George Washington was born on a plantation [George Washington was born on a plantation (or large estate cultivated by slaves) on Bridges Creek, a small stream emptying into the Potomac. Not long after George's birth (February 22, 1732), his father moved to an estate on the Rappahannock River, opposite Fredericksburg.] in Virginia who was one day to stand higher even than the Philadelphia printer.
That boy when he grew up was to be chosen leader of the armies of the Revolution; he was to be elected the first president of the United States; and before he died he was to be known and honored all over the world. The name of that boy was George Washington.
Washington's father died when George was only eleven years old, leaving him, with his brothers and sisters, to the care of a most excellent and sensible mother. It was that mother's influence more than anything else which made George the man he became.
George went to a little country school, where he learned to read, write, and cipher. By the time he was twelve, he could write a clear, bold hand. In one of his writing-books he copied many good rules or sayings. Here is one:—
"Captain George."—But young Washington was not always copying good sayings; for he was a tall, strong boy, fond of all out-door sports and games. He was a well-meaning boy, but he had a hot temper, and at times his blue eyes flashed fire. In all trials of strength and in all deeds of daring, George took the lead; he could run faster, jump further, and throw a stone higher than any one in the school. When the boys played "soldier," they liked to have "Captain George" as commander. When he drew his wooden sword, and shouted Come on! they would all rush into battle with a wild hurrah. Years afterward, when the real war came, and George Washington drew his sword in earnest, some of his school companions may have fought under their old leader.
Once, however, Washington had a battle of a different kind. It was with a high-spirited colt which belonged to his mother. Nobody had ever been able to do anything with that colt, and most people were afraid of him. Early one morning, George and some of his brothers were out in the pasture. George looked at the colt prancing about and kicking up his heels. Then he said: "Boys, if you'll help me put a bridle on him, I'll ride him." The boys managed to get the colt into a corner and to slip on the bridle. With a leap, George seated himself firmly on his back. Then the fun began. The colt, wild with rage, ran, jumped, plunged, and reared straight up on his hind legs, hoping to throw his rider off. It was all useless; he might as well have tried to throw off his own skin, for the boy stuck to his back as though he had grown there. Then, making a last desperate bound into the air, the animal burst a blood-vessel and fell dead. The battle was over, George was victor, but it had cost the life of Mrs. Washington's favorite colt.
When the boys went in to breakfast, their mother, knowing that they had just come from the pasture, asked how the colt was getting on. "He is dead, madam," said George; "I killed him." "Dead!" exclaimed his mother. "Yes, madam, dead," replied her son. Then he told her just how it happened. When Mrs. Washington heard the story, her face flushed with anger. Then, waiting a moment, she looked steadily at George, and said quietly, "While I regret the loss of my favorite, I rejoice in my son, who always speaks the truth."
George's eldest brother, Lawrence Washington, had married the daughter of a gentleman named Fairfax, who lived on the banks of the Potomac. Lawrence had a fine estate a few miles above, on the same river; he called his place Mount Vernon. When he was fourteen, George went to Mount Vernon to visit his brother.
Lawrence Washington took George down the river to call on the Fairfaxes. There the lad made the acquaintance of Lord Fairfax, an English nobleman who had come over from London. He owned an immense piece of land in Virginia. Lord Fairfax and George soon became great friends. He was a gray-haired man nearly sixty, but he enjoyed having this boy of fourteen as a companion. They spent weeks together on horseback in the fields and woods, hunting deer and foxes.
Lord Fairfax's land extended westward more than a hundred miles. It had never been very carefully surveyed; and he was told that settlers were moving in beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains, and were building log-cabins on his property without asking leave. By the time Washington was sixteen, he had learned surveying; and so Lord Fairfax hired him to measure his land for him. Washington was glad to undertake the work; for he needed the money, and he could earn in this way from five to ten dollars a day.
Early in the spring, Washington, in company with another young man, started off on foot to do this business. They crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains, and entered the Valley of Virginia, one of the most beautiful valleys in America.
The two young men would work all day in the woods with a long chain, measuring the land. When evening came, Washington would make a map of what they had measured. Then they would wrap themselves up in their blankets, stretch themselves on the ground at the foot of a tree, and go to sleep under the stars.
Every day they shot some game—squirrels or wild turkeys, or perhaps a deer. They kindled a fire with flint and steel, and roasted the meat on sticks held over the coals. For plates they had clean chips; and as clean chips could always be got by a few blows with an axe, they never washed any dishes, but just threw them away, and had a new set for each meal.
While in the Valley they met a band of Indians, who stopped and danced a war-dance for them. The music was not remarkable,—for most of it was made by drumming on a deer-skin stretched across the top of an old iron pot,—but the dancing itself could not be beat. The savages leaped into the air, swung their hatchets, gashed the trees, and yelled till the woods rang.
When Washington returned from his surveying trip, Lord Fairfax was greatly pleased with his work; and the governor of Virginia made him one of the public surveyors. By this means he was able to get work which paid him handsomely.
Directions: Answer the following multiple choice questions. Also, answer the following questions on a sheet of paper: