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George Washington
by [?]

And I have noticed that these sturdy mothers in Israel, who so willingly give their lives that others may live, often find vent for overwrought feelings by scolding; and I, for one, cheerfully grant them the privilege. Washington’s mother scolded and grumbled to the day of her death. She also sought solace by smoking a pipe. And this reminds me that a noted specialist in neurotics has recently said that if women would use the weed moderately, tired nerves would find repose and nervous prostration would be a luxury unknown. Not being much of a smoker myself, and knowing nothing about the subject, I give the item for what it is worth.

All the sterling, classic virtues of industry, frugality and truth-telling were inculcated by this excellent mother, and her strong commonsense made its indelible impress upon the mind of her son.

Mary Washington always regarded George’s judgment with a little suspicion; she never came to think of him as a full-grown man; to her he was only a big boy. Hence, she would chide him and criticize his actions in a way that often made him very uncomfortable. During the Revolutionary War she followed his record closely: when he succeeded she only smiled, said something that sounded like “I told you so,” and calmly filled her pipe; when he was repulsed she was never cast down. She foresaw that he would be made President, and thought “he would do as well as anybody.”

Once, she complained to him of her house in Fredericksburg; he wrote in answer, gently but plainly, that her habits of life were not such as would be acceptable at Mount Vernon. And to this she replied that she had never expected or intended to go to Mount Vernon, and moreover would not, no matter how much urged–a declination without an invitation that must have caused the son a grim smile. In her nature was a goodly trace of savage stoicism that took a satisfaction in concealing the joy she felt in her son’s achievement; for that her life was all bound up in his we have good evidence.

Washington looked after her wants and supplied her with everything she needed, and, as these things often came through third parties, it is pretty certain she did not know the source; at any rate she accepted everything quite as her due, and shows a half-comic ingratitude that is very fine.

When Washington started for New York to be inaugurated President, he stopped to see her. She donned a new white cap and a clean apron in honor of the visit, remarking to a neighbor woman who dropped in that she supposed “these great folks expected something a little extra.” It was the last meeting of mother and son. She was eighty-three at that time and “her boy” fifty-five. She died not long after.

Samuel Washington, the brother two years younger than George, has been described as “small, sandy-whiskered, shrewd and glib.” Samuel was married five times. Some of the wives he deserted and others deserted him, and two of them died, thus leaving him twice a sad, lorn widower, from which condition he quickly extricated himself. He was always in financial straits and often appealed to his brother George for loans. In Seventeen Hundred Eighty-one we find George Washington writing to his brother John, “In God’s name! how has Samuel managed to get himself so enormously in debt?” The remark sounds a little like that of Samuel Johnson, who on hearing that Goldsmith was owing four hundred pounds exclaimed, “Was ever poet so trusted before?”

Washington’s ledger shows that he advanced his brother Samuel two thousand dollars, “to be paid back without interest.” But Samuel’s ship never came in, and in Washington’s will we find the debt graciously and gracefully discharged.

Thornton Washington, a son of Samuel, was given a place in the English army at George Washington’s request; and two other sons of Samuel were sent to school at his expense. One of the boys once ran away and was followed by his uncle George, who carried a goodly birch with intent to “give him what he deserved”; but after catching the lad the uncle’s heart melted, and he took the runaway back into favor. An entry in Washington’s journal shows that the children of his brother Samuel cost him fully five thousand dollars.