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American Leaders and Heroes
In teaching history to boys and girls from ten to twelve years old simple material should be used. Children of that age like action. They crave the dramatic, the picturesque, the concrete, the personal. When they read about Daniel Boone or Abraham Lincoln they do far more than admire their hero. By a mysterious, sympathetic process they so identify themselves with him as to feel that what they see in him is possible for them. Herein is suggested the ethical value of history. But such ethical stimulus, be it noted, can come only in so far as actions are translated into the thoughts and feelings embodied in the actions. In this process of passing from deeds to the hearts and heads of the doers the image-forming power plays a leading part. Therefore a special effort should be made to train the sensuous imagination by furnishing picturesque and dramatic incidents, and then so skilfully presenting them that the children may get living pictures. This I have endeavored to do in the preparation of this historical reader, by making prominent the personal traits of the heroes and leaders, as they are seen, in boyhood and manhood alike, in the environment of their every-day home and social life. With the purpose of quickening the imagination, questions "To the Pupil" are introduced at intervals throughout the book, and on almost every page additional questions of the same kind might be supplied to advantage. "What picture do you get in that paragraph?" may well be asked over and over again, as children read the book. If they get clear and definite pictures, they will be likely to see the past as a living present, and thus will experience anew the thoughts and feelings of those who now live only in their words and deeds. The steps in this vital process are imagination, sympathy, and assimilation. To the same end the excellent maps and illustrations contribute a prominent and valuable feature of the book. If, in the elementary stages of historical reading, the image-forming power is developed, when the later work in the study of organized history is reached the imagination can hold the outward event before the mind for the judgment to determine its inner significance. For historical interpretation is based upon the inner life quite as much as upon the outward expression of that life in action. Attention is called to the fact that while the biographical element predominates, around the heroes in such a way as to give the basal facts of American history. It is hoped, therefore, that this little volume will furnish the young mind some conception of what our history is, and at the same time stimulate an abiding interest in historical and biographical reading. Perhaps it is needless to say that the "Review Outline" may be used in many ways. It certainly will furnish excellent material for language work, oral or written. In so using it pupils may well be encouraged to enlarge the number of topics. I wish to acknowledge my obligations to Professor William E. Mead, of Wesleyan University, who has read the manuscript and made invaluable suggestions; also to my wife, whose interest and assistance have done much to give the book whatever of merit it may possess.
Wilbur F. Gordy.
Hartford, Conn., Ma 1, 1901.
Christopher Columbus and the Discovery of America
From very early times there existed overland routes of trade between Europe and Asia. During the Middle Ages traffic over these routes greatly increased, so that by the fifteenth century a large and profitable trade was carried on between the West and the East. Merchants in Western Europe grew rich through trade in the silks, spices, and precious stones that were brought by caravan and ship from India, China, and Japan. But in 1453 the Turks conquered Constantinople, and by frequent attacks upon Christian vessels in the Mediterranean made the old routes unsafe. A more practicable one became necessary.
Already in the early part of the fifteenth century Portuguese sea-captains had skirted the western coast of Africa, and by the close of the century others of their number had rounded the Cape of Good Hope, in their search for a water route to the Indies. Bur Spain, at that time the most powerful nation of Europe, adopted a plan quite different from that of the Portuguese. What this plan was and how it was carried out, we can best understand by an acquaintance with the life and work of the great sea-captain and navigator, Christopher Columbus.
More than four hundred and fifty years ago there lived in the city of Genoa a poor workingman, who made his living by preparing wool for the spinners. Of his four sons, the eldest was Christopher, born in 1436. Young Christopher was not, so far as we know, very different from most other boys in Genoa. He doubtless joined in their every-day sports, going with them to see the many vessels that sailed in and out of that famous sea-port, and listening for hours to the stories of sailors about distant lands.
But he did not spend all his time in playing and visiting the wharves, for we know that he learned his father's trade, and in school studied, among other things, reading, arithmetic, grammar, geography, and map-drawing. We can easily believe that he liked geography best of all, since it would carry his imagination far out over the sea and to lands beyond the sea. In map-drawing he acquired such skill that when he became a man he could earn his living, when occasion demanded, by making maps and charts.
Beyond these facts little is known about the boyhood and youth of Columbus. Very likely much of his early life was spent upon the sea, sailing on the Mediterranean and along the west coast of Africa. Once he went as far north as England and perhaps even farther, but of this we are not certain.
In the course of many voyages he heard much of the work done by Portuguese sailors and discoverers, for Portugal was at that time one of the greatest sea-powers of the world. As Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, was naturally a center for sea-faring men, and as it was also the home of his brother Bartholomew, Columbus, at the age of about thirty-five, went there to live.
Columbus was a man of commanding presence. He was large, tall, and dignified in bearing, with a ruddy complexion and piercing blue-gray eyes. By the time he was thirty his hair had become white, and fell in wavy locks about his shoulders. Although his life of hardship and poverty compelled him to be plain and simple in food and dress, he always had the air of a gentleman, and his manners were pleasing and courteous. But he had a strong will, which overcame difficulties that would have overwhelmed most men.
While at Lisbon, Columbus married a woman far above him in social position, and went with her to live on a little island of the Madeiras, where her family had business interests. Meanwhile he was turning over in his mind schemes for a future voyage to the countries of the Far East. His native city, Genoa, had grown rich in trading in the silks, spices and precious stones of the Indies, but the journey overland was dangerous, and a water route was much desired.
This need the Portuguese had felt along with the rest of Europe, and for a long time Portuguese sea-captains had been slowly but surely finding their way down the west coast of Africa, in search of a passage around the southern cape. This route would be easier and cheaper than the old one through the Mediterranean and across Asia. But Columbus thought out a more daring course, by which he planned to sail directly west from the Canary Islands, across the Atlantic Ocean, expecting at the end of his voyage to find the far-famed Indies. Columbus was so full of his plan that it became the great thought of his life. A water route which would safely bring the wealth of the East to the doors of Europe would be the greatest discovery of the age. Moreover, his ambition was spurred by the thrilling account of a noted traveler, Marco Polo, who two centuries before had brought back from far-off China wonderful tales of golden palaces, of marvelous rivers crossed by marble bridges, and countless treasures of gold, silver, and jewels.
About 1484 Columbus laid his scheme before King John of Portugal. The king would not promise his assistance, but he borrowed hints from the charts of Columbus, and sent men of his own to learn whether they could reach land by sailing west. Meeting with stormy weather, and fearing the unknown expanse of ocean, the sailors soon put back to port, and brought word that there was no land to be seen.
When Columbus heard what the king had done he was very indignant, and at once quit Portugal for Spain. The future appeared gloomy enough to the poor navigator without a helping friend. With bitter memories he shook off the dust of Lisbon, and, leading by the hand his little son Diego, four or five years old, trudged wearily on his journey. Columbus took Diego to the home of the boy's aunt, who lived not far from Palos, and, leaving him in her care, went in search of the king and queen of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella.
The king and queen were at that time so much occupied in driving the Moors out of Spain that Columbus found difficulty in securing a hearing. When at last he was permitted to unfold his plans to a council of learned men they ridiculed him, because, forsooth, he said that the world was like a globe, and people lived on the opposite side of the earth. "Such a thing," they declared, "is absurd, for if people live on the other side of the earth their heads must be down. Then, too, if it rains there the rain falls upward; and trees, if they grow there, must grow upside down."
Some of the learned men, however, agreed with Columbus, and thought the carrying out of his plan by the aid of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella would bring honor and countless wealth to Spain. But their authority was not sufficient to affect those who believed Columbus to be a crazy dreamer or a worthless adventurer.
Month after month, year after year, Columbus cherished his ambitious scheme, encouraged by the few friends who were ready to use their influence for him. He followed the king and queen from place to place, as they moved their camp in the course of the war, and he sometimes fought bravely in the Spanish army. But in face of scorn and ridicule he never gave up hope of success. These were days of great trial, when even the boys in the streets tapped their foreheads as he passed by, and pointed their fingers at him with a peculiar smile.
In the autumn of 1491 Columbus made up his mind to leave Spain and try his fortune in France. So he went to the home of Diego's aunt, and once more taking his boy with him, started on foot out of the country which had so little befriended him. We can easily picture him, pale and way worn, his clothes threadbare, his long white hair streaming over his shoulders. The travelers had gone but a short distance when they stopped at the gate of the Convent of St. Mary, which was only a mile and a half from Palos, to beg bread and water for the boy.
At this moment the good prior of the convent happened to pass by. He was a man of learning and, on conversing with Columbus, became much interested in his story, and arranged a meeting of other learned men, among the well-known sea-captain, Martin Alonzo Pinzon who lived in Palos. The plans of Columbus appealed so strongly to this sea-captain that he promised not only to furnish money for an expedition, but to accompany it himself. Moreover, the prior, who had been father-confessor to Isabella, won her over to the sailor's cause. The queen sent what would now be nearly $1,200 to Columbus, and summoned him back to Court. Supplying himself with a mule and suitable clothing, Columbus, with a lightened heart, sought the queen's presence. She approved his plan, but Columbus demanded so great a reward for his services as leader of the expedition that the queen refused to come to any agreement with him, and let him go.
Columbus in disgust mounted his mule, and started once more for France. At this juncture, however, one of the queen's advisers hurried into her presence, and put the case so earnestly that she sent a swift courier, who overtook Columbus in a mountain pass not far away, and brought him back. An agreement was soon reached, and Columbus accepted his commission with tears of joy.
He at once went to Palos to get men and vessels for the expedition. But here he met with serious difficulties. Sailors called the Atlantic Ocean the Sea of Darkness, and believed that it contained frightful sea-monsters, ready to dash in pieces all vessels that might come within reach. Moreover, we must remember that the vessels in those days were not safe against storms like the great ships of our day. To venture out upon this trackless sea signified to sailors almost certain death. Hence, they were unwilling to sail, and a royal decree had to be issued to compel them. Even then it became necessary to release criminals from prisons to supply the number required for the expedition.
The three caravels that were at length got ready for the perilous expedition westward in search of the Indies were not larger than many of the fishing-boats of to-day. The largest of the three--the flagship of Columbus--was called the Santa Maria. The other two were the Pinta and the Niña ("Baby"). The Santa Maria alone had a deck covering the entire hold of the vessel.
At last all was ready, and a half-hour before sunrise on Friday morning, August 3, 1492, this little fleet, with one hundred and twenty men and provisions for a year, sailed our of the port of Palos. It was a sorrowful hour for the poor sailors, who felt that they had looked upon their homes and their friends for the last time. Columbus steered for the Canaries, where he delayed three weeks to repair the rudder of the Pinta.
On September 6th he set sail again. When once out of sight of land the sailors, overcome with fear, cried and sobbed like children. But new trials awaited them. At the end of a week the compass needle no longer pointed to the North Star, and this strange fact filled the superstitious sailors with alarm.
Great was their consternation when a few days later the vessels entered vast stretches of sea-weed. At first the little fleet easily plowed its way through this mass of floating green, but at the end of three days, on account of a light wind, the vessels moved more slowly. In their dismay the sailors feared that the vessels might never get through this immense sea of grass, but might have to lie there and rot, or, perhaps, escaping this danger, run upon rocks and shoals lying just beneath the grass and be broken in pieces. Though they were in the obstacles apparently insurmountable, they were also in the path of the trade winds that steadily bore them onward. But in their terror, the sailors imagined they could never return because the wind would not allow them to sail in the opposite direction. When the wind began to blow from the southwest they were once more relieved of their fears.
After many days all hearts were gladdened by the sight of birds, which indicated that land was near. It was an idle hope. Again and again some eager-eyed sailor shouted "land," but found later that he was looking at distant clouds.
The crews were in despair. Now in the belt of trade-winds that were steadily blowing them farther and farther from home and friends they cried in dismay: "We can never return to Spain. We are lost! What shall we do?" They begged Columbus to turn back. They became angry when he refused, and declared he was crazy and was leading them all to destruction. They even plotted to throw him overboard some night and say that he fell into the sea while looking at the stars. Columbus felt that dangers were growing thick about him, but he never faltered in his purpose. His strong will and his abiding faith in success kept him stanch in face of difficulties that would have caused an ordinary mind to give way.
On October 11th unmistakable signs of land appeared. A thorn branch with berries on it, a reed, and a carved stick came floating by. New life stirred in every heart, and the sailors looked eagerly in every direction for land.
The king and queen had promised a reward equal to nearly $600 of our present money to the sailor who should be the first to see land. Columbus had promised in addition a velvet cloak. Accordingly, all were on the alert to catch the first glimpse of land, and kept on the watch during the entire night after the appearance of the thorn-branch and the carved stick.
About ten o'clock Columbus himself saw in the distance a light, which looked like a torch in the hands of some one moving along the shore.
About two o'clock next morning, Friday, October 12th--or October 21st, according to our present method of reckoning time--a sailor on the Pinta saw, about five miles off, a low strip of land. This was an island of the Bahama Group. Just ten weeks had elapsed since the voyage began at Palos, and with intense eagerness Columbus and his men awaited the coming of daylight.
At dawn the boats were lowered, and all went on shore. Columbus, dressed in a rich robe of scarlet, carried the royal standard. His followers also bore banners, on each of which was a brilliant green cross with the letters F. and Y.--the Spanish initials for Ferdinand and Isabella--on each side. Above the letters were crosses. Columbus threw himself, kneeling, upon the ground. He wept for joy, and, kissing the earth, took possession of the land in the name of the king and queen of Spain. The sailors now fell upon their knees at Columbus's feet. They kissed his hands, and begged him to forgive them for their evil thoughts toward him.
At first the natives, whom Columbus called Indians because he thought he was in the East Indies, fled to the woods in fear of the Spaniards; but later they returned and worshiped the white men as beings from the sky. They thought the vessels were great birds and the sails wings. The Spaniards at once began to trade with the Indians, giving them such trifles as tiny bells, red caps, and glass beads, in exchange for tame parrots, cotton yarn, and a few small ornaments of gold, such as the natives wore in their noses.
According to the interesting description of the natives that Columbus wrote in his journal, they were very poor, dark-skinned, and naked. All of them seemed to be young and of strong build, with coarse black hair hanging long behind, but cut short over their foreheads. Their bodies were painted with various colors and in all manner of ways. The men carried sticks, pointed with fish-bones, for javelins, and moved their canoes with paddles that looked like wooden shovels.
The canoes, made out of single trunks of trees, were in some cases large enough to carry forty men. The dwellings, which were clustered together in groups of twelve to fifteen, were shaped like tents and had high chimneys. Inside the tents, hanging between posts, were nets used as beds and called "hammocks."
Columbus called the island upon which he had landed San Salvador (Holy Savior). He wrote of the new country: "I know not where first to go, nor are my eyes ever weary of gazing at the beautiful verdure. The singing of the birds is such that it seems as if one would never desire to depart hence. There are flocks of parrots that obscure the sun, and other birds of many kinds, large and small, entirely different from ours; trees, also, of a thousand species, each having its particular fruit, and all of marvelous flavor."
Columbus sailed along the coast of Cuba and Haiti, landing here and there, and sent parties inland to find out what they could about the land and its people. Everywhere he was on the lookout for the cities of Asia--those wonderful cities of wealth and beauty described in such glowing colors by Marco Polo. He never doubted that he was in the land he had sought,--the East Indies.
On Christmas morning (December 25, 1492), while it was still dark, as he was cruising along the shores of Haiti (or Hispaniola), the Santa Maria went aground on a sand-bar, where the waves soon knocked her to pieces. As the Pinta had already deserted, there now remained but one ship, the Niña. This little vessel was too small to accommodate all the men, and forty of the number, wishing to stay where they were, decided to build a fort out of the timbers of the wrecked vessel and put her guns in the fort for their defense. There men had provisions for a year, and constituted the first Spanish colony in the New World.
On January 4,1493, the Niña sailed for Spain. All went well with the sailors until February 12th, when a great storm suddenly threatened to break the frail vessel into pieces. Poor Columbus! His heart grew faint within him. Had he and his men endured such peril and hardship to perish unknown in the sea? Would the world never know of their great achievement?
In his anxiety he wrote on parchment two separate accounts of his discovery, which he sealed and addressed to Ferdinand and Isabella. He then wrapped each in a cloth and, enclosing them in large cakes of wax, put them into barrels. One of these barrels he flung into the sea, and the other he kept on deck. The Niña passed safely through the storm, however, and on March 15th, after an absence of nearly seven and a half months, cast anchor in the harbor of Palos.
The successful voyager lost no time in reaching Barcelona, where he was received by the king and queen with triumphal honors. Everybody was ready to praise the man who had become so famous. There was a great procession in his honor in the streets of Barcelona. Leading this street parade were six Indians whom Columbus had brought back with him. These were smeared with paint, decked with feathers of tropical birds, and ornamented with bits of gold. Following them came men carrying stuffed and live birds of brilliant plumage, and the skins of different animals, all products of the New Land. Columbus rode on horseback, attended by many of Spain's great men, mounted on horses.
When the procession reached the house in which King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were, Columbus went into the room where they sat on the throne. They did him the honor to rise as he entered, and when he knelt to kiss their hands, they again honored him, by bidding him rise and sit, like an equal, in their presence.
The poor sailor, once despised as an idle dreamer, had become a distinguished personage, honored alike by kings and princes and people. It was no longer necessary to force men by royal decree to sail with the great admiral. Many were now eager to go where they might reap wealth and honor.
In September, 1493, Columbus again sailed, this time with a fleet of seventeen vessels and fifteen hundred men. Many of the latter were young men of noble birth, and belonged to families of wide influence. All supposed they were going to the East Indies, the land of jewels and spices and precious metals. With the purpose of founding a colony, Columbus took with him not only horses, mules, and cattle, but vines, vegetables, and seeds of many kinds.
When the fleet reached the island of Haiti, and the place where he had in the previous winter left the little colony of forty men, he found that the fort and provisions had been destroyed, and that eleven corpses had been buried near by; but not one of the forty men was ever again seen alive. After building a little town, called Isabella in honor of the queen, Columbus began exploring by land and sea. He found much that was beautiful and interesting, but much more that was disappointing. Moreover, the Indians were sometimes unfriendly, and his own men were often unruly and treacherous. At length, after four years of varying fortune, he started home, and after a long, hard voyage, during which provisions gave out, he and his men, weak with hunger, finally reached Spain in June. He was kindly received, and was promised more ships for another voyage.
In May, 1498, with six vessels and two hundred men besides the sailors, Columbus started on a third voyage, this time directing his course more to the south than he had done before. He landed on an island which he named Trinidad, and then sailed along the northern coast of South America.
He was not well, however, and in August turned his course for Santo Domingo, where he found things were going badly. Trouble with the Indians had arisen, and even more serious trouble in the colony itself had broken out. For two years Columbus struggled to set things right. But he was not successful as a colonizer. Besides, many people were beginning to lose faith in him because he did not get expected treasures for Spain. Many others were jealous of his fame, and plotted to ruin him. At length an official was sent from Spain to Haiti to look into the situation. When he reached the island he confiscated Columbus's property, put him in chains, and sent him as a prisoner to the country from which he had but recently sailed with high honor.
In Spain the people were in sympathy with the admiral in his disgrace; so too was the queen, who sent money and summoned him to court. She received him there with tears in her eyes, and he broke down and wept at her feet.
In 1502 Columbus started on a fourth voyage, sailing along the eastern coast of Central America. But he was not able to accomplish much, and finally suffered shipwreck on the island of Jamaica, where he spent a year of misery. At last he set out for home, arriving there only a short time before Queen Isabella, his only protector, died.
Poor, sick, and discouraged, Columbus dragged out a weary life for eighteen months longer. He died in Spain of a broken heart, May 20, 1506, in utter ignorance of the greatness of his discovery. So little appreciated was he, that the city annals make no mention of his death. It remained for succeeding generations to lift his name from obscurity and to give faithful acknowledgment of his achievements in the advance of human progress.
Hernando De Soto and the Discovery of the Mississippi
After the discovery of the New World by Columbus, the Spaniards, who had no other thought than that he had found a new way to India, dreamed eagerly of its marvelous wealth, and were impatient to be off to the land where they believed fortunes awaited them. So zealous were they, in their mad search for gold and adventure, that many were willing to leave home and friends for years.
The most brilliant of these explorers were Cortez the conqueror of Mexico, and Pizarro, the conqueror of Peru, both of whom carried back to Spain many million dollars' worth of gold and silver. With Pizarro was a young man named Hernando De Soto whose adventurous life is full of interest, and whose important discovery of the Mississippi River has given him a prominent place in the history of our country.
He was born about 1500, of a poor but noble family. In his youth he excelled in athletic sports, and possessed unusual skill in horsemanship and in fencing. Taking a leading part in all the dangerous exploits in the New World, he not only won fame, but went back to Spain after many years' absence a rich man.
While Cortez and Pizarro had been conquering Mexico and Peru, other Spaniards had been seeking their fortune in Florida. Thus far these men had brought back no gold and silver, but their faith in the mines of the interior was so great that De Soto wished to conquer and explore the country. Having already won great influence by his achievements, he secured the favor of the king, who made him governor of the island of Cuba, and appointed him leader of an expedition to conquer and occupy Florida. He was to take men enough with him to build forts and plant a colony, so as to hold the country for Spain.
De Soto had no difficulty in getting followers to join him in this enterprise. Young men from noble families flocked to his standard from all parts of Spain, and as he knew that dangers and hardships awaited them he was careful to select from the large numbers the strongest men.
De Soto's company included richly dressed nobles and warriors in glittering armor. It was a gala day when the sailed out of port with banners flying and cannon booming, and not a young man of them but felt proud to sail on so grand an expedition. After arriving in Cuba, De Soto spent some time there, and then leaving his wife to govern the island, set out to explore Florida. His expedition was an imposing one, comprising nine vessels, six hundred men, and about two hundred and twenty-five horses. In May, 1539, the whole force landed at Tampa Bay, on the western coast of Florida.
They had not advanced far into the interior when De Soto fell in with a Spaniard named Ortiz, who had accompanied Narvaez in a previous expedition some ten or eleven years before. According to his story, the Indians had captured him, and only forbore to kill him because an Indian girl had begged for his life. Ortiz had lived with the Indians so many years that he had become very much like on himself; but we can imagine his joy at seeing white men once more. The Spaniards were equally rejoiced because they know how serviceable their countryman would be as a guide and interpreter.
The advantage of this good-fortune was soon counteracted, however, by De Soto's unfriendliness to the Indians. He was not only indifferent to their pleasure and sufferings, but even seemed to enjoy torturing and killing them. It was his custom upon arriving at an Indian settlement to demand food for his men and horses, and upon his departure to carry off with him the head chief as guide and hostage, not releasing him until the next tribe was reached. Indian men and squaws were forced into service as porters for the Spanish baggage; and thus enslaved, often with chains and with iron collars about their necks, they were compelled to do all sorts of menial work. It is not strange that after such treatment the Indians lost all confidence in De Soto. The not only learned to hate him and the Spaniards but longed to be revenged upon them. In return for the cruelties inflicted the purposely led the Spaniards astray, and left untried no treachery which would serve to destroy the pale-faced strangers.
In May, 1540, and Indian princess, rowed by her followers in a canopied canoe, came across a stream to meet De Soto. When she landed, her followers carried her in a litter, from which she alighted and approached him. She gave him presents of shawls and skins, and a string of pearls which she took from around her neck. In return for these acts of courtesy De Soto made her a prisoner, and kept her going about on foot with him until she escaped.
This is but an instance of the cruelty which made enemies of all the Indians with whom the Spaniards came in contact. No doubt Indian runners were sent hundreds of miles in many directions to tell the various tribes of the inhuman deeds of the white men. No doubt these tribes combined in a desperate effort to destroy De Soto and all his men. How nearly they succeeded in their plan can be told in a few lines.
In the autumn of 1540 the Spaniards came to the tribe of a giant chieftain whose slaves held over him, as he sat upon cushions on a raised platform, a buckskin umbrella stained red and white. He was sullen in the presence of the richly dressed Spaniards on their prancing steeds, but allowed De Soto to carry him a prisoner to the next Indian town, as the other head chiefs had done.
This town was called Mavilla, an Indian word from which we get the name Mobile for the city and river in Alabama. As the Spaniards approached this town Indians came out to meet them, their faces showing signs of displeasure and evil intent. Fearing nothing, however, De Soto, attended by about a dozen of his men, rode boldly inside the town, which was surrounded with a palisade.
The giant chieftain then asked for a release that he might return to his own people, and on being refused went into a house in which many Indian warriors were concealed. When De Soto ordered him to come out he refused. In the excitement that followed, a Spaniard cut down with his sword an Indian warrior standing near by. Then, in wild fury, hundreds of dusky warriors rushed like madmen out of the house to the attack, and soon shot down five of De Soto's body-guard. Of course he had to flee for his life. But before he could reach the main force outside the town he fell to the ground two or three times, struck by Indian arrows.
It was the beginning of a terrible battle, in which the Spaniards, although outnumbered, had the advantage because of the horses, swords, firearms, and superior training. Finally, from the outside, the closed the gates to the town, and set fire to the Indian buildings. The Indians fought with desperation, but they either fell, cut down by Spanish swords, or rushed in mad fury to perish in the flames. When night came, only three Indian warriors remained alive. Two of these fought until they were killed, and the last unfortunate one hanged himself on a tree with his bow-string. The Spaniards said they killed at least 2,500 Indians, but they lost in killed and wounded about a third of their own number. It was a dearly bought victory.
Nor was Indian craftiness the only source of trouble for the Spaniards. De Soto’s men had to travel through thick forests with no road except the narrow path made by wild animals or the trail made by the Indian hunter. They spent many laborious days in picking their way through dense underbrush and miry swamps, stopping here and there to make rafts to carry them across the numerous streams. Often without food and on the point of starving, they were obliged to feed upon native dogs, and were sometimes reduced to berries, nuts, bear-oil, and wild honey.
In spite of hunger, disease, death, and many other misfortunes, however, De Soto in his mad search for gold threaded his way through the tangled forests until, in the spring of 1541, about two years after landing at Tampa Bay, he reached the bank of the Mississippi River. After spending months in making boats, he at length crossed the mighty stream, and then continued his march in a northerly and westerly direction, going, it would seem, as far as the site of what is now Little Rock, the capital of Arkansas.
Marching southeast, probably to the banks of the Washita, he spent a winter so severe that many of the party, including Oritz, died.
About middle of April, 1542, the Spaniards, travel-spent and sick at heart, reached the mouth of the Red River, where De Soto, discouraged and broken in spirit, was taken ill with fever and soon died. At first his followers buried his body near the town where they were staying, but when the Indians began with some suspicion to examine the ground under which he lay, the Spaniards in the darkness of night took up the body, wrapped it in blankets made heavy with sand, and sadly lowered it into the waters of the mighty river with it was De Soto’s chief honor to have discovered. After many more hardships the wretched survivors of this unhappy company, numbering not many more than half of those who landed at Tampa Bay, found their way to a Spanish colony in Mexico. Thus ended in disaster the expedition which sailed with such hope of wealth and renown.
Sir Walter Raleigh and the First English Attempts to Colonize America
Only five years after Columbus made his discoveries in the West India Islands, John Cabot sailed from England in search of a short northwest passage to Asia. Directing his course across the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean, he landed somewhere on the eastern coast of North America, perhaps on the shores of Labrador. His son sailed in the following year along the coast of Nova Scotia down as far as North Carolina. By reason of these discoveries and explorations, England laid claim to North America.
Nearly a hundred years passed before England took any further steps toward getting a foothold in America. In the meantime Spain, by means of her naval power, had conquered Mexico and Peru, and planted colonies at various points in the New World.
The precious metals collected by Spanish explorers in Mexico and Peru had furnished the money with which Spain was enabled to carry on her expeditions as well as the almost continuous wars with other European powers. Some people think that Spain took out of these two countries gold and silver to an amount that would now equal five thousand million dollars.
At this time England had not so strong a navy as she has today, and the Spanish King hoped because of her weakness to conquer England and make her a dependency of Spain. Of course this roused the English people, and they determined to thwart the ambitious scheming of the Spanish King.
Although England had not a fighting navy, English seamen were alert to capture Spanish vessels and rob them of their gold and silver. To seize these prizes, such bold sea-captains as Drake and Hawkins roamed the sea, burning and plundering Spanish fleets and Spanish settlements along the coast of Mexico and South America.
Conspicuous among these daring sea-rovers and explorers was Sir Walter Raleigh, one of the most distinguished Englishman of his time. He was born in a town near the sea-coast in Devonshire, England, in 1552, his father and mother both being of high social rank.
In this town lived many old sailors, who could tell the wide-awake boy stirring tales of seafaring life and of bloody fights with Spaniards. Walter was a patriotic boy, and therefore soon learned to hate Spain, because of her insolence toward the English people. As he became older and learned more of the power of Spain, especially that which came through possessions in the New World, he was envious for his country’s sake and wished her to become Spain’s rival in wealth.
When Walter was old enough, he was sent to Oxford University, where he became an earnest student. But at seventeen he put aside his studies and went to France to join the Huguenot army. After remaining there for about six years, he returned to England and served for a short time in the English army, fighting against Spain and Austria in the Netherlands. Later he went as captain of a hundred men to Ireland, and there proved himself a brave soldier.
Returning again to England, by a simple act of courtesy he won the admiration of the powerful queen Elizabeth. It happened in this way. On one occasion, when with her attendants she was about to cross a muddy road, Raleigh stood looking on. Noticing that the queen hesitated for an instant, he took from his shoulder his beautiful velvet cloak and gallantly spread it in her pathway. The queen, greatly pleased with this delicate attention, took Raleigh into her Court and in time bestowed upon him much honor. She not only made him a knight, but presented him with costly gifts and estates, and showered upon him offices of rank and dignity. The brave knight, Sir Walter Raleigh, became a man of great wealth and influence.
As a courtier his dress was rich and dazzling. He wore a hat with a pearl band and a black jeweled feather. His shoes, which were tied with white ribbons, were studded with gems worth six thousand six hundred gold pieces. He had also a suit of silver armor that glittered with diamonds and other precious stones.
This splendor did not seem so much out of place in those days as it would now, for much display and ceremony were customary in court life. Queen Elizabeth, with her ten hundred and seventy-five dresses and mantles, ornamented with lace, embroidery, and jewels, and with her eighty wigs of various colors, set a gorgeous example which her courtiers were delighted to follow.
But Raleigh was not satisfied with the glamour of court life. He was eager to achieve glory for England and if possible to elevate her upon the ruins of her enemy, Spain.
It was his desire to build up a new England for the glory of the old, and to that end he secured from Queen Elizabeth a charter for planting a colony in America. He therefore fitted out two vessels which were to sail to the land north of Florida, then occupied by Spain, and bring back reports of the country.
The captains of these vessels arrived in Pamlico Sound, and landed on an island which they found rich in grapes and woods and abounding in deer and other game. The explorers received kind treatment from the Indians, two of whom accompanied the voyagers to England on their return. Queen Elizabeth was so pleased with the good reports from the new country that she called it Virginia in honor of herself--the Virgin Queen.
The next year, 1585, Raleigh sent out to Virginia seven vessels and one hundred colonists, under his cousin, Sir Richard Grenville, and Ralph Lane. They landed on Roanoke Island, and made a settlement there, but the colony was not prosperous. At the outset, by unwise and cruel treatment they made enemies of the natives. It is related that, an Indian having stolen a silver cup from one of the colonists, the Englishmen burned and entire village and ruined the corn belonging to its people. Such punishment was out of all proportion to the petty offence. It is not surprising, therefore, that from that time the settlers found the Indians unfriendly.
Very soon Grenville sailed back to England, leaving the colony in charge of Ralph Lane. The colonists instead of building houses and tilling the soil to supply food, were bent upon finding gold. Hence they listened with eager interest to a story that the Indians told of the Roanoke River. According to this story, the river flowed out of a fountain in a rock so near the ocean that in tome of storm the waves dashed over in the fountain. The river, the Indians said, flowed near rich mines of gold and silver, in a country where there was a town with walls made of pearls. Lane and his followers foolishly started up the river in a vain search for this wonderful land. They encountered many difficulties, including hostile attacks by Indians, and suffered so much from lack of food that they had to eat the flesh of their own dogs.
