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actual service; which shews that his military talents were, even then, highly appreciated.
At this early period did he develope those clear perceptions, and that sound judgment, which so far contribute to the formation of a vigorous understanding, and ensure success in the undertakings of life. Nature, indeed, seems to have fashioned his mind in that happy scale of modulated and restricted power, which, while it endowed him with sufficient perspicacity, yet, at the same time, so interposed the restraints of judgment and sound sense, as to prevent his imagination from exaggerating or distorting the real proportions, and true magnitude of objects. Thus, though his imagination was not vivid, his understanding was vigorous, so as to admirably qualify him for the duties of military life, as well as the ordinary concerns of the world. These traits of his character are delineated in a peculiar and striking manner in the various journals which he composed, when despatched on public business, particularly that which he kept on the occasion of the appointment which was now conferred on him.
On the 31st October, 1753, having volunteered his services to Governor Dinwiddie, he was commissioned to bear the remonstrances of Virginia to the commander of the French posts, against their encroachments on the English settlements; a perilous duty, which he discharged to the satisfaction of the government and the public; but the French, being indisposed to retire from the Ohio, the Assembly of Virginia determined to resort to compulsory measures, and a regiment was raised, to which Washington was appointed Lieutenant Colonel. In this predatory campaign against the French and Indians, Washington first distinguished himself for that ability to manage a retreat, and that prudent valour which awaits occasion for victory, or can seize opportunity to escape disaster, which afterwards so eminently characterised him. For his conduct on this occasion, the Legislature of Virginia passed him a vote of thanks.
The applause bestowed on his judgment and discretion, his valour and his skill, had inflamed his natural passion for a military life; but a distinction having been adopted between the officers of the crown and those of the provincial troops, giving precedence of rank to the former, Washington retired from the service in disgust, under a deep sense of intended injury and dishonour.
In this interval between his civil and military life, his eldest brother, Lawrence Washington, who had been engaged in the expedition against Carthagena, having paid the debt of nature, bequeathed him the plantation of Mount Vernon, a large estate on the banks of the Potomac, and named by him after Admiral Vernon, under whom he served. George now removed to this delightful residence, with the fixed purpose of spending the remainder of his days in the pleasures and avocations of private life. But how feeble are all human resolutions!
Being invited by General Braddock, to enter his family as a volunteer aid de camp, under very flattering professions, Washington, in whom the love of military life was a passion, could not resist the temptation, and he accordingly joined the forces of that commander. In this campaign, his advice was proved by experience, to have always been dictated by the spirit of wisdom; and his assistance was of inestimable advantage to the commanding general, who never suffered adverses, but when he neglected the suggestions of the sagacity, or undervalued the admonitions of the experience of Washington.
In this disastrous campaign against Fort Du Quesne, Braddock was defeated and killed; and Colonel Washington, only escaped by one of those miracles of war, which sometimes reserve brave men for greater achievements of glory.
Braddock's defeat proved a real victory to Washington, whose advice, as events proved, had it been followed, would have resulted in the victory of the day, and the success of the expedition. His conduct was applauded-his discretion extolled-his valour admired-so that he was considered the flower of Virginia chivalry-and honored as the pride and ornament of his native state.
A new regiment of sixteen companies was now raised by the Assembly, and the command tendered to Colonel Washington, who accepted the trust under discretionary powers never before granted to an officer; so rapid was the growth of his fame as a military captain, and with such exclusive zeal did he devote the energies of his mind to the art of war.
The year 1755 was remarkable for the horrid ravages perpetrated by the French and Indians on the frontier settlements of Virginia; and Washington was active in stay
ing the progress of massacre and destruction: but his utmost exertions did not completely succeed, in this arduous undertaking a deficiency, however, more ascribable to the State Assembly, than to their military commander, who, being left destitute of troops, could not accomplish in his own person, what would have required a large army to effect.
In the subsequent spring of 1756, a similar irruption of the enemy again desolated the inhabited borders of the State; and again, from the inadequacy of his means, was Washington incapable of rendering the country any efficient service. His mortification and grief, on this occasion, were intense; and wrung from his benevolent heart the wish that he had never accepted his commission. But, undismayed, and unwearied, he now directed his energies to exhort the Assembly to provide sufficient means to repel their savage invaders; and all that wisdom, skill, and humanity could accomplish, was done by Washington, in the way of advice, appeals and exhortation, to provide competent means of defence and aggression.
