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This history is presented to the public eye as a detail of the actions of a great man; and though it may not bear the ordeal of criticism, yet the author feels pleasure in having aspired to be the biographer of a Washington.
The elaborate eulogiums which have already been lavished on the virtuous American, though inadequate to his merit, may be useful as an incitement to other public characters to pursue the path of integrity ; but in other respects such praises are superfluous.
“ To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
In the history of man, we contemplate with
particular satisfaction those legislators, heroes, and philosophers, whose wisdom, valour, and virtue, have contributed to the happiness of the human species. We trace the luminous progress of those excellent beings with secret complacency; our emulation is roused, while we behold them steadily pursue the path of rectitude in defiance of every obstruction; we rejoice that we are of the same species, and thus self-love becomes the hand-maid of virtue.
The authentic pages of biography unite the most grateful amusement with instruction. Truth supports the dignity of the historic muse, who will not admit of either fulsome panegyric, or invidious censure.--She describes her hero with genuine simplicity; mentions his frailties, his characteristic peculiarities, and his shining qualities. In short, she gives a faithful and lively portrait of the man, investigates the latent motives of his actions, and celebrates those virtues which have raised him to an enviable pre-eminence above his cotemporaries.
We sympathize in the sufferings, and participate the triumphs of those illustrious men who stand
Majestic 'mid the monuments of time," and the approbation of excellence in others naturally leads the mind to imitate the object of its admiration.
Among those patriots who have a claim to our veneration, George Washington appears. in a conspicuous place in the first rank. The ancestors of this extraordinary man, in the year 1657, emigrated from England to America, and settled in the colony of Virginia : here, by unremitting industry, they became opulent and respectable, and gave their name to the parish of Washington, in Westmoreland county.
George Washington, the hero of the following history, was the fruit of a second marriage, and was born in the settlement of Cho.
tank, in the above-mentioned county, on the 11th of February, 1732. It is to be regretted, that we have so few documents of his education and pursuits during his juvenile years; even the slightest trait of the character of a man who was the principal instrument in effecting a great revolution, is interesting.
The extensive settlement of Chotank was originally purchased by the Washington family; the extreme fertility of the soil induced those settlers to cultivate tobacco in several plantations; for this purpose they purchased a number of negro slaves, and consequently population was rapidly increased. At the time our hero was born, all the planters throughout this extensive settlement were his relations; hence his youthful years glided away in all the pleasing gaiety of social friendship. He received a private education, but it was by no means so limited as a tourist* insinuates. Indeed the question, whether a public or a private education he preferable, has been so ably discussed by the most eminyent writers, that little remains to be said on that subject. ' Mr. Locke observes, that a youth “ will, perhaps, be more innocent at home, but more ignorant of the world, and more sheepish' when he comes abroad.”
Vide Smyth's Tour in the United States of America, vo!. ii. page 148.
Washington, however, is an illustrious instance of the superior advantages of a domestic education. He was initiated in the elements of religion, morality, and science, by a private tutor ; and, from the tenor of his actions, it is manifested, that uncommon pains were taken to cherish the best propensities of human nature in his heart. In the tenth year of his age he had the misfortune to lose an excellent father, who died in 1742, and the patrimonial estate devolved on an elder brother. This young gentleman had been an officer in the colonial troops sent in the expedition against Carthagena. On his return he called the family mansion Mount VERNON, in honor of the British admiral, and destined his brother George to serve in the navy.
Accordingly, in his fifteenth year, our hero was entered as a midshipman on board a British frigate, stationed on the coast of Virginia; he prepared to embark with all the alacrity of youth, but his nautical career was 'stopped by the interposition of maternallove. Ever obedient to an affectionate mother, young Washington relinquished his desire of going to sea; the energies of his mind were to be exerted on a more stable element.
He remained at home during four subse