But despite these hardships, they made their way back to Roanoke Island, reaching it just in time to save the colony from destruction by the Indians. A little later Sir Francis Drake, with a fleet of twenty-three vessels, appeared off the coast. He had come on his way home from the West Indies, where he had been plundering the Spanish settlements, and cheerfully consented to take the destitute and homesick colonists back to England. A few days after their departure Grenville arrived with fresh supplies, and found the settlement deserted. Leaving a garrison of fifteen men, with provisions for two years, to hold possession, he then sailed back to England.
Although the settlement did not succeed, this effort to plant a colony was not wholly fruitless, for the colonists took to England on their return three products which gave to the people a somewhat different idea of the real wealth of the new lands. These were not precious metals, but products of the soil, namely, tobacco, the white potato, and Indian corn.
The discovery of the tobacco plant introduced into England the custom of smoking, and a curious story is told of it in connection with Sir Walter Raleigh, who soon learned to smoke. One day his servant, who knew nothing of the new custom, came into his master’s room and found him smoking from a silver pipe. Believing Raleigh was on fire, the faithful servant hastily dashed a mug of ale at him to quench the flames and rescue him from death.
The wealth that lay hidden in the soil was yet unknown, and no one felt any enthusiasm over the new colony of Virginia. Most men would by this time have lost hope. But Raleigh was not daunted. Two years later he made a second attempt to plant a colony in the New World, this time sending over three ships, with a hundred and fifty settlers, including seventeen women. John White was appointed governor of the colony. These settlers had the forethought to carry with them farming implements to use in tilling the soil. When they landed on Roanoke Island and they found no trace of the fifteen men left two years before by Sir Richard Grenville. The new settlers had not been on the eland long before they were in need of help from England, and begged Governor White to return home for provisions and more settlers. White at firs refused to leave them but finally consented. A warm interest in the feeble settlement and love for his little granddaughter, born soon after the settlers arrived, persuaded him to yield. This little girl, the first white girl born in America, was named after the new country, Virginia, her full name being Virginia Dare.
When Governor White left the settlement he expected to return immediately, but upon reaching England he found his countrymen greatly excited over the coming invasion of the much-dreaded “Spanish Armada.” Everybody was astir, and Raleigh was aroused to his fullest energy in preparation to meet the hated foe.
But, notwithstanding this, he found time to fit out two small vessels for Governor White. Although they sailed, trouble with the Spaniards compelled their return to England, and not until two years later, when the Spanish Armada had been defeated, did Governor White sail again for Virginia, this time as a passenger in a West Indiaman. He landed on Roanoke Island as before, but there remained of the settlement only some chests of books, some maps, and some firearms, all of which had been ruined by the Indians.
Upon bidding Governor White farewell, the colonists had agreed to carve on a tree the name of the place to which they would go if they should decide to leave Roanoke Island. They were also to carve above the name a cross if they were in serious trouble. Governor White found the word CROATOAN cut in capital letters on a large tree, but he found no cross. Before White could sail to Croatoan, which was an island not far away, he had to return to England because the captain of the vessel, having encountered stormy weather, refused to sail further. What became of the lost colonists is still a mystery. It is possible that the Indians either killed them or captured and enslaved them.
Raleigh sent out other expeditions in search of the lost colony, but without success. He had already spent a sum equal to more than a million dollars in trying to plant this colony, and now felt that he must give up all hope of accomplishing his purpose.
But this was only one of his many disappointments. Because he was a favorite of the queen and had been a successful man he had many enemies who were jealous of his good fortune. Men of power envied him and tried to weaken his influence and do him injury. As his failures increased, his popularity diminished and he at length became bitter in spirit.
On the death of Queen Elizabeth, James I. became king and, not favoring Raleigh, at length threw him into prison on a charge of treason. After an imprisonment of twelve years in the Tower of London, Sir Walter was beheaded. Just as he was about to lay his head upon the block, he felt the keen edge of the axe, saying, “This is a sharp medicine, but a sound cure for all diseases.” Although he failed to carry out the great desire of his heart, Raleigh gave the English people some definite ideas in regard to the value of the New World as a place for colonizing--ideas which before many years found expression in the settlement of Jamestown.
John Smith and the Settlement of Jamestown
About twenty years after the failure of Raleigh’s attempt to plant a settlement in America, another effort was made by a body of merchants and wealthy men called the London Company. Their purpose was to discover gold, of which Englishmen were then dreaming, just as the Spaniards had dreamed years before when they sailed under the leadership of Columbus, Pizarro, Cortez, and De Soto. As a beginning for the new colony, which was destined to be the first permanent English settlement in America, the London Company sent out one hundred and five men, who set sail from London on New Year’s day, 1607, in three frail vessels. They were not sturdy, self-reliant men such as give strength to a new enterprise. On the contrary, about half of them were “gentlemen,” who felt themselves above working with their hands. They were coming to America to pick up a fortune, and then return to England to live at ease the rest of their lives. As we shall see such colonists were unfit for the rough and rugged life which awaited them in the wild woods of a new country.
Instead of sailing straight across the Atlantic they took a very much longer route, directing their course down the coast of France and Spain to the Canaries and from these islands to the West Indies. Here they stopped a long time. The result was that they were about four months on the tiresome voyage, and had used up nearly all their provisions before reaching their journeys end.
This was but a beginning of their troubles. Their purpose had been to land on the deserted sit of Raleigh’s colony, Roanoke Island, but, a violent storm having driven them out of their course, they entered Chesapeake Bay, naming the headlands on either side Cape Charles and Cape Henry, after the king’s sons. Pushing on, they found a quiet harbor which they fittingly called Point Comfort. After resting here they sailed up the river and named it the James, after James I., King of England.
They were delighted with the country, for it was the month of May and the banks of the river were luxuriant with beautiful trees, shrubbery, and many colored flowers. Fifty miles from the mouth of the James the voyagers landed on a peninsula, which they chose as the place of settlement because it was within easy reach of the sea.
At once they set to work building dwellings, and a fort in which to defend themselves against unfriendly Indians. The dwellings at first consisted of rude cabins roofed with sage or bark, tents made of old sails, and holes dug in the ground. An old sail served for the roof of their first church, and a plank nailed up between two trees for a pulpit.
They did well to found their Church so early, for they soon had need of its consolations. The intense heat of July and August and the sultry atmosphere hanging over the swamps and marshes bred disease, and caused many of the colonists to fall ill of fever. Sometimes three or four died in a single night. To make matters worse, food was so scarce that each settler’s daily portion was reduced to a half-pint of moldy wheat and the same quantity of barley. And, as if these afflictions from climate, scanty food, bad water, and loss of friends were not enough, the Indians kept the wretched settlers in constant terror of their lives. Each man had to take his turn “every third night” lying on the damp, bare ground to watch against attack, although at times there were not five men strong enough to carry guns. Their condition was indeed pitiable. Those in health were not sufficient to nurse the sick, and during the summer about half of the settlers died.
All must have perished but for the bravery and strength of one man, John Smith, who for several years kept struggling colony alive by his personal authority and wise treatment of the Indians. Born in England in 1579, he was at the time of the settlement of Jamestown twenty-eight years old. While but a boy he was left an orphan, and was early apprenticed to a trade; but he had such a longing for adventure that he soon ran away and went to the Continent to seek his fortune.
From that time his life, according to his own story, was full of stirring incidents, only a few of which we can tell here. While traveling through France he was robbed and left helpless in a forest on the highway, where he would have died from exposure and lack of food but for the kindly aid of a peasant who chanced to find and rescue him. Going to Marseilles he took passage on a ship with some pilgrims bound eastward on a journey to the Holy Land. During the voyage a severe storm arose, which greatly alarmed the pilgrims, and, believing that in some mysterious way their strange passenger was the cause of their misfortune, they threw him overboard. Smith managed to save himself from the sea, however, and a little later fought in a war against the Turks, three of whose mighty warriors he slew in single combat. Afterward he was captured and enslaved by the Turks, but he seemed to lead a charmed life, and with his usual good fortune again made his escape.
In 1604 he returned to England, at the age of twenty-five, in time to join the expedition to Virginia. With such a training as Smith had received in his many strange adventures, he was well equipped for the various difficulties that had to be met in the unsettled life of the new colony in the forests of Virginia.
When the cool weather of the autumn set in, the general health of all improved and food became abundant, for the streams were alive with swans, geese, ducks, and various kinds of fish, while game and garden supplies were plentiful.
As soon as affairs were in a promising condition, Smith started one very cold December day on a journey of exploration. He sailed up the Chickahominy River in search of the South Sea, as the Pacific Ocean was then called. This was generally believed to be just beyond the mountains. When the stream had become too shallow for the barge, Smith with his four companions, two men and two Indian guides, continued in a canoe. Landing near what is now called White Oak Swamp, he left the white men in charge of the canoe, and with one Indian pushed his way into the forest. Soon they were set upon by a band of two hundred Indian warriors, but Smith so bravely defended himself that he killed two of the Warriors, and held out against the entire force until he sank in the mire and had to surrender. Having tied their prisoner to a tree, the Indians were about to shoot him with an arrow when he aroused their curiosity by showing them his pocket-compass and by asking that he might write a letter to his friends at Jamestown. Granting the request, they delivered the letter and brought back the articles for which it called. They were greatly amazed that the white man was able to make paper talk, and believing him to be a superior being, they spared his life.
Smith became much interested in the life of the Indians, and left an account of their customs and habits. According to his description, some of them lived in rude dwellings made of boughs of trees, some in huts, and others in wigwams a hundred feet or so in length, which served for a number of families. The warriors painted their bodies in many colors, and decorated themselves with beads, feathers, shells, pieces of copper, and rattles. What clothing they wore was made of skins, and their weapons were bows and arrows and clubs.
The Indians had many kinds of horrible dances, in the course of which they yelled and shrieked as if suffering the most painful torture. The squaws carried the burdens, built the wigwams, and performed the various necessary duties; and the men did the hunting the fishing, the smoking and especially the fighting.
The Indians took Smith to many of their villages, leading him finally into the presence of Powhatan, who lived in one of the long wigwams mentioned above, on the north bank of the York River, about fifteen miles from Jamestown.
The old chief was tall and stalwart, with a round fat face and thin gray hair hanging down his back. Dressed in a robe of raccoon skins, he sat before the fire on a sort of bench covered with mats, with a young maiden sitting on each side; at his right and left stood the warriors, and close to the wall on either side a row of squaws.
Presently one of the squaws brought to Smith some water in a wooden bowl, and another a bunch of feathers upon which to wipe his hands. Then followed a step in the proceedings that must have caused even a stout heart to quake. Having placed two stones upon the ground, the grim warriors seized Smith, laid his head upon the stones, and stood ready to slay him with clubs. But just at that moment the chief’s little daughter, Pocahontas, about ten years old, fell upon Smith’s body, threw her arms around his neck, and begged her father to spare his life. Powhatan’s heart was so touched that he released Smith and allowed him to return three days later to Jamestown.
In the summer of 1609 Smith started out on another expedition in search of the Pacific. He sailed as before by way of Chesapeake Bay, exploring far up the Potomac. It is needless to say that he did not reach the Pacific, but he covered a distance of about three thousand miles, and made a map of his explorations, which is considered remarkable for its accuracy.
In the autumn Captain Newport came from England with orders from the London Company to crown Powhatan. Along with the crown the company sent gifts, consisting of a bed, a basin, a pitcher, and a scarlet robe. Powhatan gave tokens of his appreciation of the gifts by sending in return to King James a pair of his moccasins and one of his raccoon-skin blankets, but refused to kneel in receiving the crown, so that Smith and Newport had to lean on his shoulders to force him down.
The crowning of Powhatan was intended to win his favor, but the compliment did not make the shrewd old chief altogether friendly to the white strangers. For he noticed that their numbers were increasing, and he feared that their coming might in the end bring harm to himself and his people.
He therefore planned to get rid of the Englishmen by refusing them corn, and in the following winter declined to supply them, asking in a hostile way when they were going home.
The settlers sadly missed his friendly aid, for the rats that had come over in the vessels had played havoc with their provisions, and they were greatly in need of corn, venison, and game, such as Powhatan had furnished the previous year.
But Smith, who knew so well how to manage the Indians, was equal to the occasion. He used smooth words if they served his purpose; if not, he used threats or even force. Bent upon gaining their goodwill, or at least determined to secure corn, Smith sailed down the James, around Point Comfort, and up the York River with about forty men to Powhatan’s home. The old chief pretended to be friendly, but Smith learned from an Indian informer that the wily savage was planning to murder him and his men. Little Pocahontas, also, came to Smith in the darkness of night and told him of the plot, thus proving herself, as on many other occasions, to be a true friend to the white men. Indeed, it has been said that by her timely aid the Jamestown settlement was saved from ruin.
When Smith fully grasped the situation he threatened the Indians with death, and then, finding himself surrounded by hundred of hostile warriors, he boldly seized Powhatan’s brother by the scalp-lock, put a pistol to his breast, and cried, “Corn or your life!” The Indians, awed by Smith’s fearlessness, no longer held out, but brought him corn in abundance.
From the first Smith had been the natural leader of the colony, and in time was made president of the council. He found the men of his own race almost as difficult to manage as the Indians. They were so lazy that Smith was obliged to make a law by which he declared, “He that will not work shall not eat.” The law proved to be a good one, and the idlers were soon busy making glass, felling trees, and preparing tar, pitch, and soap-ashes. But they hated rough labor, and were very apt to swear when it hurt their hands. To put an end to the swearing, Smith required each man to keep a record of his oaths, and for every offence ordered a can of cold water poured down the sleeve of the uplifted right arm of the culprit. By such discipline the settlement was soon put into excellent working order.
If Smith could have remained at the head of the colony, everything might have continued to go well. But one day, while out in a boat, he was wounded so severely by the explosion of some gunpowder that he was obliged to return to England for treatment. This accident happened in October, 1609. Five years later he returned to Virginia and explored the coast to the north, making a map of the region, and naming it New England. He not only wrote an account of his own life, but also several books on America. He died in 1632, at the age of fifty-three years. Without his leadership, the weak and puny colony at Jamestown must have perished before the end of its first year. But his resolution and courage held it together until it received from England the help needed to put it on a firm footing.
Nathaniel Bacon and the Uprising of the People in Virginia in 1676
When Smith returned to England he left the colony without a leader. At once the Indians, who had been held in check by fear of Smith began to rob and plunder the settlement, and at the same time famine and disease aided in the work of destruction. Dogs, horses, and even rats and mice were in demand for food, and while at its worst the famine compelled the suffering colonists to feed upon the bodies of their own dead.
At the close of that terrible winter, known ever since as the “Starving Time,” barely sixty of the five hundred men whom Smith had left in the colony survived. The future promised nothing, and the wretched remnant of sufferers were about to leave Virginia for their fatherland when an English vessel hove in sight on the James. Greatly to their relief and joy Lord Delaware had arrived with a company of men and much-needed supplies. This was in June, 1610.
By reason of ill-health Lord Delaware soon returned to England, leaving Sir Thomas Dale in control of the colony. He was even more firm and vigorous than Smith had been in dealing with the worthless men who made the greater part of the colony. Some of the most unruly were fogged, some were branded with hot irons, and one man was sentenced to death by starvation.
Holding down the lawless by the arm of the law, Dale was also able to introduce reform. Before he took charge of affairs in Virginia there was a common storehouse from which everybody, whether idle or industrious, could get food. When the good-for-nothing settlers found out that they could thus live upon the products of other’s labor, they would do nothing themselves, but held back, throwing all the work upon thirty or forty men. Dale, appreciating the evil of this system, gave to every man his own plot of land. Out of what he raised each was obliged to put into the common storehouse two and a half barrels of corn; the rest of his crop he could call his own. By this plan the idlers had to work or starve, and the thrifty were encouraged to work harder, because they knew they would receive the benefit of their labor.
Soon after the new system was put in practice the settlers discovered that great profits resulted from raising tobacco. The soil and climate of Virginia were especially favorable to its growth, and more money could be made in this way than in any other. But since tobacco quickly exhausted the soil, much new land was needed to take the place of the old, and large plantations were necessary. Every planter tried to select a plantation on one of the numerous rivers of Virginia, so that he could easily take his tobacco down to the wharf, whence a vessel would carry it to Europe.
For a long time the planters were very prosperous through their tobacco culture, some even becoming wealthy. But a turn of fortune made things bad for them. The Navigation Laws were passed, which required them to send all their tobacco to England in English vessels. These laws also required that the planters should buy from England all the European goods that might be needed, and should bring them over to Virginia in English vessels.
The effect was to compel the colonist to sell his tobacco at whatever price English merchants were willing to pay, and to buy his goods at whatever price the English merchant saw fit to charge. Moreover, England laid heavy taxes on colonial trade, and when, after a while, the price of tobacco fell, the planter received small return for his labor.
But these grievous trade regulations were not all that vexed the colonist. He had troubles at home even more irritating than the impositions of England. In 1660 Sir William Berkeley, a narrow-minded, selfish man, became Governor of Virginia. This polished cavalier, fond of the pleasures of the table and of good company, cared far more for his seventy horses than for the plain people whose welfare was entrusted to him. He cared so little indeed for the rights and wishes of the people, that he refused, for sixteen years after he became governor, to let a new assembly be elected. Having found in 1660 a set of pliant followers, he kept them in office by adjourning the assembly from year to year.
Although such conduct was hard to excuse, the people were forbearing until a great evil fell upon the settlement. The Indians began to invade the frontier, and used the firebrand, scalping-knife, and tomahawk with such fearful effect that three hundred settlers were killed and their homes burned. The people begged Governor Berkeley to send troops to punish the Indians; but he refused because he was carrying on a profitable trade in furs with the offenders. At length, five hundred men, in a frenzy of rage at their wrongs, urged Nathaniel Bacon, a wealthy, educated planter, to lead them against their red foes.
Bacon was at this time only twenty-eight years old. Tall and graceful in person, this young man was also brave and generous. He had sympathy with the plain people, over whom he exerted great influence, and when at length the Indians killed an overseer and favorite servant on one of his large plantations, he was willing to join with the people and be their leader against the common foe. After trying in vain to get a commission from Governor Berkeley, Bacon put himself at the head of five hundred troops, and without a commission marched boldly against the Indians. These he defeated with very little loss.
In the meantime, with a force of his own soldiers, Berkeley followed after Bacon, whom he called rebel and traitor. Before he could reach the young leader, however Berkeley had to return to Jamestown to put down an uprising of the people. Nor did he succeed in restoring quiet until he agreed to an election of a new assembly to which Bacon himself was chosen a delegate.
On Bacon’s return from his attack upon the Indians he became the idol of the people. In their devotion to him and fear for his safety, thirty men armed with guns accompanied him on his sloop down the James River as he went to meet with the assembly at Jamestown. But this force was not large enough to prevent Berkeley’s followers from capturing Bacon and taking him before the angry governor.
On the advice of a friend, Bacon agreed to apologize to the governor, with the understanding, as seems probable, that the latter should grant him the desired commission. But the trouble between the two men was by no means settled. That very night Bacon’s friends warned him of a plot against his life. Under cover of darkness, therefore, he took his horse, and found safe shelter among his followers. But he speedily returned to Jamestown at the head of five hundred troops, where he forced Berkeley to grant him a commission, and compelled the legislature to pass laws that were favorable to the interests of the people. Then hearing that the Indians were again beginning to burn and murder on the border, he marched against them.
While he was gone Berkeley called out the militia, with the intention of overpowering Bacon upon his return, but on learning the governor’s purpose the troops refused to fight and went back to their homes Sick with the sense of failure, Governor Berkeley now sought a place of safety across Chesapeake Bay in Accomac County.
Bacon once more occupied Jamestown, but for a third time found it necessary to march against the Indians. While he was gone Berkeley, who had succeeded in raising a troop of one thousand men, came back and took possession of the capital. Although Bacon’s men were tired out with fighting the Indians, they promptly gathered at his call, and attacked Berkeley with such vigor that the poor governor was glad to escape again to his retreat in Accomac County.
When Bacon got control of Jamestown, then a mere village of some sixteen to eighteen houses, he burned it to prevent its falling into Berkeley’s hands. The people’s leader had been successful, and had risked his life and his fortune for the common rights. But the strain of the past four or five months in the malarial swamps broke down his health, and after a short illness, he died of fever at the home of a friend, in October, 1676. It is not known where he was buried. His friends were obliged to hide his body, because they feared that, according to the custom of the times, Berkeley might seize it and have it hanged.
With Bacon’s death the rebellion lost its heart and soul. Berkeley brutally punished Bacon’s friends, some twenty of whom he put to death. This displeased the English king, who summoned the governor to return to England, where he soon afterward died a broken-hearted man.
Bacon’s Rebellion, as this uprising of Virginians in 1676 has been rightly called, although it seemed to fail, was not without large influence for good. For it strengthened the liberty-loving spirit of the people, and prepared them for that greater movement in behalf of their rights that took place one hundred years later.
Miles Standish and the Pilgrims
Only thirteen years after Jamestown was settled, a colony of Englishmen, very different in character from the gold hunters of Virginia, landed on the Massachusetts coast. These men came not to seek fortunes but rather to establish a community with high ideals of political and religious life. With them they brought their wives and children, and a determination to build for themselves permanent homes in the new world. Before tracing their fortunes in America, let us glance backward a few years and see them as they were in their English homes.
At the present time people can choose their own church and worship as they please, but it was not always so, even in England. In that country, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, there was much religious disturbance, and many people were punished because they would not worship as the law required. There were Englishmen who, while loving the English Church, wished to make its services more simple or, as they said, purify its forms and ceremonies. These people were for this reason called Puritans. Other disliked the ceremonial and doctrines of the Church so much that they wished to form a separate body and worship after their own ideas. These were called Separatists, or Independents.
The Separatists met for service on the Lord’s Day in the home of William Brewster, one of their chief men, in the little village of Scrooby. For a year they tried to keep together and worship as an independent body. But as the laws of England required that all should worship in the Established Church, they found they could not do this without being hunted down, thrown into prison, and sometimes beaten and even hanged.
They endured these persecutions as long as they could, and then some of them decided to leave their own land and seek a home in Holland, where they would be free to worship God as they pleased. James I, then King of England, being unwilling that they should go they had much difficulty in carrying out their plan, but in 1608 they escaped and went to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam they went to Leyden, and finally from Leyden to America, by way of England. By reason of their wanderings they became known later as Pilgrims.
Since they were poor people, the Pilgrims were obliged to accept any work that would enable them to make a living. In Leyden many found employment in the manufacture of woolen goods. Here they were prosperous enough and enjoyed freedom of worship, but were unwilling to remain with the Dutch, fearing that their children would forget English. For, although England had been unkind to them, they cherished their native language, customs, and habits of life.
They had heard much about the English colony in Virginia, and the association of their own people in a free land appealed strongly to their English hearts. To Virginia therefore they decided to go, believing that there they could worship in peace and harmony and bring up their children in sturdy English thought and feeling.
But it is often easier to plan than to accomplish, and so it was decided to leave Holland, they found practical difficulties to be overcome, the most serious of which were King James’s opposition to their going to America and lack of funds for the long and expensive journey. He permitted them to sail, however, and agreed not to disturb them in America so long as they pleased him. After getting the king’s consent and borrowing money on hard terms, these earnest men and women made ready to sail for their new home in the forest wilds of America.
They embarked in the Speedwell, at Delft Haven, a port twelve miles from Leyden, and sailed for Southampton, on the south coast of England. Here they joined some friends who had made ready another vessel, the now historic Mayflower. But a brief delay was occasioned by lack of money. In order to secure the necessary amount, about four hundred dollars, it was necessary to sell some of their provisions, including much of the butter. Funds being secured, the two vessels at last put to sea, but twice returned on account of a leak in the Speedwell. Finally, deeming that vessel unseaworthy, one hundred and two Pilgrims, including men, women, children, and servants, took passage in the Mayflower, sailing from Plymouth, September 16, 1620.
After a most trying and tempestuous voyage lasting over nine weeks, land was sighted, November 19, 1620, but instead of arriving off the coast of Virginia as they had planned, the storm-beaten voyagers found themselves in what is now the harbor of Provincetown. Before landing they entered into a solemn agreement to make and obey such laws as should be needful for the good of the colony. John Carver was chosen governor.
Not being able on account of the shallow water to get the Mayflower to a point where they could step ashore, the men had to carry the women in their arms and wade several rods, though the weather was so cold that their clothing, wet from the ocean spray, froze stiff. Once on land, they fell upon their knees and thanked God for bringing them in safety through the many furious storms. Then immediately the women set to work lighting fires, boiling water, and washing clothing, while the men stood guard to repel the Indians in case they might make an attack.
It soon became clear that Cape Cod was an unfit place for a settlement, and an exploring party, with Miles Standish as a military leader, was selected to look for a more suitable one.
As military leader Miles Standish at once became conspicuous in the life of the colony. He was born in Lancashire, England, in 1584, of a noble family but was in some way deprived of his estates. Going to the Continent he became a valiant and daring soldier in the Netherlands. Feeling a deep interest in the cause of the Pilgrims, he joined them when they sailed for America in the Mayflower, and made their fortunes his own.
Small of stature, quick-witted, hot-tempered, and ready to brave any danger, this stout-hearted man was a fitting leader for the little Pilgrim army of something like a score of men who were obliged to defend themselves and their families against wild beasts and unfriendly Indians.
Many of the Pilgrim soldiers wore armor to protect themselves against Indian arrows. In some instances this armor consisted of a steel helmet and iron breastplates, and in other of quilted coats of cotton wool. Like Miles Standish, some of the soldiers had swords at their sides, and all carried either flintlock or matchlock muskets so big and heavy that, before they could fire them off, they had to rest them upon supports stuck into the ground for the purpose.
Standish’s daring little band of soldiers explored some of the coast on the day the Mayflower anchored. The next Wednesday after landing they started out a second time in search of a suitable place for settlement. As they skirted the coast, landing here and there, they saw and heard Indians, who fled at their approach.
Soon they came upon some mounds, out of which they dug bows and arrows and other utensils. These however, they replaced, because they believed the mounds to be Indian graves. In a rude and deserted house they also found an iron kettle. Digging into still another mound these home-hunters were delighted to discover large baskets filled with ears of Indian corn--red, white, and yellow. As they were sorely in need of food after their long voyage, they took with them some corn, for which they were careful to pay the Indians later.
An amusing incident occurred on this otherwise serious journey. Before they got back to the Mayflower, William Bradford, who afterward became the second governor of the Plymouth Colony, met with an accident that must caused even the stern Pilgrim soldiers to smile. Picking his way through the underbrush of the wood he stepped unwittingly into a deer-trap, and was suddenly jerked up into the air, where he dangled by one leg until his friends released him, none the worse for the ludicrous occurrence.
After spending more than three weeks in vain efforts to find a place for settlement, a party of ten picked men, including Governor Carver, William Bradford, and Captain Miles Standish, set out on the afternoon of December 16th, in the midst of a driving storm, for another search. It was so cold that the spray, falling upon them, soon covered their clothing with coats of ice, but the voyagers, though suffering terribly, pushed courageously forward.
At the close of the next day, having anchored in a creek, they constructed a barricade, not only as a protection from the bitter weather, but as a means of defense against the Indians. This three-sided barricade, made of boughs, stakes, and logs, was about as high as a man, and was open on the leeward side. Within this shelter they lighted a big fire, which they kept roaring all night long. Then lying down around it, with their feet toward the burning logs, they wrapped their cloaks closely about them and fell asleep beneath the trees and the open sky, one man always keeping guard.
Nest morning they were astir early, ready for the stubborn work of another day. Some of them had carried their muskets down to the shore, leaving them there to be put aboard the boat a little later, and were returning to breakfast when the shout “Indians!” followed by a shower of arrows, greeted them. The woods seamed full of red warriors, whose blood-curdling war-whoops must have struck fear to the hearts of the small band of explorers. However, the white men bravely stood their ground, and with cool arm and steady hand so terrified the savages that they soon took to their heels.
Once out to sea again the Pilgrims encountered a furious gale that threatened to swamp their frail boat. All day long they were tossed about on the storm swept sea, and just before dark an immense wave almost filled the boat and carried off the rudder. A little later a fierce gust of wind broke the mast into three pieces. Then without mast or rudder the dauntless men struggled at the oars until morning when they reached land and found themselves on an island which they named Clarke’s Island, in honor of the Mayflower’s mate.
Some further explorations revealed a suitable place for settlement. It had a good harbor, a stream of excellent drinking water near by, and at a little distance from the shore a stretch of high ground affording a good location for a fort. In addition to these advantages there was a large field of cleared land on which the Indians had raised corn. Much cheered with their discovery the explorers returned with their report.
After as little delay as possible, the Pilgrims landed on the spot chosen for their new home,--the spot which John Smith had several years before named Plymouth. At once they set to work with heroic energy, some felling trees, some sawing, some splitting, and some carrying logs to the places of building.
They first erected a rude log-house, twenty feet square, which would serve for a common storehouse, for shelter, and for other purposes, and began the building of five separate private dwellings. They built also a hospital and a meeting-house.
The houses were all alike in form and size. After cutting down trees and sawing logs of suitable length, the men dragged them by hand along the ground--for there were no horses or other beasts of burden--and laid them one upon another, thus forming the walls. Probably the chimneys and fireplaces were of stone, the crevices being plastered with mortar made by mixing straw and mud, and oil paper taking the place of glass for windows. At the best, these log houses were poor makeshifts for dwellings in the severe winter weather along the bleak New England coast.
For finishing these simple homes, the Pilgrims had brought over such articles as large arm-chairs, wooden settles, high-posted beds, truckle-beds for young children, and cradles for babies. Every home had also its spinning-wheel. The cooking was done in a big fireplace. Here the housewife baked bread in large ovens, roasted meat by putting it on iron spits which they had to keep turning in order to cook all sides of the roast alike, and boiled various kinds of food in large kettles hung over the fire.
As there were no friction matches in those day, it was the custom to kindle a fire by striking sparks with a flint and steel into dry tinder-stuff. Having once started a fire,--which was no easy matter,--they had to be very careful not to let it go out, and for that reason covered the coals at bedtime with ashes.
In the place of candles or lamps, pitch-pine knots furnished light at night. We can well imagine the Pilgrim boys and girls resting on the settles in the evening, and reading by the blaze from the huge fireplace.
In this first winter lack of good food and warm clothing, exposure to the cold, and various kinds of hardship bred disease in the little colony. At one time only seven men were well enough to take care of the sick and suffering. One of these seven was the fearless soldier, Miles Standish. He now became a tender nurse, and joined with William Bradford and Elder Brewster in making fires, washing clothes, cooking food, and in other plain household duties.
By spring about half of the colonists, including Governor Carver and Rose Standish, wife of Captain Miles Standish, had died. Notwithstanding all the sufferings, however, not one of the Pilgrims went back on the Mayflower when she sailed for England. But so weak had the colony become through loss of able bodied men, that corn was planted on the graves to keep the Indians from learning how many had died.
One day in early spring, the Pilgrims were startled by the sudden appearance of an Indian, Samoset by name, who cried in English, “Welcome, Englishmen.” A week later he returned with a friend, named Squanto, who had formerly lived at Plymouth with other Indians, all of whom had been swept away by a plague.
Squanto was glad to get back to his old home once more. He afterward came to live with the Pilgrims, acting as their messenger and interpreter and showing them how to hunt and how to catch fish. From him they learned how to plant corn. Putting one or two herring as a fertilizer in every hill, they would watch for a while to prevent the wolves from digging up and eating the fish, and in due time would have an abundant return.
About a week after Samoset’s first appearance, he returned and announced the approach of Massasoit, an Indian chief living at Mount Hope, some forty miles southwest of Plymouth. Captain Miles Standish marched out with his men to escort the Indian chief to meet Governor Carver in an unfinished house. The Pilgrims had spread upon the floor a green mat, which they covered with cushions for the chief and the governor. When the chief, who was a man of fine presence and dignified bearing, was seated upon the cushions, Governor Carver was escorted to the place of meeting by the Pilgrim soldiers, amid the beating of drums and the blowing of trumpets. After the governor had kissed the chief’s hand, the two men agreed to be friends and keep peace between the white men and the red. The friendship thus romantically begun lasted for more than fifty years. Before Massasoit’s departure the Pilgrims gave him two skins and a copper necklace.
