Mandeville, LA – At the Mike Church Show, Founding Father Films and Founding Father Films Publishing, we never stop working to deliver to ourselves and then share with you the rich history of the People of These United States. Today, in celebrating the birth of George Washington, please consider this brief preview from our upcoming re-issue of Washington Irving’s “Life of Washington” book (April, 2014n release). What better way to learn and enjoy Washington’s Birthday today then to reserve a copy of “The Times That Try Men’s Souls-Washington’s Crossing” complete with the world’s first and only Washington’s Crossing-Compleat Retreat & Crossing Map?
(Life of Washington – Washington Irving, 1858, this edition edited by Mike Church, Founding Father Films Publishing, 2014) – The Washington family is of an ancient English stock, the genealogy of which has been traced up to the century immediately succeeding the Conquest. Among the knights and barons who served under the Count Palatine, Bishop of Durham, to whom William the Conqueror had granted that important See, was WILLIAM DEHERTBURN. At that period surnames were commonly derived from castles or estates; and de Hertburn, in 1183, in exchanging the village of Hertburn for the manor of Wessyngton, assumed the name of DE WESSYNGTON. From this period the family has been traced through successive generations, until the name, first dropping the de, varied from Wessyngton to Wassington, Wasshington, and finally to Washington. The head of the family to which our Washington immediately belongs sprang from Lawrence Washington, Esq., of Gray’s Inn.
George, the eldest, the subject of this biography, was born on the 22d of February (11th, O. S.), 1732, in the homestead on Bridges Creek. This house commanded a view over many miles of the Potomac, and the opposite shore of Maryland. Not a vestige of it remains.
He was mayor of Northampton, and received a grant of the manor of Sulgrave from Henry VIII. [Sir William Washington of Packington, was his direct descendant. The Washingtons were attached to the Stuart dynasty. Lieut.-Col. James Washington perished in defence of that cause. Sir Henry Washington, son of Sir William, distinguished himself under Prince Rupert, in 1643, at the storming of Bristol; and still more, in 1646, in the defence of Worcester against the arms of Fairfax. We hear little of the Washingtons after the death of Charles I. England, during the protectorate, was an uncomfortable residence for those who had adhered to the Stuarts, and many sought refuge in other lands. Among many who emigrated to the western wilds were John and Andrew Washington, great-grandsons of the grantee of Sulgrave.]
The brothers arrived in Virginia in 1657, and purchased lands in Westmoreland County, on the northern neck, between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers. John married a Miss Anna Pope, of the same county, and took up his residence on Bridges Creek, near where it falls into the Potomac. He became an extensive planter, and, in process of time, a magistrate and member of the House of Burgesses. Having a spark of the old military fire of the family, we find him, as Colonel Washington, leading the Virginia forces, in co-operation with those of Maryland, against a band of Seneca Indians, who were ravaging the settlements along the Potomac.
The estate continued in the family. His grandson Augustine, the father of our Washington, was born there in 1694. He was twice married; first (April 20th, 1715), to Jane, daughter of Caleb Butler, Esq., of Westmoreland County, by whom he had four children, of whom only two, Lawrence and Augustine, survived the years of childhood; their mother died November 24th, 1728, and was buried in the family vault. On the 6th of March, 1730, he married in second nuptials, Mary, the daughter of Colonel Ball, a young and beautiful girl, said to be the belle of the northern neck. By her he had four sons, George, Samuel, John Augustine, and Charles; and two daughters, Elizabeth, or Betty, as she was commonly called, and Mildred, who died in infancy.
George, the eldest, the subject of this biography, was born on the 22d of February (11th, O. S.), 1732, in the homestead on Bridges Creek. This house commanded a view over many miles of the Potomac, and the opposite shore of Maryland. Not a vestige of it remains. Two or three decayed fig trees, with shrubs and vines, linger about the place, and here and there a flower grown wild serves “to mark where a garden has been.” Such at least, was the case a few years since; but these may have likewise passed away. A stone marks the site of the house, and an inscription denotes its being the birthplace of Washington.
Not long after the birth of George, his father removed to an estate in Stafford County, opposite Fredericksburg. The house stood on a rising ground overlooking a meadow which bordered the Rappahannock. This was the home of George’s boyhood; but this, like that in which he was born, has disappeared.
In those days the means of instruction in Virginia were limited, and it was the custom among the wealthy planters to send their sons to England to complete their education. This was done by Augustine Washington with his eldest son Lawrence. George, as his intellect dawned, received the rudiments of education in the best establishment for the purpose that the neighborhood afforded. It was what was called, in popular parlance, an “old field school-house;” humble enough in its pretensions, and kept by one of his father’s tenants named Hobby. The instruction doled out by him must have been the simplest kind, reading, writing, and ciphering, perhaps; but George had the benefit of mental and moral culture at home, from an excellent father. When he was about seven or eight years old his brother Lawrence returned from England, a well-educated and accomplished youth. There was a difference of fourteen years in their ages, which may have been one cause of the strong attachment which took place between them. Lawrence looked down with a protecting eye upon the boy whose dawning intelligence and perfect rectitude won his regard; while George looked up to his manly and cultivated brother as a model in mind and manners.
Lawrence Washington had something of the old military spirit of the family, and circumstances soon called it into action. Spanish depredations on British commerce had recently provoked reprisals. Admiral Vernon, commander-in-chief in the West Indies, had accordingly captured Porto Bello, on the Isthmus of Darien. The Spaniards were preparing to revenge the blow; the French were fitting out ships to aid them. Troops were embarked in England for another campaign in the West Indies; a regiment of four battalions was to be raised in the colonies and sent to join them at Jamaica. There was a sudden outbreak of military ardor in the province. Lawrence Washington, now twenty-two years of age, caught the infection. He obtained a captain’s commission in the newly-raised regiment, and embarked with it for the West Indies in 1740. He served in the joint expeditions of Admiral Vernon and General Wentworth, and acquired the friendship and confidence of both of those officers. We have here the secret of that martial spirit so often cited of George in his boyish days. He had seen his brother fitted out for the wars. He had heard by letter and otherwise of the warlike scenes in which he was mingling. All his amusements took a military turn. He made soldiers of his school-mates; they had their mimic parades, reviews, and sham fights.
Lawrence Washington returned home in the autumn of 1742. He formed an attachment to Anne, the eldest daughter of the Honorable William Fairfax, of Fairfax Comity; his addresses were well received, and they became engaged. Their nuptials were delayed by the sudden and untimely death of his father, which took place on the 12th of April, 1743, after a short but severe attack of gout in the stomach, and when but forty-nine years of age. George had been absent from home on a visit during his father’s illness, and just returned in time to receive a parting look of affection.
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