatly increased the
commerce. Natives of Great Britain were always treated with particular
regard; to be an Old-England man was, of itself, a character of some
respect, and gave a kind of rank among us."

"And what is their temper now?"

"Oh! very much altered."

"If the act is not repealed, what do you think will be the consequences?"

"A total loss of the respect and affection the people of America bear to
this country, and of all the commerce that depends on that respect and

"Do you think the people of America would submit to pay the stamp duty if
it was moderated?"

"No, never, unless compelled by force of arms." [Footnote: Parliamentary
Register, 1766.]

The act was repealed on the 18th of March, 1766, to the great joy of the
sincere friends of both countries, and to no one more than to Washington.
In one of his letters he observes: "Had the Parliament of Great Britain
resolved upon enforcing it, the consequences, I conceive, would have been
more direful than is generally apprehended, both to the mother country and
her colonies. All, therefore, who were instrumental in procuring the
repeal, are entitled to the thanks of every British subject, and have mine
cordially." [Footnote: Sparks. Writings of Washington, ii., 345, note.]

Still, there was a fatal clause in the repeal, which declared that the
king, with the consent of Parliament, had power and authority to make laws
and statutes of sufficient force and validity to "bind the colonies, and
people of America, in all cases whatsoever."

As the people of America were contending for principles, not mere pecuniary
interests, this reserved power of the crown and Parliament left the dispute
still open, and chilled the feeling of gratitude which the repeal might
otherwise have inspired. Further aliment for public discontent was
furnished by other acts of Parliament. One imposed duties on glass,
pasteboard, white and red lead, painters' colors, and tea; the duties to be
collected on the arrival of the articles in the colonies; another empowered
naval officers to enforce the acts of trade and navigation. Another wounded
to the quick the pride and sensibilities of New York. The mutiny act had
recently been extended to America, with an additional clause, requiring the
provincial Assemblies to provide the troops sent out with quarters, and to
furnish them with fire, beds, candles, and other necessaries, at the
expense of the colonies. The Governor and Assembly of New York refused to
comply with, this requisition as to stationary forces, insisting that it
applied only to troops on a march. An act of Parliament now suspended the
powers of the governor and Assembly until they should comply. Chatham
attributed this opposition of the colonists to the mutiny act to "their
jealousy of being somehow or other taxed internally by the Parliament; the
act," said he, "asserting the right of Parliament, has certainly spread a
most unfortunate jealousy and diffidence of government here throughout
America, and makes them jealous of the least distinction between this
country and that, lest the same principle may be extended to taxing them."
[Footnote: Chatham's Correspondence, vol. iii., p. 189-192.]

Boston continued to be the focus of what the ministerialists termed
sedition. The General Court of Massachusetts, not content with petitioning
the king for relief against the recent measures of Parliament, especially
those imposing taxes as a means of revenue, drew up a circular, calling on
the other colonial Legislatures to join with them in suitable efforts to
obtain redress. In the ensuing session, Governor Sir Francis Bernard called
upon them to rescind the resolution on which the circular was
founded,--they refused to comply, and the General Court was consequently
dissolved. The governors of colonies required of their Legislatures an
assurance that they would not reply to the Massachusetts circular,--these
Legislatures likewise refused compliance and were dissolved. All this added
to the growing excitement.

Memorials were addressed to the lords, spiritual and temporal, and
remonstrances to the House of Commons, against taxation for revenue, as
destructive to the liberties of the colonists; and against the act
suspending the legislative power of the province of New York, as menacing
the welfare of the colonies in general.

Nothing, however, produced a more powerful effect upon the public
sensibilities throughout the country, than certain military demonstrations
at Boston. In consequence of repeated collisions between the people of that
place and the commissioners of customs, two regiments were held in
readiness at Halifax to embark for Boston in the ships of Commodore Hood
whenever Governor Bernard, or the general, should give the word, "Had this
force been landed in Boston six months ago," writes the commodore, "I am
perfectly persuaded no address or remonstrances would have been sent from
the other colonies, and that all would have been tolerably quiet and
orderly at this time throughout America." [Footnote: Grenville Papers, vol.
iv., p. 362.]

Tidings reached Boston that these troops were embarked and that they were
coming to overawe the people. What was to be done? The General Court had
been dissolved, and the governor refused to convene it without the royal
command. A convention, therefore, from various towns met at Boston, on the
22d of September, to devise measures for the public safety; but disclaiming
all pretensions to legislative powers. While the convention was yet in
session (September 28th), the two regiments arrived, with seven armed
vessels. "I am very confident," writes Commodore Hood from Halifax, "the
spirited measures now pursuing will soon effect order in America."

On the contrary, these "spirited measures" added, fuel to the fire they
were intended to quench. It was resolved in a town meeting that the king
had no right to send troops thither without the consent of the Assembly;
that Great Britain had broken the original compact, and that, therefore,
the king's officers had no longer any business there. [Footnote: Whately to
Grenville. Gren. Papers, vol. iv., p. 389.]

The "selectmen" accordingly refused to find quarters for the soldiers in
the town; the council refused to find barracks for them, lest it should be
construed into a compliance with the disputed clause of the mutiny act.
Some of the troops, therefore, which had tents, were encamped on the
common; others, by the governor's orders, were quartered in the
state-house, and others in Faneuil Hall, to the great indignation of the
public, who were grievously scandalized at seeing field-pieces planted in
front of the state-house; sentinels stationed at the doors, challenging
every one who passed; and, above all, at having the sacred quiet of the
Sabbath disturbed by drum and fife, and other military music.



Throughout these public agitations, Washington endeavored to preserve his
equanimity. Removed from the heated throngs of cities, his diary denotes a
cheerful and healthful life at Mount Vernon, devoted to those rural
occupations in which he delighted, and varied occasionally by his favorite
field sports. Sometimes he is duck-shooting on the Potomac. Repeatedly we
find note of his being out at sunrise with the hounds, in company with old
Lord Fairfax, Bryan Fairfax, and others; and ending the day's sport by a
dinner at Mount Vernon, or Belvoir.

Still he was too true a patriot not to sympathize in the struggle for
colonial rights which now agitated the whole country, and we find him
gradually carried more and more into the current of political affairs.

A letter written on the 5th of April, 1769, to his friend, George Mason,
shows the important stand he was disposed to take. In the previous year,
the merchants and traders of Boston, Salem, Connecticut, and New York, had
agreed to suspend for a time the importation of all articles subject to
taxation. Similar resolutions had recently been adopted by the merchants of
Philadelphia. Washington's letter is emphatic in support of the measure.
"At a time," writes he, "when our lordly masters in Great Britain will be
satisfied with nothing less, than the deprivation of American freedom, it
seems highly necessary that something should be done to avert the stroke,
and maintain the liberty which we have derived from our ancestors. But the
manner of doing it, to answer the purpose effectually, is the point in
question. That no man should scruple, or hesitate a moment in defence of so
valuable a blessing, is clearly my opinion; yet arms should be the last
resource--the _dernier ressort_. We have already, it is said, proved
the inefficacy of addresses to the throne, and remonstrances to Parliament.
How far their attention to our rights and interests is to be awakened, or
alarmed, by starving their trade and manufactures, remains to be tried.

"The northern colonies, it appears, are endeavoring to adopt this scheme.
In my opinion, it is a good one, and must be attended with salutary
effects, provided it can be carried pretty generally into execution. ...
That there will be a difficulty attending it every where from clashing
interests, and selfish, designing men, ever attentive to their own gain,
and watchful of every turn that can assist their lucrative views, cannot be
denied, and in the tobacco colonies, where the trade is so diffused, and in
a manner wholly conducted by factors for their principals at home, these
difficulties are certainly enhanced, but I think not insurmountably
increased, if the gentlemen in their several counties will be at some pains
to explain matters to the people, and stimulate them to cordial agreements
to purchase none but certain enumerated articles out of any of the stores,
after a definite period, and neither import, nor purchase any themselves.
... I can see but one class of people, the merchants excepted, who will
not, or ought not, to wish well to the scheme,--namely, they who live
genteelly and hospitably on clear estates. Such as these, were they not to
consider the valuable object in view, and the good of others, might think
it hard to be curtailed in their living and enjoyments."