As summer came on the condition of the Pilgrims improved. There was much less sickness, and food was more easily obtained. On the arrival of autumn the corn and barley planted by the Pilgrims yielded a good return, and ducks, geese, wild turkeys, and deer could be secured by hunting. When Massasoit with ninety men came to see the Pilgrims in the autumn, the Indians brought some deer and the Pilgrims furnished food from their supplies, so that a three days’ feast was held. This was the first celebration of the New England Thanksgiving.
But not all of the Indian neighbors were so friendly as Massasoit and his tribe. Canonicus, chief of the Narragansett’s, sent to Plymouth an insolent greeting in the form of a number of arrows tied with a snake’s skin. The Pilgrims on their part stuffed the snake’s skin full of powder and bullets, and in defiance sent it back to Canonicus. So deeply impressed were the Indians by this fearless act that they let the whites alone.
Believing it wise to be prepared against Indian attacks, however, the Pilgrims surrounded the settlement with palisades, and erected on “Burial Hill” a building, on the flat roof of which cannon were placed, the room downstairs serving as a meeting-house.
Energetic in practical affairs, they were equally zealous in religious observance; for they were very regular in their church attendance. Their Sabbaths began with sundown on Saturday and lasted until sundown on Sunday. The beating of a drum on Sunday morning was the signal for the men to meet at the door of Captain Miles Standish’s house, from which they marched three abreast, followed by their governor in a long robe, with the minister on his right and Miles Standish on his left.
After the men came the women, then the children, and last of all the servants. On entering the church they sat in order of rank, the old men in one part of the church, the young men in another, mothers with their little children in a third, young women in a fourth and the boys in a fifth.
The services lasted all the morning; then, after an intermission for lunch at noon, they began again and continuing all the afternoon. But on the coldest days of winter only foot-stoves were used to heat the meeting-house. Nor was this the only discomfort the Pilgrims had in their church worship. For even these good people found it sometimes hard to remain awake during the long services. And it was the duty of the constable to see that all kept their eyes open. If this official saw a boy asleep he rapped him with the end of a wand; if he saw a woman nodding he brushed her gently with a hare’s foot, which was on the other end of the wand.
The Pilgrims held their town meetings in the meeting-house, where they held religious services. At town meetings all the men wore their hats. In voting they used corn and beans, a grain of corn meaning yes and a bean meaning no.
Such was the life of the little company of truehearted men and women at Plymouth. Small in number as they were, they remained brave in spirit, amid surroundings which tested all their powers of endurance. For several years Miles Standish did valiant service there, and then went to live at Duxbury, where he was soon joined by some of his Pilgrim friends, among whom was John Alden. Here the good captain remained the rest of his life, except when he was needed as military leader by the colony. He died many years later,--in 1656,--leaving behind him a good name with the Pilgrims and the rest of the world.
Roger Williams and the Puritans
For years after the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth (1620) their number grew so slowly that by 1630 the population was only three hundred. After that year they began to increase more rapidly, by reason of neighboring settlements made by the Puritans at various places on the Massachusetts coast.
We have already seen that the Puritans in England were dissatisfied with the English Church, and that they wished to purify some of its forms and beliefs. But they did not succeed in their purpose because the Stuart Kings of England, James I. And Charles I., bitterly opposed the Puritan movement. For a long time the Puritans held their meetings secretly in such out-of-the-way places as private houses and barns. At length, encouraged by the success of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, they decided to leave their homes in old England and try to form a new England across the Atlantic. These Puritans were not, like the Pilgrims, poor men of little influence, for some of them had been educated at Oxford or Cambridge, some were wealthy, and some were connected with distinguished families. All were of sterling character, ready to undergo hardship for the sake of their religion.
In 1628, therefore, some of the leading Puritans formed a trading company and, having bought a tract of land in America from the Plymouth Company, sent out settlers to occupy it. The first settlement was at Salem with Endicott as leader. Two years later eleven vessels sailed with nearly 1,000 Puritans, bringing with them horses, cattle, and stores of various kinds. They located at Boston, Dorchester, Charlestown, and other towns near Boston. John Winthrop, their leader, was the first governor.
Each of these settlements constituted a township, which usually included an area of from forty to sixty square miles. Within this tract settlers lived in villages, in the centre of which stood their meeting-house, used not only for a place of worship but for all kinds of public meetings. Near the meeting-house stood the block-house. This was a rude, strongly built structure, where the people of the village could take refuge in case of attack from Indians.
Each of these settlements constituted a township, which usually included an area of from forty to sixty square miles. Within this tract settlers lived in villages, in the centre of which stood their meeting-house, used not only for a place of worship but for all kinds of public meetings. Near the meeting-house stood the block-house. This was a rude, strongly built structure, where the people of the village could take refuge in case of attack from Indians.
Extending through each village was a long street, and on either side of it stood the settlers’ dwellings with their small farms stretching back in the rear. These dwellings, which in early years were only log huts, afterward gave place to high-roofed frame houses. All were simple, solid, and neat.
Upon entering one of these early Puritan homes we should find two principal rooms, the “best room” and the kitchen. In the kitchen the thing of special interest to us would be the fireplace, large enough for a back-log five or six feet long and two or three feet thick. In this great fireplace a Puritan housewife could roast an entire sheep. As stoves were unknown in these olden days, all cooking was done at this open fire, and it was by such firesides that the Puritan boys and girls used to spend the long winter evenings. While the logs blazed the mother and daughters would knit, or spin, or quilt, and the father would read his Bible or smoke his pipe. At this family hearth there was also much good cheer in cider-drinking, nut-cracking, and story-telling, especially when the family was fortunate enough to have a stranger present as a guest. At such times the children were always good listeners.
But much as it was prized, a visit from a stranger was a rare occurrence, for as there were no carriages or public conveyances of any kind, long journeys were seldom made. When traveling by land the settlers sometimes went on foot and sometimes on horseback in the latter case the men sat in front and the women on a pillion behind. For carrying supplies, sleds were used in winter and ox-carts in summer.
Since travel was so difficult, there was very little communication between distant villages unless they happened to touch upon the sea. But frequently this was not the case, for many of the settlements, following the courses of rivers, extended inland rather than along the coast.
When a stranger did appear, however, he was always welcome, for he was sure to bring some bit of news from the world outside. Perhaps, if he had traveled through the woods, he might tell of some dangerous adventure with wild beasts or Indians. If in midwinter he dared to make the journey, he might t tell how he spent a cold night in some deserted wigwam, into which he had been driven by howling wolves. Such thrilling chapters from the book of every-day life were of special interest to people whose experience was very narrow and monotonous. For in those days there were no newspaper and few books.
We should make a great mistake, however, were we to imagine that the Puritans did not value books and reading. They appreciated reading and education so much that every town was required to have a school. As a consequence of this excellent system, there were very few people who could not read and write.
The study of the Bible was an important feature in all this school training, and absorbed much of the thought of the Puritan mind, especially on the Sabbath. The Puritan Sabbath, which began at sunset on Saturday and ended at sunset on Sunday, was largely given up to church worship. All work and travel, not absolutely necessary, were suspended, and no playing on a musical instrument was allowed. Two instances will illustrate the severity of the Puritan ideas of Sabbath observation. The first is that of two lovers, who were brought to trial because they were seen sitting together on the Lord’s Day under an apple-tree. The second tells us of a Boston sea-captain who was put into the public stocks for two hours because he kissed his wife on the Sabbath Day upon the doorsteps of his house. He had just returned after a two years’ absence on a sea-voyage.
In all this strictness about Sabbath observance, the Puritans were wholly sincere. To them purity of religion was the supreme interest of life. They had left their old homes in England that they might worship according to their own belief in a community under the control of Puritan ideas.
But it was no easy matter for them to Arrange the affairs of Church and State just as they wished, even in this new Puritan commonwealth. For they found some of the settlers unwilling to believe and act in accordance with Puritan ideas of right and wrong.
One of these troublesome persons was a young man who came with his bride to Salem in 1631. This young man was Roger Williams. He was born in England in 1599. An Englishman of influence secured for the clever lad a scholarship in the Charter-House school, from which young Roger later went to Cambridge University. Having become a Puritan, Roger Williams, like so many others of his faith, found it wise to leave England. He came to America in order that he might escape religious persecution and enjoy religious freedom.
On reaching New England he went to Salem, and was there appointed a minister of the church. After a very short time he left Salem, and wet with his family to Plymouth. Remaining there for two years, he became deeply interested in the Indians, and began the difficult task of learning their language. He wrote afterward, “God was pleased to give me a painful, patient spirit to lodge with them in their filthy, smoky holes to gain their tongue.”
In this way he acquired a good knowledge of the Indians, whom he learned to love and who learned to love him. Little did he realize that this warm friendship would in after years save not only his own life but also the lives of many other Puritans.
While winning the friendship of the Indians, Roger Williams incensed the Puritans by saying in strong language that they had no just claim to the lands they were living on. He said that the King had no right to grant to any company these lands, because they had never belonged to him. The Indians, and only the Indians, owned them. It is needless to say that such arguments made many bitter enemies for the youthful preacher.
Of course he could not continue in this severe criticism of matters so important to the Puritan heart without losing many of his friends. The wrath of the Puritans at length became so great that they tried him in court and banished him from Massachusetts. As he became ill about this time, however, he was told that he might remain in the colony through the winter if he would not preach. But as soon as he grew better his friends, who were very fond of him, began to spend much time in talking with him at his home in Salem, where he now lived. The Puritans, fearing his influence, determined to send him at once to England.
When the heroic young minister heard of this, he hastily said good-bye to his wife and two children---one a baby---and looked for safety in the home of his old friend Massasoit, living near Mount Hope, seventy or eighty miles away.
The outlook was dreary enough. It was midwinter (January, 1636), and the snow was lying deep upon the ground. As there was no road cut through the forest, Roger Williams had to depend upon his compass for a guide. To keep himself from freezing, he carried with him a hatchet to chop kindling wood, and a flint and steel to kindle it into flame. Thus fitted out, he started, though still weak from his recent illness, with a staff in his hand and a pack on his back, to look for his dusky friend, Massasoit. This long journey in the bitter weather of a New England winter was indeed a trying experience to the lonely traveler. He wrote long afterward, “Steering my course, in winter snow, I was sorely tossed for one fourteen weeks in a bitter winter season, not knowing what bed or bread did mean.” Having found Massasoit, he spent much of the winter in the wigwam kindly furnished him by the Indian chief.
In the spring he began to erect buildings at Seekonk on land given him by the Indians. But his friend, Governor Winthrop, having secretly sent him word that Seekonk was in the territory belonging to the Massachusetts colony, he decided to go elsewhere.
Accordingly, he and five of his friends rowed down the river and, landing at a place pointed out by the Indians as having a spring of good water, made a settlement, which they called Providence, in token of God’s watchful care over them. This was the beginning of Rhode Island, a colony where all men, whatever their religious belief might be were welcome. Men who had been persecuted elsewhere on account of their religion were glad to go to Rhode Island, where they were allowed to worship as they pleased. And thus it soon grew to be a prosperous settlement.
Roger Williams was a man of pure and noble soul. He did not seem to bear any grudge against the people of Massachusetts. For when, in 1637, the Pequot’s tried to get the Narragansett Indians to join them in a general uprising against the whites, and especially against those living in Massachusetts, he did all he could to frustrate their plans. At this time he set out one stormy day in his canoe to visit Canonicus, chief of the Narragansett’s, and succeeded, at the risk of his life, in preventing the union of the two tribes against the whites.
He died in 1683 at the age of eighty-four years. Although his judgment was not always wise, his motives were upright. In his struggle with the Puritans he was ahead of his age, which was not yet ready for such advanced ideas of religious toleration.
William Penn and the Settlement of Pennsylvania
The Pilgrims and Puritans were not the only people who had to suffer persecution in England because they did not believe in the doctrines and forms of worship of the Established Church. Under the leadership of George Fox there sprang up (about 1669) a peculiar religious sect called by themselves Friends and by others Quakers. These people were severely punished on account of their religious ideas.
The central doctrine of their creed was that they were in all things led by the “inner light,” as they called conscience, which revealed to them the will of God. Believing that all men were equal before the law, the Quaker always kept his hat on in public places as a sign of equality, refusing to uncover even in the presence of royalty. Other peculiar tenets of the Quakers were their unwillingness to take an oath in court; to go to war; to pay taxes in support of war; The use of “thee” and “thou” in addressing one another; and, as a protest against the rich and elegant dress of their time, the wearing of plain clothes of sober colors.
Their disdain of familiar customs made them appear very eccentric, and their boldness of speech and action frequently brought upon them the punishment of the law. But they were fearless in their defiance, and even eager to suffer for the sake of their religious belief, some being fined, some cast into prison, some whipped, and some put to death. Not only in England, but in Massachusetts also, they were treated like criminals. The Puritan fathers hated and feared them so much that they banished Quakers from their colony, and even put some of them to death on account of their views on religion and government. But, as always, persecution only seemed to spread the faith, and soon this derided and abused sect included eminent converts.
Among the most prominent was William Penn, who was born in London in 1644, the son of Sir William Penn, a wealthy admiral in the British Navy. Conspicuous service to his country had won him great esteem at Court, and he naturally desired to give his son the best possible advantages.
At the early age of sixteen, young William was sent to Oxford, where his studious habits and fine scholarship soon distinguished him. He became proficient in Greek and Latin, and learned to speak with ease the modern languages, French, German, Italian, and Dutch. Devoting a part of his time to athletics, he became a skilful oarsman and a leader in various outdoor sports.
While he was at Oxford, Penn heard Thomas Loe, a traveling Quaker, preach. The new doctrines, as expounded by Loe, took so deep a upon him that he refused to attend the religious services of his college. For this irregularity he was fined, together with some of his companions who were of the same mind. Disregarding the reproof, these conscientious young men even refused to wear the required college gown, and committed a yet graver offence against their college by tearing off the gowns from some of their fellow-students.
By reason of these bold and unruly proceedings the college authorities expelled Penn in disgrace. His father was very angry at what he deemed his son’s folly, and knowing that neither rebuke nor persuasion was likely to swerve the young man from his purpose, Admiral Penn decided to send William to Paris, with the hope that in the gay life of the French capital he might forget his Quaker ideas.
Penn was now a strongly built young man of eighteen, with large eyes and long dark hair falling in curls about his shoulders. For a brief time he gave himself up to the fashionable social life of Paris. Later he engaged in study at school for something like a year, and then spent another year in traveling through France and Italy. When he returned to England after two years’ absence, he was a cultivated young gentleman, very different from the sober youth who on leaving Oxford had been called by his companions “a Quaker or some other melancholy thing.”
The following year, however, Penn’s gay spirits were disturbed by the awful plague that fell upon London. The Admiral, noting the serious look and manner of his son, again sent him from home---this time to Ireland--for diversion. While Penn was in Ireland an insurrection broke out, and he volunteered as a soldier. Military life evidently appealed to him for he caused a portrait of himself to be painted, in full armor.
While still serving as a soldier, Penn learned that the Quaker, Thomas Loe, was preaching near by, and went to hear him once more. The Quaker ideas now took complete possession of him, and he embraced the new religion with his whole heart. A little later, when he was arrested in a Quaker meeting-house and thrown into prison, his father was indignant because William had brought upon his family such humiliating disgrace.
After William’s release from prison, however, the stern old Admiral in his great love for his son said he would forgive his peculiar customs if only he would remove his hat to his father, to the King, or to the Duke of York. But on praying over the matter, Penn said he could not do it. One day, on meeting the King, he had the boldness to stand with his hat on in the royal presence. Instead of getting angry, the fun-loving King Charles laughed and took off his own hat. “Why dost thou remove thy hat, friend Charles?” said William Penn. “Because,” answered the King, “wherever I am it is customary for one to remain uncovered.”
But the Admiral’s patience was by this time exhausted. He drove his willful son from his presence, and told him to be gone for all time. Fortunately for William, his mother begged for him, and so did the others who recognized the earnest and sincere purpose of the young Quaker. His father therefore forgave him once more, and allowed him to return home.
From this time on William Penn used his influence---which was by no means small---in behalf of the persecuted Quakers; but he had to suffer the consequences of his own fearlessness. Many times was he thrown into prison, there to remain, it might be, for months. Yet even in prison he spent his time in writing books and pamphlets, explaining and defending the Quaker religion. Indeed, his labors were unceasing, so firm was his faith in Quaker ideas.
Soon his power for doing good was immensely increased. In 1670 his father died and left him a princely fortune which, true to his generous nature, he determined to use for the good of others, and especially for the good of the despised and persecuted Quakers.
The Crown owed Penn’s father about £16,000, which the King, with his extravagant habits, was not likely to pay for many a day. William Penn, therefore, decided to ask the King to pay the debt not in money but in land. The good-natured Charles, thinking this was an easy way to cancel the obligation, readily granted to William Penn an extensive tract of land lying on the west side of the Delaware River. Penn wished his new possession to be called Sylvania, or Woodland, but the King insisted upon calling it Pennsylvania, in honor of Penn’s father. Upon receiving his grant, Penn at once sent word to the Quakers that in Pennsylvania they could find a home and a resting-place from their troubles.
Penn’s leading aim was to plant a self-governing colony, whose people should have justice and religious freedom. Hundreds of Quakers eagerly took advantage of the favorable opportunity which Penn thus offered to them. During the year 1681, when the first settlement was planted in Pennsylvania, something like 3,000 of them sailed for the Delaware River. The next year Penn himself sailed for America, although he left his wife and children behind.
He selected the junction of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers as the site for his city, and called it Philadelphia, or the City of Brotherly Love, in token of the spirit which he hoped might prevail throughout his colony. He laid out the city most carefully, giving the streets such names as Pine, Cedar, Mulberry, Walnut, and Chestnut, after the trees he found growing there.
When the first settlers came to Philadelphia, some of them lived in caves which they dug in the high river-banks. The first houses, built of logs, were very simple, containing only two rooms and having no floor except the earth. Philadelphia grew so fast, however, that by 1684 it had 357 houses, many of which were three stories high, with cellars and balconies.
As we might expect from a man of his even temper and unselfish spirit, Penn treated the Indians with kindness and justice, and won their friendship from the first. Although he held the land by a grant from the King of England, still he wished to satisfy the natives by paying them for their claims to the land. Accordingly, he called a council under the spreading branches of a now famous elm-tree, where he met the red men as friends, giving them knives, kettles, axes, beads, and various other things in exchange for the land. He declared that he was of the same flesh and blood as they; and highly pleased, the Indians in return declared that they would live in love with William Penn as long as the sun and moon should shine.
Penn paid the Indians friendly visits, ate their roasted acorns and hominy, and joined them in their sports. One day while they were leaping and jumping in his presence, he suddenly “sprang up and beat them all.”
Penn soon returned to England, but many years later (1699) he came back to Pennsylvania with his wife and one daughter. As he was very wealthy, he had two homes, one in the city and another in the country. His country home, which was northeast of the city on the Delaware River, cost him $35,000. In this house were elegant furnishings, and here, in his large dining-hall, Penn lavishly entertained Englishmen, Swedes, Indians, negroes, and passing strangers who called at his door. We are told that his table was so bountiful that at one of his feasts the guests ate a hundred roast turkeys. The grounds about his country home were magnificent, containing various kinds of fruits and flowers, and in his stables were many horses.
But notwithstanding these material blessings, Penn’s life was not without trials and disappointments, which it is needles to dwell upon. Owing to his warm friendship for King James, he was suspected of plotting in his favor after the King was forced to leave England in 1688. He was therefore more than once arrested, but in every case he was set free for lack of evidence against him. Many years later, on his refusal to pay a false claim made by his steward, he was thrown into prison, where his health was broken by confinement. He died in 1718. His life had been a hard struggle, but it had been successful, and had come to an honorable close.
Cavelier De La Salle and the French in the Mississippi Valley
The same year in which William Penn laid out Philadelphia and there made a treaty with the Indians, a noted Frenchman sailed down the Mississippi River, exploring it in the interests of France. This man was Robert Cavelier, better known as La Salle, who like many of his countrymen, was trying, just as the Spaniards and Englishmen had tried, to find or to do something in America that would not only bring glory to his own name, but also wealth and honor to his fatherland. We have now to consider the work of the French in America.
In 1534 Cartier, a French explorer, discovered the St. Lawrence, and sailed up the river as far as an Indian village on the present site of Montreal. He took possession of Canada in the name of the French King, and his favorable reports led to several unsuccessful attempts to plant settlements there.
More than seventy years after the discovery of the St. Lawrence, another French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, sailed up the noble river. Much impressed with the great beauty of the St. Lawrence Valley and its wealth of forests and furs, he longed to bring all this vast new country under the control of France. In 1608 he planted the first permanent French settlement in Canada, at Quebec, and the following year discovered the lake which bears his name.
Although Champlain loved his country and desired to increase its glory and power, he made an unfortunate blunder, which proved fatal to the best interests of France in the New World. In planting the settlement at Quebec, in 1608, he found that the neighboring tribes of Algonquin Indians were bitter enemies of the Mohawks, one of the Five Nations, or Iroquois, who lived in New York.
The Algonquin’s begged him to join them in an attack upon the Mohawks, and he unwisely consented. Having gone up Lake Champlain with a canoe-party of sixty Indians, he landed near the site of Ticonderoga to fight a battle with two hundred hardy Mohawk warriors. Champlain, clad in light armor and gun in hand, advanced at the head of his war-party and, shooting into the ranks of the astonished Mohawks, who stood in battle array, brought to the earth two of their chiefs. The others fled in terror and confusion, while their enemies, Champlain’s dusky allies, yelled with joy, and filled the woods with their terrible war whoops.
From that day, however, the Iroquois were the bitter enemies of the French, and this enmity seriously interfered with the successful carrying out of French plans. Having control of the St. Lawrence River, France greatly desired to get control of the Mississippi River as well. Once securing possession of these two great streams, she would come into possession of the wealth of the North American Continent.
But the Iroquois Indians were strongly posted in the Mohawk River Valley, and thus held the key to the situation. In this way they blocked the path of the French, who wished to reach the Ohio and the Mississippi through Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. So the French were driven to seek a route farther north, a route which was much longer and more difficult. It would be well for you to trace on your map this roundabout way, which extended up the Ottawa River into Georgian Bay, through Lake Huron and Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, across into the Illinois River, and through that into the Mississippi.
In the same year that Champlain made the Iroquois bitter enemies of the French, Henry Hudson won their lasting friendship for the Dutch. About the time the Frenchmen were fighting in the battle against the Mohawks at Ticonderoga, Hudson, with a crew of twenty men in the Half Moon, was sailing up the river that now bears his name. Instead of finding the short passage to the Pacific, for which he was searching in the interests of the Dutch, he discovered the great water-way to the interior. Having received just treatment from him, the Iroquois Indians became his friends and the friends of the Dutch settlers and traders that came later.
From that time, in fact, these Iroquois Indians were as ready to sell their furs to the Dutch and to the English, who in 1664 took New York away from the Dutch, as they were to oppose the French and compel them to go many hundred miles out of their way in the tedious explorations in search of the Mississippi.
This toilsome work of exploration was largely accomplished by the Jesuit missionaries. Fearless in their heroic efforts to advance their faith, they suffered all sorts of hardships, many being put to death, in their earnest struggle to bring religious truth to the ignorant red men of the woods. In their journeys through the forests and over the lakes, these Jesuit Fathers made many valuable discoveries and explorations which they carefully recorded in their journals.
It was one of these missionaries, Father Marquette, who succeeded in reaching the waters of the Mississippi. Attended by Joliet and five other Frenchmen, he went, in 1673, as far down the mighty river as the mouth of the Arkansas. This was sixty-five years after Champlain made his settlement at Quebec.
But the most important of all the French explorations were made by the daring and tireless La Salle. He was born in France in 1643, and belonged to an old and rich family. Strong in mind and character, he received a good education, and became an earnest Catholic. With a heart ready to brave any danger in the achievement of glory for himself and for France, this young man at the age of twenty-three sailed for Canada.
His plans, as finally worked out, were twofold: (1) To build forts and trading centre’s at various points along the St. Lawrence, the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi; and (2) to plant a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi. Wishing to get control of the rich fur trade for France, his forts and his colony would help to protect and further this trade, which could be carried on more easily by way of the Mississippi, than by way of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence. For along the latter route lay the hostile Iroquois, who were friendly to the Dutch and the English; and, moreover, the St. Lawrence was ice-bound nearly one-half of the year.
Early in August, 1679, after long and weary efforts spent in preparation, La Salle launched on the Niagara River above the Falls, his little vessel, the Griffin, of forty tons burden, which was to bear him through the lakes on his way to the Mississippi.
Nearly a year before starting, La Salle had sent up the lakes fifteen men to trade furs. He expected them to have ready, against the time of his arrival, a cargo of furs to be sent back to Canada. For La Salle needed a great deal of money with which to by provisions, ammunition, and tools, , and to pay his men for their services. Besides, he wished to get cables, anchors, and rigging for a new vessel to be built on the Illinois River, for the purpose of making his expedition to the mouth of the Mississippi. The expected cargo of furs, taken back and sold in Canada, would give him the money he needed to carry out his plans.
Having arrived at the head of Lake Huron, therefore, he collected the cargo awaiting him, loaded the Griffin with furs, and on September 18, 1679, dispatched it in charge of six men to Niagara. La Salle himself pushed on to the mouth of the St. Joseph River, where he built a fort, and waited long and anxiously for the Griffin’s return. But he waited in vain, for he never heard from his vessel again. It was a great loss and a keen disappointment. After waiting long he continued his way, careworn and weary, with eight canoes and a party of thirty-three men.
They rowed up the St. Joseph in search of the carrying-place leading to the head-waters of the Illinois River. On landing, La Salle started off alone to look for the pathway. In the midst of a blinding snowstorm he lost his bearings in the dense forest, and wandered until about two o’clock in the morning, when he found himself once more at the river, and fired his gun as a signal to the party.
Then his eyes caught the welcome sight of a fire burning in the woods. Believing he was near his friends, he quickened his steps, only to find himself mistaken. Near the fire, under a tree, was a bed of dried grass which was still warm, and showed plainly that a man had but a few minutes before been lying there. Very likely the man was an Indian, who had been frightened off by the sound of the gun. La Salle carefully placed brush for a sort of barricade on each side of the newly found bed, and then lay down by the blazing fire and slept till daybreak. He did not find his friends until four o’clock next afternoon.
On rejoining his party they made their way down the Illinois River, until their eyes fell upon some Indian wigwams on the forest-covered bank. The Indians, being friendly, received the Frenchmen with generous hospitality. They urged La Salle not to go down the Mississippi. They indeed said so much of the danger of the journey that six of La Salle’s followers deserted, and another tried to poison him. These were sad days for La Salle and, like all his days, were beset with troubles and dangers. To protect himself from attack during the winter, he now planned the building of a fort which he called Crevecoeur, the French word for heartbreak, surely a fitting name.
Up to this time the iron-willed La Salle had not given up hope of hearing from the Griffin, but now he decided that his vessel was lost. There was but one thing to do He must make an overland journey to Canada, 1,500 miles away, to get supplies for his expedition down the Mississippi. It was a dangerous undertaking. But on March 1, 1680, with an Indian hunter and four Frenchmen, the dauntless explorer started in two canoes.
The season was the worst in the year for such a journey. The ground was covered with melting snow, and the rivers in many places were frozen with ice, too thick to be broken by the boats. Much of the time the party had to pull the canoes on rough sleds overland or carry them on their shoulders until, a few days after starting, they hid them in the woods and pushed forward on foot to the head of Lake Michigan.
Reaching that point, it was now necessary for them to thread their toilsome way through the deep forests of Southern Michigan to the head of Lake Erie. For three days the undergrowth was to thick with thorns that it tore their clothing into shreds, and scratched their faces until they were covered with blood. Another three days were spent in wading, sometimes up to their waists, in the mud and water of the flood-covered marshes. At night they would take off their clothing and covering their bodies with blankets, lie down to sleep on some dry hillock. One frosty night their clothes froze so stiff that in the morning they had to be thawed by the fireside before they could be put on. Amid such exposure some of the men fell sick, and thus delayed the party. But early in May, at the end of sixty-five days, they reached Canada.
As soon as he could arrange his affairs in Canada, La Salle again returned to the Illinois River and reached its mouth. But owing to fresh disappointments, he had to make still another journey through the wilderness to the base of his supplies on the St. Lawrence.
Not until February 6, 1682, two years and a half after he first started out in the Griffin, and after three attempts to build a suitable vessel for the journey, did he float out upon the waters of the Mississippi to explore it; and at last he was obliged to make the journey in canoes. This time his party included fifty-four people----eighteen Indian warriors, ten squaws, three Indian children, and twenty-three Frenchmen. On reaching the mouth of the river he planted a column bearing the arms of France, and then, with imposing ceremonies, took possession of the great Mississippi Valley in the name of the French King, Louis XIV., after whom he named the country Louisiana.
By building forts and trading centers along his route, La Salle had carried out the first part of his plan. He now resolved to go to France and get men for a colony which he wished to plant at the mouth of the Mississippi, and thus carry out the second part.
Having succeeded in France in fitting out this colony, he sailed with four vessels early in July, 1684, in search of the Mississippi River by way of the Gulf of Mexico. With his usual bad fortune, however, he missed its mouth and laded at Matagorda Bay, 400 miles to the west. Then followed many disasters, among which were loss of vessels and supplies, lack of food, sickness and death, and attacks by unfriendly Indians. For two years the wretched little colony struggled for life. La Salle was in sore distress. He knew he had many enemies among his men who would gladly take his life, but hoped for help from France. No help came. It was plain to La Salle that he could save the suffering colony only by making his way to Canada. He therefore started out on January 12, 1687, with a party of seventeen men and five horses, on another long and dangerous journey through the dense forests----this time from the gulf of Mexico to Canada.
Traveling north, the party crossed the Brazos River and toiled onward to the Trinity River. But La Salle’s men were tired of traveling through the forests, and some of them were thirsting for his blood. Hey were waiting only for a suitable opportunity to carry out their murderous purpose. On the morning of March 19th they lay in ambush, and shot him dead as he approached, probably not far from the Trinity River.
La Salle’s life was one of storm and peril; but he was as fearless as a lion. Ambitious for himself and for his country, he had room for little else in his life. His repeated failures brought criticism and lack of confidence from men who had loaned him large sums of money, and these criticisms hardened his spirit. Many enemies making him suspicious, he seemed to lose sympathy with his men, and became harsh in his treatment of them. But he did a great work for France, a work which entitles him to be regarded as one of the most remarkable of all the explorers of America.
George Washington, the Boy Surveyor and Young Soldier
As a pioneer in leading the way along the Ohio and the Mississippi, La Salle did much for France. He hoped to do far more. His cherished dream was to build up in this vast and fertile territory an empire for France. But the French King foolishly feared that planting colonies in America would take too many of his subjects out of France, and refused to do that which might have made his new possessions secure. The opportunity thus neglected was seized fifty years later by the hardy English settlers who pushed westward across the Alleghany Mountains. This movement brought on a struggle between the two nations, a few events of which are important to mention.
You will remember that two years after the coming of John Smith to Jamestown, Champlain sailed up the St. Lawrence and settled Quebec for the French. You will also recall that the French explorers, priests, and traders had been gradually making their way into the heart of the continent, by way of the Great Lakes, until at last La Salle glided down to the mouth of the Mississippi, and took possession of the land in the name of the French King. This was in 1681, the year the Quakers were settling Pennsylvania and fifty-two years before the settlement of Georgia, the youngest of the thirteen original colonies.
Just one year before this last settlement there was born in Westmoreland County, Va., a boy who was to play a large part in the history not only of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, but of the whole country. This boy was George Washington. He was born on February 22, 1732, in an old-fashioned Virginia farm-house, near the Potomac River, on what was known as Bridge’s Creek Plantation. The house had four rooms on the ground floor, with an attic of long sloping roofs and an enormous brick chimney at each end.
