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CHAPTER II.

JT is the Divinity that stirs within us! Addison.

——Must such minds be nourished in the wild,

Deep in the upturned forests, midst the roar

Of cataracts, where nursing Nature smiled

On infant Washington? Has earth no more

Such seed within her breast and Europe no such shore?

Byron.

We are unable to present our readers with any particulars of the life of Mrs. Washington, for several years previous to the American Revolution, except such as are gleaned from the published accounts of those troubled times, as associated with the history of her son.

The incipient workings of the mighty spirit destined to achievements that should move the world, influenced the youthful Washington, when only fourteen years of age, to form plans for independent efforts in a more enlarged sphere of exertion than was afforded him by the employment and duties of home life. He had actually taken the necessary steps preliminary to entering the English Navy, when the disapproval of his mother prevented the accomplishment of his design.

Our readers will be interested in the details respecting this incident furnished by Mr. Sparks:

Washington's "eldest brother,* Lawrence, had been an officer in the late war, and served at the siege of Carthagena and in the West Indies. Being a well-informed and accomplished gentleman, he had acquired the esteem and confidence of General Wentworth and Admiral Vernon, the commanders of the expedition, with whom he afterwards kept up a friendly correspondence. Having observed the military turn of his young brother, and looking upon the British Navy as the most direct road to distinction in that line, he obtained for George a midshipman's warrant, in the year 1746, when he was fourteen years old. This step was taken with his acquiescence, if not at his request, and he prepared with a buoyant spirit for his departure; but, as the time approached, the solicitude of his mother interposed with an authority, to which nature gave a claim."

"At this critical juncture, Mr. Jackson, a friend of the family, wrote to Lawrence Washington as follows: 'I am afraid Mrs. Washington will not keep up her first resolution. She seems to dislike George's going to sea, and says, several persons have told her it was a bad scheme. She offers several trifling objections, such as fond unthinking mothers habitually suggest; and I find that one word against his going has more weight than ten for it.' She persisted in opposing the plan, and it was given up. Nor ought that decision to be ascribed to obstinacy, or maternal weakness. It was her eldest son, whose character and manners must already have exhibited a promise, full of solace and hope to a widowed mother, on whom alone devolved the charge of four younger children. To see him separated from her at so tender an age, exposed to the perils of accident and the world's rough usage, without a parent's voice to counsel or a parent's hand to guide, and to enter on a theatre of action, which would forever remove him from her presence, was a trial of her fortitude and sense of duty, which she could not be expected to hazard without reluctance and concern."* Chief Justice Marshall's version of the matter ascribes rather a more active personal agency to Washington himself, than that of Mr. Sparks. He says:—

* The eldest son of Augustine "Washington.

* Sparks' Life Of Washington, vol. i. p. 10.

"Those powerful attractions which the profession of arms presents to young and ardent minds, possessed their full influence over Mr Washington. Stimulated by the enthusiasm of military genius, to take part in the war in which Great Britain was then engaged, he had pressed so earnestly to enter the navy, that, at the age of fifteen, a midshipman's warrant was obtained for him."*

But the numerous biographers of Washington, however they may differ in other respects, agree in ascribing his abandonment of this cherished scheme to the all-powerful influence of his mother. One of them affirms that the luggage of the young enthusiast was actually conveyed on board the little vessel destined to bear him away to his new post, and that, when he attempted to bid adieu to his only parent, his previous resolution to depart was for the first time subdued, in consequence of her ill-concealed dejection and her irrepressible tears.

Who shall say that the decisive interposition of his mother did not save from a life of limited usefulness and comparative obscurity, the embryo soldier and statesman!

* Marshall's Life Of Washington, vol. i. p. 2.

Mrs. Washington proved the injustice of the imputation of weak, maternal fondness, which as we have seen was so erroneously supposed, by at least one of her friends, to be the source of her opposition to the wishes of her son, by the cheerfulness with which, almost immediately after the abandonment of his original design, she relinquished the pleasure and benefit she would have derived from his continued residence under the paternal roof.

Juvenile as he was for assuming an occupation involving responsibilities so serious, the incipient hero was soon actively engaged in the profession of engineering, for which his favorite intellectual pursuits and his taste for athletic exercise had already prepared him. In consequence of the near vicinity of the residence of his half-brother, Lawrence, to the principal scene of his operations, George became an inmate of his family, and continued, thenceforth, to be an absentee from his early home, with only the brief exceptions made by his being occasionally and temporarily there to aid in the care and arrangement of his mother's affairs.

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