This was precisely the class to which Washington belonged; but he was ready
and willing to make the sacrifices required. "I think the scheme a good
one," added he, "and that it ought to be tried here, with such alterations
as our circumstances render absolutely necessary."

Mason, in his reply, concurred with him in opinion. "Our all is at stake,"
said he, "and the little conveniences and comforts of life, when set in
competition with our liberty, ought to be rejected, not with reluctance,
but with pleasure. Yet it is plain that, in the tobacco colonies, we cannot
at present confine our importations within such narrow bounds as the
northern colonies. A plan of this kind, to be practicable, must be adapted
to our circumstances; for, if not steadily executed, it had better have
remained unattempted. We may retrench all manner of superfluities, finery
of all descriptions, and confine ourselves to linens, woollens, &c., not
exceeding a certain price. It is amazing how much this practice, if adopted
in all the colonies, would lessen the American imports, and distress the
various trades and manufactures of Great Britain. This would awaken their
attention. They would see, they would feel, the oppressions we groan under,
and exert themselves to procure us redress. This, once obtained, we should
no longer discontinue our importations, confining ourselves still not to
import any article that should hereafter be taxed by act of Parliament for
raising a revenue in America; for, however singular I may be in the
opinion, _I am thoroughly convinced, that, justice and harmony happily
restored, it is not the interest of these colonies to refuse British
manufactures. Our supplying our mother country with gross materials, and
taking her manufactures in return, is the true chain of connection between
us. These are the bands which, if not broken by oppression, must long hold
us together, by maintaining a constant reciprocation of interests_."

The latter part of the above quotation shows the spirit which actuated
Washington and the friends of his confidence; as yet there was no thought
nor desire of alienation from the mother country, but only a fixed
determination to be placed on an equality of rights and privileges with her
other children.

A single word in the passage cited from Washington's letter, evinces the
chord which still vibrated in the American bosom: he incidentally speaks of
England as _home_. It was the familiar term with which she was usually
indicated by those of English descent; and the writer of these pages
remembers when the endearing phrase still lingered on Anglo-American lips
even after the Revolution. How easy would it have been before that era for
the mother country to have rallied back the affections of her colonial
children, by a proper attention to their complaints! They asked for nothing
but what they were entitled to, and what she had taught them to prize as
their dearest inheritance. The spirit of liberty which they manifested had
been derived from her own precept and example.

The result of the correspondence between Washington and Mason was the draft
by the latter of a plan of association, the members of which were to pledge
themselves not to import or use any articles of British merchandise or
manufacture subject to duty. This paper Washington was to submit to the
consideration of the House of Burgesses, at the approaching session in the
month of May.

The Legislature of Virginia opened on this occasion with a brilliant
pageant. While military force was arrayed to overawe the republican
Puritans of the east, it was thought to dazzle the aristocratical
descendants of the cavaliers by the reflex of regal splendor. Lord
Botetourt, one of the king's lords of the bedchamber, had recently come out
as governor of the province. Junius described him as "a cringing, bowing,
fawning, sword-bearing courtier." Horace Walpole predicted that he would
turn the heads of the Virginians in one way or other. "If his graces do not
captivate them he will enrage them to fury; for I take all his
_douceur_ to be enamelled on iron." [Footnote: Grenville papers, iv.,
note to p. 330.] The words of political satirists and court wits, however,
are always to be taken with great distrust. However his lordship may have
bowed in presence of royalty, he elsewhere conducted himself with dignity,
and won general favor by his endearing manners. He certainly showed
promptness of spirit in his reply to the king on being informed of his
appointment. "When will you be ready to go?" asked George III. "To-night,

He had come out, however, with a wrong idea of the Americans. They had been
represented to him as factious, immoral, and prone to sedition; but vain
and luxurious, and easily captivated by parade and splendor. The latter
foibles were aimed at in his appointment and fitting out. It was supposed
that his titled rank would have its effect. Then to prepare him for
occasions of ceremony, a coach of state was presented to him by the king.
He was allowed, moreover, the quantity of plate usually given to
ambassadors, whereupon the joke was circulated that he was going "plenipo
to the Cherokees." [Footnote: Whately to Geo. Grenville. Grenville papers.]

His opening of the session was in the style of the royal opening of
Parliament. He proceeded in due parade from his dwelling to the capitol, in
his state coach, drawn by six milk-white horses. Having delivered his
speech according to royal form, he returned home with the same pomp and

The time had gone by, however, for such display to have the anticipated
effect. The Virginian legislators penetrated the intention of this pompous
ceremonial, and regarded it with a depreciating smile. Sterner matters
occupied their thoughts; they had come prepared to battle for their rights,
and their proceedings soon showed Lord Botetourt how much he had mistaken
them. Spirited resolutions were passed, denouncing the recent act of
Parliament imposing taxes; the power to do which, on the inhabitants of
this colony, "was legally and constitutionally vested in the House of
Burgesses, with consent of the council and of the king, or of his governor,
for the time being." Copies of these resolutions were ordered to be
forwarded by the speaker to the Legislatures of the other colonies, with a
request for their concurrence.

Other proceedings of the Burgesses showed their sympathy with their
fellow-patriots of New England. A joint address of both Houses of
Parliament had recently been made to the king, assuring him of their
support in any further measures for the due execution of the laws in
Massachusetts, and beseeching him that all persons charged with treason, or
misprision of treason, committed within that colony since the 30th of
December, 1767, might be sent to Great Britain for trial.

As Massachusetts had no General Assembly at this time, having been
dissolved by government, the Legislature of Virginia generously took up the
cause. An address to the king was resolved on, stating, that all trials for
treason, or misprision of treason, or for any crime whatever committed by
any person residing in a colony, ought to be in and before his majesty's
courts within said colony; and beseeching the king to avert from his loyal
subjects those dangers and miseries which would ensue from seizing and
carrying beyond sea any person residing in America suspected of any crime
whatever, thereby depriving them of the inestimable privilege of being
tried by a jury from the vicinage, as well as the liberty of producing
witnesses on such trial.

Disdaining any further application to Parliament, the House ordered the
speaker to transmit this address to the colonies' agent in England, with
directions to cause it to be presented to the king, and afterwards to be
printed and published in the English papers.

Lord Botetourt was astonished and dismayed when he heard of these
high-toned proceedings. Repairing to the capitol on the following day at
noon, he summoned the speaker and members to the council chamber, and
addressed them in the following words: "Mr. Speaker, and gentlemen of the
House of Burgesses, I have heard of your resolves, and augur ill of their
effects. You have made it my duty to dissolve you, and you are dissolved

The spirit conjured up by the late decrees of Parliament was not so easily
allayed. The Burgesses adjourned to a private house. Peyton Randolph, their
late speaker, was elected moderator. Washington now brought forward a draft
of the articles of association, concerted between him and George Mason.
They formed the groundwork of an instrument signed by all present, pledging
themselves neither to import, nor use any goods, merchandise, or
manufactures taxed by Parliament to raise a revenue in America. This
instrument was sent throughout the country for signature, and the scheme of
non-importation, hitherto confined to a few northern colonies, was soon
universally adopted. For his own part, Washington adhered to it rigorously
throughout the year. The articles proscribed by it were never to be seen in
his house, and his agent in London was enjoined to ship nothing for him
while subject to taxation.