George’s father was a wealthy planter, owning land in four counties, more that 5,000 acres in all. Some of his lands were on the banks of the Rappahannock River, near which he had money invested in iron-mines. To this plantation the family removed when George was seven years old, the new home being nearly opposite Fredericksburg, then a small village.
Here he was sent to a small school and taught by a man named Hobby, a sexton of the church and tenant of George’s father. It was a simple sort of training the boy received from such a school-master. He learned a little reading, a little writing, and a little ciphering, but that was about all. Later in life he became a fairly good penman, writing a neat round hand; but he never became a good speller.
When George was eleven years old his father died, leaving to him the home where they lived on the Rappahannock, and to his brother Lawrence the great plantation on the Potomac afterward called Mount Vernon, while George remained with his mother at the house opposite Fredericksburg.
Now left without a father, George received his home training from his mother. Fortunate, indeed, was he to have such a mother to teach him; for she was kind, firm, and had a strong practical sense. She loved her son, and he deeply appreciated her fond care of him. Some of George’s youthful letters to his mother are full of interest. After the manner of the time he addressed her formally as “Honored Madam,” and signed himself “Your dutiful son.”
Nor was his mother the only strong and wholesome influence over his home life. His eldest brother, Lawrence, played an important part in shaping his character. According to the custom of those days, Lawrence, as the eldest son of a Virginia planter, would inherit the bulk of his father’s estate. He was therefore sent to an excellent school in England, to receive the training which would fit him to be a gentleman and a leader in social life. For learning was not held in such high esteem as ability to look after the business of a large plantation and take a leading part in the public life of the county and the colony.
With such a training Lawrence returned from England, a young man of culture and fine manners and well fitted to be a man of affairs. From this time on George, now only seven or eight years old, looked up to his brother, fourteen years his senior, with cordial admiration. Lawrence became George’s model of manhood, and returned his younger brother’s devotion with a tender love.
Soon after the death of his father, the boy went to live with his brother Augustine on the Bridge’s Creek Plantation, in order to have the advantages of a good school there. Many of his copy-books and books of exercises, containing such legal forms as receipts, bills and deeds, as well as pictures of birds and faces, have been preserved. In these books there are, also, his rules of conduct, maxims which he kept before him as aids to good behavior. The following are a few of them: “Every action in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those present.”, “When a man does all he can, though it succeeds not well, blame not him that did it.”, “Undertake not what you cannot perform, but be careful to keep your promise.”, “Speak not evil of the absent: for it is unjust.”, and “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”
In George’s school-days he heard many stories about wars with the Indians and about troubles between the English and the French Colonies. Moreover, his brother Lawrence had been a soldier in the West Indies in a war between England and Spain, from which he had returned full of enthusiasm about what he had felt and seen. It was at this time that Lawrence changed the name of his plantation on the Potomac to Mount Vernon, in honor of Admiral Vernon, under whose command he had fought.
Catching his brother’s military spirit, George organized his boy friends into little military companies, and, as their commander, drilled them, paraded them, and led them in their sham battles in the schoolyard.
Naturally the boys looked to him as leader, for he was strong in mind and body, and fond of athletic sports. It is said that no boy of his age was his match in running, leaping, wrestling, and pitching quoits. His athletic skill expressed itself also in his fearless horsemanship. The story is told that he once mounted a colt that had successfully resisted all attempts to remain on his back. But George held on until the spirited animal, in a frenzy of effort to throw off the persistent young rider, reared, broke a blood vessel, and fell dead. His keen enjoyment of a spirited horse, and of hunting in the freedom of woods and fields for such game as foxes, deer, and wild-cats, lasted to a late period of his life.
George’s good qualities were not confined to outdoor sports requiring skill and physical strength alone. He was a manly boy, stout-hearted and truthful. All the boys trusted him because they knew he was fair-minded, and often called upon him to settle their disputes.
But we must not think of him as a perfect boy, finding it easy always to do the right thing. George Washington had his faults, as some of the rest of us have. For instance, he had a quick temper which he found it hard to control. In fact, he found this a herder thing to do than many brave deeds for which he became famous in his manhood.
The humdrum quiet of a Virginia plantation did not satisfy this alert boy longing for a life of action. He had heard from Lawrence about life on a war-vessel, and had also seen, year after year, the annual return to the plantation wharf of the vessel that carried a cargo of tobacco to England and brought back in exchange such goods as the planter needed.
Eager for a change of surroundings, he made all his plans to go to sea. The chest containing his clothing had been packed and sent down to the wharf, but at the last moment he yielded to his mother’s persuasion, and gave up his cherished plan of becoming a sailor-boy. He was then fourteen years old.
Returning to school, George continued to be careful and exact in all his work, his motto being “Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.” He was also methodical, and herein lay one of the secrets of his ability to accomplish so much when he came to manhood.
His love of out-door sport gave him a natural bent for surveying, to the study of which he applied himself diligently. He soon became proficient enough to command confidence in his ability as a trustworthy surveyor.
In the autumn of his sixteenth year he went to live with his brother Lawrence on the Mount Vernon plantation, were he spent much of his time in surveying. Here he met a man who exerted a large influence on his later life. This man was Lord Fairfax, a tall, courtly, white-haired English gentleman of about sixty years of age, who was living at Belvoir, a large plantation a few miles from Mount Vernon.
At this time George was a shy, awkward youth, somewhat overgrown for his age, with long arms, and a tall, large frame. But in his serious face there was a sign of quiet self-control and firm purpose.
The provincial youth of fifteen and the cultured English lord of sixty, though so far apart in age and experience, soon became close friends. They were much together. Sometimes they would spend the morning in surveying, and start out in the afternoon on their horses for a gay time fox-hunting. They doubtless talked freely to each other, and as Lord Fairfax had seen much of the best English life and had read some of the best English books, he was an interesting companion to his earnest and thoughtful young friend.
This warm friendship soon had a practical turn. Lord Fairfax owned an immense tract of country in the Shenandoah Valley----by some said to be as much as one-fifth of the present State of Virginia. Wishing to learn more about it and observing George to be exceedingly careful and accurate in his surveying, he decided to send him over the Blue Ridge into the wild region to find out and report to him something about the lands there.
He was to have only one companion, George William Fairfax, who was the eldest son of Lord Fairfax’s cousin, and was then about twenty-two years old. About the middle of March, 1748, when George Washington was barely sixteen years old, these two young fellows started out together on horseback, to travel through the forest a distance of 100 miles before they reached the Shenandoah Valley. They carried guns in their hands, for until their return about a month later they would have to depend mainly upon hunting for their supply of food. The account which George himself has left enables us to picture them riding alone through the forest with no road except perhaps, at times, a path made by Indians or wild animals.
After reaching the wild country they had to live in the most primitive fashion. For instance, Washington tells of a night in a woodman’s cabin when he had nothing but a mat of straw for his bed, with but a single blanket for cover, and that alive with vermin. He wrote in his diary: “I made a promise to sleep so no more, choosing rather to sleep in the open air before the fire.”
Again, in a letter to a friend, he says: “ I have not slept above three or four nights in a bed, but, after walking a good deal all day, I have lain down before the fire upon a little hay, straw, fodder, or a bear-skin, with man, wife and children, like dogs and cats; and happy is he who gets the berth nearest the fire.”
Sometimes they tried life in a tent. Once in a storm the tent was blown over, and at another time the smoke from the fire drove the occupants out of doors. One night, according to the same diary, “we camped in the woods, and after we had pitched our tent, and made a large fire, we pulled out our knapsacks to recruit ourselves. Every one was his own cook. Our spits were forked sticks; out plates were large chips.” As for bread, most of the time, if not all they had none, and they drank only pure water from running streams.
On another occasion they fell in with a war-party of painted warriors whom Washington and his friend Fairfax fearlessly joined, all gathering about a huge fire built under the trees. As the great logs blazed in the midst of the dark forest, the Indians joined in one of their wild, weird dances. They leaped to and fro, whooped and shrieked like mad beings, while one of their companions thumped upon a drum made by drawing a deer-skin across a pot filled with water, and another rattled a gourd containing shot and decorated with a horse’s tail, “to make it look fine.”
It was a strange experience which these tow youths had that month. But Washington was well paid, earning from $7 to $21 a day. On the return of the young surveyor to Mount Vernon his employer, Lord Fairfax, was so much pleased with the report that he secured his appointment as public surveyor. For the next three years George lived the life of a surveyor, spending much of his time with Lord Fairfax at his wilderness home, Greenway Court, not far from Winchester.
During this time George was gaining valuable knowledge of the forest, and becoming so intimate with Indian life that, as people said, he came to walk like an Indian. His life in the woods developed fearlessness, patience, and self-reliance, qualities which, joined to his ability and character, inspired men’s confidence and established his leadership. Governor Dinwiddie, of Virginia, appointed him an officer in the State militia, with the rank of a major. And as an officer, his influence continued to increase.
Some two years afterward his brother Lawrence died and left the Mount Vernon estate to his daughter, with George Washington as guardian. On her death, a little later, Washington became owner of the immense plantation at Mount Vernon, and hence a wealthy man.
Fortune had favored him, and he might have chosen to enter upon a life of ease, but events soon occurred which called into action all his heroic qualities. The strife between the English and the French for control in the Ohio and Mississippi valley was advancing rapidly toward war.
The French had long considered this territory their own. We recall that La Salle had explored it, and attempted to plant colonies here. For many years, French explorers, priests, and traders had toiled on, patiently pushing their way through the forests, and planting stronghold after stronghold. At length, pressing closer on the English border, they began to build forts between Lake Erie and the head of the Ohio. At once a company composed largely of Virginia planters was organized for the purpose of making settlements in the Ohio Valley. Before they could do much, however, the French had boldly advanced far into territory claimed by England.
The people of Virginia in alarm, said, :This advance must stop. What can be the plans of the French? How many are already in the forts lying between Lake Erie and the Ohio River?” Governor Dinwiddie and other Virginia gentlemen grew excited as they asked such questions. They decided, therefore, to send out to the French commander in the fort near Lake Erie, a trusty messenger who should ask by what right the French were invading a country belonging to England. This messenger was also to find out what he could about the forces of the French in that vicinity, and about their plans. Moreover, he was to make a strong effort to win over to the English the Indians, whose friendship the French were trying to gain. As a suitable man for this dangerous enterprise, all eyes turned to George Washington, still only twenty-one years of age.
The journey of 1,000 miles through trackless forests, in the bitter cold of winter, did not offer a cheerful outlook. But on October 30, 1753, with seven companions, including an Indian and a French interpreter, George Washington started from Williamsburg. Stopping at Fredericksburg to bid good-by to his mother, he went on by way of Alexandria to Winchester, the familiar spot where he had spent many happy days with Lord Fairfax. Here he got horses and various supplies needed for his journey.
From Winchester the little band of men moved forward to Will’s Creek (now Cumberland, MD), and then plunged boldly into the forest. From that time on, the difficulties of the journey were well-nigh overwhelming; but by perseverance in climbing lofty mountains and in swimming rivers swollen by heavy rains, the end of the journey was at last reached.
On receiving an answer from the French commander, who promised nothing, Washington started back home. The horses soon proved too weak to make much headway through the dense forests and deep snow, and it seemed best to push on without them. He also left behind him all of his party except a trusty woodsman. Then putting on an Indian costume with a heavy cloak drawn over it, he strapped upon his back the pack containing his papers and, gun in hand, started off. A little later they were joined by an Indian guide, who soon gave evidence of his treachery by suddenly turning and discharging his gun at Washington.
Washington had another narrow escape from death. He had expected on reaching the Alleghany River to cross on the ice, but to his dismay he found the ice broken up and the stream filled with whirling blocks. There was no way of getting over except on a raft which he and his companion had to make with a single hatchet. Having at last finished it, they pushed off, and then began a desperate struggle with the current and great blocks of floating ice. Washington, in trying to guide the raft with a pole, was thrown violently into the water. By catching hold of one of the raft logs he recovered himself, and by heroic effort succeeded in reaching an island nearby. Here the travelers suffered through a night of intense cold, not daring to kindle a fire for fear of the Indians.
On January 16th they reached Williamsburg, where Washington delivered to Governor Dinwiddie the unsatisfactory letter he had brought from the French commander. Although the result of the expedition was not what the Virginians had hoped for, Washington had so well succeeded in carrying out his perilous mission that he was highly praised for his effort.
The defiant answer of the French commander made it seem probable to the people of Virginia that war would follow. Therefore a company of men was sent out to build a fort at the place where the Alleghany and Monongahela rivers unite to form the Ohio. Washington’s quick eye had noted the importance of this site, afterward known as the “Gateway of the West.”
In the meantime Washington was drilling men for service, and in April he set out with the rank of lieutenant-colonel with two companies for the frontier. He had not gone very far when he learned that the French had driven off with a large force the men who had been sent to the head of the Ohio to build a fort; but he continued his march. When a little later the approach of a small body of French was reported, the Virginians surprised them, killing, wounding, or capturing all but one. Colonel Washington was in the thickest of the fight, and wrote in a letter, “I heard the bullets whistle and, believe me, there is something charming in the sound.”
After this fight, which began the war, Washington returned to Great Meadows, and, learning that a large body of French were marching against him, hastily threw up rough earthworks, which he called Fort Necessity. When attacked soon after by two or three times his own number, the brave young colonel did not shrink. For nine hours, in a heavy downpour of rain, he and his sturdy followers stood up to their knees in mud and water in the trenches. Being so greatly outnumbered, his troops were of course defeated, but the House of Burgesses gave their commander a vote of thanks in recognition of his bravery.
The war now began in bitter earnest, and England promptly sent over troops, with General Braddock in command. When on reaching Virginia he heard of Colonel Washington, Braddock appointed hem a member of his staff. Colonel Washington soon discovered that General Braddock was not the man to handle an army in woodland warfare. He would gladly have advised him, but the haughty British general would hear no suggestions from a colonial officer.
With 2,000 soldiers, General Braddock marched against the French, stationed at Fort Duquesne at the head of the Ohio. On the morning of July 9th, when the army was only eight miles from the fort, it was suddenly attacked by the French and Indians, who lay in ambush in the thick forest. The English soldiers, standing in solid masses, were shot down by squads, but the Virginians fought from behind trees in true Indian fashion.
Braddock, who has been rightly called a gallant bull-dog, rode madly to and fro, giving orders to his men, but in vain. He shortly fell from his horse, with a mortal wound. The manly figure of Colonel Washington was a conspicuous mark for the enemy’s guns Two horses fell under him; four bullets tore through his clothing be he escaped injury.
The result was a sore defeat for the English army. It lost 700 men out of 2,000, and three-fourths of its officers. Nothing but retreat could be thought of. The brave but narrow-minded Braddock had made an enormous and expensive blunder.
After Braddock’s defeat Washington was given command of the Virginia troops. Later in the war he led an expedition against Fort Duquesne, as Braddock had done. But on hearing of his approach the French fled. The war having subsided in the Ohio Valley, Washington resigned his commission, returned to Mount Vernon, and soon afterward married Mrs. Martha Custis, a rich young widow.
We have seen him first as a robust lad, then as a fearless woodsman, and later as a brave soldier. We will leave him for a while at Mount Vernon, where in the refined society of old Virginia he came to be equally well known as a high-bred gentleman.
James Wolfe, the Hero of Quebec
We have just seen how the English and the French struggled to get control of the Ohio Valley. But the fighting in the Las French War was not confined to this region. Many of the battles were fought to secure control of two waterways. One of these was the route to Canada, including Lakes George and Champlain, and the other was the St. Lawrence River. Indeed, the crowning feature of the Last French War was the heroic effort made by a young English general to capture Quebec.
This young general was James Wolfe. He was born in the southeastern part of England in 1727. From his father, who was an officer in the English army, he inherited a love for the soldier’s life. But in all the trials and dangers to which he was exposed in his short and stormy career, he continued to be a devoted son, his love for his mother being especially tender and sincere. With her he kept up a regular correspondence, in which he freely expressed his inmost thoughts and feelings.
When only sixteen years of age he was sent to Flanders as an adjutant in a regiment of the English army. Here, by faithful and thorough work, he won promotion and soon, through work, he won promotion and soon, through bravery and skill, received an appointment as brigadier-general. At the age of thirty-two he was sent to America to assist in an expedition to Louisburg, and played a large part in the capture of that stronghold.
He presented an awkward figure. At that time he was tall and slender, with long limbs, narrow shoulders, and red hair tied in a queue behind. His face was plain, with receding chin and forehead, and upturned nose. But his keen, bright eyes, full of energy and fearlessness, gave him an attractive countenance and revealed a heroic nature.
His health was never robust. As a child he was delicate, and as a youth he had frequent attacks of illness. But his resolute will and his high ideals enabled him to do what others of a different mould would never have attempted. He was governed, too, by an overmastering sense of duty, which was his most striking trait.
Although at times extremely impatient, his tenderness and frankness of nature easily won enduring friendships. His soldiers loved him so dearly that they were willing to follow him through any dangers to victory or death.
After the capture of Louisburg, Wolfe was so worn by the demands upon his strength that he returned to England and went to Bath for treatment. At this time he met Miss Katherine Lowther, to whom he soon became engaged.
But he was not long to remain inactive, for his country needed him. The great William Pitt, who had now become the head of affairs in England, saw in this fearless young general a fitting leader for a dangerous and difficult enterprise. This was an expedition against Quebec, the strongest and most important position held by the French in America.
The French army at Quebec, commanded by General Montcalm, numbered more than 16,000 men, consisting of Frenchmen, Canadians, and Indians. But some were boys of fifteen, and others old men of eighty. Here they awaited Wolfe, whose army numbered 9,000.
By June 21, 1759, Wolfe’s fleet lay at anchor in the north channel of the island of Orleans, not far below Quebec. Then began a time of trial and discouragement to the young commander, who vainly looked for a point from which he might hope to make a successful attack.
In the meantime his soldiers were suffering from intense heat and drenching rains. Much sickness was the natural result. Wolfe, anxious with doubt, himself fell a victim to a burning fever. But he would not give up. He said to his physician, “I know perfectly well you cannot cure me. But pray make me up so that I can be without pain for a few days, and able to do my duty. That is all I want.” Although racked with pain, he went from tent to tent among his men, trying to encourage them.
During several weeks there was fighting now and then in the neighborhood of Quebec. On July 31st Wolfe’s troops made a determined attack upon the French on the heights just north of the Montmorency River. The English advanced, in the face of a heavy, blinding rain, with great heroism, but were forced to retire without having gained a foothold.
Thus the summer wore on near to its close. In desperation, Wolfe decided upon a bold move. He determined to sail up the river land above Quebec, scale the steep and rugged cliffs there, and compel the French to fight a battle or surrender the city.
The most serious difficulty was to find a way to scale the cliffs. At last one day came a glimmer of hope. For looking through a telescope from the south side of the river, the resolute young commander discovered a narrow path leading up the frowning heights not far from the town. “Here,” he quickly decided, “I will land my men.”
Promptly, eagerly, he began to lay his plans. On the morning of September 7th, in order to conceal from Montcalm their real purpose, the British, in gay red uniforms, embarked and sailed up and down the St. Lawrence, as if looking for a landing-place. On September 12th, the fatal time set for decisive action, some of the English vessels, with a large body of troops on board, hovered about the shore below Quebec, as if to force a landing there. Montcalm was completely deceived. The ruse had succeeded.
Meanwhile the main body of English troops, which was to make ready a landing, was quietly anchored in the river above Quebec. Twenty-four brave men volunteered as leaders to scale the cliffs. These men took their places in the foremost boat.
At two o’clock in the morning Wolfe gave the order to advance. It was a starlit night, but as there was no moon, it was dark enough to conceal the movements of the English. For two hours the long procession of boats filled with soldiers floated silently down the river. The brave young Wolfe, calm and masterful, was in one of the foremost boats. Fully expecting to be killed in the coming battle, he had, earlier in the evening, given to an old school-friend the portrait of his betrothed, Miss Lowther, which he had long worn about his neck. He said to his friend, “Give this to Miss Lowther, if I am killed.”
We can imagine the strain upon Wolfe’s feelings during the two hours in which the boats floated downstream. Perhaps it was to relieve this strain that he repeated in a quiet voice Gray’s “Elegy in a Country Churchyard.” He seemed to dwell with peculiar feeling upon the last line in the following stanza: “The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave, Await alike the inevitable hour, The paths of glory lead but to the grave.” On coming to the end of the poem, he said, “Gentlemen, I would rather have written those lines than take Quebec.”
when they had almost reached their landing-place they heard a sudden call from a French sentry, “Qui vive!” “France,” replied one of Wolfe’s officers, who spoke French. “A quel régiment?” “De la Reine,” was the reply, and thinking the boats were under the control of Frenchmen carrying provisions to Montcalm, the sentry let them pass. Later when challenged by another sentry, the same English officer said in French: “Provision-boats. Don’t make a noise---the English will hear us.”
At length they came to the spot since called Wolfe’s Cove, and there landed. The twenty-four volunteers clambered up the path in the darkness and, reaching the top, surprised the small number of Frenchmen stationed there, and quickly overpowered them. It was with much difficulty that Wolfe’s army succeeded, by seizing hold of trees and bushes, in getting to the top with muskets, cannons, and supplies.
At daybreak, Wolfe chose as the field of battle the Plains of Abraham, a high stretch of land extending along the river just above the town.
The brave Montcalm, in doubt and perplexity, had spent a sleepless night pacing to and fro. When told of the landing of the English troops he rode up from his camp to see what was going on. Amazed at the “silent wall of red” presented by the English army drawn up in battle array, he said, “This is a serious business.”
Wolfe, anxious but calm, rode to and fro, inspiring his soldiers with confidence. “Victory or death” was their watchword, for in case of failure retreat was impossible.
By ten o’clock the French were in line of battle, ready for the onset. With loud shouts, they rushed upon the English. But the latter, waiting quietly until the enemy was only forty paces away, met them with a withering fire that strewed the ground with dead and dying men. While the French were wavering, the English fired another deadly volley, and then with victorious shouts rushed headlong upon the confused ranks. The fighting was stubborn and furious, and Wolfe was in the thickest of the fray. While he was leading a charge, a bullet tore through his wrist. Quickly wrapping his handkerchief about the wound, he dashed forward until he was for the third time struck by a bullet, this time receiving a mortal wound. Four of his men bore him in their arms to the rear, and wished to send for a surgeon; but Wolfe said, “There’s no need; it’s all over with me.” A little later, hearing someone cry “They run; see how they run!” he asked, “Who runs?” “ The enemy, sir. Egad, they give way everywhere!” Then said Wolfe in his last moments, “Now, God be praised. I will die in peace.”
Montcalm, too, died like a hero. Shot through the body, he was supported on either side as he passed through the town; but when he heard cries of distress and pity from his friends and followers, he said, “It’s nothing, it’s nothing; don’t be troubled for me, good friends.” Being told that he could not live many hours, he exclaimed, “Thank God, I shall not live to see Quebec surrendered.” A few days later Quebec came into the hands of the English. Its fall meant the loss to France of all her possessions in North America except two small islands for fishing-stations in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The treaty of peace at the end of the war, called the Last French War, was signed at Paris in 1763. By this treaty France ceded to Spain all the territory between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains; also the town of New Orleans, controlling the navigation of the Mississippi. To England she gave Canada and all the territory east of the Mississippi. Thus by a single blow did Wolfe so weaken the hold of the French upon North America, as to compel them to give up practically all they had there.
Patrick Henry and the Stamp Act
With the fall of Quebec, France lost her hold of nearly all the territory in North America that she had acquired through the energy and heroism of her explorers. England profited by this loss, but England herself had soot to meet with a misfortune far heavier---the loss of all her colonies east of the Alleghenies and along the Atlantic coast. Very soon after the close of the Last French War, she began, under the lead of the dull-witted King George, to treat them with so much injustice and oppression that in self-defense they were driven to take up arms for the security of their rights as a free-born people. The result was the American Revolution, which began in 1775 and ended in 1783. How this Revolution came to be, is one of the most interesting chapters in our history. Let us now trace the course of events leading to its outbreak.
After the close of the Last French War, England was heavily in debt. As this debt had been incurred largely in defense of the English colonies in America, George III., King of England, believed that the colonies should help to carry the burden. Moreover, as he intended to send them a standing army for their protection, he deemed it wise to levy upon them a tax for its support.
Parliament, therefore, which was composed largely of the King’s friends, ready to do his bidding, passed a law called the Stamp Act. This required the colonists to use stamps upon their newspapers and upon legal documents, the price of stamps ranging from a half-penny to twelve pounds. The King thought this tax would be just because it would fall upon all the colonists alike.
But the colonists were of a different mind; for England had not fought the Last French War so much to defend them as to protect her own trade. Besides, they had already paid a reasonable share of the war expenses, and had furnished a fair proportion of soldiers for battle. They had always given their share toward the expenses of their defense, and were still willing to do so. If the King would ask them for a definite sum, they would raise it through their Colonial Assemblies. But they strongly objected to any English tax.
These Colonial Assemblies were composed of men who represented the colonists and made laws for the colonists. Therefore the colonists were willing to pay any taxes levied by the Assemblies. As free-born Englishmen they objected to paying taxes levied by Parliament, which did not represent them. Parliament might levy taxes upon the people of England, whom it did represent. But only the Colonial Assemblies could tax the colonists, because they alone represented the colonists. In other words, as James Otis in a stirring speech had declared, there must be “No taxation without representation.”
George III could not understand the feelings of the colonists, and he had no sympathy with their views. His mother had said to him when he was crowned, “George, be King,” and this advice had pleased him. For he was willful, and desired to have his own way as a ruler. Thus far he had shown little respect for the British Parliament, and he felt even less for Colonial Assemblies. Certainly if he was to rule in his own way in England, he must compel the obedience of the stubborn colonists in America. The standing army which the King wished to send to America was designed not so much to protect the colonies as to enforce the will of the King, and this the colonists knew. They therefore opposed with bitter indignation the payment of taxes levied for the army’s support.
Patrick Henry was one of many who were willing to risk everything in their earnest struggle against the tyrannical schemes of King George. Patrick Henry was born in 1736 in Hanover County, VA. His father was a lawyer of much intelligence, and his mother belonged to a fine old Welsh family. As a boy, Patrick’s advantages at school were meager, and even these he did not appreciate. Books were far less attractive to him than his gun and fishing-rod. With these he delighted to wander through the woods searching for game, or to sit on the bank of some stream fishing by the hour. When out-door sports failed, he found delight at him in his violin.
When he was fifteen years old, his father put him into a country store, where he remained a year. He then began business for himself, but he gave so little attention to it that he soon failed. He next tried farming, and afterward storekeeping again, but without success.
At length he decided to practice law, and after six months’ study applied for admission to the bar. Although he had much difficulty in passing the examination, he had at last found a vocation which suited him. He did well in his law practice; but we must pass over this part of his life in order that we may go with him to Williamsburg. He went there in 1765, soon after the passage of the Stamp Act by the English Parliament, to attend the session of the Virginia House of Burgesses, of which he had been elected a member.
We get a vivid picture of our hero at this period of his career as he rides on horseback toward Williamsburg, carrying his papers in his saddle-bags. John Esten Cooke says of him: “He was at this time just twenty-nine, tall in figure, but stooping, with a grim expression, small blue eyes which had a peculiar twinkle, and wore a brown wig without powder, a ‘peach-blossom coat,’ leather knee-breeches, and yarn stockings.”
There was great excitement in Williamsburg, and it was a time of grave doubt. What should be done about the Stamp Act? Should the people of Virginia tamely submit to it and say nothing? Should they urge Parliament to repeal it? Or should they cry out against it in open defiance?
Most of the members were wealthy planters, men of dignity and influence. These men spoke of England as the “Mother” of the colonies, and were so loyal in their attachment that the idea of war was hateful to them Certainly, the thought of separation from England they could not entertain for a moment.
But Patrick Henry was eager for prompt and decisive action. Having hastily written, on a blank leaf taken from a law-book, a series of resolutions, he rose and offered them to the assembly. One of these resolutions declared that the General Assembly of the colony had the sole right and power of laying taxes in the colony.
A hot debate followed, in the course of which Patrick Henry, ablaze with indignation, arose and addressed the body. His speech closed with these thrilling words: “Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third--” “Treason! Treason!” shouted voices from the stormy assembly. Pausing a moment in a fearless attitude, the young orator calmly added, “may profit from their example. If this be treason make the most of it.” The resolutions were passed.
It was a great triumph for the young orator, who now became the “idol of the people.” As he was going out of the door at the close of the session, one of the plain people gave him a slap on the shoulder, saying, “Stick to us, old fellow, or we are gone!”
The note of defiance sounded by Patrick Henry at this time vibrated throughout America, and encouraged the colonists to unite against the oppressive taxation imposed upon them through the influence of the stubborn and misguided King George.
But the English people as a whole did not support the King. Many of them, among whom were some of England’s wisest statesmen, believed he was making a great mistake in trying to tax the Americans without their consent. Said William Pitt, in a stirring speech in the House of Commons: “Sir, I rejoice that America has resisted. Three millions of people so dead to all the feelings of liberty as voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of all the rest.”
In the ten years following the passage of the Stamp Act, events in America moved rapidly. Some of these we shall learn more about little later. It is sufficient here to say that the colonial merchants refused to import goods so long as the Stamp Act was in effect; that their action caused the merchants, manufacturers, and ship-owners in England to lose money heavily; that these merchants and ship-owners at once begged Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act; and that Parliament did repeal it one year after its passage.
Ten years after Patrick Henry’s eloquent speech at Williamsburg against the Stamp Act, the people of Virginia were again deeply aroused; for King George, acting through Parliament, had sent 3,000 soldiers to Boston to force her unruly people and those of Massachusetts to obey certain of his commands. Virginia having given her hearty support to the people of Massachusetts, the royal Governor of Virginia drove the Colonial Assembly away from Williamsburg. But the people of Virginia, resolute in defense of their rights, elected a convention of their leading men, who met at old St. John’s Church in Richmond, a church which is yet standing. Excitement was widespread, and thoughtful men grew serious at the war-cloud growing blacker every hour.
Virginians had already begun to make preparations to fight if they must. But many still hoped that the disagreements between the Americans and King George might be settled, and therefore believed that they should act with great caution. Patrick Henry thought differently. He was persuaded that the time had come when talk should give place to prompt, energetic, decisive action. The war was at hand. It could not be avoided. The Americans must fight, or tamely submit to be slaves.
Believing these things with all the intensity of his nature, he offered a resolution that Virginia should at once prepare to defend herself. Many of the leading men stoutly opposed this resolution as rash and unwise.
At length Patrick Henry arose, his face pale and his voice trembling with deep emotion. Soon his stooping figure became erect. His eyes flashed fire. His voice rang out like a trumpet. As he continued, men leaned forward in breathless interest, thrilled by his magical words:
“We must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us! They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak, if we make proper use of the means which the God of nature hath placed in our power…There is no retreat, but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!”
“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry peace, peace--but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the North will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
This wonderful speech made a deep impression not only in Virginia but throughout the colonies. The next month the war began at Lexington and Concord. A little later Patrick Henry was made commander-in-chief of the Virginia forces, and later still was elected Governor of Virginia.
At the age of fifty-eight he retired to an estate in Charlotte County, called “Red Hill,” where he lived a simple and beautiful life. He died in 1799. His influence in arousing the people of Virginia and of the other colonies to a sense of their rights as freemen cannot easily be measured. Without doubt his impassioned oratory played a most important part in shaping the course of events which resulted in the Revolutionary War.
Samuel Adams and the Boston Tea Party
We have just seen how the people of Virginia, under the leadership of Patrick Henry, arose against King George’s pet measure, the Stamp Act. But the Virginians were not alone in the feeling of opposition to the English King. Just as brave and liberty-loving were the Massachusetts people, with Samuel Adams as their leader.
