Page images

day disperse all cloudy and sullen weather in the minds and feelings of true Americans. Every man's heart swells within him, every man's port and bearing becomes somewhat more proud and lofty, as he remembers that seventy-five years have rolled away, and that the great inheritance of liberty is still his ; his, undiminished and unimpaired ; his, in all its original glory ; his to enjoy, his to protect, and his to transmit to future generations.



What heroes from the woodland sprung

When, through the fresh awakened land,
The thrilling cry of freedom rung,
And to the work of warfare strung

The yeoman's iron hand !

Hills flung the cry to hills around,

And ocean mart replied to mart, And streams, whose springs were yet unfound, Pealed far away the startling sound

Into the forest's heart.

Then marched the brave from rocky steep,

From mountain river swift and cold ;
The borders of the stormy deep,
The vales where gathered waters sleep,

Sent up the strong and bold,

As if the very earth again

Grew quick with God's creating breath, And, from the sods of grove and glen,

Rose ranks of lion-hearted men

To battle to the death.

Already had the strife begun;

Already blood on Concord's plain A long the springing grass had run, And blood had flowed at Lexington,

Like brooks of April rain.

That death-stain on the vernal sward

Hallowed to freedom all the shore ; In fragments fell the yoke abhorredThe footstep of a foreign lord

Profaned the soil no more.



Just as Washington was passing from boyhood to youth, the enterprise and capital of Virginia were seeking a new field for exercise and investment, in the unoccupied public domain beyond the mountains. The business of a surveyor immediately became one of great importance and trust, for no surveys were executed by the government. To this occupation the youthful Washington, not yet sixteen years of age, and well furnished with the requisite mathematical knowledge, zealously devoted himself. Some of his family connections possessed titles to large portions of public land, which he was employed with them in surveying.

Thus, at a period of life when, in a more advanced stage of society, the intelligent youth is occupied in the elementary studies of the schools and colleges, Washington was carrying the surveyor's chain through the fertile valleys of the Blue Ridge and the Alleghany Mountains ; passing days and weeks in the wilderness, beneath the shadows of eternal forests ; listening to the voice of the waterfalls, which man's art had not yet set to the healthful music of the saw-mill or the trip-hammer ; reposing from the labors of the day on a bearskin, with his feet to the blazing logs of a camp-fire ; and

sometimes startled from the deep slumbers of careless, hardworking youth, by the alarm of the Indian war-whoop.

This was the gymnastic school in which Washington was brought up ; in which his quick glance was formed, destined to range hereafter across the battle-field, through clouds of smoke and bristling rows of bayonets; the school in which his senses, weaned from the taste for those detestable indulgences, miscalled pleasures, in which the flower of adolescence so often languishes and pines away, were early braced up to the sinewy manhood which becomes the

“ Lord of the lion heart and eagle eye.”

There is preserved among the papers of Washington a letter, written to a friend while he was engaged on his first surveying tour, and when he was, consequently, but sixteen years of age. I quote a sentence from it, in spite of the homeliness of the details, for which I like it the better, and because I wish to set before you, not an ideal hero, wrapped in cloudy generalities and a mist of vague panegyric, but the real, identical man, with all the peculiarities of his life and occupation.

“Your letter," says he, "gave me the more pleasure, as I received it among barbarians and an uncouth set of people. Since you received


letter of October last, I have not slept above three or four nights in a bed; but, after walking a good deal all the day, I have lain down before the fire, upon a little hay, straw, fodder, or a bear-skin-whichever was to be had — with man wife, and children, like dogs and cats; and happy

« PreviousContinue »