The popular ferment in Virginia was gradually allayed by the amiable and
conciliatory conduct of Lord Botetourt. His lordship soon became aware of
the erroneous notions with which he had entered upon office. His semi-royal
equipage and state were laid aside. He examined into public grievances;
became a strenuous advocate for the repeal of taxes; and, authorized by his
despatches from the ministry, assured the public that such repeal would
speedily take place. His assurance was received with implicit faith, and
for a while Virginia was quieted.



"The worst is past, and the spirit of sedition broken," writes Hood to
Grenville, early in the spring of 1769. [Footnote: Grenville Papers, vol.
iii.] When the commodore wrote this, his ships were in the harbor, and
troops occupied the town, and he flattered himself that at length turbulent
Boston was quelled. But it only awaited its time to be seditious according
to rule; there was always an irresistible "method in its madness."

In the month of May, the General Court, hitherto prorogued, met according
to charter. A committee immediately waited on the governor, stating it was
impossible to do business with dignity and freedom while the town was
invested by sea and land, and a military guard was stationed at the
state-house, with cannon pointed at the door; and they requested the
governor, as his majesty's representative, to have such forces removed out
of the port and gates of the city during the session of the Assembly.

The governor replied that he had no authority over either the ships or
troops. The court persisted in refusing to transact business while so
circumstanced, and the governor was obliged to transfer the session to
Cambridge. There he addressed a message to that body in July, requiring
funds for the payment of the troops, and quarters for their accommodation.
The Assembly, after ample discussion of past grievances, resolved, that the
establishment of a standing army in the colony in a time of peace was an
invasion of natural rights; that a standing army was not known as a part of
the British constitution, and that the sending an armed force to aid the
civil authority was unprecedented, and highly dangerous to the people.

After waiting some days without receiving an answer to his message, the
governor sent to know whether the Assembly would, or would not, make
provision for the troops. In their reply, they followed the example of the
Legislature of New York, in commenting on the mutiny, or billeting act, and
ended by declining to furnish funds for the purposes specified, "being
incompatible with their own honor and interest, and their duty to their
constituents." They were in consequence again prorogued, to meet in Boston
on the 10th of January.

So stood affairs in Massachusetts. In the mean time, the non-importation
associations, being generally observed throughout the colonies, produced
the effect on British commerce which Washington had anticipated, and
Parliament was incessantly importuned by petitions from British merchants,
imploring its intervention to save them from ruin.

Early in 1770, an important change took place in the British cabinet. The
Duke of Grafton suddenly resigned, and the reins of government passed into
the hands of Lord North. He was a man of limited capacity, but a favorite
of the king, and subservient to his narrow colonial policy. His
administration, so eventful to America, commenced with an error. In the
month of March, an act was passed, revoking all the duties laid in 1767,
_excepting that on tea_. This single tax was continued, as he
observed, "to maintain the parliamentary right of taxation,"--the very
right which was the grand object of contest. In this, however, he was in
fact yielding, against his better judgment, to the stubborn tenacity of the

He endeavored to reconcile the opposition, and perhaps himself, to the
measure, by plausible reasoning. An impost of threepence on the pound could
never, he alleged, be opposed by the colonists, unless they were determined
to rebel against Great Britain. Besides, a duty on that article, payable in
England, and amounting to nearly one shilling on the pound, was taken off
on its exportation to America, so that the inhabitants of the colonies
saved ninepence on the pound.

Here was the stumbling-block at the threshold of Lord North's
administration. In vain the members of the opposition urged that this
single exception, while it would produce no revenue, would keep alive the
whole cause of contention; that so long as a single external duty was
enforced, the colonies would consider their rights invaded, and would
remain unappeased. Lord North was not to be convinced; or rather, he knew
the royal will was inflexible, and he complied with its behests. "The
properest time to exert our right of taxation," said he, "is when the right
is refused. To temporize is to yield; and the authority of the mother
country, if it is now unsupported, will be relinquished for ever: _a
total repeal cannot be thought of, till America is prostrate at our
feet_." [Footnote: Holmes's Amer. Annals, vol. ii., p. 173.]

On the very day in which this ominous bill was passed in Parliament, a
sinister occurrence took place in Boston. Some of the young men of the
place insulted the military while under arms; the latter resented it; the
young men, after a scuffle, were put to flight, and pursued. The alarm
bells rang,--a mob assembled; the custom-house was threatened; the troops,
in protecting it, were assailed with clubs and stones, and obliged to use
their fire-arms, before the tumult could be quelled. Four of the populace
were killed, and several wounded. The troops were now removed from the
town, which remained in the highest state of exasperation; and this
untoward occurrence received the opprobrious, and somewhat extravagant name
of "the Boston massacre."

The colonists, as a matter of convenience, resumed the consumption of those
articles on which the duties had been repealed; but continued, on
principle, the rigorous disuse of tea, excepting such as had been smuggled
in. New England was particularly earnest in the matter; many of the
inhabitants, in the spirit of their Puritan progenitors, made a covenant to
drink no more of the forbidden beverage, until the duty on tea should be

In Virginia the public discontents, which had been allayed by the
conciliatory conduct of Lord Botetourt, and by his assurances, made on the
strength of letters received from the ministry, that the grievances
complained of would be speedily redressed, now broke out with more violence
than ever. The Virginians spurned the mock-remedy which left the real cause
of complaint untouched. His lordship also felt deeply wounded by the
disingenuousness of ministers which had led him into such a predicament,
and wrote home demanding his discharge. Before it arrived, an attack of
bilious fever, acting upon a delicate and sensitive frame, enfeebled by
anxiety and chagrin, laid him in his grave. He left behind him a name
endeared to the Virginians by his amiable manners, his liberal patronage of
the arts, and, above all, by his zealous intercession for their rights.
Washington himself testifies that he was inclined "to render every just and
reasonable service to the people whom he governed." A statue to his memory
was decreed by the House of Burgesses, to be erected in the area of the
capitol. It is still to be seen, though in a mutilated condition, in
Williamsburg, the old seat of government, and a county in Virginia
continues to bear his honored name.



In the midst of these popular turmoils, Washington was induced, by public
as well as private considerations, to make another expedition to the Ohio.
He was one of the Virginia Board of Commissioners, appointed, at the close
of the late war, to settle the military accounts of the colony. Among the
claims which came before the board, were those of the officers and soldiers
who had engaged to serve until peace, under the proclamation of Governor
Dinwiddie, holding forth a bounty of two hundred thousand acres of land, to
be apportioned among them according to rank. Those claims were yet
unsatisfied, for governments, like individuals, are slow to pay off in
peaceful times the debts incurred while in the fighting mood. Washington
became the champion of those claims, and an opportunity now presented
itself for their liquidation. The Six Nations, by a treaty in 1768, had
ceded to the British crown, in consideration of a sum of money, all the
lands possessed by them south of the Ohio. Land offices would soon be
opened for the sale of them. Squatters and speculators were already
preparing to swarm in, set up their marks on the choicest spots, and
establish what were called pre-emption rights. Washington determined at
once to visit the lands thus ceded; affix his mark on such tracts as he
should select, and apply for a grant from government in behalf of the
"soldier's claim."

The expedition would be attended with some degree of danger. The frontier
was yet in an uneasy state. It is true some time had elapsed since the war
of Pontiac, but some of the Indian tribes were almost ready to resume the
hatchet. The Delawares, Shawnees, and Mingoes, complained that the Six
Nations had not given them their full share of the consideration money of
the late sale, and they talked of exacting the deficiency from the white
men who came to settle in what had been their hunting-grounds. Traders,
squatters, and other adventurers into the wilderness, were occasionally
murdered, and further troubles were apprehended.