He was born in Boston in 1722. His father was a well-to-do man, who filled a large place in the community. Of Samuel Adams’s boyhood we know little, but as far as we can learn he was a studious, indoor sort of lad, with little fondness for sport of any kind. His father wished him to be a clergyman, but he preferred to study law. Since, however, his mother did not approve, he gave that up for a business life, eventually joining his father in the malt business.
When the excitement over the Stamp Act began, Samuel Adams was forty-two years old. He was of medium size, with gray hair and keen gray eyes. Although his hands were tremulous, as if with age, his health was vigorous. Like Patrick Henry, he had but little aptitude for business. So we need not be surprised to learn that in time he lost about all the property his father had left him.
In fact, Samuel Adams soon gave up all kinds of private business, devoting his time and strength to public life. As a result he and his family had to live on the very small salary which he received as a clerk of the Assembly of Massachusetts. Poor as he was, however, no man could be more upright. The British tried to buy him, but found him the very soul of honor. In what way he gave expression to his interest in the public welfare can be briefly told.
As we have already seen, King George, much against his will, had to submit to the repeal of the Stamp Act by Parliament. But he was not satisfied. He could never carry out his selfish scheme of personal government in England and in America if he allowed the stubborn colonists to have their way in this matter.
In 1767, therefore, through his tool, Townshend, Parliament levied new port duties on a few articles, including glass, lead, paper, and tea. These new taxes were hateful to the colonists because they were levied by Parliament, and because the money thus raised was to be used to their disadvantage in various ways: For example, some of it was to pay for maintaining in America a small English army. This army, the colonists believed, the King would use to compel them to do as he willed.
the opposition to the new taxes was just as bitter as it had been against the Stamp Act. Samuel Adams felt that only slaves would submit to such high-handed oppression. He urged the people of Boston and Massachusetts to join in refusing to import any goods from England as long as the new taxes were imposed by Parliament. They did so agree, and thus inflicted great injury upon English merchants, as they had done two or three years before.
Of course these merchants suffered heavy losses, and again begged for a repeal. But the dull-witted King could not understand the Americans. Thus far he had not been able to coerce them; he now made a shrewd attempt to outwit them.
Influenced by him, Parliament took off all the new taxes except the one on tea. “There must be one tax to keep the right to tax,” he said. If he could only succeed in getting the Americans could buy their taxed tea cheaper than it could be bought in England and cheaper even than they could smuggle it from Holland, as they had been doing. No doubt the King had great faith in this foolish scheme. “Of course,” he argued, “the Americans will buy their tea where they can buy it cheapest, and then we will have them in a trap.” But this was a huge blunder, as we shall now see.
The East India Company arranged to ship cargoes of tea to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. When the tea arrived, the people in New York and Philadelphia refused to let it land, and in Charleston they stored it in damp cellars, where it spoiled. But in Boston, where the Tory Governor, Hutchinson, was determined to fight a hard battle for the King, there was a most exciting time. The result was the famous “Boston Tea Party.”
It was a quiet Sunday morning, on the 28th of November, 1773, when the Dartmouth, one of the three tea-ships on the way to Boston, sailed into the harbor. The people were attending service in the various churches. “The Dartmouth is in!” spread like wildfire, and soon the streets were astir with people, Sunday though it was, in old Puritan Boston.
Fearing that the tea might be landed, the committee of correspondence quickly got together and secured a promise from Benjamin Rotch, the owner of the Dartmouth, that the tea should not be landed before Tuesday. On Monday morning an immense town meeting was held in Faneuil Hall, the “Cradle of Liberty.” Five thousand men were present. But Faneuil Hall proving too small, the crowd had to make its way to the Old South Church. In addressing the meeting Samuel Adams asked, “Is it the firm resolution of this body that the tea shall not only be sent back but that no duty shall be paid thereon?” With a great shout the men answered “Yes.”
Samuel Adams and the people of Boston and the surrounding towns were determined that the tea should not be landed. Governor Hutchinson was equally determined that it should be. The advantage was with the Governor, for according to law the vessels could not return to England with the tea unless they got a clearance from the collector of customs or a pass from himself.
But neither the collector of customs nor Governor Hutchinson would yield an inch. For nineteen days the struggle continued, growing daily more bitter. With a stubborn purpose to prevent the landing of the tea even if they had to fight, the Boston people appointed men, armed with muskets and bayonets, some to watch the tea-ships by day and some by night. Six couriers were to be ready to mount their horses, which they kept saddled and bridled, and speed into the country to give the alarm to the people. Sentinels were stationed in the church-belfries to ring the bells, and beacon-fires were ready to be lighted on the surrounding hilltops.
The morning of December 16th had come. If the tea should remain in the harbor until the morrow--the twentieth day--the revenue officer would be empowered by law to land it by force. Men, talking angrily and shaking their fists with excitement, were thronging into the streets of Boston from surrounding towns. By ten o’clock over 7,000 had assembled in the Old South Church and in the streets outside.
They were waiting for the coming of Benjamin Rotch, who had gone to see if the collector would give him a clearance. Rotch came in and told the angry crowd that the collector refused to give the clearance. The people told him that he must get a pass from the Governor. Fearing for his personal safety, the poor man started out to find Governor Hutchinson who had purposely retired to his country home at Milton. Then the meeting adjourned for the morning.
At three o’clock a great throng of eager men again crowded into the Old South Church and the streets outside to wait for the return of Rotch. It was a critical moment. “If the Governor refuses to give the pass, shall the revenue officer be allowed to seize the tea and land it tomorrow morning?” Many anxious faces showed that men were asking themselves this momentous question.
But while, in deep suspense the meeting waited and deliberated, John Rowe said, “Who knows how the tea will mingle with saltwater?” A whirlwind of applause swept through the assembly and the masses outside the church. As daylight deepened into darkness, candles were lighted. Shortly after six Benjamin Rotch entered the church and , with pale face, said, “The Governor refuses to give a pass.” An angry murmur arose, but the crowd soon became silent when Samuel Adams arose and said, “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country.”
This was plainly a concerted signal. In an instant a war-whoop sounded, and forty or fifty “Mohawks,” or men dressed as Indians, who were waiting outside, dashed past the door and down Milk Street toward Griffin’s Wharf, where the tea-ships were lying at anchor. It was bright moonlight, and everything could be plainly seen. Many men stood on shore and watched the “Mohawks” as they broke open 342 chests, and poured the tea into the harbor. There was no confusion. Ass was done in perfect order.
The “Boston Tea Party,” of which Samuel Adams was the prime mover, was a long step toward the Revolution. Samuel Adams was at this time almost or quite alone in his desire for Independence, and he was well been called the “Father of the Revolution.” But his influence for the good of America continued far beyond the time of the “Boston Tea Party.” Up to the last his patriotism was earnest and sincere. He died in 1803, at the age of eighty-one years. Not as an orator, like Patrick Henry, but as a man of action, like Lincoln and Washington, had he a powerful influence over men. His was truly a life of distinguished service to his country.
Paul Revere and the Battle of Concord and Lexington
After the “Boston Tea Party,” affairs became more serious than ever in Massachusetts. As a punishment to the rebellious colonists for daring to oppose their royal master, the English authorities closed the port of Boston to all trade, and made General Gage military governor of Massachusetts.
One of the first acts of the new Governor was to dismiss the Colonial Assembly, thus depriving the people of their right to make laws, and subjecting them wholly to the will of the King. The colonists felt this to be an outrage upon free government, and immediately organized a new governing body which they called a Provincial Congress. With John Hancock as its president and Samuel Adams as its leading spirit, this congress began at once to make rapid preparations for war. It called for an army of 20,000 men who were to be ready, at a minute’s notice, to march to any point of danger. These first soldiers of the Revolution, thus hastily mustered, were called “minute-men.”
Meanwhile General Gage, who was in command of 3,000 British troops in Boston, had received orders from England to seize John Hancock and Samuel Adams as traitors. General Gage knew that Hancock and Adams were staying for a while with a friend in Lexington. He had learned also through his spies that the minute-men had collected some cannon and military stores in Concord, eighteen miles from Boston. The British General planned, therefore, to send a body of troops to arrest the two leaders at Lexington, and then to push on and destroy the stores at Concord.
Although he acted with the greatest secrecy, he was not alert enough to keep his plans from the watchful minute-men. Gage’s failure was brought about by one of these minute-men, Paul Revere, whose famous “midnight ride” was one of the exciting episodes of the Revolution.
Paul Revere was born in Boston, in 1735, in what is now called the north end of the town. He followed his father’s trade, and became a goldsmith. To this occupation he added copper-plate engraving, and not only produced prints of many current events, but engraved plates for money issued by the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts.
He had taken an active part in the “Boston Tea Party,” and in 1774, with about thirty other young patriots, formed a society to spy out the British plans. Always on the watch, these young men at once made known any suspicious movement to such leaders as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Dr. Joseph Warren.
On the evening of April 18, 1775, Revere and his friends reported to Dr. Warren certain unusual movements of troops and boats, and their belief that General Gage was about to carry out his plan of capturing Adams and Hancock and of destroying the military stores at Concord.
Dr. Warren quickly summoned William Dawes and Paul Revere, and dispatched them on horseback to Lexington and Concord, to give the alarm. He sent them by different routes, hoping that one at least might escape capture by British patrols, with whom Gage had carefully guarded all the roads leading from Boston.
Dawes was soon making his way across Boston Neck, while Paul Revere went home and put on his riding suit for his long night-ride. Then, leaving orders for a lantern-signal to be hung in the belfry of the Old North Church, to indicate by which route the British forces were advancing, “one if by land and two if by sea,” he rowed across the Charles River, passing near the British war-vessels lying at anchor.
On the opposite bank he soon got ready a fleet horse. There he stood, bridle in hand, watching to catch sight of the signal lights. At eleven o’clock two lights gleamed out from the belfry, and told him that the British troops were crossing the Charles River on their march through Cambridge.
Leaping into his saddle he sped like the wind toward Lexington. Suddenly two British officers sprang out to capture him; but quickly turning his horse, he dashed into a side path, and soon outdistanced his pursuers. Tem minutes later he arrived at Medford.
Then at every house along the road, he stopped and shouted, “Up and arm! Up and arm! The regulars are out! The regulars are out!”
When he reached Lexington it was just midnight. Eight minutemen, guarding the house where Adams and Hancock were sleeping, warned him not to disturb the household by making so much noise. “Noise!” cried Paul Revere. “You’ll have noise enough before long. The regulars are out!”
William Dawes soon joined Paul Revere, and after a few minutes spent in taking refreshments they rode off together toward Concord accompanied by Dr. Prescott. About half way there they met some mounted British officers, who called to them to halt. Prescott managed to escape by making his horse leap a stone wall, and rode in hot haste toward Concord, which he reached in safety; but Paul Revere and William Dawes both fell into the hands of the British.
In the meantime, the British troops, numbering 800 men, under Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, were on their way to Lexington. But they had not gone far before they were made aware, by the ringing of the church-bells, the firing of signal guns, the beating of drums, and the gleaming of beacon-fires from the surrounding hilltops, that the minute-men knew of their movements. Colonel Smith, disturbed by these signs of threatening storm, sent Major Pitcairn ahead with a picked body of light infantry, in the hope that they might reach Lexington before the town could be aroused. He then sent back to Boston for reinforcements.
The British commander had reason to be disturbed, for the alarm-signals were calling to arms thousands of patriots ready to die for their rights. Hastily wakened from sleep, men snatched their old muskets from over the door and, bidding a hurried good-by to wife and children, started for the meeting-places long since agreed upon.
Just as the sun was rising, Major Pitcairn marched into Lexington, where he found forty or fifty minutemen ready to dispute his advance. “Disperse, ye rebels: disperse!” he cried. But they would not disperse. Pitcairn ordered his men to fire, and eighteen of the minute-men fell dead or wounded, before the remainder sullenly retired to wait for a hand in the struggle later in the day.
Before the arrival of Pitcairn the British officers who had captured Revere and Dawes returned with them to Lexington, where, commanding Revere to dismount, they let him go. Running off at full speed to the house where Samuel Adams and John Hancock were staying, he recounted what had happened, and then guided them across the fields to a place of safety at Woburn. On their way they heard the guns firing on Lexington Common, and the sound stirred the soul of Adams, who exclaimed with enthusiasm, “Oh, what a glorious morning is this!”
From Lexington, Colonel Smith hastened to Concord, arriving there at seven o’clock in the morning, about six hours after Dr. Prescott had given the alarm. The British could not find the military stores, most of which the people of Concord had hidden, but they cut down the liberty pole, set fire to the court-house, spiked a few cannon, and emptied some barrels of flour.
About 200 of them stood guard at the North Bridge, while a body of minute-men gathered on a hill beyond. When the minute-men had increased to 400 they advanced upon the British, and brought on a fight which resulted in loss of life on each side. Then continuing their advance they crossed the bridge, and force the British to withdraw into the town.
By noon Colonel Smith could see that by reason of the ever-increasing body of minute-men, swarming into Concord from every direction, it would be unwise to delay his return to Boston. His men had marched eighteen miles with little or no food for fourteen hours, and were tired and hungry.
But when the British started back on their return march, the minute-men followed and began a deadly attack. It was an irregular fight. The minute-men, trained to woodland warfare, slipped from tree to tree, shot down the tired British soldiers, and then retreated only to return and repeat the annoying attack. The wooded country through which they marched favored this kind of fighting.
But even in the open country every stone wall and hill, every house and barn, seemed to the exhausted British troops to bristle with the guns of the minute-men. The retreating army pushed wearily forward, fighting as bravely as possible, but on the verge of confusion and panic.
When they reached Lexington Common, at two o’clock, they met 1,200 fresh troops under Lord Percy, whose timely arrival saved the entire force from capture. The dismayed British troops, half-dead with exhaustion, entered the square Lord Percy had formed for their protection, and fell upon the ground, “with their tongues hanging out of their mouths like those of dogs after a chase.”
After resting for an hour, the British again took up their march to Boston. The minute-men, increasing in numbers every moment, kept up the same kind of running attack that they had made upon the British between Concord and Lexington. A British officer, in speaking of the minute-men, said, “they seemed to have dropped from the clouds.” The condition of the British soldiers was pitiable until, late in the day, they got under the protection of the guns of the war-vessels in Boston Harbor.
The British had failed. They had been driven back, almost in a panic, to Boston, with a loss of nearly 300 men. The Americans had not lost 100. It was a great day for the patriots, for they had not only defeated the regular troops, but they had tested their own strength and given fresh inspiration to their cause. Farmers, mechanics, men in all walks of life, now flocked to the army. Within a few days the Americans, 16,000 strong, were surrounding the British in Boston.
The Americans, eager to drive them out of Boston, threw up breastworks on Bunker Hill, which overlooked the town. But the next day--June 17th--after they had twice driven the redcoats down the hill--they had to retreat because their powder had given out. This was the battle of Bunker Hill, in which the British lost in killed and wounded 1,000 men; the Americans, 450.
Although Paul Revere took part in no important battle, he was active in the patriot cause, and became lieutenant-colonel of a Boston regiment of artillery. After the war he returned to his old business, and established a foundry in which church-bells and bronze cannon were cast. He died in Boston in 1818, eighty-three years of age, held in high esteem by his countrymen.
Benjamin Franklin and Aid from France
American independence, the beginnings of which we have just been considering, was accomplished after a long struggle. Many brave men fought on the battle-field, and many who never shouldered a musket or drew a sword exerted a powerful influence for the good of the patriot cause. One of these men was Benjamin Franklin.
He was born in Boston in 1706, the fifteenth child in a family of seventeen children. His father was a candle-maker and soap-boiler. Intending to make a clergyman of Benjamin, he sent him, at eight years of age, to a grammar-school, with the purpose of fitting him for college. The boy made rapid progress, but before the end of his first school-year his father took him out on account of the expense, and put him into a school where he would learn more practical subjects, such as writing and arithmetic. The last study proved very difficult for him.
Two years later, at the age of ten, he had to go into his father’s shop. Here he spent his time in cutting wicks for the candles, filling the moulds with tallow, selling soap in the shop, and acting the part of errand-boy.
Many times he had watched the vessels sailing in and out of Boston Harbor, and often in imagination had gone with them on their journeys. Now he longed to become a sailor, and, quitting the drudgery of the candle-shop, to roam out over the sea in search of more interesting life. But his father wisely refused to let him go. His fondness for the sea, however, took him frequently to the water, and he learned to swim like a fish and to row and sail boats with great skill. In these sports, as in others, he became a leader among his playmates.
With all his dislike for the business of candle-making and soap-boiling, and with all his fondness for play, he was faithful in doing everything that his father’s business required. His industry, together with his liking for good books and his keen desire for knowledge, went far toward supplying the lack of school-training. He spent most of his leisure in reading, and devoted his savings to collecting a small library.
His father, noting his bookish habits, decided to apprentice Benjamin to his older brother, James, a printer in Boston. Benjamin was to serve until he was twenty-one and to receive no wages until the last year. In this position he was able to see more of books, and made good use of his opportunities. Often he would read, far into the night, a borrowed book that had to be returned in the morning. He also wrote some verses and peddled them about the streets, until his father discouraged him by ridiculing his efforts.
About this time, in order to get money for books, he told his brother that he would be willing to board himself on half the money the board had been costing. To this his brother agreed, and Benjamin lived on a very meager diet. Remaining in the printing-office at noon, he ate such a simple lunch as a biscuit or slice of bread and a bunch or two of raisins. As a meal like this required but little time, young Franklin could spend most of the noon hour in reading. By living thus he easily saved half of what his brother allowed him, and at once spent his savings in books.
This youth was never idle, because he put a high value upon time; he was never wasteful of money, because he knew the easiest way to make money was to save what he had. These were qualities which helped Benjamin Franklin to get on in the world.
But during this period of his life he had great hardships to bear, for his brother was a stern taskmaster, and was so hot-tempered that he would sometimes beat Benjamin cruelly. No doubt the young apprentice was sometimes at fault. Be that as it may, the two brothers had so many disagreements that Benjamin determined to run away and seek his fortune elsewhere.
Having sold some of his books to get a little money, at the age of seventeen, he secured a passage on board a sloop for New York. Upon his arrival, friendless and almost penniless, he began to visit the printing-offices in search of work. But failing to find any, and being told that he would be more likely to succeed in Philadelphia, he decided to go to that city.
To-day, the journey from New York to Philadelphia, a distance of ninety miles, can be made in two hours. But, of course, in Franklin’s time there were no railroads, and it was a more difficult undertaking.
He first had to go by a sail-boat from New York to Amboy, on the New Jersey coast. On the way a storm came up, which tore the sails and drove the boat to the Long Island shore. All night Franklin lay in the hold, while the waves dashed angrily over the boat. At length, after thirty hours, during which he was without food or water, he was landed at Amboy.
As he had no money to spare for coach hire, he started to walk, along the rough country roads, the fifty miles across New Jersey to Burlington. For over two days he trudged along in a downpour of rain. At the end of his first day’s journey he was so wet and mud-spattered, and had such an appearance of neglect, that on reaching an inn, there was talk of arresting him for a runaway servant.
Having arrived at Burlington, he was still twenty miles from Philadelphia, and boarded a boat for the remainder of his journey. As there was no wind, the passengers had to take turns at the oars, and in this way they continued down the Delaware until midnight. Then fearing they might pass the town in the darkness-streets not being lighted in those days-they landed, made a fire out of some fence-rails, and waited for morning.
The next day, which was Sunday, they reached Philadelphia, and young Franklin, poorly clad and travel-soiled, with only a little money in his pocket, was making his way alone through the streets of Philadelphia. But he was cheerful and full of hope. His health was strong, and he was hungry for his breakfast. Going to a baker’s shop he bought three large rolls, and, his pockets being already stuffed with shirts and stockings, he tucked one roll under each arm, and walked up Market Street eating the third. His ludicrous appearance afforded much amusement to a certain Deborah Read, who stood at the door of her father’s house as he passed by. Little did she think that this strange-looking fellow would one day become the greatest man in Philadelphia and even in Pennsylvania. Little did she think that one day, not many years after that morning she would become his wife. Both these things came to pass.
Having eaten as much as he wished, he continued up the street, giving the two other rolls to a woman and a child who had come on the boat with him.
In a short time he found work with on of the two master-printers in Philadelphia. One day, while at work in the printing-office, he received a call from Sir William Keith, Governor of Pennsylvania. Governor Keith’s attention had been directed to this seventeen-year-old youth by Franklin’s brother-in-law, and he called on this occasion to urge him to start a printing press of his own.
When Franklin said he had not the money to buy a printing-press and type, the Governor offered to write a letter for Franklin to take to his father in Boston, asking him to furnish the loan. The following spring Franklin took the letter to his father, but the father refused to lend him the money.
Upon Franklin’s return to Philadelphia Governor Keith advised him to go to England to select the printing-press and other things necessary for the business outfit, promising to provide funds. Franklin took him at his word, and sailed for London, expecting to secure the money upon his arrival there. But the faithless Governor failed to keep his word, and Franklin was again stranded in a strange city.
Without friends and without money he once more found work in a printing-office, where he remained during the two years of his stay in London. Here, in his manliness and strength, he was very different from the printers with whom he worked. They spent much of their money in beer-drinking, and when Franklin refused to drink with them, they made fun of him, by calling him a water-American. But the young man who had lived upon a simple diet in order to buy books was not disturbed by such taunts.
After two years he returned to Philadelphia, where, four years later, he married Miss Read. In the meantime he had set up in the printing business for himself, but in so doing had to carry a heavy debt. He worked early and late to pay it off, sometimes making his own ink and casting his own type. He would also at times go with a wheel-barrow to bring to the printing-office the paper he needed.
His wife assisted him by selling stationery in his shop as well as by saving in the household, where the furnishings and food were very simple. Franklin’s usual breakfast was milk and bread, which he ate out of a wooden porringer with a pewter spoon. In time, when their money was more plentiful, his wife gave him a China bowl and a silver spoon. On bereaving how hard Franklin worked, people said, “There is a man who will surely succeed. Let us help him.”
In all these years of struggle Franklin was cheerful and light-hearted. This was no doubt largely owing to his natural disposition, but in part also to his healthful reading habits, which took him into a world outside of himself. No matter where he was or what the stress of his business, he found time to read and improve himself. He also adopted rules of conduct, some of which, in substance, are: Be temperate; speak honestly; be orderly about your work; do not waste anything; never be idle; when you decide to do anything, do it with a brave heart.
Some of the wisest things Franklin ever said appeared in his Almanac, which he called “Poor Richard’s Almanac.” Beginning when he was twenty-six years of age, he published it yearly for twenty-five years, building up a very large circulation. It contained many homely maxims, which are as good today as they were in Franklin’s time. Here are a few of them: “God helps them that help themselves.” “Early to bed and early to rise, Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” “There are no gains without pains.” “One today is worth two tomorrows.” “Little strokes fell great oaks.” “Keep thy shop, and thy shop will keep thee.”
Franklin always had a deep interest in the public welfare. He started a subscription library in Philadelphia and established an academy, which finally grew into the University of Pennsylvania. Having a decidedly practical turn of mind, he had a great influence in organizing a better police force and a better than the open fireplace. But the most wonderful thing he ever did was proving that lightning was the same thing he ever did was improving that lightning was the same thing as electricity.
Before he made this discovery, men of science had learned how to store up electricity in what is called a Leyden jar. But Franklin wished to find out something about the lightning which flashed across the clouds during a thunder-storm. Therefore, making a kite out of silk and fastening to it a small iron rod, he attached to the kite and to the iron rod a string made of hemp.
One day when a thunder-cloud was coming up he went out with his little son and took his stand under a shelter in the open field. At one end of the hempen string was fastened an iron key, and to this was tied a silken string, which Franklin held in his hand. As electricity will not run through silk, by using this silken string he protected himself against the electric current.
When the kite rose high into the air, Franklin watched intently to see what might follow. After a while the fibers of the hempen string began to move, and then, putting his knuckles near the key, Franklin drew forth sparks of electricity. He was delighted, for he had proved that the lightning in the clouds was the same thing as the electricity that men of science could make with machines.
It was a great discovery and made Benjamin Franklin famous. From some of the leading universities of Europe he received the title of Doctor, and he was now recognized as one of the great men of the world.
Franklin rendered his country distinguished public services, only a few of which we can here mention. More than twenty years before the outbreak of the Revolution, he perceived that the principal source of weakness among the colonies was their lack of union. With this great weakness in mind, Franklin proposed, in 1754, at a time when the French were threatening to cut off the English from the Ohio Valley, his famous “Plan of Union.” Although it failed, it prepared the colonies for union in the struggle against King George and the English Parliament.
Ten years after proposing the “Plan of Union” Franklin was sent to England, at the time of the agitation over the Stamp Act, to make a strenuous effort to prevent its passage. He was unsuccessful in accomplishing his mission, but later did much toward securing the repeal of the Stamp Act.
Returning from England two weeks after the battle of Lexington and Concord, he immediately took a prominent part in the Revolution. He was one of the five appointed as a committee to write the Declaration of Independence, and during the discussion over that remarkable State paper, it was he that said, “Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
After the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, he was sent to France to secure aid for the American cause. The French people gave him a cordial reception. There were feasts and parades in his honor, crowds followed him on the streets, and his pictures were everywhere displayed. The simplicity and directness of this white-haired man of seventy years charmed the French people, and won for him a warm place in their hearts. On one of the great occasions a very beautiful woman was appointed to place a crown of laurel upon his white locks, “and to give the old man two kisses on his cheeks.” All this was a sincere expression of admiration and esteem. He did very much to secure from France the aid which that country gave to us. He indeed rendered to his country services whose value may well be compared with those of Washington.
Franklin left France in 1785, after having ably represented his country for ten years. All France was sorry to have him leave. Since it was hard for him to endure the motion of a carriage, the King of France “framed in a double circle of four hundred and eight diamonds.”
Although in his last years he had to endure much idleness and pain, yet he was uniformly patient and cheerful, loving life to the end. He died in 1790, at the age of eighty-four, one of the greatest of American statesmen and heroes.
George Washington, the Virginia Planter and the Revolutionary Soldier
We left George Washington at Mount Vernon, his extensive plantation on the Virginia bank of the Potomac River. After his marriage with Mrs. Custis, who had large property of her own, Washington became a man of much wealth. He was at one time one of the largest landholders in America. As a manager of all this property, he had much to do. Let us delay our story a little to get a glimpse of the life led by him and other Virginia planters of his time.
The plantations were scattered along the rivers, sometimes many miles apart, with densely wooded stretches of land lying between. Each planter had his own wharf whence vessels, once a year, carried away his tobacco to England, and brought back in exchange whatever manufactured goods he required.
Nearly all his needs could be supplied at his wharf or on his plantation. His slaves included not only workers in large tobacco-fields, but such skilled workmen as millers, weavers, tailors, wheelwrights, coopers, shoemakers, and carpenters. Washington said to his overseers, “Buy nothing that you can make within yourselves.” Indeed, each plantation was a little world in itself. Hence towns containing shops with goods and supplies of various kinds did not spring up much in Virginia.
The mansion of the planter, built of brick and wood and having at either end a huge chimney, was two stories high, with a large veranda outside and a wide hall-way inside. Near by were the storehouses, barns, workshops, and slave quarters. These last consisted of simple wooden cabins surrounded by gardens, where the negroes raised such things as vegetables and watermelons for their own use. In fact, the mansion and all the buildings clustered about it looked like a village. Here we could have seen, at all hours of the day, swarms of negro children playing happily together.
the planter spent most of his time in the open air, with his dogs and horses. Washington gave to his horses rather fanciful names, such as Ajax, Blueskin, Valiant, and Magnolia, and to his dogs, Vulcan, Sweet-lips, Ringwood, Forrester, and Rockwood. Outdoor recreations including fishing, shooting, and horse-racing.
Although life on the plantation was without luxury, there was everywhere a plain and homely abundance. Visitors were sure to meet a cordial welcome. It was no uncommon thing for a planter to entertain an entire family for weeks, and then to pay a similar visit in return with his own family. Social life absorbed much of Washington’s time at Mount Vernon, where visitors were nearly always present. The planter, often living many miles away from any other human habitation, was only to glad to have a traveler spend the night with him and give some news of the outside world. Such a visit was somewhat like the coming of the newspaper into our homes to-day.
We must remember that traveling was no such simple and easy matter then as it is now. As the planters in Virginia usually lived on the banks of one of the many rivers, the simplest method of travel was by boat, up or down stream. There were cross-country roads, but these at best were rough, and sometimes full of roots and stumps. Often they were nothing more than forest paths. In trying to follow such roads the traveler at times lost his way and occasionally had to spend a night in the woods. But with even such makeshifts for the roads, the planter had his lumbering old coach to which, on state occasions, he harnessed six horses and drove in great style.
Washington was in full sympathy with this life, and threw himself heartily into the work of managing his immense property. He lived up to his favorite motto, “If you want a thing done, do it yourself.” He kept his own books, and looked with exactness after the smallest details.
He was indeed one of the most methodical of men, and thus accomplished a marvelous amount of work. By habit an early riser, he was often up before daylight in winter. On such occasions he kindled his own fire and read or worked by the light of a candle. At seven in summer and at eight in winter he sat down to a simple breakfast, consisting of tow cups of tea, and hoe-cakes made of Indian meal. After breakfast he rode on horseback over his plantation to look after his slaves, often spending much of the day in the saddle superintending the work. At two he ate dinner, early in the evening he took tea, and at nine o’clock went to bed.
As he did not spare himself, he expected faithful service from everyone. But to his many slaves he was a kind master, and he took good care of the sick or feeble. It may be a comfort to some of us to learn that Washington was finder of active life than of reading books, for which he never seemed to get much time. But he was even less fond of public speaking. Like some other great men, he found it difficult to stand up before a body of people and make a speech. After his term of service in the French and Indian War he was elected to the House of Burgesses, where he received a vote of thanks for his brave military services. Rising to reply, Washington stood blushing and stammering, without being able to say a word. The Speaker, equal to the occasion, said with much grace, “Sit down, Mr. Washington, your modesty equals your valor, and that surpasses the power of any language to express.”
While for many years after the close of the Last French War this modest, home-loving man was living the life of a high-bred Virginia gentleman, the exciting events which finally brought on the Revolution were stirring men’s souls to heroic action. It was natural, in these days, that his countrymen should look for guidance and inspiration to George Washington, who had been so conspicuous a leader in the Last French War.
He represented Virginia a the first meeting of the Continental Congress in 1774, going to Philadelphia in company with Patrick Henry and others. He was also a delegate from his colony at the second meeting of the Continental Congress in May, 1775 On being elected by this body Commander-in-Chief of the American army, he at once thanked the members for the election, and added, “I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.” He also refused to receive any salary for his services, but said he would keep an account of the expenses he might incur, in order that these might be paid back to him.
On the 21st of June Washington set out on horseback from Philadelphia, in company with a small body of horsemen, to take command of the American army around Boston. Not long after starting they met a messenger bringing in haste the news of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Washington eagerly asked, “Did the Americans stand the fire of the regular troops?” “Yes,” was the proud answer. “Then,” cried Washington, gladly, “the liberties of the country are safe!”
Three days later, about four o’clock on Sunday afternoon, he reached New York, where he met with a royal welcome. Riding in an open carriage drawn by two white horses, he passed through the streets, escorted by nine companies of soldiers on foot. Along the route the people, old and young, received him with enthusiasm. At New Haven the Yale College students came out in a body, keeping step to the music of a band of which Noah Webster, the future lexicographer, then a freshman, was the leader. On July 2nd, after arriving at the camp in Cambridge, Washington received an equally enthusiastic welcome from the soldiers.
Next day General Washington rode out on horseback and, under the famous elm still standing near Harvard University, drew his sword and took command of the American army. He was then forty-three years old, with a tall, manly form and a noble face. He was good to look at as he sat there, a perfect picture of manly strength and dignity, wearing an epaulet on each shoulder, a broad band of blue silk across his breast, and a three-cornered hat with the cockade of liberty in it.
Now came the labor of getting his troops into good condition for fighting battles, for his army was one only in name. These untrained men were brave and willing, but without muskets and without powder, they were in no condition for making a war on a well-equipped enemy.
