Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

PAGE 2

George Washington
by [?]

Under a mass of silly moralizing, he nearly buried the real Washington, giving us instead a priggish, punk youth, and a Madame Tussaud, full-dress general, with a wax-works manner and a wooden dignity.

Happily, we have now come to a time when such authors as Mason L. Weems and John S.C. Abbott are no longer accepted as final authorities. We do not discard them, but, like Samuel Pepys, they are retained that they may contribute to the gaiety of nations.

Various violent efforts have been made in days agone to show that Washington was of “a noble line”–as if the natural nobility of the man needed a reason–forgetful that we are all sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be. But Burke’s “Peerage” lends no light, and the careful, unprejudiced, patient search of recent years finds only the blood of the common people.

Washington himself said that in his opinion the history of his ancestors “was of small moment and a subject to which, I confess, I have paid little attention.”

He had a bookplate and he had also a coat of arms on his carriage-door. The Reverend Mr. Weems has described Washington’s bookplate thus: “Argent, two bar gules in chief, three mullets of the second. Crest, a raven with wings, indorsed proper, issuing out of a ducal coronet, or.”

* * * * *

Mary Ball was the second wife of Augustine Washington. In his will the good man describes this marriage, evidently with a wink, as “my second Venture.” And it is sad to remember that he did not live to know that his “Venture” made America his debtor. The success of the union seems pretty good argument in favor of widowers marrying. There were four children in the family, the oldest nearly full grown, when Mary Ball came to take charge of the household. She was twenty-seven, her husband ten years older. They were married March Sixth, Seventeen Hundred Thirty-one, and on February Twenty-second of the following year was born a man child and they named him George.

The Washingtons were plain, hard-working people–land-poor. They lived in a small house that had three rooms downstairs and an attic, where the children slept, and bumped their heads against the rafters if they sat up quickly in bed.

Washington got his sterling qualities from the Ball family, and not from the tribe of Washington. George was endowed by his mother with her own splendid health and with all the sturdy Spartan virtues of her mind. In features and in mental characteristics, he resembled her very closely. There were six children born to her in all, but the five have been nearly lost sight of in the splendid success of the firstborn.

I have used the word “Spartan” advisedly. Upon her children, the mother of Washington lavished no soft sentimentality. A woman who cooked, weaved, spun, washed, made the clothes, and looked after a big family in pioneer times had her work cut out for her. The children of Mary Washington obeyed her, and when told to do a thing never stopped to ask why–and the same fact may be said of the father.

The girls wore linsey-woolsey dresses, and the boys tow suits that consisted of two pieces, which in Winter were further added to by hat and boots. If the weather was very cold, the suits were simply duplicated–a boy wearing two or three pairs of trousers instead of one.

The mother was the first one up in the morning, the last one to go to rest at night. If a youngster kicked off the covers in his sleep and had a coughing spell, she arose and looked after him. Were any sick, she not only ministered to them, but often watched away the long, dragging hours of the night.