Washington had for a companion in this expedition his friend and neighbor,
Dr. Craik, and it was with strong community of feeling they looked forward
peaceably to revisit the scenes of their military experience. They set out
on the 5th of October with three negro attendants, two belonging to
Washington, and one to the doctor. The whole party was mounted, and there
was a led horse for the baggage.

After twelve days' travelling they arrived at Fort Pitt (late Fort
Duquesne). It was garrisoned by two companies of royal Irish, commanded by
a Captain Edmonson. A hamlet of about twenty log-houses, inhabited by
Indian traders, had sprung up within three hundred yards of the fort, and
was called "the town." It was the embryo city of Pittsburg, now so
populous. At one of the houses, a tolerable frontier inn, they took up
their quarters; but during their brief sojourn, they were entertained with
great hospitality at the fort.

Here at dinner Washington met his old acquaintance, George Croghan, who had
figured in so many capacities and experienced so many vicissitudes on the
frontier. He was now Colonel Croghan, deputy-agent to Sir William Johnson,
and had his residence--or seat, as Washington terms it--on the banks of the
Allegany River, about four miles from the fort.

Croghan had experienced troubles and dangers during the Pontiac war, both
from white man and savage. At one time, while he was convoying presents
from Sir William to the Delawares and Shawnees, his caravan was set upon
and plundered by a band of backwoodsmen of Pennsylvania--men resembling
Indians in garb and habits, and fully as lawless. At another time, when
encamped at the mouth of the Wabash with some of his Indian allies, a band
of Kickapoos, supposing the latter to be Cherokees, their deadly enemies,
rushed forth from the woods with horrid yells, shot down several of his
companions, and wounded himself. It must be added, that no white men could
have made more ample apologies than did the Kickapoos, when they discovered
that they had fired upon friends.

Another of Croghan's perils was from the redoubtable Pontiac himself. That
chieftain had heard of his being on a mission to win off, by dint of
presents, the other sachems of the conspiracy, and declared, significantly,
that he had a large kettle boiling in which he intended to seethe the
ambassador. It was fortunate for Croghan that he did not meet with the
formidable chieftain while in this exasperated mood. He subsequently
encountered him when Pontiac's spirits were broken by reverses. They smoked
the pipe of peace together, and the colonel claimed the credit of having,
by his diplomacy, persuaded the sachem to bury the hatchet.

On the day following the repast at the fort, Washington visited Croghan at
his abode on the Allegany River, where he found several of the chiefs of
the Six Nations assembled. One of them, the White Mingo by name, made him a
speech, accompanied, as usual, by a belt of wampum. Some of his companions,
he said, remembered to have seen him in 1753, when he came on his embassy
to the French commander; most of them had heard of him. They had now come
to welcome him to their country. They wished the people of Virginia to
consider them as friends and brothers, linked together in one chain, and
requested him to inform the governor of their desire to live in peace and
harmony with the white men. As to certain unhappy differences which had
taken place between them on the frontiers, they were all made up, and, they
hoped, forgotten.

Washington accepted the "speech-belt," and made a suitable reply, assuring
the chiefs that nothing was more desired by the people of Virginia than to
live with them on terms of the strictest friendship.

At Pittsburg the travellers left their horses, and embarked in a large
canoe, to make a voyage down the Ohio as far as the Great Kanawha. Colonel
Croghan engaged two Indians for their service, and an interpreter named
John Nicholson. The colonel and some of the officers of the garrison
accompanied them as far as Logstown, the scene of Washington's early
diplomacy, and his first interview with the half-king. Here they
breakfasted together; after which they separated, the colonel and his
companions cheering the voyagers from the shore, as the canoe was borne off
by the current of the beautiful Ohio.

It was now the hunting season, when the Indians leave their towns, set off
with their families, and lead a roving life in cabins and hunting-camps
along the river; shifting from place to place, as game abounds or
decreases, and often extending their migrations two or three hundred miles
down the stream. The women were as dexterous as the men in the management
of the canoe, but were generally engaged in the domestic labors of the
lodge while their husbands were abroad hunting.

Washington's propensities as a sportsman had here full play. Deer were
continually to be seen coming down to the water's edge to drink, or
browsing along the shore; there were innumerable flocks of wild turkeys,
and streaming flights of ducks and geese; so that as the voyagers floated
along, they were enabled to load their canoe with game. At night they
encamped on the river bank, lit their fire and made a sumptuous hunter's
repast. Washington always relished this wild-wood life; and the present had
that spice of danger in it, which has a peculiar charm for adventurous
minds. The great object of his expedition, however, is evinced in his
constant notes on the features and character of the country; the quality of
the soil as indicated by the nature of the trees, and the level tracts
fitted for settlements.

About seventy-five miles below Pittsburg the voyagers landed at a Mingo
town, which they found in a stir of warlike preparation--sixty of the
warriors being about to set off on a foray into the Cherokee country
against the Catawbas.

Here the voyagers were brought to a pause by a report that two white men,
traders, had been murdered about thirty-eight miles further down the river.
Reports of the kind were not to be treated lightly. Indian faith was
uncertain along the frontier, and white men were often shot down in the
wilderness for plunder or revenge. On the following day the report
moderated. Only one man was said to have been killed, and that not by
Indians; so Washington determined to continue forward until he could obtain
correct information in the matter.

On the 24th, about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the voyagers arrived at
Captema Creek, at the mouth of which the trader was said to have been
killed. As all was quiet and no one to be seen, they agreed to encamp,
while Nicholson the interpreter, and one of the Indians, repaired to a
village a few miles up the creek to inquire about the murder. They found
but two old women at the village. The men were all absent, hunting. The
interpreter returned to camp in the evening, bringing the truth of the
murderous tale. A trader had fallen a victim to his temerity, having been
drowned in attempting, in company with another, to swim his horse across
the Ohio.

Two days more of voyaging brought them to an Indian hunting camp, near the
mouth of the Muskingum. Here it was necessary to land and make a
ceremonious visit, for the chief of the hunting party was Kiashuta, a
Seneca sachem, the head of the river tribes. He was noted to have been
among the first to raise the hatchet in Pontiac's conspiracy, and almost
equally vindictive with that potent warrior. As Washington approached the
chieftain, he recognized him for one of the Indians who had accompanied him
on his mission to the French in 1753.

Kiashuta retained a perfect recollection of the youthful ambassador, though
seventeen years had matured him into thoughtful manhood. With hunter's
hospitality he gave him a quarter of a fine buffalo just slain, but
insisted that they should encamp together for the night; and in order not
to retard him, moved with his own party to a good camping place some
distance down the river. Here they had long talks and council-fires over
night and in the morning, with all the "tedious ceremony," says Washington,
"which the Indians observe in their counsellings and speeches." Kiashuta
had heard of what had passed between Washington and the "White Mingo," and
other sachems, at Colonel Croghan's, and was eager to express his own
desire for peace and friendship with Virginia, and fair dealings with her
traders; all which Washington promised to report faithfully to the
governor. It was not until a late hour in the morning that he was enabled
to bring these conferences to a close, and pursue his voyage.

At the mouth of the Great Kanawha the voyagers encamped for a day or two to
examine the lands in the neighborhood, and Washington set up his mark upon
such as he intended to claim on behalf of the soldiers' grant. It was a
fine sporting country, having small lakes or grassy ponds abounding with
water-fowl, such as ducks, geese, and swans. Flocks of turkeys, as usual;
and, for larger game, deer and buffalo; so that their camp abounded with

Here Washington was visited by an old sachem, who approached him with great
reverence, at the head of several of his tribe, and addressed him through
Nicholson, the interpreter. He had heard, he said, of his being in that
part of the country, and had come from a great distance to see him. On
further discourse, the sachem made known that he was one of the warriors in
the service of the French, who lay in ambush on the banks of the
Monongahela and wrought such havoc in Braddock's army. He declared that he
and his young men had singled out Washington, as he made himself
conspicuous riding about the field of battle with the general's orders, and
had fired at him repeatedly, but without success; whence they had concluded
that he was under the protection of the Great Spirit, had a charmed life,
and could not be slain in battle.