Moreover, the army had no cannon, without which it could not hope to succeed in an attack upon the British troops in Boston. By using severe measures, however, Washington soon brought about much better discipline. But with no powder and no cannon, he had to let the autumn and the winter slip by before making any effort to drive the British army out of Boston. When cannon and other supplies were at last brought down from Ticonderoga on sledges drawn by oxen, the alert American General fortified Dorchester Heights, which overlooked the city, and forced the English commander to sail away with all his army.
Washington believed that the next movement of the British would be to get control of the Hudson River and the Middle States. So he went promptly to New York in order to defend it against attack. But still his army was weak in numbers as well as in provisions, equipment, and training.
Washington had only about 18,000 men to meet General Howe, who soon arrived off Staten Island with a large fleet and 30,000 men. Not knowing where the British General would strike first, Washington had to be on guard at many points. He had to prepare a defense of a line of twenty miles. He also built, on opposite sides of the Hudson river just above New York, Forts Lee and Washington.
When Brooklyn Heights, on Long Island, had been fortified, General Putnam went with half the army to occupy them. On August 27th General Howe, with something like 20,000 men, attack a part of these forces and defeated them. If he had continued the battle by marching at once against the remainder, he might have captured all that part of Washington’s army under Putnam’s command. He might, also, have captured Washington himself, who, during the heat of the battle, had crossed over to Long Island.
If Howe had done this, he might have ended the war at one stroke. But his men had fought hard at the end of a long night-march and needed rest. Besides, he thought it would be easy enough to capture the Americans without undue haste. For how could they escape? Soon the British vessels would sail up and get between them and New York, when, of course, escape for Washington and his men would be impossible. This all seemed so clear to the easy-going General Howe that he gave his tired men a rest after the battle on the 27th. On the 28th a heavy rain fell, and on the 29th a dense fog covered the island.
But before midday of the 29th some American officers riding down toward the shore, noticed an unusual stir in the British fleet. Boats were going to and fro, as if carrying orders. “Very likely,” said these officers to Washington, “the English vessels are to sail up between New York and Long Island, to cut off our retreat.” As that was also Washington’s opinion, he secured all the boats he could find for the purpose of trying to make an escape during the night.
It was a desperate undertaking. There were 10,000 men, and the width of the river at the point of crossing was nearly a mile. It would seem hardly possible that such a movement could, in a single night, be made without discovery by the British troops, who were lying in camp but a short distance away. The night must have been a long and anxious one for Washington, who stayed at his post of duty on the Long Island shore until the last boat of the retreating army had pushed off. The escape was a brilliant achievement and saved the American cause.
But this was only the beginning of Washington’s troubles in this memorable year, 1776. As the British now occupied Brooklyn Heights, which overlooked New York, the Americans could not hold that place, and in a short time they had to withdraw, fighting stubbornly as they slowly retreated. Washington crossed over to the Jersey side of the Hudson, and left General Charles Lee with half the army at North Castle. The British captured Forts Lee and Washington, with 3,000 men, inflicting a severe loss upon the American cause. The outlook was gloomy, but more trying events were to follow.
In order to prevent the British from capturing Philadelphia, Washington put his army between them and that city. The British began to move upon him. Needing every soldier that he could get, he sent orders to General Lee to join him. Lee refused to move. Again and again Washington urged Lee to come to his aid. Each time Lee disobeyed. We now know that he was a traitor, secretly hoping that Washington might fail in order that he himself, who was second in command, might become Commander-in-Chief of the American army.
Lee’s disobedience placed Washington in a critical position. In order to save his army from capture, Washington had to retreat once more, this time across New Jersey toward Philadelphia. As the British army, in every way superior to Washington’s, was close upon the Americans, it was a race for life. Sometimes the rear-guard of the Americans was just leaving a burning bridge when the van of the British army could be seen approaching. But by burning bridges and destroying food supplies intended for the British, Washington so delayed them that they were nineteen days in marching about sixty miles.
Nevertheless the situation for the Americans was still desperate. To make matters worse, Washington saw his army gradually melting away by desertion. When he reached the Delaware River it numbered barely 3,000 men.
Having collected boats for seventy miles along the Delaware, Washington succeeded in safely crossing it a little above Trenton, on December 8th. As the British had no boats, they were obliged to wait until the river should freeze, when they intended to cross in triumph and make an easy capture of Philadelphia.
To most people, in England and in America alike, the early downfall of the American cause seemed certain. General Cornwallis who in May of this year had joined the British army in America¾was so sure that the war would soon come to an end, that he had already packed some of his luggage and sent it aboard a ship, with the intention of returning to England at an early day.
But Washington had no thought of giving up the struggle. Far from being disheartened, he confronted the gloomy outlook with all his energy and courage. Fearless and full of faith in the patriot cause, he watched with vigilance for an opportunity to turn suddenly upon his over-confident enemy and strike a heavy blow.
Such an opportunity shortly came to him. The British General had carelessly separated his army into several divisions and scattered them at various points in New Jersey. One of these divisions, consisting of Hessians, was stationed at Trenton. Washington’s quick eye noted the blunder of the British General, and he resolved to take advantage of it by attacking the Hessians at Trenton on Christmas night. Having been reinforced, he now had an army of 6,000 and was therefore in a better condition to risk a battle. With 2,400 picked men he got ready to cross the Delaware River at a point nine miles above Trenton. There was snow on the ground, and the weather was bitterly cold. As the soldiers marched to the place of crossing, some of them with feet almost bare left bloody footprints along the route.
At sunset the troops began to cross. It was a terrible night for such an undertaking. Angry gusts of wind, and great blocks of ice swept along by the swift current, threatened every moment to dash in pieces the frail boats. From the Trenton side of the river, General Knox, who had been sent ahead by Washington, loudly shouted to let the struggling boatmen know where to land. Ten hours were consumed in the crossing. Much longer must the time have seemed to Washington, as he stood in the midst of the wild storm, his heart full of mingled anxiety and hope.
It was not until four o’clock in the morning that the troops were ready to march upon Trenton, nine miles away. As they advanced, a fearful storm of snow and sleet beat upon the already weary men. But they pushed forward, and surprised the Hessians at Trenton soon after sunrise, easily capturing them after a short struggle.
Washington had brought hope to every patriot heart. The British were amazed at the daring feat, and Cornwallis decided to make a longer stay in America. He soon advanced with a superior force against Washington, and at nightfall, January 2, 1777, took his stand on the farther side of a small creek. “At last,” said Cornwallis, “we have run down the old fox, and we will bag him in the morning.”
But Washington was too sly a fox for Cornwallis to bag. During the night he led his army around Cornwallis’s camp, and pushing on to Princeton defeated the rearguard, which had not yet joined the main body. He then retired in safety to his winter quarters among the hills about Morristown. During this fateful campaign Washington had handled his army in a masterly way. He had begun with defeat and had ended with victory.
In 1777 the British planned to get control of the Hudson River, and thus cut off New England from the other States. In this way they hoped so to weaken the Americans as to make their defeat easy. Burgoyne was to march from Canada, by way of Lake Champlain and Fort Edward, to Albany, where he was to meet not only a small force of British under St. Leger from Mohawk Valley, but also the main army of 18,000 men, under General Howe, which was expected to sail up the Hudson from New York. The British believed the plan would be easily carried out and would soon bring the war to a close.
And this might have happened if General Howe had not failed to do his part. Instead of going up to meet and help Burgoyne, however, he tried first to march across New Jersey and capture Philadelphia. But when he reached Morristown, he found Washington in a stronghold where he dared not attack him. As Washington would not come out and risk an encounter in the open field, and as Howe was unwilling to continue his advance with the American army threatening his rear, he returned to New York. Still desirous of reaching Philadelphia, however, he sailed a little later, with his army, to Chesapeake Bay. The voyage took him two months.
When at length he advanced toward Philadelphia, he found Washington ready to dispute his progress at Brandywine Creek. There a battle was fought, resulting in the defeat of the Americans. But Washington handled his army with such skill that Howe spent two weeks in reaching Philadelphia, only twenty-six miles away.
When Howe arrived at the city he found out that it was too late to send aid to Burgoyne, who was now in desperate straits. Washington had spoiled the English plan, and Burgoyne, failing to get the much-needed help from Howe, had to surrender at Saratoga (October 17, 1777) his entire army of 6,000 regular troops. This was a great blow to England, and resulted in a treaty between France and America. After this treaty, France sent over both land and naval forces, which were of much use to the American cause.
At the close of 1777 Washington retired to a strong position among the hills at Valley Forge, on the Schuylkill River, about twenty miles northwest of Philadelphia. Here his army spent a winter of terrible suffering. Most of the soldiers were in rags, only a few had bed-clothing, and many had not even straw to lie upon at night. Nearly 3,000 were barefoot. More than this, they were often for days at a time without bread. It makes one heartsick to read about the sufferings of these patriotic men during this miserable winter. But despite all the bitter trials of these distressing times, Washington never lost faith in the final success of the American cause.
A beautiful story is told of this masterful man at Valley Forge. When “Friend Potts” was near the camp one day, he heard an earnest voice. On approaching he saw Washington on his knees, his cheeks wet with tears, praying to God for help and guidance. When the farmer returned to his home he said to his wife: “George Washington will succeed! George Washington will succeed! The Americans will secure their independence!” “What makes you think so, Isaac?” inquired his wife. “I have heard him pray, Hannah, out in the woods today, and the Lord will surely hear his prayer. He will, Hannah; thee may rest assured He will.”
We may pass over without comment here the events between the winter at Valley Forge and the Yorktown campaign, which resulted in the surrender of Cornwallis with all his army. Even when not engaged in fighting battles, Washington was the soul of the American cause, which could scarcely have succeeded without his inspiring leadership. But there is yet one more military event¾the hemming in of Cornwallis at Yorktown, for us to notice briefly before we take leave of Washington.
When at the close of his fighting with General Greene in the South, Cornwallis marched northward to Yorktown, Washington, with an army of French and American troops, was encamped on the Hudson River. He was waiting for the coming of a French to New York. On its arrival he expected to attack the British army there by land, while the fleet attacked it by sea.
Upon hearing that the French fleet was on its way to the Chesapeake, Washington thought out a brilliant scheme. This was to march his army as quickly and as secretly as possible to Yorktown, a distance of 400 miles, there to join Lafayette and to cooperate with the French fleet in the capture of Cornwallis. The scheme succeeded so well that Cornwallis surrendered his entire army of 8,000 men on October 19, 1781.
This was the last battle of the war, although the treaty of peace was not signed until 1783. By that treaty the Americans won their independence from England. The country which they could now call their own extended from Canada to Florida, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River.
Washington, tired of war, was glad to become a Virginia planter once more. But he was not permitted to live in peace and quiet. After his retirement from the army his home became, as he himself said, a well-resorted tavern. Two years after the close of the Revolution he wrote in his diary: “Dined with only Mrs. Washington, which I believe is the first instance of it since my retirement from public life.”
When, on the formation of the Constitution of the United States, the American people looked about fro a President, all eyes naturally turned to George Washington. He was elected without opposition and was inaugurated at New York, then the capitol of the United States, on April 30, 1789.
His life as a President was one of dignity and elegance. It was his custom to pay no calls and accept no invitations, but between three and four o’clock on every Tuesday afternoon he held a public reception. On such occasions he appeared in court-dress, with powdered hair, yellow gloves in his hand, a long sword in a scabbard of white polished leather at his side, and a cocked hat under his arm. Standing with his right hand behind him, he bowed formally as each guest was presented to him.
After serving two terms as President with great success he again retired in 1797 to private life at Mount Vernon. Here he died on December 14, 1799, at the age of sixty-seven, loved and honored by the American people.
Nathaniel Greene, the Hero of the South and Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox"
We have glanced at the course of the Revolution as far as Washington was concerned in it. But we should fail to understand the connection of events were we to pass over without mention of the work of the brilliant general, Nathaniel Greene, who by common consent is regarded as a military leader second to Washington alone.
As already noted, the first fighting in the Revolution was in New England. Failing there, the British generals vainly tried to get control of the Hudson River and the Middle States.
Their attention was now turned to the South, where there were many Tories who would give material support to the King’s forces. George the Third had great hopes of conquering all the Southern States, and holding them at the end of the struggle as English territory, even though the Americans should succeed in keeping possession of New England and the Middle States.
Beginning in Georgia in 1778, the British captured Savannah, but not until 1780 did they undertake the serious business of conquering the South. In May of that year General Lincoln, the American commander of the Southern army, surrendered his entire force at Charleston, and in the following August, General Gates, at the head of a second American army, suffered a crushing defeat in the battle of Camden. The outlook for the patriot cause appeared dark. One thing was certain. An able military leader must take charge of the Americans, or the British would soon overcome all opposition. Washington had great faith in General Greene’s ability, and without hesitation selected him for this important task.
Nathaniel Greene was born in Warwick, Rhode Island, in 1742. His father, a Quaker preacher on Sundays and a blacksmith and miller on week days, brought up his son in the strictest Quaker principles, and trained him to work in the field, in the mill, and at the forge. Nathaniel was robust and athletic, a leader in outdoor sports. From an early age he was studious in his habits, and in his manhood, when the troubles with England seemed to threaten the war, he eagerly turned his attention to the study of military tactics.
In 1774 Greene took an active part in organizing, in Rhode Island, a military company called the Kentish Guards, in which he at once enrolled himself as a private. In order to procure a musket it was necessary for him to make a trip to Boston where, in his Quaker costume of drab-colored clothes and broad brimmed hat, he was a picturesque and interested observer of the British regulars taking their customary drill. On his return he brought with him not only a musket, which he concealed under some straw in his wagon, but also a British deserter to drill his company.
On the news of the battle of Bunker Hill a brigade of three regiments was raised in Rhode Island, and Greene was placed at its head with the rank of brigadier-general. With this brigade he at once marched to Boston, and when Washington arrived to take command of the American troops, General Greene had the honor of welcoming him in behalf of the army.
At this time Greene was thirty-three years old, six feet tall, with a strong, vigorous body and a frank intelligent face. He speedily won the friendship and confidence of Washington, who afterward placed him in positions of great responsibility. Throughout the entire war General Greene was actively engaged, and in all his campaigns he showed remarkable energy and promptness. It was natural that a general so able should be sought in 1780 as commander of the American army in the South.
When General Greene reached the Carolinas (December 2, 1780), he found the army in a forlorn condition. There was but one blanket for every three soldiers, and there were not enough provisions in camp to last three days. The men were disheartened because they had suffered defeat, rebellious because they were unpaid, and sick because they were unfed. They camped in rude huts made of fence rails, corn-stalks, and brushwood.
But by his masterly way of doing things Greene soon inspired the confidence of officers and soldiers alike. A story is told that well illustrates the faith his men had in their general. Once he saw a barefooted sentry and said to him, “How you must suffer from cold!” “I do not complain,” the sentry answered, not aware that he was addressing his commander. “I know I should fare well if our general could procure supplies.”
Not long after taking command of the army he sent General Morgan with 900 picked men toward the mountains in the Carolinas to threaten the British posts there, while he himself, with the remainder of the army, took a position nearer the coast on the Pedee River. General Cornwallis, in command of the British army in the South, detached Tarleton to march against Morgan. Early on the morning of January 17, 1781, after a hard night march, Tarleton, over-confident of success, attacked Morgan at Cowpens. But the Americans repelled the attack with vigor and won a brilliant victory. The British lost 230 killed and wounded and 600 prisoners, almost their entire force.
Cornwallis was deeply chagrined, for he had expected that Tarleton would crush the American force. He now planned to march rapidly across the country and defeat Morgan before Greene’s army could unite with him. But Morgan, feeling certain that Cornwallis would make a strenuous effort to overwhelm him and rescue the 600 prisoners, marched with all possible speed in a northeasterly direction, with the purpose of crossing the Catawba River before Cornwallis could overtake him.
Moreover, when Greene heard the glorious news of the American victory, he knew that there was great danger that Morgan’s force would fall into the hands of Cornwallis. He therefore planned not only to prevent such a catastrophe, but also to lead Cornwallis far away from his base of supplies at Wilmington on the coast, to a place where his own force united with Morgan’s might fight a winning battle.
With these plans in mind, having ordered General Huger to march rapidly with the army in a northerly direction, Greene himself, with a small guard, swiftly rode a distance of 150 miles across the rough country to Morgan’s army. On the last day of January he reached it in the Catawba Valley, and began to direct its movements.
In the meantime Cornwallis, with desperate energy, was pressing in pursuit. For the next ten days it was a race for life, with the odds in favor of Cornwallis. But Greene was exceedingly alert and masterful. The Catawba had been safely crossed, but Cornwallis might overtake the Americans before they could cross the Yadkin. To make all possible provision for a speedy crossing, Greene sent men ahead to see that boats should be collected on this river, ready for use when he should need them. He also had the forethought to carry with his army boats mounted wheels. When crossing the river these boats would carry the wheels, and in the advancing across the country the wheels would carry the boats.
Having taken these precautions, Greene sent Morgan forward toward Salisbury, while he himself waited for a force of militia that was to guard fords on the Catawba in order to delay Cornwallis. But while waiting he heard that the militia had been scattered. When this unfortunate news reached him, he started upon a solitary ride through the heavy mud and drenching rain in search of Morgan’s force. When Greene alighted at the Salisbury Inn, which had been turned into a hospital for soldiers, the army physician greeted him, asking how he was. “Fatigued, hungry, alone, and penniless,” he answered. The landlady, Mrs. Elizabeth Steele, on hearing the reply, brought out two bags of money, the savings of many a hard day’s labor. She said, “Take these, you will need them, and I can do without them.”
In this famous retreat of 200 miles through the Carolinas the Americans forded three rivers, whose waters, swollen by recent rains soon after the Americans had crossed, check the British in their pursuit. Greene crossed the last of these rivers, the Dan, with the two parts of his army now united, just in time to escape Cornwallis.
In all this time of trial and uncertainty General Greene received valuable aid from partisan leaders in the South. One of the most noted of these was Francis Marion, who was born near Georgetown, South Carolina, in 1732. Although as a child, he was extremely delicate, he grew strong after his twelfth year. In his mature years he was short and slight in frame, but strong and hardy in constitution. When the British began to swarm into South Carolina he raised and drilled a company of his neighbors and friends known as “Marion’s Brigade.” These men, without uniforms, without tents, and without pay, were among the bravest and best of the Revolutionary soldiers. Old saws beaten at the country forge furnished them with sabers, and pewter mugs and dishes supplied material for bullets. The diet of these men was simple. Marion, their leader, usually ate hominy and potatoes, and drank water flavored with a little vinegar.
The story is told that one day a British officer entered the camp with a flag of truce. After the conference, Marion, with his usual delicate courtesy, invited him to dinner. We may imagine the officer’s surprise when, seated at a log used for a table, they were served to a dinner consisting of roasted sweet potatoes handed to them on pieces of bark. The British officer was still more surprised to learn that at times Marion’s men were not fortunate enough to have even potatoes.
“Marion’s Brigade” of farmers and hunters seldom numbered more than seventy, and often less than twenty. With this very small force he annoyed the British beyond measure by rescuing prisoners and by capturing supply-trains, foraging parties, and outposts. One day a scout brought in the report that a party of ninety British with 200 prisoners were on the march for Charleston. Waiting for the darkness to conceal his movements, Marion with thirty men sallied out, swooped down upon the British camp, captured the entire force, and rescued all the American prisoners.
It was the custom of Marion’s men when hard pressed by a superior force to scatter, each one for himself, and, dashing headlong into the dense, dark swamps, to meet again at the well-known hiding-place. Even while the British were in search of them they sometimes darted out just as suddenly as they had disappeared, and surprised another British party near at hand. Well did Marion deserve the name of “Swamp Fox,” given him by the British.
With the aid of such partisan leaders, and by the skilful handling of his army, Greene was more than a match for Cornwallis. On receiving reinforcements from Virginia, Greene turned upon his enemy at Guilford Court House, North Carolina, where he fought a losing battle. But although defeated, he so crippled the British army that Cornwallis was obliged to retreat to the coast to get supplies for his half-famished men before marching northward into Virginia. In this long and trying campaign Greene had completely outwitted Cornwallis.
At the close of the war, as he passed through Philadelphia on his way home, the people received him with great enthusiasm. In 1785 he moved with his family to a plantation which the State of Georgia had given him. Here he lived in quiet and happiness less than a year, when he died of sunstroke at the age of forty-four. His comrade, Wayne, who was with him at the time of his death, said of him: “He was great as a soldier, great as a citizen, immaculate as a friend. . . . I have seen a great and good man die.”
Daniel Boone, the Kentucky Pioneer
You will recall that at the beginning of the Last French War in 1756 the English colonies lived almost entirely between the Alleghany mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. Such continued to be their narrow boundaries up to the beginning of the Revolutionary War. To understand how, at the end of this war, the western boundary had been extended to the Mississippi, we must turn our attention to those early western pioneers, the Backwoodsmen, who rendered very important services to their country.
One of the most noted of these pioneers was Daniel Boone. He was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1735. Caring little for books, he spent most of his time in hunting and fishing. The woods were his special delight, and naturally he became an expert rifleman.
The story is told that when a small boy he wandered one day into the forest some distance from home, and built himself a rough shelter of logs. There he would spend days at a time with only his rifle and game for company. The rifle served to bring down the game, and this he cooked over a fire of logs. A prince might have envied his dreamless slumber as he lay on a bed of leaves with the skin of a wild animal for covering. This free, wild life trained him for his future career as a fearless hunter and woodsman.
When Daniel was about thirteen years old his father moved to North Carolina and settled on the Yadkin River, where Daniel grew to manhood. After his marriage at the age of twenty, he built him a hut in the solitude of the wilderness, far removed from other settlers’ homes.
But Boone was restless. For years he looked with eager eyes toward the rugged mountains on the west and to the country beyond. Day by day, his desire to visit this wild unknown region increased, until he could no longer restrain it. By the time he was twenty-five he had begun his explorations and had pushed his way as far as Boone’s Creek, which is a branch of the Watauga River in Eastern Tennessee. Near this creek there yet stands a beech-tree with the inscription: “D. Boon cilled a bar on (this) tree in the year 1760.” Nine years after this date Daniel Boone, in company with five other men, started out on May 1st to cross the Alleghany Mountains. For five weeks the bold travelers picked their way through the pathless woods. But when in June they reached Kentucky, they were rewarded for all the hardships they had endured. For here was a beautiful country with an abundance of game, including deer, bears, and great herds of bison.
They promptly put up a shelter made of logs and open on one side. The floor of this camp, as it was called, was the earth, covered with leaves and hemlock twigs.
Six months after their arrival Boone and a man named Stewart had a unpleasant experience. While off on a hunting expedition, they were captured by an Indian party. For seven days the dusky warriors carefully guarded their prisoners. But on the seventh night, having gorged themselves with the game killed during the day, the Indians fell into a sound sleep. Boone, while pretending to be asleep, had been watching his opportunity. So when the right moment came he quietly arose, awoke Stewart, and the two crept stealthily away until out of hearing of the Indians. Then, leaping to their feet, they bounded away like deer, through the dark woods toward their camp. This they found deserted, and what had become of their friends they never learned.
Some weeks later Boone was pleasantly surprised by the appearance at the camp of his brother, Squire Boone, and a companion. The four men lived together without special incident, until one day Stewart was surprised and shot by some Indians. Stewart’s death so terrified the man who had accompanied Squire Boone, that he gave up the wilderness life and returned to his home.
Boone and his brother remained together in the forest for three months longer, but their ammunition getting low, on May 1st Squire Boone returned to North Carolina for a fresh supply and for horses. Daniel was thus left alone, 500 miles from home. His life was in constant peril from wild beasts and Indians. He dared not sleep in his camp, but resorted at night to a canebrake or some other hiding place, where he lay concealed, not even kindling a fire lest its light betray him. During these months of solitary waiting for his brother, Boone endured many privations. He had neither salt, sugar, nor flour, his sole food being brought down by his rifle. But the return of his brother, in July, with the expected provisions, brought him much good cheer.
After two years of this experience in the wilderness, Daniel Boone returned to his home on the Yadkin to make preparations for removal. By September, 1773, he had sold his farm and was ready to go with his family to settle in Kentucky. His enthusiastic reports of the fertile country he had been exploring found eager listeners, and when his party was ready to start it included, besides his wife and children, five families and forty men, with a sufficient number of horses and cattle. Unhappily they were attacked on their way by Indians, and six men, one of them Boone’s eldest son, were killed. Discouraged by this setback the party returned to the nearest settlement, and for a while longer the migration westward was postponed.
But it was Boone’s unflinching purpose to settle in the beautiful Kentucky region. It had already become historic, for the Indians called it a “dark ground,” a “bloody ground,” and an old Indian Chief had related to Boone how many tribes had hunted and fought on its disputed territory.
None of the Indians held an undisputed claim to the land. Nevertheless a friend of Boone, Richard Henderson, and other white men made treaties with the powerful Cherokees, who allowed them to settle here. As soon as it became certain that the Cherokees would not interfere, Henderson sent Boone in charge of thirty men to open a pathway from the Holston River, over Cumberland Gap to the Kentucky River. This is still known as the Wilderness Road, along which so many thousand settlers afterward made their way.
On reaching the Kentucky River, Boone and his men set to work to build a fort on the left bank of the stream. This fort they called Boonesborough. Its four stout walls consisted in part of the outer sides of log cabins and in part of a stockade, some twelve feet high, made by thrusting into the ground stout pieces of timber pointed at the top. There were loop-holes in all the cabins, and a loop-holed block-house at each corner of the fort.
Daniel Boone, the leader of this settlement, was a man of interesting personality. He was a tall, slender backwoodsman, with muscles of iron and a rugged nature that enable him to endure great hardship. Quiet and serious, he possessed courage that never shrank in the face of danger. Men had confidence in him because he had confidence in himself. Moreover, his kind heart and tender sympathies won lasing friendships. He usually though was not always dressed like an Indian. A fur cap, a fringed hunting shirt, and leggings and moccasins, all made of skins of wild animals, made up his ordinary costume.
If we should go in imagination into Daniel Boone’s log cabin out in the clearing not far from the fort, we should find it a simple home with rude furnishings. A ladder against the wall was the stairway by which the children reached the loft. Pegs driven into the wall held the scanty family wardrobe, and upon a rough board, supported by four wooden legs, was spread the family meal.
There was an abundance of plain and simple food. Bear’s meat was a substitute for pork, and venison for beef. As salt was scarce, the beef was not salted down or pickled, but was jerked by drying in the sun or smoking over the fire. Corn was also an important article of diet. When away from home to hunt game or to follow the war trail, sometimes the only food which the settler had was the parched corn he carried in his pocket or wallet. Every cabin had its hand-mill for grinding the corn into meal and a mortar for beating it into hominy. The mortar was made by burning a hole into the top of a block of wood.
A pioneer boy found his life a busy and interesting one. While still young he received careful training in imitating the notes and calls of birds and wild animals. He learned how to set traps, and how to shoot a rifle with unerring aim. At twelve years of age he became a fort-soldier, with port-hole assigned to him for use in case of an Indian attack. He received careful training, also, in following an Indian trail and in concealing his own when on the warpath. For expert knowledge of this kind was necessary in the midst of dangers from unseen foes that were likely to creep stealthily upon the settlers at all times whether they were working in the clearings or hunting in the forest.
After building the fort, Boone returned to his home in North Carolina for his family. Some months after the family reached Boonesborough, Boone’s daughter with two girl friends was one day floating in a boat near the riverbank. Suddenly five Indians darted out of the woods and, seizing the three girls, hurried away with them. When in their flight the Indians observed the eldest of the girls breaking twigs and dropping them in their trail, they threatened to tomahawk her unless she stopped it. But watching her chance, she from time to time tore off strips of her dress, and dropped them as guides to the pursuing whites.
As soon as possible after hearing of the capture Boone, with seven other men from the fort, started upon the trail of the Indians and kept up the pursuit until, early on the second morning, they discovered the Indians sitting around a fire cooking breakfast. Suddenly the whites, firing a volley, killed two of the Indians and frightened the others so badly that they beat a hasty retreat, leaving the girls uninjured.
Early in 178, Boone and twenty-nine other men were captured and carried off by a party of Indian warriors. At that time the Indians in that part of the country were fighting on the English side in the Revolution, and as thy received a ransom for any Americans they might hand over to the English, they took Boone and the other men of his party to Detroit.
Although the English offered $500 for Boone’s ransom the Indians refused to let him go. They admired him so much that they took him to their home, and with due ceremony adopted him into their tribe. Having plucked out all his hair except a tuft on the top of his head, they dressed this with feathers and ribbons as a scalp-lock. Next they threw him into the river and gave his body a thorough scrubbing in order to wash out all the white blood. Then, daubing his face with paint in true Indian fashion, they looked upon him with huge satisfaction as one of themselves.
Boone remained with them several months, during which he made the best of the life he had to lead. But when he heard that the Indians were planning an attack upon Boonesborough, he determined to escape if possible and give his friends warning. His own word tell the story in a simple way: “On the 16th of June, before sunrise, I departed in the most secret manner, and arrived at Boonesborough on the 20th after a journey of 160 miles, during which I had but one meal.” He could not get any food because he dared not use his gun, nor would he would a fire for fear of discovery by his foes. He reached the fort in safety, where he was of great service in beating off the attacking party. But this is only one of the many hairbreadth escapes of the fearless backwoodsman. Once while in a shed looking after some tobacco, four Indians with loaded guns appeared at the door. They said: “Now, Boone, we got you. You no get away any more. You no cheat us any more.” In the meantime, Boone had gathered up in his arms a number of dry tobacco leaves, and with the dust of these suddenly filled the Indians’ eyes and nostrils. Then while they were coughing, sneezing, and rubbing their eyes, he made good his escape.
But from all his dangerous adventures Boone came out safely, and for years remained the leader of the settlement at Boonesborough. He was certainly a masterful leader in that early pioneer life in Kentucky. The solitude of the wilderness never lost its charm for him even to the last of his long life. He died in 1820, eighty-five years old. It has been said that but for him the settlement in Kentucky could not have been made for many years.
Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase
Through the achievements of early pioneers and settlers, of whom Daniel Boone is the type, the region lying between the Alleghany Mountains and the Mississippi River came into the possession of the United States. In a very different way did the territory lying between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains become a part of the national domain. It was acquired not by exploration or settlement, but by purchase, and the man most intimately associated with this purchase was Thomas Jefferson.
He was born in 1743 near Charlottesville, Virginia, on a plantation of nearly 2,000 acres. From his father, a man of great physical strength and energy, Thomas inherited a hardy constitution. As a boy he lived an outdoor life, sometimes hunting deer, wild turkeys, and other game, sometimes swimming or paddling his boat in the river near his home, and sometimes riding one of his father’s horses. A skilful and a daring rider, he remained to the end of his long life fond of a fine horse.
When he was five years of age he entered school, and thus early began his life-long habit of reading and study. Even in his younger boyhood days he was known among his playmates for industry and thoroughness.
At seventeen he entered William and Mary College, at Williamsburg, Virginia. Although Williamsburg was a village of only 1,000 people, it was the State capitol, and represented the most aristocratic and refined social life of the colony. As a young college student Jefferson received the full advantage of this good society, and at the same time studied very hard, sometimes as much as fifteen hours a day. But for his strong body and sound health he must have broken down under such a severe strain.
Being simple, refined, and gentle in manner, with a cheerful disposition and rare intelligence, he easily won and kept warm friends. One of these was the rollicking, fun-loving Patrick Henry, who with his jokes and stories kept everyone about him in good humor. He and Jefferson were, in their youth, the best of friends, and spent many an hour in playing their violins together.
While in college at Williamsburg Jefferson, according to a description left of him as he appeared at that time, was six feet two and one-half inches tall, with a slender frame, a freckled face, sandy hair, hazel-gray eyes, and large feet and hands. He stood erect, straight as an arrow, a perfect picture of health and vigorous young manhood.
It was during the last of his five-year stay at Williamsburg that Jefferson, then twenty-two years old, stood one day at the door of the court-house earnestly listening to his friend Patrick Henry as he delivered his famous speech. The impassioned words of the great orator, bitterly denouncing the Stamp Act, made a deep impression upon young Jefferson’s fervid nature. The fell as seed in good soil, and a few years later yielded harvest in the cause of liberty.