Insubordination among the troops, was a vital defect in their means of efficiency; to remedy which, Washington appealed in the most forcible manner, until he procured a partial remedy for the evil. But the frontiers long continued to suffer terrible desolation from the inroads of the Indians and French, who came down from the Ohio, like a torrent, overwhelming in destruction all that opposed their passage, or presented an object for plunder, violence, and massacre.
This era is only important and interesting, in the life of Washington, as it affords the first great display of that consummate military genius, which stamped him with features so superior to the common order of men. Under public disasters which paralysed the very faculty of thought in others, he rose with vigour to the emergency of the crisis -detected at once the cause of defeat-penetrated to the means of victory-devised remedies for defects-supplied deficiencies by his invention-explored the country with a military eye, that seemed like intuition itself suggested plans of organising the army-selected scites for forts and garrisons and, in fine, demonstrated to the conviction of all, that the commander of the Virginia forces, had been gifted by nature with the highest military genius, which
only required to be sustained by competent means, and displayed on a suitable theatre, to raise him to an eminence of glory, not exceeded by ancient, or modern heroes. Such must be the conviction of all, who read the papers which he submitted to the Governor and Assembly of Virginia, upon the state of the country, at that period; and in which he strongly recommended them to carry the war into the enemy's country, in order to obtain peace and security at home. Looking attentively at his conduct, and his writings, of that epoch, there is discernible throughout them a spirit breathing the purest ambition of military fame, and enthusiastically absorbed in this one darling object of his
From the time of Braddock's defeat, Washington had his thoughts fixed on the reduction of Fort Du Quesne, as the only means of securing the frontiers from the murderous incursions of the savage foe; and from letters written by him, under the influence of an impatient thirst of glory, and a depressed ambition, denied its proper field of action -the impetuosity of his temper-the irritation of his spirit
and the great perspicacity of his intellect in military matters, break forth with a lustre, which while it presaged his future greatness, at the same time extorts our admiration.* It was evident, from his own confessions, that, notwithstanding his constitutional modesty, he thought himself somewhat neglected, and that his merits were not justly appreciated by those in power in the mother country, however sincerely his services had been applauded by the Provincial Assembly.
The capture, or more properly speaking, the evacuation of Fort Du Quesne by the French and the cessation of Indian hostilities, chiefly to be ascribed to that event, now released Washington from all obligations of honor, or patriotism, to remain in the army: and, as his ambition could not be gratified by being placed on the permanent establishment, he now resolved to retire, especially as his impaired health, as well as his private affairs, demanded his attention, to place both on a sounder footing. accordingly resigned his commission as Colonel of the First Virginia Regiment, and commander in chief of the troops of the Colony. On this occasion, the regret and attachment
* See Vol. 2, chapter 1, Marshall's Life.
of his officers were feelingly manifested in a complimentary address highly flattering to his private worth, as well as military genius.
Shortly after his retirement from the army, he became united in wedlock to Mrs. Custis, a young widow of large fortune, fine person, splendid accomplishments, and those amiable qualities of the heart and mind, which, operating in the circle of love, tend so much to promote the permanent happiness of the conjugal state-to inspire and to enjoy which, in the highest degree of perfection, appears to have been one of the peculiar felicities of his constitution. the time of his marriage, he was in his twenty-seventh year.
Let us here pause, at what we may term the first great stage of the life of Washington, to indulge in those natural reflections upon his genius and character, which are indispensable to a just and rational appreciation of the complexion of his principles, and the power of his understanding, as they afterwards became more fully developed, in the progress of the Revolution-the establishment of Independence, and the adoption of the Federal Constitution.
The first object for reflection that occurs in the survey of this part of his life, was his scanty education, being denied the benefit of classical instruction, and cast into active life at so early an age as fifteen. It is evident, that whatever knowledge, or science, he had acquired at school within that term, must have been very limited, if not superficial; yet neither in his letters, nor in his active duties, does any deficiency from that cause appear: his genius happily supplying all defects, and omissions, which there may have been in his education. The style of his letters, and public papers, was copious, flowing, lucid, and elegant. His conceptions are clear his diction vigorous
his reasoning close and logical-as if his very exemption from the fetters of the classics had given a freedom, boldness, and elasticity to his mind, which, under their cumbersome weight, it might otl.erwise have wanted: and when we consider the inherent power of his mind, it is doubtful, whether he could have derived any advantage from more profound studies, in the profession which his genius had impelled him to embrace with so much enthusiasm and
Viewed in this light, WASHINGTON presents us with a