At the Great Kanawha Washington's expedition down the Ohio terminated;
having visited all the points he wished to examine. His return to Fort
Pitt, and thence homeward, affords no incident worthy of note. The whole
expedition, however, was one of that hardy and adventurous kind, mingled
with practical purposes, in which he delighted. This winter voyage down the
Ohio in a canoe, with the doctor for a companion and two Indians for crew,
through regions yet insecure from the capricious hostility of prowling
savages, is not one of the least striking of his frontier "experiences."
The hazardous nature of it was made apparent shortly afterwards by another
outbreak of the Ohio tribes; one of its bloodiest actions took place on the
very banks of the Great Kanawha, in which Colonel Lewis and a number of
brave Virginians lost their lives.


In the final adjustment of claims under Governor Dinwiddie's proclamation,
Washington, acting on behalf of the officers and soldiers, obtained grants
for the lands he had marked out in the course of his visit to the Ohio.
Fifteen thousand acres were awarded to a field-officer, nine thousand to a
captain, six thousand to a subaltern, and so on. Among the claims which he
entered were those of Stobo and Van Braam, the hostages in the capitulation
at the Great Meadows. After many vicissitudes they were now in London, and
nine thousand acres were awarded to each of them. Their domains were
ultimately purchased by Washington through his London agent.

Another claimant was Colonel George Muse, Washington's early instructor in
military science. His claim was admitted with difficulty, for he stood
accused of having acted the part of a poltroon in the campaign, and
Washington seems to have considered the charge well founded. Still he
appears to have been dissatisfied with the share of land assigned him, and
to have written to Washington somewhat rudely on the subject. His letter is
not extant, but we subjoin Washington's reply almost entire, as a specimen
of the caustic pen he could wield under a mingled emotion of scorn and

"Sir,--Your impertinent letter was delivered to me yesterday. As I am not
accustomed to receive such from any man, nor would have taken the same
language from you personally, without letting you feel some marks of my
resentment, I advise you to be cautious in writing me a second of the same
tenor; for though I understand you were drunk when you did it, yet give me
leave to tell you that drunkenness is no excuse for rudeness. But for your
stupidity and sottishness you might have known, by attending to the public
gazette, that you had your full quantity of ten thousand acres of land
allowed you; that is, nine thousand and seventy-three acres in the great
tract, and the remainder in the small tract.

"But suppose you had really fallen short, do you think your superlative
merit entitles you to greater indulgence than others? Or, if it did, that I
was to make it good to you, when it was at the option of the governor and
council to allow but five hundred acres in the whole, if they had been so
inclined? If either of these should happen to be your opinion, I am very
well convinced that you will be singular in it; and all my concern is that
I ever engaged myself in behalf of so ungrateful and dirty a fellow as you

N.B.--The above is from the letter as it exists in the archives of the
Department of State at Washington. It differs in two or three particulars
from that published among Washington's writings.



The discontents of Virginia, which had been partially soothed by the
amiable administration of Lord Botetourt, were irritated anew under his
successor, the Earl of Dunmore. This nobleman had for a short time held the
government of New York. When appointed to that of Virginia, he lingered for
several months at his former post. In the mean time, he sent his military
secretary, Captain Foy, to attend to the despatch of business until his
arrival; awarding to him a salary and fees to be paid by the colony.

The pride of the Virginians was piqued at his lingering at New York, as if
he preferred its gayety and luxury to the comparative quiet and simplicity
of Williamsburg. Their pride was still more piqued on his arrival, by what
they considered haughtiness on his part. The spirit of the "Ancient
Dominion" was roused, and his lordship experienced opposition at his very

The first measure of the Assembly, at its opening, was to demand by what
right he had awarded a salary and fees to his secretary without consulting
it; and to question whether it was authorized by the crown.

His lordship had the good policy to rescind the unauthorized act, and in so
doing mitigated the ire of the Assembly; but he lost no time in proroguing
a body, which, from various symptoms, appeared to be too independent, and
disposed to be untractable.

He continued to prorogue it from time to time, seeking in the interim to
conciliate the Virginians, and soothe their irritated pride. At length,
after repeated prorogations, he was compelled by circumstances to convene
it on the 1st of March, 1773.

Washington was prompt in his attendance on the occasion; and foremost among
the patriotic members, who eagerly availed themselves of this long wished
for opportunity to legislate upon the general affairs of the colonies. One
of their most important measures was the appointment of a committee of
eleven persons, "whose business it should be to obtain the most clear and
authentic intelligence of all such acts and resolutions of the British
Parliament, or proceedings of administration, as may relate to or affect
the British colonies, and to maintain with their sister colonies a
correspondence and communication."

The plan thus proposed by their "noble, patriotic sister colony of
Virginia," [Footnote: Boston Town Records.] was promptly adopted by the
people of Massachusetts, and soon met with general concurrence. These
corresponding committees, in effect, became the executive power of the
patriot party, producing the happiest concert of design and action
throughout the colonies.

Notwithstanding the decided part taken by Washington in the popular
movement, very friendly relations existed between him and Lord Dunmore.
The latter appreciated his character, and sought to avail himself of his
experience in the affairs of the province. It was even concerted that
Washington should accompany his lordship on an extensive tour, which the
latter intended to make in the course of the summer along the western
frontier. A melancholy circumstance occurred to defeat this arrangement.

We have spoken of Washington's paternal conduct towards the two children of
Mrs. Washington. The daughter, Miss Custis, had long been an object of
extreme solicitude. She was of a fragile constitution, and for some time
past had been in very declining health. Early in the present summer,
symptoms indicated a rapid change for the worse. Washington was absent from
home at the time. On his return to Mount Vernon, he found her in the last
stage of consumption.

Though not a man given to bursts of sensibility, he is said on the present
occasion to have evinced the deepest affliction; kneeling by her bedside,
and pouring out earnest prayers for her recovery. She expired on the 19th
of June, in the seventeenth year of her age. This, of course, put an end to
Washington's intention of accompanying Lord Dunmore to the frontier; he
remained at home to console Mrs. Washington in her affliction,--furnishing
his lordship, however, with travelling hints and directions, and
recommending proper guides. And here we will take occasion to give a few
brief particulars of domestic affairs at Mount Vernon.

For a long time previous to the death of Miss Custis, her mother,
despairing of her recovery, had centred her hopes in her son, John Parke
Custis. This rendered Washington's guardianship of him a delicate and
difficult task. He was lively, susceptible, and impulsive; had an
independent fortune in his own right, and an indulgent mother, ever ready
to plead in his behalf against wholesome discipline. He had been placed
under the care and instruction of an Episcopal clergyman at Annapolis, but
was occasionally at home, mounting his horse, and taking a part, while yet
a boy, in the fox-hunts at Mount Vernon. His education had consequently
been irregular and imperfect, and not such as Washington would have
enforced had he possessed over him the absolute authority of a father.
Shortly after the return of the latter from his tour to the Ohio, he was
concerned to find that there was an idea entertained of sending the lad
abroad, though but little more than sixteen years of age, to travel under
the care of his clerical tutor. Through his judicious interference, the
travelling scheme was postponed, and it was resolved to give the young
gentleman's mind the benefit of a little preparatory home culture.

Little more than a year elapsed before the sallying impulses of the youth
had taken a new direction. He was in love; what was more, he was engaged to
the object of his passion, and on the high road to matrimony.