These two men, devoted friends as they were, had many traits in common. Both were earnest patriots and fought in the same cause. But unlike Patrick Henry Thomas Jefferson was a poor speaker. His power expressed itself rather through his writing, and with such grace and strength that he has rightly been called “The Pen of the Revolution.”
At twenty-nine years of age he married a beautiful young widow of twenty-three. After the wedding festivities, he and his bride started out in a four-horse carriage to drive to his home, Monticello, more than 100 miles away. It was in the month of January, and a heavy snow-storm overtook them, compelling them to abandon the carriage and continue the journey over the rough mountain roads on horseback.
When at last they reached Monticello, tired and hungry, it was so late that the slaves had gone to their quarters for the night. The house was dark and the fires all out, but the bride and groom quickly kindled a fire, hunted up refreshments, and made the empty rooms ring with their songs and merriment. Thus with joyous hearts did they begin a long-continued and happy married life in their beautiful home, Monticello.
Both Jefferson and his wife inherited wealth. When he was married, he owned 5,000 acres of land and fifty-two slaves, and a year later his wife’s father died and left her 40,000 acres of land and 135 slaves.
He became strongly attached to his mountain home and his life there as a planter, taking great interest in laying out and cultivating the grounds, and introducing many new varieties of plants and trees.
But he was too public-spirited to be lost in his private interest. In the year following his marriage, the famous “Boston Tea Party” emptied the chests of taxed tea into Boston Harbor. Then followed such stirring events as the Boston Port bill, the first meeting of the Continental Congress, and the battles of Lexington and Concord; and finally the crisis, when the brave men of the Continental Congress, having decided that the time had come for the American people to declare themselves free and independent of England, appointed a committee of five to draw up the Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson was one of this committee and, as he had distinguished himself for literary ability, it fell to him to write the first draft of this great state paper. Congress spent a few days in making some unimportant changes in Jefferson’s draft, but left it practically as he had written it. On July 4, 1776, all the members of the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence in Carpenters Hall, Philadelphia, a hall which is yet standing.
One of the striking things that Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence was that “all men are created equal.” He was always democratic in feeling, trying to do what he could for the interest of rich and poor alike. There was a law in Virginia requiring that the owner of land should hand it down to his eldest son. In its place he got a law passed which would permit all the children of a family to share in the land owned by their father. Another law in Virginia required that people should pay taxes for the support of the religious denomination, or church, known as the Established Church. As Jefferson believed this law unfair, he secured the passage of one which provided that nobody should be compelled to pay taxes for the support of any church.
But Jefferson showed his sympathy for the rights of others quite as much in his private as in his public life, and won the personal attachment of his numerous household. His letters to his little daughters were full of loving advice, and their letters to him breathed the spirit of genuine affection. When, after the close of the Revolution, Franklin returned from his mission as minister to France, Jefferson was sent to take his place. On his return to Monticello at the end of five years, his slaves went miles to meet him and give him a hearty welcome home. They wished to take the horses from the carriage, that they might draw it themselves; and when, arriving at the house, Jefferson alighted, they bore him proudly up their shoulders, while they laughed and cried for joy because “Massa” had come home again.
Jefferson was truly polite, because he had warm sympathy for others, especially for the poor and the needy. Once when he and his grandson were out riding together they met a negro who bowed to them. The young man paid no attention to the negro, but Jefferson politely returned the bow, saying, “Do you permit a negro to be more of a gentleman than yourself?” thus teaching the young man a useful lesson.
After filling many of the highest offices in the country, Thomas Jefferson became the third President of the United States in 1801. He had looked on with serious misgivings at some of the ceremonies and formalities in the executive mansion while Washington was President. He loved Washington, but he did not think that the President of the United States should be coldly formal and hold himself aloof from the people quite as much as Washington did. He believed in “republican simplicity,” which he began to practice on the very day he was inaugurated.
On that occasion he went on foot to the capitol, clothed in every-day dress, and attended by some of his political friends. It became his custom later when going up to the capitol on official business to ride a horse, which he tied with his own hands to a fence nearby, before entering. He declined to hold weekly levees, as had been the custom, but instead opened his house to all on the fourth of July and the first of January. In these ways he was carrying out his convictions that the President should be simple in dress and manner, or, in other words, should live in “republican simplicity.”
Many acts of Jefferson prove that he was an able statesman; but one of the greatest things he did, while President in the years 1801-1809, was the purchase of Louisiana. Do not think of this territory as the State of Louisiana. It was far more than this territory as the State of Louisiana. It was far more than this, for it included all the country lying between the Mississippi River on the east and the Rocky Mountains on the west, and extending from Canada on the north to Texas on the south.
In 1763, at the close of the Last French War, France gave up all this vast region to Spain. But in 1800, Napoleon forced Spain to give it up to France. When the Americans learned that Louisiana ha again become French territory they were alarmed, as the country that held Louisiana could control the mouth of the Mississippi, and stop all American goods passing down through the river. As a consequence, American settlers living west of the Alleghenies would not be able to find a ready outlet to the world for their products. Then, too, France might plant a strong colony in Louisiana and thus give the American people untold trouble.
Accordingly, President Jefferson sent Monroe to France to aid in securing New Orleans and a stretch of territory in Louisiana lying on the east bank of the Mississippi. By getting that territory, the Americans would own the entire east bank of the river, and could therefore control their own trade.
The Americans approached Napoleon at a fortunate time; for he was greatly in need of money to aid him in his war with England. Besides, he feared that England might seize Louisiana with her fleet. He therefore gladly sold us for $15,000,000 all the immense territory of Louisiana.
By carefully looking at your map you will get some idea of its vast extent. It was much larger than all the rest of the territory which we held before this purchase was made. Jefferson himself, perhaps, hardly realized how great a thing he was doing for his country when he made the purchase.
At the end of his term of office as President, Jefferson retired to private life in his much-loved home of Monticello. Famous not only for his statesmanship, but for his learning, he was called “Sage of Monticello,” and was visited by people from far and near. The number of his guests was enormous, his housekeepers sometimes finding it necessary to provide fifty beds for them.
Of course all this entertaining was a great burden, and the expense of it almost ruined him financially. But his life moved happily on. Always busy with some useful work, he took a deep interest in education, and was the founder of the University of Virginia, in which he felt a just pride.
On July 4, 1826, just fifty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, this great man breathed his last, at the ripe age of eighty-three. On the tombstone which marks his grave at Monticello in this inscription, written by his own hand: “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, of the Statutes of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and the Father of the University of Virginia.” It was such things as these things that touched the freedom of all men that he sought further, and in doing so found his greatest satisfaction.
Robert Fulton and the Steamboat
After the purchase of Louisiana thousands of settlers joined the ever-swelling tide of westward migration which had been set in motion by the early pioneers. These frontiersmen had made their way across the mountains either by the forest trail, leading with them their pack-horses or, a little later, by the rough road cut through the forest, their household goods packed in a strong wagon drawn by oxen horses.
Already this difficult method had given to a flatboat, which though safer and more convenient, was still unsatisfactory except when it floated downstream. In the early years of this century, therefore, the increasing demands of migration and traffic turned many inventive minds to the problem of applying steam-power to river navigation, in the hope of accomplishing a speedier means of travel and transportation. The first to achieve success in inventing and bringing into practical use a steam-driven boat was Robert Fulton.
Robert Fulton was born of poor parents in 1765, in Little Britain, Pennsylvania. His father having died when the boy was only three years old, his mother took charge of his education. She taught him herself until he was eight and then sent him to school. But he had no liking for books, and made slow progress. Drawing and mechanical devices absorbed his interest, and nothing gave him greater delight than to visit the shops of mechanics and there with his own hand to work out his new ideas.
It is said that Robert came into school late one morning, and upon being reproved by his teacher explained that he had been at a shop beating a piece of lead into a pencil. At the same time he exhibited the pencil and remarked: “It is the best that I have ever used.” Upon examining it the school-master was so well pleased that he praised Robert’s effort, and in a short time nearly all the pupils were using the same sort of pencil.
His ingenious ideas found expression in other ways. For example, it was the custom of his town to celebrate the Fourth of July by an illumination with candles; but one year candles being scarce, the citizens were requested to omit the usual display. Robert was at this time only thirteen years old, and like other boys of his age, full of Fourth of July patriotism which had to be expressed some extraordinary way. So he set his busy brain to work, and having bought gunpowder and pasteboard, produced some home-made sky-rockets which greatly astonished the community by their mid-air explosions. Such fireworks were at that time entirely new to the people of the town.
Another illustration of his inventive gift belongs to his boyhood days. He and one of his playmates used to go out fishing in a flat boat which they propelled by the use of long poles. Getting tired of this method of navigation, Robert made two crude paddlewheels, one for each side of the boat, connecting them by a sort of double crank, which the boys united in turning. They could easily propel the boat in their fishing trips to various parts of the lake, and keenly enjoyed this novel and easy way of going fishing.
While still young Robert won the warm regard of a great painter, Benjamin West, whose father was an intimate friend of Robert’s father. Very likely this friendship turned Robert’s mind strongly toward painting. At all events, the desire to become an artist took so strong a hold upon him that at the age of seventeen he went to Philadelphia and devoted his time to drawing and painting. Here he remained three years and painted with such skill that he not only supported himself, but sent money to his old home, and saved $400, with which he bought a little home for his mother.
In time this interest in art led him to go to London, where he studied under Benjamin West. But very soon he became interested in trying to improve canal navigation and in working out various mechanical appliances.
This love for invention finally diverted his attention very largely from painting, and led him to the work which made him famous. When about thirty years old he went to Paris to experiment with a diving-boat, an invention of his own, intended to carry cases of gunpowder under water. This machine was not successful, but by the spring of 1801, a little more than three years after his first effort, he had constructed another diving-boat, and went with it to Brest where he gave it a successful trial. With three companions he descended twenty-five feet below the surface of the water and remained for one hour. In 1805 he tested it again in England where, with a torpedo of 170 pounds, he blew up a vessel of 200 tons.
For the invention of the torpedo-boat, the world is indebted to Fulton, but for the first successful steamboat it owes him a debt of deeper gratitude. Before leaving Paris, Fulton became acquainted with Robert R. Livingston, who was at that time the American minister to France. Mr. Livingston had long felt an interest in steamboat navigation, and was willing to supply Fulton the necessary money. A steamboat, constructed at Paris, was finished by the spring of 1803, and the day for its trial trip was at hand, when, early one morning the boat broke in two parts and sunk to the bottom of the river. The frame had been too weak to support the weight of the heavy machinery. On receiving the news, Fulton hastened to the scene of his misfortune and began at once the work of raising the boat. For twenty-four hours, without food or res, and standing up to his waist in the cold water he labored with his men until he succeeded in raising the machinery and placing it in another boat. But the exposure to which he submitted himself brought on a lung trouble from which he never fully recovered.
Having discovered the defects of the machinery Fulton returned in 1806 to America, where with the money furnished by his friend Livingston, he began to construct another steamboat which he called the Clermont, after the name of Livingston’s home on the Hudson. This boat was 130 feet long and 18 feet wide, with a mast and a sail, and on each side a wheel 15 feet in diameter, fully exposed to view.
One morning in August, 1807, a throng of expectant people gathered on the banks of the North River at New York, to see the trial of the Clermont. Everybody was looking for failure. People had all along spoken of Fulton as a crack-brained dreamer, and had called the Clermont “Fulton’s Folly.” “Of course the thing would not move.” “That any man with common-sense might know,” they said. So wile Fulton was waiting to give the signal to start, these wiseacres were getting ready to jest at his failure.
Finally, at the given signal, the Clermont moved slowly, and then stood perfectly still. “Just what I have been saying,” said one onlooker with emphasis. “I knew the boat would not go,” said another. “Such a thing is impossible,” said a third. But they spoke too soon, for after a little adjustment of the machinery, the Clermont steamed proudly up the Hudson.
As she continued her journey, all along the river, people who had come from far and near stood watching the strange sight. When the boatmen and sailors on the Hudson, heard the clanking machinery and saw the great sparks of fire and the volumes of dense, black smoke rising out of the funnel, they thought the Clermont was a sea-monster. In their superstitious dread, some of them went ashore, some jumped into the river, and some fell on their knees in fear, believing the day of judgment to be at hand. One old Dutchman told his wife that he had seen the devil coming up the river on a raft.
The trip of 150 miles from New York to Albany was made in thirty-two hours. Success had at last rewarded this man of strong commonsense, quiet modesty, and iron will. The Clermont was the first steamboat of practical use ever invented. From that time men saw the immeasurable advantage to trade of steam navigation on lakes and rivers.
This was Fulton’s last work of great public interest. He died in 1815, having rendered an untold service to the industrial welfare of his country and the world.
Andrew Jackson, the Upholder of the Union
Only four years after the Clermont made its successful trip up the Hudson, the first steamboat on the Ohio was launched at Pittsburg. This boat was the forerunner of numerous steam driven-craft which swarmed the extensive network of rivers west of the Alleghany Mountains. A fresh impulse was given to westward migration, for settlers could now easily and cheaply reach the fertile lands of the Mississippi Valley, and, having raised an abundant crop, could successfully send the surplus to the Eastern markets. Under conditions so favorable the West grew in population with marvelous rapidity.
Wealth went hand in hand with the increase of population, and greatly strengthened the influence of the people of the West in the affairs of the country. By 1829, one of their number became the sixth President of the United States. This was Andrew Jackson, of Tennessee.
Andrew Jackson was born in Union Country, North Carolina, in 1767, of poor parents, who about two years before had come from Ireland. In a little clearing in the woods, they had built a rude log hut and settled down to hard work.
But Andrew’s father soon died, and his mother went with her children to live in her brother’s home, where she spun flax to earn money. She was very fond of little Andrew and hoped some day to make a minister of him. With this in view she sent him to school where he learned reading, writing, and a little ciphering. But he cared so little for study that he made small advancement, and in fact never learned to spell well nor to write the English language with ease or even correctness.
He found great pleasure in hunting and in rough and tumble sports, excelling in running, jumping, and wrestling. Although not robust, he was wiry and energetic, and when a stronger boy threw him to the ground, he was so agile that he always managed to regain his feet.
As a schoolboy Andrew was a barefooted, freckle-faced lad, with slender frame, bright blue eyes, and reddish colored hair. Full of life and fun, he became known as “Mischievous Andy.” Andy was brave and ready to champion the weaker and smaller boys, but sometimes he became overbearing and at other times his quick temper got him into trouble. One day his companions, wishing to play a practical joke upon him, secretly overloaded a gun, and dared Andy to shoot it. The fearless little fellow, seizing the gun, shot it off, and was kicked violently upon his back. But quickly jumping up, his eyes blazing with anger, he shouted, “If any of you boys laugh, I’ll kill him.” The boys did not laugh.
While he was yet a lad the Revolution broke out, and there was severe fighting between the Americans and the British near his home. His love of action, which up to that time had expressed itself in outdoor sports, now took a more serious turn. War became a passion with him, and from this time he could not visit the local blacksmith’s shop without hammering into shape some form of weapon. Once while fiercely cutting weeds with a scythe he was heard repeating these words: “Oh, if I were a man, how I could sweep down the British with my grass blade!”
In the course of a few years young “Andy” had real British soldiers to fight; for he was only thirteen when he was made a prisoner of war. One day soon after his capture, a British officer ordered him to clean his muddy boots. The fiery youth flashed back: “Sir, I am not your slave. I am your prisoner, and as such I refuse to do the work of a slave.” Incensed at this reply, the brutal officer struck the boy a cruel blow with his sword. Andrew saved himself from the brunt of the blow, but received two severe wounds, the scars and the bitter memory of which he carried through life.
These indignities were but a beginning. He was transferred to the prison pen about Camden jail, some forty miles away, where without shelter and almost without food, he suffered from heartless exposure. In a weak and half-starved condition, his wounds yet unhealed, he fell a victim to small-pox. Hearing of his wretched plight, Andrew’s mother secured his release and took him home with her. Andrew struggled for months with a severe illness. Before he had entirely recovered, his mother died leaving him quite alone in the world.
But these hardships passed, and some years later Andrew decided to become a lawyer. After studying law for a while, at the age of twenty-one he crossed the mountains with an emigrant party into the backwoods region of Tennessee. Now grown to manhood, he was six feet and one inch tall, slender, straight, and graceful, with a long slim face and thick hair falling over forehead beneath which looked out piercing blue eyes.
When he reached Nashville, the destination of his party, his experience was, in large measure, the same as that of Daniel Boone in the wilds of Kentucky. When the women of the settlement went out to pick berries, and when men hoed corn in the clearings, some of the settlers, gun in hand, with watchful eyes stood guard against attack from stealthy Indians.
To the dangers belonging to backwoods life, Jackson was greatly exposed. The court-houses in which, as public prosecutor, he had to try cases, were in some instances hundreds of miles apart. In going from one to another he journeyed alone, and sometimes had to remain alone in the woods for twenty nights in succession. In periods of unusual danger, he dared not light a fire or even shoot a deer for fear of Indians.
But in the midst of all these dangers he escaped harm, and by his energy and business ability achieved success as a lawyer. In time he acquired the means to become a large landowner. After his marriage he built a house which he called The Hermitage, on a plantation of 1,100 acres, about eleven miles from Nashville.
Here Jackson lived with his wife, whom he loved with a deep and abiding affection. They kept open house for visitors, and entertained large numbers of guests at a time, treating rich and poor with like hospitality. His warm heart and generous nature were especially shown in his own household, where he was kind to all, including his slaves. Having no children he adopted two, one of whom was an Indian baby boy who had lost his mother. Of these children, Jackson was very fond.
Indeed, childlike simplicity was always one of his striking traits. Not even when he became a noted man did he give up smoking his corncob pipe. But we must not think of him as a faultless man, for besides being often rough in manner and speech he had a violent temper which got him into many serious troubles; among them were some foolish duels.
After one of his duels, with a ball in his shoulder and his left arm in a sling, he went to lead an army of 2,500 men in an attack upon the Creek Indians, who had risen against the whites in Alabama. These Indians had captured Fort Mimms, which was in Southern Alabama, about forty miles north of Mobile, and had massacred 500 men, women, and children seeking shelter there. Although Jackson was weak from a long illness, he marched with vigor against the Creeks. In the campaign he endured much hardship, increased by the difficulty of feeding his 2,500 men in a wild country, where they almost starved for lack of food.
Under such conditions Jackson had to exercise much firmness and tact to keep his army from deserting and returning home. The following incident is told to show in what way he won the confidence and love of his men: “A soldier, gaunt and woebegone, approached the general one morning, while he was sitting under a tree eating, and begged for some food, as he was nearly starving. ‘It has always been a rule with me,’ replied Jackson, ‘never to turn away a hungry man when it was in my power to relieve him, and I will most cheerfully divide with you what I have.’ Putting his hand into his pocket, he drew forth a few acorns, saying: ‘This is the best and only fare that I have.’” But in spite of his drawbacks, Jackson conquered the Creeks, and thus broke for all time the power of the Indians south of the Ohio River.
Not long afterward he was sent at the head of an army, with the rank of major-general, to defend New Orleans against an attack of the British who hoped to get control of the lower Mississippi and all the southern part of what was then known as the Louisiana Territory. When Jackson went down to New Orleans he was in such extremely poor health that he was hardly able to sit on his horse. Nevertheless he worked night and day with unflagging energy, arming his men and encouraging them to meet the over-confident British foe.
The British army consisted of 12,000 veterans fresh from victories over the great Napoleon. Naturally enough they despised the American backwoodsmen. Their confidence seemed reasonable, for they numbered twice as many as the Americans.
On January 3, 1815, the British made a vigorous assault on the American lines. But they were mowed down with such terrible slaughter that at the end of the day twenty-five minutes, they were forced to retreat with a loss of 2,600 me in killed and wounded. The Americans lost only twenty-one. The resolute courage and unwearied action of “Old Hickory,” as Jackson was fondly called by his men, had won a signal victory. Through his military reputation Jackson soon became very popular. His honesty and patriotism took a strong hold on the people, and in due time he was elected President of the United states.
A man of passionate feeling, he loved his friends and hate his enemies with equal intensity. Moreover, he did not seem to think that a man could disagree with him, especially in political matters, and still be his friend. So when he became President he at once began to turn out of office those who held government positions, and put into their places men of his own political party who had helped to bring about his election. Thus was introduced into our national civil service the “spoils system.”
We can readily imagine that such a man, so warmhearted, and yet so intolerant, would make many friends and many enemies. But no one doubted his sincerity, especially in matters pertaining to the welfare of his country. His absolute fairness and his high sense of duty are well illustrated by his dealings with the Nullification Act. By reason of a high tariff, passed for the protection of manufacturers in the North, South Carolina declared that she would not allow any such law to be enforced in that State. This declaration was called the Nullification Act.
Jackson himself did not favor a high tariff, but he was firm in his purpose that whatever law Congress passed should be enforced in every State of the Union. When, therefore, he heard of the action of South Carolina, he rose to his full height of his executive authority. The new came to him as he was quietly smoking his corn-cob pipe. In a flash of anger he cried aloud, “The Union! It must and shall be preserved! Send for General Scott!” Troops were speedily sent to compel obedience, and South Carolina withdrew her opposition.
In 1837, at the end of his term of his office as President of the United States, he went to his old home, the Hermitage, where he once more took up the life of a hospitable planter. He was now nearly seventy years old, and a constant sufferer from disease. With his usual stubborn will, however, he battled for several years longer. He died in 1845, at the age of seventy-eight, one of the most striking figures in Americans history. His prompt and decisive action in compelling South Carolina to obey the tariff laws did much to ward off the greater danger of secession, in which South Carolina took the lead, twenty-eight years later.
Daniel Webster, the Defender and Expounder of the Constitution
Andrew Jackson’s stern rebuke of the nullification movement was a timely one, for there existed in the South a widespread feeling that the Union was not supreme over the States. In the North, on the contrary, the Union was regarded as superior to the States and qualified to enforce any law passed by Congress unless the Supreme Court should declare such law unconstitutional. Which point of view was correct? The answer to that momentous question involved a long and bitter struggle between the two parts of the Union. The great statesman who set forth the northern view was Daniel Webster.
He was born among the hills of New Hampshire, in Salisbury (now Franklin), in 1782, the son of a poor farmer and the ninth of ten children.
As Daniel was a frail child, not able to work much on the farm, his parents permitted him to spend much time in fishing, hunting, and roaming at will over the hills. Thus he came into close touch with nature, and gained much knowledge which was useful to him in later years. It was his good fortune to have as a companion on these outdoor excursions an old English soldier and sailor then living in a small house on the Webster farm. The two friends, so far apart in age, were good comrades, and were often seen walking together along the streams. The old soldier entertained his young listener with many thrilling tales of adventure on land and sea, and the boy read to his friend from books which the old man like well.
Daniel’s father had also been a soldier, having served in Indian wars and in the Revolution, and related many interesting experiences to his son. One which always appealed to young Daniels was the account of a meeting, years before, with General Washington at the time when Arnold was found to be a traitor. In this interview Washington had taken Webster’s hand and, looking seriously into his face, had said, “Captain Webster, I believe I can trust you.” This expression of confidence by the general to his subordinate stirred the boy’s imagination.
In these ways did his patriotism receive a great stimulus. An incident which occurred when he was only eight years old illustrates the seriousness of his mind. Having seen at a story near his home a small cotton handkerchief with the Constitution of the United States printed on it, he gathered up his small earnings to the amount of twenty-five cents and eagerly secure the treasure. From this remarkable copy he learned the Constitution word for word, so that he could repeat it from beginning to end.
Of course this was an unusual thing for an eight-year-old boy to do, but the boy himself was unusual. He spent much of his time poring over books. They were few in number, but of good quality, and he read them over and over again until he made them a part of himself. It was a pleasure to him to memorize fine poems also, and noble selections from the Bible, for he learned easily and remembered well what he learned. In this way he stored his mind with the highest kind of truth.
Naturally his father was proud of his boy and longed to give him a good education. One day, when Daniel was only thirteen years old, they were at work together in the hay-field, when a college bred man, also a member of Congress stopped to speak with Mr. Webster. When the stranger had gone his way Mr. Webster expressed to his son deep regret that he himself was not an educated man, adding that because of his lack of education he had to work hard for a very small return.
“My dear father,” said Daniel, “you shall not work. Brother and I will work for you, and will wear our hands out, and you shall rest.” Then Daniel, whose heart was tender and full of deep affection, cried bitterly.
“My child,” said Mr. Webster, “it is of no importance to me. I now live but for my children I could not give your elder bothers the advantage of knowledge, but I can do something for you. Exert yourself, improve your opportunities, learn, learn, and when I am gone you will not need to go through the hardships which I have undergone, and which have made me an old man before my time.”
These words show the earnest purpose of the father. The next year the boy, now fourteen, was sent to Phillips Exeter Academy. The principal began Daniel’s examination by directing him to read a passage in the Bible. The boy’s voice was so rich and musical and his reading so intelligent that he was allowed to read the entire chapter and then admitted without further questioning. This was only one illustration of his marvelous power as a reader. Teamsters used to stop at the home farm in order to hear that “Webster boy,” as they called Daniel, read or recite poetry or verses of Scripture.
The boys he met at the academy were mostly from homes of wealth and culture. Some of them were rude and laughed at Daniel’s plain dress and country manners. Of course the poor boy, whose health was still weak and who was by nature shy and independent, found such treatment hard to bear.
But he studied well, and soon commanded respect because of his high rank. One of his school duties, however, he found impossible to perform, and that was to stand before the school and declaim. He would carefully memorize and practice his declamation, but, when called on to speak, he could not rise from his seat and go upon the platform. During eh nine months of his stay in the academy, he failed to overcome his deficiency in declaiming.
After leaving this school he studied for six months under Dr. Woods, a private tutor, who prepared him to inter Dartmouth, at the age of fifteen.
Although he proved himself to be a youth of great mental power, he did not take high rank in scholarship. But he continued to read widely and thoughtfully, and acquired much valuable knowledge which he used with great clearness and force in conversation or debate. While in Dartmouth, he overcame his inability as a declaimer, and gave striking evidence of the oratorical power for which he afterward became so famous.
After spending two years in Dartmouth, Daniel begged his elder brother Ezekiel to join him there. But Ezekiel was needed at home, for their father, who was now sixty years old, was in poor health and had event at that age to work had to feed and clothe his family. He had found it necessary to mortgage the farm to send Daniel to college. How could he send Ezekiel, too? It seemed foolish to think of doing so. But when Daniel urged such a course and agreed to help by teaching, the matter was arranged.
After graduation Daniel taught for a year and earned the money he had promised Ezekiel. The following year he studied law and in due time was admitted to the bar. As a lawyer he was very successful, his income sometimes amounting to $20,000 in a single year. But he could not manage his money affairs well, and no matter how large his income he was always in debt. This unfortunate state of affairs was owing to a reckless extravagance, which he displayed in many ways.
Indeed, Webster was a man of such large ideas that of necessity he did all things on a large scale. It was vastness that appealed to him. And this dominating force in his nature explains his idea of nationality and his opposition to State Rights. He was too large in his views of life to limit himself to his State at the expense of his country. To him the Union stood first and the State second, and to make the Union great and strong became a ruling passion in his life.
Webster’s magnificent reach of thought and profound reverence for the Union is best expressed in his speeches. The most famous one is his brilliant “Reply to Hayne.”
Wenator Hayne, of South Carolina, had delivered an able speech, in which he put the authority of the State before that of the Union, and said that the Constitution supported that doctrine. Webster, then a senator from Massachusetts, had but one night to prepare an answer. But he knew the Constitution by hear, for he had been a close student of it since the days of childhood, when he had learned it from the cotton handkerchief.
Senator Hayne’s masterly speech caused many people to question whether even Daniel Webster could answer, and New England men especially, fearing the dangerous doctrine of State Rights, awaited anxiously the outcome. When, therefore, on the morning of January 26, 1830, Mr. Webster entered the Senate Chamber to utter that memorable reply, he found a crowd of eager men and women waiting to hear him.
“It is a critical moment,” said a friend to Mr. Webster, “and it is time, it is high time, that the people of this country should know what this Constitution is.”
“Then,” said Webster, “by the blessing of Heaven they shall learn, this day, before the sun goes down what I understand it to be.”
Nationality was Webster’s theme, his sole purpose being to strengthen the claims of the Union. For four hours he held his audience spellbound while he set forth with convincing logic the meaning of the Constitution. The great orator won an overwhelming victory. Not only were many of his hearers in the Senate chamber that day convinced, but loyal Americans all over the country were inspired with more earnest devotion to the Union. His last words “Liberty and Union! One and inseparable, now and forever” electrified his countrymen and became a watchword of national progress.
Webster’s power as an orator was enhanced by his remarkable physique. His striking personal appearance made a deep impression upon everyone that saw or heard him. One day when he was walking through one of the streets of Liverpool a navy said of him, “There goes a king!” On another occasion Sydney Smith exclaimed, “Good heavens! He is a small cathedral by himself.” He was nearly six feet tall. He had a massive head, a broad, deep brow, and great coal-black eyes, which once seen could never be forgotten.
To the day of his death he showed his deep affection for the flag, the emblem of that Union which had inspired his noblest efforts. During the last few weeks of his life, troubled much with sleeplessness, he used to watch the stars, and while thus occupied his eyes would often fall upon a small boat of his which floated in plain view of his window. On this boat he had a ship lantern so placed that in the darkness he could see the Stars and Stripes flying there. The flag was raised at six in the evening and kept flying until six in the morning to the day of Daniel Webster’s death, which took place in September, 1852. On looking at the dead face a stranger said: “Daniel Webster, the world without you will be lonesome.”
Although we need not be blind to his faults, we may indeed count him among the greatest of Americans. For he did much to make the Union strong. He filled many high positions and had a wonderful influence in all the affairs of the nation.
Samuel Finley Breese Morse and the Electric Telegraph
Great as was the power of the steamboat and the railroad in quickening the social life of mankind, of still greater influence in binding together remote communities was the invention of the electric telegraph. The steamboat and the railroad made travel and transportation easier, and frequent intercourse by letters and newspapers possible; but the electric telegraph enabled men to flash their thoughts thousands of miles in a few seconds. The inventor of this wonderful mechanism was Samuel Fineley Breese Morse. He was born, in 1791, in a house standing at the foot of Breed’s Hill, Charlestown, Mass. His father was a learned minister who, as Daniel Webster said, “was always thinking, always writing, always talking, always acting”; and his mother a woman of noble character, who inspired her son with manly purpose.
When Finley was only four years of age he was sent to a school kept by an elderly woman known as “Old Ma’am Rand.” She was lame, but nowise halting in discipline, for she kept near at hand a long rattan stick by means of which, when necessary, she could quickly reach her pupils in any part of the room.
He did not remain long under “Old Ma’am Rand’s” tuition, for when he was seven he went to school at Andover, and still later entered Phillips Academy in the same town. At fourteen he entered Yale College, where from the first he was a thoughtful and diligent student.
Very soon Finley’s two brothers joined him at college. As their father was poor, the boys had to help themselves along. Finley turned to account his talent for drawing. He made considerable money by painting on ivory likenesses of his classmates and professors, receiving for a miniature $5, and for a profile $1.
At the end of his college course he made paining his chosen profession, and planned to get the best instruction for his life work.
Having made a friend of the great artist, Washington Allston, Morse went with him to London, and there studied under Benjamin West who, as you remember, was Robert Fulton’s teacher. Morse was at this time a young man of modest, gentle, and sunny manner, and easily won the affection of his new teacher.
West held his pupils to high standards, as the following instance shows. Upon one occasion, after spending much time in making what he considered to be a finished drawing, Morse laid it before West for criticism. Upon careful examination the master praised it highly, and then added: “Very well, sir, very well; go on and finish it.” “It is finished,” Was Morse’s reply. “Oh, no,” said Mr. West, “look here, and here, and here,” pointing to defects in the drawing.
