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Mount Vernon in '98-Scomberry in Costume—“Green Willow Hol
low"- Collector of the Port-Corn-cob Pipes—Turkey Driver Metamorphosed—French War Cloud-Paine's Orisis— New York sings a Song—“President's March”—The Theatre—“Hail Columbia”—Mr. Hopkinson and Mr. Fox—“Temple of Minerva”—Presiding Genii—High Priest—Song of the GeniiHistory and Immortality of Hail Columbia.
Having noticed the turkey story of '97, and its morals, we como to the New Year of '98. A happy Christmas had been spent at the mansion and at the servants' quarters; but the festivities of the season had not been passed without adding here and there a new song to beautify and cheer the Mount.
But six months have passed away since the choirs last met in open air in '97. The flowers of May, '98, appear in bloom; and the poet of Dogue Run, profound in deliberation and classic in motion, appears again costumed as gaily as May herself. With cocked hat, short continental breeches, long stockings, low shoes with silver buckles, and long blue coat, he appeared on Whit-Monday, at the home plantation, flourishing a long tasseled wand, and with philosophic tread, found his way to Billy's cottage, mid a host of admirers. His appearance in full costume was the signal for the opening of the musical campaign of '98. He had recently spent much time beside his pure Castilian fountain, located less than half a stadium from his Delphian abode, diligently courting the Muses of the little Parnassus that towered above him; and, like an oracular priest on the tripod, tarrying for a response, his flowing white locks made venerable the secluded shades of Green Willow Hollow.
In the early part of the year 1798, a certain discovery was made to improve the provincial corn-cob pipe. The collector of the port of Mount Vernon claimed the honor of the discovery. He was a wily old contrabandist, and generally received the duties on imports in Jamaica rum. This quickened his powers of invention, kept alive the fire in his pipe, and caused him to set in grave analysis of the corn-cob. He therefore discovered that pipes must be made of cobs plucked from the field and shelled in a certain season. In honor of the discovery and its author, the poet of Green Willow Hollow consented to court the Muses of his little Parnassus; and on the beautiful Whit-Monday of '98, after those famous pipes had undergone the test of six months' trial, the groves of Mount Vernon were made vocal for the first time of the season, and the corn-cob pipe seized the immortality of song. On the green grass, between the summer-house and old vault, and within hearing of the chief and white ladies of the mansion, the choir sang as follows:
O how sweet de breeze am blowin',
Now de heat ob day am past;
Since de clouds hab floated past.
Feelins in dis breast it 'spires;
I my corn-cob pipe admires.
Arter glory's giddy seat;
Let him call de hard-books sweet.
'Bout de future days o' bliss ;
Meet de jessamine and kiss.
'Lympus Jupiter ob old;
'Bout dis pipe de haf's not told.
"Jupiter de nectar sips ;"
'Parts de flavor to de lips.
In dis pipe de fire am glowin,'
See dat smokel-it curls and turns;
As I sucks it, how it burns.
From de cob jes in de season
Wid dis hand I shelled de corn;
Why its sweet and hard like horn.
Sweet must be dis 'brosial smoke,
Dis mos charmin' corn-cob pipe.
In this year, Thomas, the unsuccessful turkey driver of '97, appeared in light continental breeches, long white stockings, low shoes with buckles, long white apron and powdered hair, standing at the table of the mansion, as an assistant in the dining room. How changed he is ! He has grown much taller, and his well-formed ebony face is always lit up with the most pleasing smiles. Lady Washington and Miss Nelly admire and praise him, and express their pleasure that a youth so clean, so active, and so smiling, has been found on the Mount Vernon estate. His qualifications demand his services at the mansion, and he has been ordered into Frank's department as an assistant dining-room servant. In preparing the dining table, he would hold in his right hand a dish, a plate of butter, or water glass, and with his keen eye fixed on Frank, his superior, would flourish it over his head without dropping its contents, and let it “come to time” with Frank, holding a similar vessel, so as to produce but one sound as if but one vessel only had touched the table at the moment of contact. This pleased his superior, and in order to give his young assistant practice in the art, two glasses were filled to the brim with water, Frank taking one and Thomas the other, and flourishing them clearly over their heads would bring them to time on the table without spilling a drop of water.
But during those sweet dreams of peace the French war cloud, before referred to, began to gather in earnest. "Preparations were made for war with France, and in May, '98, Congress authorized the
formation of a large military force to be called a provisional army. The movement was popular with the people, and with anxious hearts, their thoughts turned instinctively to Washington, as their commander-in-chief."
“I must tax you sometimes for advice," writes President Adams to the retired chief at Mount Vernon. “We must have your name, if you will in any case permit us to use it. There will be more efficiency in it than in many an army.”
“You see how the storm thickens," wrote the Secretary of War, "and that our vessel will soon require our ancient pilot. Will you— may we flatter ourselves that, in a crisis so awful and important, you will accept the command of all our armies? I hope you will, because you alone can unite all hearts and all hands, if it is possible they can be united.”
“I see, as you do," writes Washington, to the Secretary of War, “that clouds are gathering, and that a storm may ensue, and I find, too, from a variety of hints, that my quiet under these circumstances, does not promise to be of long continuance.”
“And now there were stirring times again at Mount Vernon. Washington's post-bag came filled with a score of letters sometimes, for to him had been entrusted the selection of officers for the army, and there were thousands of aspirants for places of almost every grade.”
President Adams had already nominated to the Senate, “George Washington, of Mount Vernon, to be Lieutenant-General and Commander-in-Chief of all the armies raised and to be raised in the United States.”
The patriotism of the country was once more stirred from centre to circumference, if any it had-for the centre of liberty appeared every where—but its circumference no where—the war clarion awakened all those patriotic feelings which local associations are calculated to awaken, and grounds which had been dignified by wisdom, bravery and virtue, in former days, caused every man's patriotism to revive and “gain force.”
“On the 19th December, 1776, when the stoutest hearts failed," Thomas Paine, that accomplished American political writer, “published his first ‘Crisis,' which began with that phrase since so often quoted : "These are the times that try men's souls.' This aroused the drooping ardor of the people; it was read at the hcad of every regiment; and the first fruit of the re-animated enthusiasm it produced was the battle of Trenton, six days after.”
In '98, Paine's words, uttered when British tyranny was about to be hurled from power on this continent, were still fresh in the memory of many a war-worn patriot of '76, and now the days that tried men's souls were at hand again, for the haughty French Directory must be humbled, and the insult offered the United States must be wiped out in blood, unless some delicate diplomacy can adjust the difficulty.
New York, ever at her post of honor in all hours of the nation's trouble, was first on the stage to play her part in the bloody drama of :98, if the worst must come. She roused her sons to duty, rallied to the national standard, and sung the first war song of the day, called
“THE FEDERAL Constitution Boys, AND LIBERTY FOREVER.”
"Poets may sing of their Helicon streams,
They ne'er sang a line
We Columbians boast,
Our sheet anchor's sure,
We Columbians boast,
Our frigates shall ride
And huzza for our toast,