Washington now opposed himself to premature marriage as he had done to
premature travel. A correspondence ensued between him and the young lady's
father, Benedict Calvert, Esq. The match was a satisfactory one to all
parties, but it was agreed, that it was expedient for the youth to pass a
year or two previously at college. Washington accordingly accompanied him
to New York, and placed him under the care of the Rev. Dr. Cooper,
president of King's (now Columbia) College, to pursue his studies in that
institution. All this occurred before the death of his sister. Within a
year after that melancholy event, he became impatient for a union with the
object of his choice. His mother, now more indulgent than ever to this, her
only child, yielded her consent, and Washington no longer made opposition.

"It has been against my wishes," writes the latter to President Cooper,
"that he should quit college in order that he may soon enter into a new
scene of life, which I think he would be much fitter for some years hence
than now. But having his own inclination, the desires of his mother, and
the acquiescence of almost all his relatives to encounter, I did not care,
as he is the last of the family, to push my opposition too far; I have,
therefore, submitted to a kind of necessity."

The marriage was celebrated on the 3d of February, 1774, before the
bridegroom was twenty-one years of age.


We are induced to subjoin extracts of two letters from Washington relative
to young Custis. The first gives his objections to premature travel; the
second to premature matrimony. Both are worthy of consideration in this
country, where our young people have such a general disposition to "go

_To the reverend Jonathan Boucher (the tutor of young Custis)._

... "I cannot help giving it as my opinion, that his education, however
advanced it may be for a youth of his age, is by no means ripe enough for a
travelling tour; not that I think his becoming a mere scholar is a
desirable education for a gentleman, but I conceive a knowledge of books is
the basis upon which all other knowledge is to be built, and in travelling
he is to become acquainted with men and things, rather than books. At
present, however well versed he may be in the principles of the Latin
language (which is not to be wondered at, as he began the study of it as
soon as he could speak), he is unacquainted with several of the classic
authors that might be useful to him. He is ignorant of Greek, the
advantages of learning which I do not pretend to judge of; and he knows
nothing of French, which is absolutely necessary to him as a traveller. He
has little or no acquaintance with arithmetic, and is totally ignorant of
the mathematics--than which, at least, so much of them as relates to
surveying, nothing can be more essentially necessary to any man possessed
of a large landed estate, the bounds of some part or other of which are
always in controversy. Now whether he has time between this and next spring
to acquire a sufficient knowledge of these studies, I leave you to judge;
as, also, whether a boy of seventeen years old (which will be his age next
November), can have any just notions of the end and design of travelling. I
have already given it as my opinion that it would be precipitating this
event, unless he were to go immediately to the university for a couple of
years; in which case he could see nothing of America; which might be a
disadvantage to him, as it is to be expected that every man, who travels
with a view of observing the laws and customs of other countries, should be
able to give some description of the situation and government of his own."

The following are extracts from the letter to Benedict Calvert, Esq., the
young lady's father:

"I write to you on a subject of importance, and of no small embarrassment
to me; My son-in-law and ward, Mr. Custis, has, as I have been informed,
paid his addresses to your second daughter; and having made some progress
in her affections, has solicited her in marriage. How far a union of this
sort may be agreeable to you, you best can tell; but I should think myself
wanting in candor, were I not to confess that Miss Nelly's amiable
qualities are acknowledged on all hands, and that an alliance with your
family will be pleasing to his.

"This acknowledgment being made, you must permit me to add, sir, that at
this, or in any short time, his youth, inexperience, and unripened
education are, and will be, insuperable obstacles, in my opinion, to the
completion of the marriage. As his guardian, I conceive it my indispensable
duty to endeavor to carry him through a regular course of education (many
branches of which, I am sorry to say, he is totally deficient in), and to
guide his youth to a more advanced age, before an event, on which his own
peace and the happiness of another are to depend, takes place. ... If the
affection which they have avowed for each other is fixed upon a solid
basis, it will receive no diminution in the course of two or three years;
in which time he may prosecute his studies, and thereby render himself more
deserving of the lady, and useful to society. If, unfortunately, as they
are both young, there should be an abatement of affection on either side,
or both, it had better precede than follow marriage.

"Delivering my sentiments thus freely, will not, I hope, lead you into a
belief that I am desirous of breaking off the match. To postpone it is all
I have in view; for I shall recommend to the young gentleman, with the
warmth that becomes a man of honor, to consider himself as much engaged to
your daughter, as if the indissoluble knot were tied; and as the surest
means of effecting this, to apply himself closely to his studies, by which
he will, in a great measure, avoid those little flirtations with other
young ladies, that may, by dividing the attention, contribute not a little
to divide the affection."



The general covenant throughout the colonies against the use of taxed tea,
had operated disastrously against the interests of the East India Company,
and produced an immense accumulation of the proscribed article in their
warehouses. To remedy this, Lord North brought in a bill (1773), by which
the company were allowed to export their teas from England to any part
whatever, without paying export duty. This, by enabling them to offer their
teas at a low price in the colonies would, he supposed, tempt the Americans
to purchase large quantities, thus relieving the company, and at the same
time benefiting the revenue by the impost duty. Confiding in the wisdom of
this policy, the company disgorged their warehouses, freighted several
ships with tea, and sent them to various parts of the colonies. This
brought matters to a crisis. One sentiment, one determination, pervaded the
whole continent. Taxation was to receive its definitive blow. Whoever
submitted to it was an enemy to his country. From New York and Philadelphia
the ships were sent back, unladen, to London. In Charleston the tea was
unloaded, and stored away in cellars and other places, where it perished.
At Boston the action was still more decisive. The ships anchored in the
harbor. Some small parcels of tea were brought on shore, but the sale of
them was prohibited. The captains of the ships, seeing the desperate state
of the case, would have made sail back for England, but they could not
obtain the consent of the consignees, a clearance at the custom-house, or a
passport from the governor to clear the fort. It was evident, the tea was
to be forced upon the people of Boston, and the principle of taxation

To settle the matter completely, and prove that, on a point of principle,
they were not to be trifled with, a number of the inhabitants, disguised as
Indians, boarded the ships in the night (18th December), broke open all the
chests of tea, and emptied the contents into the sea. This was no rash and
intemperate proceeding of a mob, but the well-considered, though resolute
act of sober, respectable citizens, men of reflection, but determination.
The whole was done calmly, and in perfect order; after which the actors in
the scene dispersed without tumult, and returned quietly to their homes.

The general opposition of the colonies to the principle of taxation had
given great annoyance to government, but this individual act concentrated
all its wrath upon Boston. A bill was forthwith passed in Parliament
(commonly called the Boston port bill), by which all lading and unlading of
goods, wares, and merchandise, were to cease in that town and harbor, on
and after the 4th of June, and the officers of the customs to be
transferred to Salem.

Another law, passed soon after, altered the charter of the province,
decreeing that all counsellors, judges, and magistrates, should be
appointed by the crown, and hold office during the royal pleasure.

This was followed by a third, intended for the suppression of riots; and
providing that any person indicted for murder, or other capital offence,
committed in aiding the magistracy, might be sent by the governor to some
other colony, or to Great Britain, for trial.

Such was the bolt of Parliamentary wrath fulminated against the devoted
town of Boston. Before it fell there was a session in May, of the Virginia
House of Burgesses. The social position of Lord Dunmore had been
strengthened in the province by the arrival of his lady, and a numerous
family of sons and daughters. The old Virginia aristocracy had vied with
each other in hospitable attentions to the family. A court circle had
sprung up. Regulations had been drawn up by a herald, and published
officially, determining the rank and precedence of civil and military
officers, and their wives. The aristocracy of the Ancient Dominion was
furbishing up its former splendor. Carriages and four rolled into the
streets of Williamsburg, with horses handsomely caparisoned, bringing the
wealthy planters and their families to the seat of government.

Washington arrived in Williamsburg on the 16th, and dined with the governor
on the day of his arrival, having a distinguished position in the court
circle, and being still on terms of intimacy with his lordship. The House
of Burgesses was opened in form, and one of its first measures was an
address of congratulation to the governor, on the arrival of his lady. It
was followed up by an agreement among the members to give her ladyship a
splendid ball, on the 27th of the month.

All things were going on smoothly and smilingly, when a letter, received
through the corresponding committee, brought intelligence of the vindictive
measure of Parliament, by which the port of Boston was to be closed on the
approaching 1st of June.

The letter was read in the House of Burgesses, and produced a general burst
of indignation. All other business was thrown aside, and this became the
sole subject of discussion. A protest against this and other recent acts of
Parliament was entered upon the journal of the House, and a resolution was
adopted, on the 24th of May, setting apart the 1st of June as a day of
fasting, prayer, and humiliation; in which the divine interposition was to
be implored, to avert the heavy calamity threatening destruction to their
rights, and all the evils of civil war; and to give the people one heart
and one mind in firmly opposing every injury to American liberties.

On the following morning, while the Burgesses were engaged in animated
debate, they were summoned to attend Lord Dunmore in the council chamber,
where he made them the following laconic speech: "Mr. Speaker, and
Gentlemen of the House of Burgesses: I have in my hand a paper, published
by order of your House, conceived in such terms, as reflect highly upon his
majesty, and the Parliament of Great Britain, which makes it necessary for
me to dissolve you, and you are dissolved accordingly."

As on a former occasion, the Assembly, though dissolved, was not dispersed.
The members adjourned to the long room of the old Raleigh tavern, and
passed resolutions, denouncing the Boston port bill as a most dangerous
attempt to destroy the constitutional liberty and rights of all North
America; recommending their countrymen to desist from the use, not merely
of tea, but of all kinds of East Indian commodities: pronouncing an attack
on one of the colonies, to enforce arbitrary taxes, an attack on all; and
ordering the committee of correspondence to communicate with the other
corresponding committees, on the expediency of appointing deputies from the
several colonies of British America, to meet annually in GENERAL CONGRESS,
at such place as might be deemed expedient, to deliberate on such measures
as the united interests of the colonies might require.

This was the first recommendation of a General Congress by any public
assembly, though it had been previously proposed in town meetings at New
York and Boston. A resolution to the same effect was passed in the Assembly
of Massachusetts before it was aware of the proceedings of the Virginia
Legislature. The measure recommended met with prompt and general
concurrence throughout the colonies, and the fifth day of September next
ensuing was fixed upon for the meeting of the first Congress, which was to
be held at Philadelphia.

Notwithstanding Lord Dunmore's abrupt dissolution of the House of
Burgesses, the members still continued on courteous terms with him, and the
ball which they had decreed early in the session in honor of Lady Dunmore,
was celebrated on the 27th with unwavering gallantry.

As to Washington, widely as he differed from Lord Dunmore on important
points of policy, his intimacy with him remained uninterrupted. By
memorandums in his diary it appears that he dined and passed the evening at
his lordship's on the 25th, the very day of the meeting at the Raleigh
tavern. That he rode out with him to his farm, and breakfasted there with
him on the 26th, and on the evening of the 27th attended the ball given to
her ladyship. Such was the well-bred decorum that seemed to quiet the
turbulence of popular excitement, without checking the full and firm
expression of popular opinion.

On the 29th, two days after the ball, letters arrived from Boston giving
the proceedings of a town meeting, recommending that a general league
should be formed throughout the colonies suspending all trade with Great
Britain. But twenty-five members of the late House of Burgesses, including
Washington, were at that time remaining in Williamsburg. They held a
meeting on the following day, at which Peyton Randolph presided as
moderator. After some discussion it was determined to issue a printed
circular, bearing their signatures, and calling a meeting of all the
members of the late House of Burgesses, on the 1st of August, to take into
consideration this measure of a general league. The circular recommended
them, also, to collect, in the mean time, the sense of their respective

Washington was still at Williamsburg on the 1st of June, the day when the
port bill was to be enforced at Boston. It was ushered in by the tolling of
bells, and observed by all true patriots as a day of fasting and
humiliation. Washington notes in his diary that he fasted rigidly, and
attended the services appointed in the church. Still his friendly
intercourse with the Dunmore family was continued during the remainder of
his sojourn in Williamsburg, where he was detained by business until the
20th, when he set out on his return to Mount Vernon.

In the mean time the Boston port bill had been carried into effect. On the
1st of June the harbor of Boston was closed at noon, and all business
ceased. The two other parliamentary acts altering the charter of
Massachusetts were to be enforced. No public meetings, excepting the annual
town meetings in March and May, were to be held without permission of the

General Thomas Gage had recently been appointed to the military command of
Massachusetts, and the carrying out of these offensive acts. He was the
same officer who, as lieutenant-colonel, had led the advance guard on the
field of Braddock's defeat. Fortune had since gone well with him. Rising in
the service, he had been governor of Montreal, and had succeeded Amherst in
the command of the British forces on this continent. He was linked to the
country also by domestic ties, having married into one of the most
respectable families of New Jersey. In the various situations in which he
had hitherto been placed he had won esteem, and rendered himself popular.
Not much was expected from him in his present post by those who knew him
well. William Smith, the historian, speaking of him to Adams, "Gage," said
he, "was a good-natured, peaceable, sociable man while here (in New York),
but altogether unfit for a governor of Massachusetts. He will lose all the
character he has acquired as a man, a gentleman, and a general, and dwindle
down into a mere scribbling governor--a mere Bernard or Hutchinson."

With all Gage's experience in America, he had formed a most erroneous
opinion of the character of the people. "The Americans," said he to the
king, "will be lions only as long as the English are lambs;" and he
engaged, with five regiments, to keep Boston quiet!

The manner in which his attempts to enforce the recent acts of Parliament
were resented, showed how egregiously he was in error. At the suggestion of
the Assembly, a paper was circulated through the province by the committee
of correspondence, entitled "a solemn league and covenant," the subscribers
to which bound themselves to break off all intercourse with Great Britain
from the 1st of August, until the colony should be restored to the
enjoyment of its chartered rights; and to renounce all dealings with those
who should refuse to enter into this compact.

The very title of league and covenant had an ominous sound, and startled
General Gage. He issued a proclamation, denouncing it as illegal and
traitorous. Furthermore, he encamped a force of infantry and artillery on
Boston Common, as if prepared to enact the lion. An alarm spread through
the adjacent country. "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."




Shortly after Washington's return to Mount Vernon, in the latter part of
June, he presided as moderator at a meeting of the inhabitants of Fairfax
County, wherein, after the recent acts of Parliament had been discussed, a
committee was appointed, with himself as chairman, to draw up resolutions
expressive of the sentiments of the present meeting, and to report the same
at a general meeting of the county, to be held in the court-house on the
18th of July.

The course that public measures were taking shocked the loyal feelings of
Washington's valued friend, Bryan Fairfax, of Tarlston Hall, a younger
brother of George William, who was absent in England. He was a man of
liberal sentiments, but attached to the ancient rule; and, in a letter to
Washington, advised a petition to the throne, which would give Parliament
an opportunity to repeal the offensive acts.

