Page images

thousand orators spread his fame abroad, bright as his own Potomac, when he reflects the morning sun, and flames like a sea of liquid gold, the wonder and delight of all the neighbouring shores? Yes, they have indeed spread his fame abroad....his fame as Generalissimo of the armies, and first President of the councils of his nation. But this is not half his fame....True, he has been seen in greatness: but it is only the greatness of public character, which is no evidence of true greatness; for a public character is often an artificial one. At the head of an army or nation, where gold and glory are at stake, and where a man feels himself the burning focus of unnumbered eyes; he must be a paltry fellow, indeed, who does not play his part pretty handsomely....even the common passions of pride, avarice, or ambition, will put him up to his mettle, and call forth his best and bravest doings. But let this heat and blaze of public situation and incitement be withdrawn ; let him be thrust back into the shade of private life; and you shall see how soon, like forced plant robbed of its hot-bed, he will drop his false foliage and fruit, and stand forth confessed in native stickweed sterility and worthlessness.-There was Benedict Arnoldwhile strutting a BRIGADIER GENERAL on the public stage, he could play you the great man, on a handsome scale-he out-marched Hannibal, and outfought Burgoyne-he chased the British like curlews, or cooped them up like chickens! and yet in the private walks of life, in Philadelphia, he could swindle rum from the commissary's stores, and, with the aid of loose women, retail it by the gill!! And there was the great duke of Marlborough too -his public character, a thunderbolt in war! Britain's boast, and the terror of the French! But his private character, what? Why a swindler to whom Arnold's self could hold a candle; a perfect nondescript of baseness; a shaver of farthings from the poor sixpenny pay of his own brave soldiers !!


It is not, then, in the glare of public, but in the shade of private life, that we are to look for the Private life is always real life. Behind the curtain, where the eyes of the million are not upon him, and where a man can have no motive but inclination, no incitement but honest nature, there he will always be sure to act himself: consequently, if he act greatly, he must be great indeed. Hence it has been justly said, that," our private deeds, if noble, are noblest of our aves."

Or these private deeds of Washington very little has been said. In most of the elegant orations pronounced to his praise, you see nothing of Washington below the clouds-nothing of Washington the dutiful son- the affectionate brother-the cheerful school-bry-the diligent surveyor-the neat draftsman-the laborious farmer-the widow's husbandthe orphan's father-the poor man's friend. No! this is not the Washington you see; 'tis only Washington, the HERO, and the Demigod-Washington the sun beam in council, or the storm in war.

AND in all the ensigns of character amidst which he is generally drawn, you see none that represent him what he really was, "the Jupiter Conservator," the friend and benefactor of men. Where's his bright ploughshare that he loved-or his wheat-crowned fields, waving in yellow ridges before the wanton breeze-or his hills whitened over with flocks-or his clover covered pastures spread with innumerous herds or his neat-clad servants with songs rolling the heavy harvest before them? Such were the scenes of peace, plenty, and happiness, in which Washington delighted. But his eulogists have denied him these, the only scenes which belong to man the GREAT; and have trick'd him up in the vile drapery of man the little. See! there he stands! with the port of Mars" the destroyer," dark frowning over the fields of war-the lightning of Potter's blade is by his side -the deep-mouthed cannon is before him, disgorging its flesh-mangling balls-his war-horse pants


with impatience to bear him, a speedy thunderbolt, against the pale and bleeding ranks of Britain!These are the drawings usually given of Washington; drawings masterly no doubt, and perhaps justly descriptive of him in some scenes of his life. But scenes they were, which I am sure his soul abhorred, and in which, at any rate, you see nothing of his private virtues. These old fashioned commodities are generally thrown into the back ground of the picture; and treated, as the grandees at the London and Paris routs, treat their good old aunts and grandmothers, huddling them together into the back rooms, there to wheeze and cough by themselves, and not depress the fine laudanum-raised spirits of the young sparklers. And yet it was to those old fashioned virtues that our hero owed every thing. For they in fact were the food of the great aotions of him, whom men call Washington. It was they that enabled him, first to triumph over himself; then over the British; and uniformly to set such bright examples of human berfectibility and true greatness, that,compared therewith, the history of his capturing Cornwallis and Tarleton, with their buccaneering legions, sounds almost as small as the story of General Putnam's catching his wolf and her lamb-killing whelps.

SINCE then it is the private virtues that lay the foundation of all human excellence-since it was these that exalted Washington to be "Columbia's first and greatest Son," be it our first care to present these, in all their lustre, before the admiring eyes of our children. To them his private character is every thing; his public, hardly any thing. For how glorious soever it may have been in Washington to have undertaken the emancipation of his country; to have stemined the long tide of adversity; to have baffled every effort of a wealthy and warlike nation; to have obtained for his countrymen the completest victory, and for himself the most unbounded power; and then to have returned that power, accompanied

with all the weight of his own great character and advice to establish a government that should immortalize the blessings of liberty-however glorious, I say, all this may have been to himself, or instructive to future generals and presidents, yet does it but little concern our children. For who among us can hope that his son shall ever be called, like Washington, to direct the storm of war, or to ravish the ears of deeply listening Senates? To be constantly placing him then, before our children, in this high character, what is it but like springing in the clouds a golden Phoenix, which no mortal calibre can ever hope to reach? Or like setting pictures of the Mammoth before the mice whom "not all the manna of Heaven" can ever raise to equality? Oh no! give us his pri vate virtues! In these, every youth is interested, because in these every youth may become a Washington-a Washington in piety and patriotism,-in industry and honour--and consequently a Washington, in what alone deserves the name, SELF ESTEEM and




"Children like tender osiers take the bow;
"And as they first are form'd, forever grow.

[ocr errors]

TO this day numbers of good Christians can hardly find faith to believe that Washington was, bona fide, a Virginian!" What! a buckskin! say they with a smile. "George Washington a buckskin! pshaw ! impossible! he was certainly an European: So great a man could never have been born in America."

So great a man could never have been born in America!-Why that's the very prince of reasons why he should have been born here! Nature, we know, is fond of harmonies; and paria paribus, that is, great things to great, is the rule she delights to work by. Where, for example, do we look for the whale, "the biggest born of nature ?" not, I trow, in a mill-pond, but in the main ocean. "There go the great ships: and there are the spoutings of whales amidst their boiling foam.

By the same rule, where shall we look for Washington, the greatest among men, but in America that greatest Continent, which, rising from beneath the frozen pole, stretches far and wide to the south, running almost "the whole length of this vast terrene," and sustaining on her ample sides the roaring shock of half the watery globe? And equal to its size is the furniture of this vast continent, where the Almighty has reared his cloud-capt mountains, and spread his sea-like lakes, and poured his mighty rivers, and hurled down his thundering cataracts in a style of the sublime, so far superior to any thing of the kind in the other continents, that we may fairly conclude that great men and great deeds are designed for America.

THIS seems to be the verdict of honest analogy; and accordingly we find America the honoured cradle of Washington, who was born on Pope's creek in Westmoreland county, Virginia, the 22d of February, 1732. His father, whose name was Augustin Washington, was also a Virginian: but his grandfather (John) was an Englishman, who came over and settled in Virginia in 1657.

His father, fully persuaded that a marriage of virtuous love comes nearest to angelic life, early stepped up to the altar with glowing cheeks and joy sparkling eyes, while by his side with soft warm hand, sweetly trembling in his, stood the angel-form of the lovely Miss Dandridge.

« PreviousContinue »