"I would heartily join you in your political sentiments," writes Washington
in reply, "as far as relates to a humble and dutiful petition to the
throne, provided there was the most distant hope of success. But have we
not tried this already? Have we not addressed the lords, and remonstrated
to the commons? And to what end? Does it not appear as clear as the sun in
its meridian brightness that there is a regular, systematic plan to fix the
right and practice of taxation upon us? ... Is not the attack upon the
liberty and property of the people of Boston, before restitution of the
loss to the India Company was demanded, a plain and self-evident proof of
what they are aiming at? Do not the subsequent bills for depriving the
Massachusetts Bay of its charter, and for transporting offenders to other
colonies or to Great Britain for trial, where it is impossible, from the
nature of things, that justice can be obtained, convince us that the
administration is determined to stick at nothing to carry its point? Ought
we not, then, to put our virtue and fortitude to the severest tests?"

The committee met according to appointment, with Washington as chairman.
The resolutions framed at the meeting insisted, as usual, on the right of
self-government, and the principle that taxation and representation were in
their nature inseparable. That the various acts of Parliament for raising
revenue; taking away trials by jury; ordering that persons might be tried
in a different country from that in which the cause of accusation
originated; closing the port of Boston; abrogating the charter of
Massachusetts Bay, &c., &c.,--were all part of a premeditated design and
system to introduce arbitrary government into the colonies. That the sudden
and repeated dissolutions of Assemblies whenever they presumed to examine
the illegality of ministerial mandates, or deliberated on the violated
rights of their constituents, were part of the same system, and calculated
and intended to drive the people of the colonies to a state of desperation,
and to dissolve the compact by which their ancestors bound themselves and
their posterity to remain dependent on the British crown. The resolutions,
furthermore, recommended the most perfect union and co-operation among the
colonies; solemn covenants with respect to non-importation and
non-intercourse, and a renunciation of all dealings with any colony, town,
or province, that should refuse to agree to the plan adopted by the General

They also recommended a dutiful petition and remonstrance from the Congress
to the king, asserting their constitutional rights and privileges;
lamenting the necessity of entering into measures that might be
displeasing; declaring their attachment to his person, family, and
government, and their desire to continue in dependence upon Great Britain;
beseeching him not to reduce his faithful subjects of America to
desperation, and to reflect, that _from our sovereign there can be but
one appeal._

These resolutions are the more worthy of note, as expressive of the
opinions and feelings of Washington at this eventful time, if not being
entirely dictated by him. The last sentence is of awful import, suggesting
the possibility of being driven to an appeal to arms.

Bryan Fairfax, who was aware of their purport, addressed a long letter to
Washington, on the 17th of July, the day preceding that in which they were
to be reported by the committee, stating his objections to several of them,
and requesting that his letter might be publicly read. The letter was not
received until after the committee had gone to the court-house on the 18th,
with the resolutions revised, corrected, and ready to be reported.
Washington glanced over the letter hastily, and handed it round to several
of the gentlemen present. They, with one exception, advised that it should
not be publicly read, as it was not likely to make any converts, and was
repugnant, as some thought, to every principle they were contending for.
Washington forbore, therefore, to give it any further publicity.

The resolutions reported by the committee were adopted, and Washington was
chosen a delegate to represent the county at the General Convention of the
province, to be held at Williamsburg on the 1st of August. After the
meeting had adjourned, he felt doubtful whether Fairfax might not be
dissatisfied that his letter had not been read, as he requested, to the
county at large; he wrote to him, therefore, explaining the circumstances
which prevented it; at the same time replying to some of the objections
which Fairfax had made to certain of the resolutions. He reiterated his
belief that an appeal would be ineffectual. "What is it we are contending
against?" asked he; "Is it against paying the duty of threepence per pound
on tea because burdensome? No, it is the right only, that we have all along
disputed; and to this end, we have already petitioned his majesty in as
humble and dutiful a manner as subjects could do. Nay, more, we applied to
the House of Lords and House of Commons in their different legislative
capacities, setting forth that, as Englishmen, we could not be deprived of
this essential and valuable part of our constitution. ...

"The conduct of the Boston people could not justify the rigor of their
measures, unless there had been a requisition of payment, and refusal of
it; nor did that conduct require an act to deprive the government of
Massachusetts Bay of their charter, or to exempt offenders from trial in
the places where offences were committed, as there was not, nor could there
be, a single instance produced to manifest the necessity of it. Are not all
these things evident proofs of a fixed and uniform plan to tax us? If we
want further proofs, do not all the debates in the House of Commons serve
to confirm this? And has not General Gage's conduct since his arrival, in
stopping the address of his council, and publishing a proclamation, more
becoming a Turkish bashaw than an English governor, declaring it treason to
associate in any manner by which the commerce of Great Britain is to be
affected,--has not this exhibited an unexampled testimony of the most
despotic system of tyranny that ever was practised in a free government?"

The popular measure on which Washington laid the greatest stress as a means
of obtaining redress from government, was the non-importation scheme; "for
I am convinced," said he, "as much as of my existence, that there is no
relief for us but in their distress; and I think--at least I hope--that
there is public virtue enough left among us to deny ourselves every thing
but the bare necessaries of life to accomplish this end." At the same time,
he forcibly condemned a suggestion that remittances to England should be
withheld. "While we are accusing others of injustice," said he, "we should
be just ourselves; and how this can be whilst we owe a considerable debt,
and refuse payment of it to Great Britain is to me inconceivable: nothing
but the last extremity can justify it."

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. [Footnote: See information given to
the elder Adams, by Mr. Lynch of South Carolina.--_Adams's Diary_.]

The Convention was six days in session. Resolutions, in the same spirit
with those passed in Fairfax County, were adopted, and Peyton Randolph,
Richard Henry Lee, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Richard Bland,
Benjamin Harrison, and Edmund Pendleton, were appointed delegates, to
represent the people of Virginia in the General Congress.

Shortly after Washington's return from Williamsburg, he received a reply
from Bryan Fairfax, to his last letter. Fairfax, who was really a man of
liberal views, seemed anxious to vindicate himself from any suspicions of
the contrary. In adverting to the partial suppression of his letter by some
of the gentlemen of the committee: "I am uneasy to find," writes he, "that
any one should look upon the letter sent down as repugnant to the
principles we are contending for; and, therefore, when you have leisure, I
shall take it as a favor if you will let me know wherein it was thought so.
I beg leave to look upon you as a friend, and it is a great relief to
unbosom one's thoughts to a friend. Besides, the information, and the
correction of my errors, which I may obtain from a correspondence, are
great inducements to it. For I am convinced that no man in the colony
wishes its prosperity more, would go greater lengths to serve it, or is, at
the same time, a better subject to the crown. Pray excuse these
compliments, they may be tolerable from a friend." [Footnote: Sparks.
Washington's Writings, vol. ii., p. 329.]

The hurry of various occupations prevented Washington, in his reply, from
entering into any further discussion of the popular theme. "I can only in
general add," said he, "that an innate spirit of freedom first told me that
the measures which the administration have for some time been, and now are
violently pursuing, are opposed to every principle of natural justice;
whilst much abler heads than my own have fully convinced me, that they are
not only repugnant to natural right, but subversive of the laws and
constitution of Great Britain itself. ... I shall conclude with remarking
that, if you disavow the right of Parliament to tax us, unrepresented as we
are, we only differ in the mode of opposition, and this difference
principally arises from your belief that they (the Parliament I mean), want
a decent opportunity to repeal the acts; whilst I am fully convinced that
there has been a regular systematic plan to enforce them, and that nothing
but unanimity and firmness in the colonies, which they did not expect, can
prevent it. By the best advices from Boston, it seems that General Gage is
exceedingly disconcerted at the quiet and steady conduct of the people of
the Massachusetts Bay, and at the measures pursuing by the other
governments. I dare say he expected to force those oppressed people into
compliance, or irritate them to acts of violence before this, for a more
colorable pretence of ruling that, and the other colonies, with a high

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.

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