After spending another week upon it, Morse took it to his teacher. Again Mr. West, praised it and added: “Very well, indeed, sir; go on and finish it.” “Is it not finished?” Morse asked with surprise and disappointment in his voice. “Not yet,” said his critic.
Morse spent three or four days more in trying to perfect the work, and again handed it to his teacher, who, after again praising it, said: “Well, sir, go and finish it.” “I cannot finish it,” said Morse, by this time thoroughly disheartened. “Well,” replied Mr. West, “I have tried you long enough. Now, sir, you have learned more by this drawing than you would have accomplished in double that time by a dozen half-finished beginnings. It is not numerous drawings, but the character of one, which makes a thorough draughtsman. Finish one picture, sir, and you are a painter.”
After four years of study, Morse returned to Boston. But in the meantime, like Fulton, he had gradually turned his thought from painting to invention. His energies were now, for many years, divided between the two.
During these years Morse had to depend for a livelihood mainly upon drawing and painting. He traveled through New Hampshire and Vermont, and even as far as South Carolina, everywhere painting miniatures on ivory, and establishing his reputation as an artist.
In 1829 he went once more to Europe for study and remained three years; but upon his return, although paining occupied much of his time, his career as an artist ended. His change of vocation turned upon an incident of his voyage home.
On the ocean steamer the conversation at dinner one day was about recent experiments with electricity. The special question of inquiry was this: “Does the length of wire make any difference in the velocity of the electric current passing through it?” One of the men present, Dr. Jackson, said that so far as experiments yet indicated, electricity passed through any length of wire in an instant.
“Then,” said Morse, “thought can be transmitted hundreds of miles instantaneously by means of electricity. For if electricity will go ten miles without stopping, I can make it go around the globe.” What a wonderful idea, in an instant to send thought thousands of miles and make of record of it there! That is what the telegraph was to do!
When once the possibility of this great achievement entered Morse’s mind it took complete possession of him, and he could think of nothing else through the busy days and sleepless nights that followed. His notebook was ever at had to outline the new instrument and to jot down the signs in sending messages.
In a short time he had worked out on paper the whole scheme of transmitting thought over long distances by means of electricity. And now began twelve toilsome years of struggle to devise machinery for his invention. To provide for his three motherless children, Morse had to devote to painting much time that he otherwise would have spent in perfecting the mechanical appliances for his telegraph. His progress therefore was slow and painful, but he persistently continued in the midst of discouraging conditions.
His brothers, who owned a building in New York on the corner of Nassau and Beekman Streets, allowed Morse to have a room on the fifth floor. Here he toiled day and night, sleeping little and eating the simplest and scantiest food. Indeed, so meager was his fare, consisting mainly of crackers and tea, that he bought his provisions at night lest his friends might discover his need.
During this time of hardship he kept starvation from his door by giving lessons in painting to a few pupils. On a certain occasion, Morse said to one of them, who owed him a quarter’s tuition: “Well, Strothers, my boy, how are we off for money?” “Professor,” said the young fellow, “’I’m sorry to say I have been disappointed, but I expect the money next week.” “Next week!” cried his needy teacher, “ I shall be dead by next week.” “Dead, sir?” rejoined Strothers. “Yes, dead by starvation,” was the emphatic answer. “Would $10 be of any service?” asked the pupil, now impressed with the seriousness of the situation. “Ten dollars would save my life,” was the answer of the poor man, who had been without food for twenty-four hours. You may be sure that Strothers promptly handed him the money.
But in spite of heavy trials and many discouragements he had by 1837 finished a machine which he exhibited in New York those present was a gifted and inventive young man by the name of Alfred Vail. Greatly impressed, he told Morse that he believed the telegraph would be successful, and later he joined Morse in a business compact.
Alfred Vail’s father and brother were wealthy men, the owners of large iron and brass mils, and he himself was skilful in working brass. Morse was therefore glad to accept him as a partner, especially on account of his good financial backing. Young Vail was full of hope and enthusiasm, and was of great assistance in devising suitable apparatus for the telegraph.
But in spite of this substantial and timely aid, a patent was not secured until 1840. Then followed a tedious effort to induce the government at Washington to adopt and apply the invention. Finally, after much delay, the House of Representatives passed a bill “appropriating $30,000 for a trial of the telegraph.” As you may know, a bill cannot become a law unless the Senate also passes it, but the Senate did not seam inclined to favor this one. Many people believed that the whole idea of the telegraph was rank folly. They regarded Morse and the telegraph very much as people had regarded Fulton and the steamboat, and ridiculed him as a crazy-brained fellow.
Up to the evening of the last day of the session the bill had not been considered by the Senate. Morse sat anxiously waiting in the Senate chamber until nearly midnight, when believing there was no longer any hope, he withdrew and went home with a heavy heart.
Imagine his surprise, therefore, next morning, when a young woman, Miss Annie G. Ellsworth, congratulated him at breakfast on the passage of his bill. At first he could scarcely believe the good new, but when he found that Miss Ellsworth was telling him the truth his joy was abounded, and he promised her that she should choose the first message.
By the next year (1844) a telegraph line, extending from Baltimore to Washington, was ready for use. On the day appointed for trial Morse met a party of friends in the chamber of the Supreme Court, at the Washington end of the line, and sitting at the instrument which he had himself placed for trial, the happy inventor sent the message, as dictated by Miss Ellsworth, “What hath God wrought!”
The telegraph was a great and brilliant achievement, and brought to its inventor well-earned fame. Morse married a second time and lived in a beautiful home on the Hudson, where with instruments on his table, he could easily communicate with distant friends. Simple and modest in his manner of life, he was a true-hearted, kindly Christian man. He was fond of lowers and of animals. The most remarkable of his pets was a tame flying-squirrel that would sit on his master’s shoulders, eat out of his hand, and go to sleep in his pocket.
In his prosperity, honors were showered upon him by many countries. At the suggestion of the French Emperor, representatives from many countries of Europe met at Paris to determine upon some suitable testimonial to Morse as a world benefactor. These delegates voted him $80,000 as an expression of appreciation for his great invention. Before his death, also, a statue to his memory was erected in Central Park. New York.
In 1872 this noble inventor, at the ripe age of eighty-one, breathed his last. The sincere expression of grief from all over the country gave evidence of the place he held in the hearts of the people.
Abraham Lincoln, the Liberator of the Slaves
While Morse had been patiently struggling toward the completion of his invention, the nation had been growing more and more tense in its contest over slavery and State rights. As an outcome of the bitter feeling in 1846, two years after the fulfillment of Morse’s scheme, Congress declared war against Mexico.
The Southern slaveholders hoped by this war to gain from their weak neighbor territory favorable for the extension of slavery. For slavery had long since been dying out in the States east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason and Dixon Line and the Ohio. On the south of this natural boundary line the soil and climate were adapted to the cultivation of rice, cotton, sugar, and tobacco. These four staples of the South called for large plantations and an abundance of cheap labor always subject to the bidding of the planter. Slavery satisfied these conditions, and therefore slavery seemed necessary to the prosperity of the South.
I was because the soil and climate north of this natural boundary line did not favor the use of slaves that slavery gradually died out in the North. The result was that in one section of the Union, the South, there was a pressing demand for slavery; and in the other, the North, there was none. As time wore on, it became evident that the North was growing in population, wealth, and political influence much faster than the South. Observing this momentous fact, the slaveholders feared that in the course of years Congress might pass laws unfriendly to slavery. Hence, their stubborn purpose to struggle for the extension of slavery as far as possible into the territory west of the Mississippi.
But in the North so powerful did the opposition to the spread of slavery to new States become, that by 1855 there was a great political party that had such opposition as its leading principle. One of its ablest and most inspiring leaders was Abraham Lincoln. He was born in Kentucky, February 12, 1809. The rough log cabin in which he first saw the light was the wretched home of a father too lazy and shiftless to work, and so ignorant that he is said not to have learned his letters until taught by his wife. Little Abe’s only playmates were his sister Sarah, two years older than himself, and his cousin, Dennis Hanks, who lived in the Lincoln home.
When Abe was seven years old the family moved to Indiana, and settled about fifteen miles north of the Ohio River. The journey to their new home was very tedious and lonely, for they had in some places to cut a roadway through the forest.
Having arrived safely in November, all set vigorously to work to provide a shelter against the winter. Young Abe was healthy, rugged, and active, and from early morning till late evening he worked with his father, chopping trees and cutting poles and boughs for their “camp.” This “camp” was a mere shed, only fourteen feet square, and open on one side. It was built of poles lying upon one another, and had a thatched roof of boughs and leaves. As there was no chimney, there could be no fire within the enclosure, and it was necessary to keep one burning all the time just in front of the open side.
In this rough abode the furniture was of the scantiest and rudest sort, very much like what we have already observed in Boone’s cabin. For chairs there were the same kind of three-legged stools, made by smoothing the lat side of a split log, and putting sticks into auger-holes underneath. The tables were of the same simple fashion, except they stood on four legs instead of three.
The crude bedsteads in the corners of the cabin were made by sticking poles in between the logs at right angles to the wall, the outside corner where the logs met bing supported by a crotched stick driven into the ground. Upon this framework, shucks and leaves were heaped for bedding, and over all were trown the skins of wild animals for a covering. Pegs driven into the wall served as a stairway to the loft, where there was another bed of leaves. Here little Abe slept.
In the space on the open side of the cabin, hanging over the fire, was a large iron pot, in which the rude cooking was done. These backwoods people knew nothing of dainty cookery, but they brought keen appetites to their course fare. The principal vegetable was the ordinary white potato, and the usual form of bread was “corndodgers,” made of meal and roasted in the ashes. Wheat was so scarce that flour bread was reserved for Sunday mornings. But generally there was an abundance of game, such as deer, bears, and wild turkeys, and many kinds of fish from the streams close by, and in summer wild fruits from the woods.
During this first winter in the wild woods of Indiana little Abe must have lived a lonely life. But it was a very busy one. There was much to do in building the cabin which was to take the place of the “camp,” and in cutting down trees and making a clearing for the corn-planting of the coming spring. Besides, Abe helped to supply the table with food, for he had already learned to use the rifle, and to hunt and trap animals. These occupations took him into the woods, and we must believe, therefore, in spite of all the hardships of his wilderness life, that he spent many happy hours.
If we could see him as he started off with his gun, or as he chopped wood for the fires, we should doubtless find his dress somewhat peculiar. He was a tall, slim, awkward boy, with very long legs and arms. In winter he wore moccasins, trousers, and shirt of deerskin, and a cap of coonskin with the tail of the animal hanging down behind so as to serve both as ornament and convenience in handling the cap. On a cold winter day, such a furry costume might look very comfortable if closefitting, but we are told that Abe’s deerskin trousers, after getting wet, shrunk so much that they became several inches too short of his long, lean legs. As for stockings, he tells us he never wore them until he was “a young man grown.”
But although this costume seems to us singular, it did not appear so to his neighbors and friends, for they were used to seeing boys dressed in that manner. The frontiersmen were obliged to devise many contrivances to supply their lack of manufactured things. For instance, they all used thorns for pins, bits of stone for buttons, and homemade soap and tallow-dipped candles. Candles, indeed, were a luxury much of the time, and in Abe’s boyhood, he was obliged in the long winter evenings to read by the light of the wood fire blazing in the rude fireplace of the log cabin.
Great as had been his privations in this Indiana home, Abe had now to suffer a more grievous loss in the death of his mother. The rough life of the forest and the exposure of the open cabin had been too much for her delicate constitution. Before she died she said to her boy: “Abraham, I am going away from you, and you will never see me again. I know that you will always be good and kind to your sister and father. Try to live as I have taught you and to love your Heavenly Father.” Many years later Lincoln said, “All that I am, or I hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
A year after this sad event, his father brought home a second wife, who became a devoted friend to the motherless boy. Energetic, thrifty, and intelligent, this woman, who had been accustomed to better things than she found in her new home, insisted that the log cabin should be supplied with a door, a floor, and windows, and she at once began to make the children “look a little more human.”
Abraham Lincoln’s schooling was brief¾not more than a year in all. Such schools as he attended were nothing like the graded schools of today. The buildings were rough log cabins with the earth for floor and oiled paper for windows. Desks were unknown, the little schoolhouse being furnished with rude benches made of split logs, after the manner of the stools and tables in the Lincoln home. The teachers were ignorant men, who taught the children a little spelling, reading, writing, and ciphering. While attending the last school, Abe had to go daily a distance of four and a half miles from his home.
In spite of this meager schooling, however, the boy, by his self-reliance, resolute purpose, and good reading habits, acquired the very best sort of training for his future life. He had but few books at his home, and found it impossible in that wild country to find many in any other homes. Among those which he read over and over again, while a boy, were the Bible, “Aesop’s Fables,” “Robinson Crusoe,” “Pilgrim’s Progress, a History of the United States, and “Weems’s Life of Washington.”
His step-mother said of him: “He read everything he could lay his hands on, and when he came across a passage that struck him, he would write it down on boards, if he had no paper, and keep it before him until he could get paper. Then he would copy it, look at it, commit it to memory and repeat it.”
His step-brother said: “When Abe and I returned to the house from work, he would go to the cupboard, snatch a piece of corn-bread, take down a book, sit down, cock his legs up as high as his head, and read.” When night came he would find a seat in the corner by the fireside, or stretch out at length on the floor, and write or work sums in arithmetic on a wooden shovel, using a charred stick for a pencil or pen. When he had covered the shovel, he would shave off the surface and begin over again.
Having borrowed a copy of the “Life of Washington” on one occasion, he took it to bed with him in the loft and read until his candle gave out. Then before going to sleep, he tucked the book into a crevice of the logs in order that he might have it at hand as soon as daylight would permit him to read the next morning. But during the night a storm came up, and the rain beat in upon the book, wetting it through and through. With heavy heart Lincoln took it back to its owner, who told him that it should be his if he would work three days to pay for it. Eagerly agreeing to do this, the boy carried his new possession home in triumph. This book had a marked influence over his future.
Until he was twenty his father hired him out to all sorts of work, at which he sometimes earned $6 a month and sometimes thirty-one cents a day. Just before he came of age his family, with all their possessions packed in a cart drawn by four oxen, moved again toward the West. For two weeks they traveled across the country into Illinois, and finally made a new home on the banks of the Sangamon River, a stream flowing into the Illinois. The tiresome journey was made in the month of March along muddy roads and over swollen streams, young Lincoln driving the oxen.
On reaching the end of the journey, Abraham helped his father to build a hut and to clear and fence ten acres of land for planting. Shortly after this work was done he bargained with a neighbor, Mrs. Nancy Miller, to split 400 rails for every yard of brown jeans needed to make him a pair of trousers. As Lincoln was tall, three and a half yards were needed, and he had to split 1,400 fence rails¾a large amount of work for a pair of trousers.
From time to time he had watched the boats carrying freight up and down the river, and had wondered where the vessels were going. Eager to know by experience the life of which he had dreamed, he determined to become a boatmen. He was hungry for knowledge, and with the same earnestness and energy with which he had absorbed the great thoughts of his books, he now applied himself to learn the commerce of the river and the life along its banks. When an opportunity presented, he found employment on a flat boat that carried corn, hogs, hay, and other farm produce down to New Orleans. On one of his trips he chanced to attend a slave auction. Looking on while one slave after another was knocked down to the highest bidder, his indignation grew until at length he cried out, “Boys, let’s get away from this; if I ever get a chance to hit that thing” (meaning slavery), “I’ll hit it hard.” Little did he think when what a blow he would strike some thirty years later.
Tiring at length of his long journeys to New Orleans, he became clerk in a villager store at New Salem. Many stories are told of Lincoln’s honesty as displayed in his dealings with the people in this village store. It is said that on one occasion a woman in making change overpaid him the trifling sum of six cents. When Lincoln found out the mistake he walked three miles and back that night to give the woman her money.
He was now six feet four inches tall, a giant in strength, and a skilful wrestler. Much against his will¾for he had no love of fighting—he became the hero of a wrestling match with a youth named Armstrong, who was the leader of the rough young fellows of the place. Lincoln defeated Armstrong, and by his manliness won the life-long friendship of his opponent.
At times throughout his life he was subject to deep depression, which made his face unspeakably sad. But as a rule he was cheerful and merry, and on account of his good stories was in great demand in social gatherings and at the crossroads grocery stores. At such times, when the social glass passed around, he always declined it, never indulging in strong liquor of any kind, nor in tobacco.
Lincoln was as kind as he was good-natured. His step-other said of him: “I can say, what scarcely one mother in a thousand can say, he never gave me a cross word or look, and never refused in fact or appearance to do anything I asked him.” He was tender-hearted too, as the following incident shows:
Riding along the road one day with a company of men, Lincoln was missed by his companions. One of them going to look for him, found that Lincoln had stopped to replace two young birds that had been blown out of their nest. He could not ride on in any peace of mind until he had restored these little ones to their home in the tree-branches.
In less than a year the closing of the village store in which Lincoln was clerk left him without employment. He therefore enlisted as a volunteer for the Black Hawk War, which had broken out about this time, and went as captain of his company. On returning from this expedition, he opened a grocery store as part owner, but in this undertaking he soon failed. Perhaps the reason for his failure was that his interest was centered in other things, for about this time he began to study law.
For a while after closing his store he served the Government as postmaster in New Salem, where the mail was so scanty that he could carry it in his hat and distribute it to the owners as he happened to meet them.
He next tried surveying, his surveyor’s chain, according to report, being a trailing grapevine. Throughout all these years Lincoln was apparently drifting almost aimlessly from one occupation to another. But whatever he was doing his interest in public affairs and his popularity were steadily increasing. In 1834 he sought and secured an election to the State Legislature. It is said that he tramped a distance of a hundred miles with a pack on his back when he went to the State Capitol to enter upon his duties as lawmaker.
About four years after beginning to study law, he was admitted to the bar and established himself at Springfield, Illinois. From an early age he had been fond of making stump speeches, and now he turned what had been a pleasant diversion to practical advantage in the progress of his political life. In due time he was elected to Congress, where his interest in various public questions, especially that of slavery, became much quickened. On this question his clear head and warm heart united in forming strong convidtions that had great weight with the people. He continued to grow in political favor, and in 1858 received the nomination of the Republican party for the United States Senate. Stephen A. Douglas was the Democratic nominee. Douglas was known as the “Little Giant,” on account of his short stature and great power as an orator.
The debates between the political rivals challenged the admiration of the whole country. Lincoln argued with great power against the spread of slavery into the new States. Although unsuccessful in securing a seat in the Senate, he won a recognition from his countrymen that led to his election as President two years later. In 1860 the Republican National Convention, which met at Chicago, nominated “Honest Old Abe, the Rail-splitter,” as its candidate for President, and elected him in the same autumn.
The burning political question before the people at this time, as for many years before, related to the extension of slavery into the Territories. The south was eager to have more States come into the Union as slave States, while the North wished that slavery should be confined to the States where it already existed.
Before the purchase of the Louisiana Territory in 1803, Mason and Dixon Line and the Ohio River formed the dividing line between the free States on the north and the slave States on the south. But after that purchase there was a prolonged struggle to determine whether the new territory should be slave or free.
It was thought that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 would forever settle the trouble, but such was not the case. It broke out again, as bitter as ever, about the Mexican Cession, which became ours as a result of the Mexican War. Again it was hoped that the Compromise of 1850 would bring an end to the struggle. But even after this second compromise, the agitation over slavery continued to become more and more bitter until Mr. Lincoln’s election, when some of the Southern States threatened to secede, that is, withdraw from the Union. On the other hand, the North declared that no State could secede from the Union without the consent of the other States.
Before Lincoln was inaugurated, seven of the Southern States had seceded. The excitement was everywhere intense. Many people felt that a man of larger experience that Lincoln should now be at the head of the Government. They doubted the ability of this plain man of the people, this awkward backwoodsman, to lead the destinies of the nation in these hours when delicate and intricate diplomacy was needed. But, in little as they knew it, he was well fitted for the work that lay before him.
While on his way to Washington for inauguration, his friends learned of a plot to assassinate him when he should pass through Baltimore. To save him from violence, therefore, they prevailed upon him to change his route and make the last part of his journey in secret.
In a few weeks the Civil War had begun. We cannot here pause for full accounts of all Lincoln’s trials and difficulties during this fearful struggle that began in 1861 and ended in 1865. His burdens were almost overwhelming, but, like Washington, he believed that “right makes might” and must prevail.
When he became President he declared that the Constitution gave him no power to interfere with slavery in the States where it existed. But as the war continued, he became certain that the slaves, by remaining on the plantations and producing food of the Southern soldiers, were a great aid to the Southern cause, and thus threatened the Union. He therefore determined, as commander-in-chief of the Union armies, to set eh slaves free in all territory whose people were fighting against the Union. He took this step as a military necessity.
The famous state paper, in which Lincoln declared that the slaves were free in all the territory of the seceded States whose people were waging war against the Union, was called the Emancipation Proclamation. This he issued on January 1, 1863, and thus made good his word, “If ever I get a chance to strike that thing” (meaning slavery), “I’ll strike it hard.”
On April 9, 1865, General Lee surrendered his army to General Grant at Appomattox Court House. By this act the war came to a close. Great was the rejoicing everywhere. But suddenly the universal joy was changed into universal sorrow. Five days after Lee’s surrender Lincoln went with his wife and some friends to see a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington. In the midst of the play, a half-crazed actor, who was familiar with the theatre, entered the President’s box, shot him in the back of the head, jumped to the stage, and, shouting “Sic semper tyrannis!” (So be it always to tyrants), rushed through the wing to the street. There he mounted a horse in waiting for him, and escaped, but was promptly hunted down and killed in a barn where he lay in hiding. The martyr-President lingered some hours, tenderly watched by his family and a few friends. When on the following morning he breathed his last, Secretary Stanton said with truth, “Now he belongs to the ages.” A noble life had passed from the field of action; and the people deeply mourned the loss of him who had wisely and bravely led them through four years of heavy trial and anxiety.
Wise and brave as the leadership of Abraham Lincoln was, however, the drain of the Civil War upon the nation’s strength was well-nigh overwhelming. Nearly 600,000 men lost their lives in this murderous struggle, and the loss in wealth was not far short of $8,000,000,000.
But the war was not without its good results also. One of these embodied later in the thirteenth amendment to the constitution, set free forever all the slaves in the Union; and another swept away for all time the evils of State rights, nullification, and secession. Webster’s idea that the Union was supreme over the States had now become a fact which could never again be a subject of dispute. The Union was “one and inseparable.”
The immortal words that Lincoln uttered as part of his Second Inaugural are worth of notice, for in their sympathy, tenderness, and beautiful simplicity they reveal the heart of him who spoke them. This inaugural address was delivered in Washington on March 4, 1865, only about six weeks before Lincoln’s assassination. It closed with these words:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace amon ourselves and with all nations.”
Ulysses Simpson Grant and the Civil War
In tracing the leading events in the remarkable career of the martyr-President, we have had occasion to refer briefly to the causes and results of the Civil War. It was a struggle that tested the manhood quite as much as the resources of the warring sections, and each side might well bye proud of the bravery and military skill displayed by its officers and soldiers. Certainly each side had among its generals some of the greatest military leaders of all time. One of these who is by common consent regarded as the ablest general that led Northern troops in battle, was Ulysses Simpson Grant.
He was born in a humble dwelling at Point Pleasant, Ohio, in April, 1822. The year following his birth the family removed to Georgetown, Ohio, where they lived many years.
The father of Ulysses was a farmer and manufacturer of leather. The boy did not like the leather business, but was fond of the various kinds of farm work. When only seven years old he hauled all the wood which was needed in the home and at the leather factory, from a forest, a mile from the village. As he was too small to load and unload the wood, the men did that for him.
From the age of eleven to seventeen, according to his own story as told in his “Personal Memoirs.” he ploughed the soil, cultivated the growing corn and potatoes, sawed firewood for his father’s store, and did any other work that would naturally fall to the lot of a farmer’s boy. He had his recreations, also, including fishing, swimming in the creek not far from his home, skating in winter, and driving about the country winter and summer.
Young Grant liked horses, and early became a skilful rider. Lincoln told a story of him which indicates not only his expert horsemanship, but his “bulldog grit” as well. One day when he was at a circus the manager offered a silver dollar to anybody who could ride a certain mule around the ring. Several persons, one after another, mounted the animal only to be thrown over its head. Young Ulysses was among those who offered to ride, but like the others he was unsuccessful. The pulling off his coat, he got on the animal again. Putting his legs firmly around the mule’s body, and seizing him by the tail, Ulysses rode triumphantly around the ring, amid the cheers of the expectant crowd.
Although he cared little for study, his father wished to give him all the advantages of a good education, and secured for him an appointment at West Point. This was indeed a rare opportunity for through training in scholarship, but Ulysses was rather indifferent to it. He had a special aptitude for mathematics, and became an expert horseman, but with these exceptions, he took little interest in the training received at this famous military school, his rank being only twenty-first in a class of thirty-nine.
After graduation he wished to leave the army and become an instructor in mathematics at West Point. But as the Mexican War broke out about that time he entered active service. Soon he gave striking evidence of that fearless bravery for which he was to become so noted on the battle-fields of the Civil War.
It fell to his lot to deliver a message which necessitated a dangerous ride. He says of it: “Before starting I adjusted myself on the side of my horse farthest from the enemy, and with only one foot holding to the cantle of the saddle and an arm over the neck of the horse exposed, I started at a full run. It was only at the street crossings that my horse was under fire, but there I crossed at such a flying rate that generally I was past and under cover of the next block of houses before the enemy fired. I got out safely without a scratch.”
Shortly after the close of the war Grant was married. Six years later he resigned from the army and went with his family to live on a farm near St. Louis. Although he worked hard, he found it uphill work to support his family, and was eventually compelled by bad health to give up farming. H next tried the real estate business, but without success. At last, his father offered him a place in his leather and hardware store, where Grant worked as clerk until the outbreak of the Civil War.
With the news that the southern troops had fired upon the flag at Fort Sumter, Grant’s patriotism was aroused. Without delay he rejoined the army and at once took an active part in the preparations for war. First as colonel and then as brigadier-general, he led his troops. At last he had found a field of action in which he quickly developed his powers as a lead.
The first of his achievements was the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson, the center of a strong Confederate line of defense, extending from Columbus to Cumberland Gap. At Fort Donelson he received the surrender of nearly 15,000 prisoners, and by his great victory compelled the Confederates to abandon two of their most important strongholds, Columbus and Nashville.
After the loss of Fort Donelson the Confederates fell back in a second line of defense, extending from Memphis through Corinth to Chattanooga. The Confederate army took position at Corinth; General Grant’s army at Pittsburg Landing, eighteen miles away. Here, early on Sunday morning, April 6, 1862, Grant was attacked by Johnston, and his men were driven back a mile and a half toward the river. It was a fearful battle, lasting until nearly dark. Not until after midnight was Grant able to rest, and then as he sat in the rain leaning against the foot of a tree, he slept a few hours before the renewal of battle on Monday morning. With reinforcements he was able on the second day to drive the enemy off the field and win a signal victory.
By this battle Grant broke the second Confederate line of defense. Although the Confederates fought bravely and well to prevent the Northern troops from getting control of the Mississippi River, by the close of 1862 they had lost every stronghold except Port Hudson and Vicksburg. In 1863, General Grant put forth a resolute effort to capture Vicksburg, and after a brilliant campaign laid siege to the city. For seven weeks the Confederate army held out. Meanwhile the people of Vicksburg found shelter in caves and cellars, their food at tomes consisting of rats and mule flesh. But on July 4, 1863, the day following General Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg, General Pemberton, with an army numbering about 32,000 men, surrendered Vicksburg to General Grant. Four days later Port Hudson was captured, and thus the last stronghold of the Mississippi came under control of the North.
General Grant’s success was in no small measure due to his dogged perseverance. While his army was laying siege to Vicksburg a Confederate woman, at whose door he stopped to ask a drink of water, inquired whether he expected ever to capture Vicksburg. “Certainly,” he replied. “But when?” was her next question. Quickly came the answer: “I cannot tell exactly when I shall take the town, but I mean to stay here till I do, if it takes me thirty years.”
General Grant having by his effective campaign won the confidence of the people, President Lincoln in 1864 made him lieutenant-general, thus placing him in command of all the Northern forces. In presenting the new commission, Lincoln addressed General Grant in these words: “As the country herein trusts you, so, under God, it will sustain you.” General Grant made answer: “I feel the full weight of the responsibilities now devolving upon me; and I know that if they are met, it will be due to those armies, and above all, to the favor of that Providence which leads both nations and men.”
Early in May, 1864, Grant entered upon his final campaign in Virginia, and while he marched with his army “On to Richmond,” General Sherman, in Georgia, pushed with his army “On to Atlanta” and “On to the sea.” Both generals were able, and both had able opponents. Grant crossed the Rapidan and entered the Wilderness, where Lee’s army contested every foot of his advance. In the terrible fighting that followed Grant’s losses were severe, but, with “bulldog grit,” to use Lincoln’s phrase, he pressed on, writing to the President his stubborn resolve, “I propose to fight it out on this live if it takes all summer.”
It did take all summer and more, for Grant found it impossible to capture Richmond by attacking it from the northern side. He therefore transferred his army across the James River, and attacked the city from the south; but at the end of the summer Lea still held out.
Nor did Lee relinquish his position until April 2, 1865, when he was compelled to retreat toward the west. Grant pursued him closely for a week, during which Lee’s troops suffered great privation, living mainly on parched corn and the young shoots of trees. Aware that the Southern cause was hopeless, the distinguished leader of the Confederate armies, after a most brilliant retreat, decided that the time had come to give up the struggle.
While suffering from a severe sick headache, General Grant received a note from Lee saying that the latter was now willing to consider terms of surrender. It was a remarkable occasion when the two eminent generals met on that Sunday morning, in what is known as the McLean house, standing in the little village of Appomattox court House. Grant writes in his “Personal Memoirs”: “I was without a sword, as I usually was when on horseback on the field, and wore a soldiers blouse for a coat, with the shoulder-straps of my rank to indicate to the army who I was … General Lee was dressed in full uniform which was entirely new, and was wearing a sword which had been presented by the state of Virginia. … In my rough traveling suit, the uniform of a private with the straps of a lieutenant-general, I must have contrasted very strangely with a man so handsomely dressed, six feet high and of faultless form.
The result of the interview was the surrender of General Lee with his entire army of 26,000 men. General Grant at this time gave striking evidence of his great kindness of heart and fine delicacy of feeling. He issued orders that all the Confederates who owned horses and mules should be allowed to take them home. “They will need them for the spring plowing,” he said. He spared the vanquished troops the humiliation of marching out and stacking their arms in token of surrender, and even stopped the firing of salutes by his men. Never indeed, did General Grant appear more truly great than on the occasion of Lee’s surrender. Thus ended the military career of the greatest general that the North produced during the Civil War.
While in the army he seemed to have marvelous powers of endurance. He said of himself: “Whether I slept on the ground or in a tent, whether I slept one hour or ten in the twenty-four, whether I had one meal, or three or none, made no difference. I could lie down and sleep in the rain without caring.”
His appearance did not indicate his robust health. He was only five feet eight inches tall, round-shouldered, and not military in bearing or walk. He had brown hair, blue eyes, and a musical voice. He was of a sunny disposition and singularly pure soul, never having been known in all his life to speak an unclean word or tell an objectionable story. Quiet and simple in manner, he never became excited even in the heat of battle, but always kept himself cool and collected, ready for the severest ordeal that he might have to face.
In need hardly be said that at the close of the war he had a warm place in the hearts of his countrymen. Wherever he went people flocked to see him. But like Washington and Jefferson, he found speechmaking most difficult. At one time, in the presence of friends, General Grant’s young son Jesse, mounted a haystack and said, “I’ll show you how papa makes a speech. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very glad to see you: I thank you very much. Goodnight.’” All present were greatly amused except Grant, who was much embarrassed, feeling that his little son’s effort verged to closely upon the truth.
Grant was elected President of the United States in 1868, and served two terms. Upon retiring from the Presidency he made a tour around the world, and was everywhere received by rulers and people alike with great honor and distinction.
Curing his last days he suffered much from an incurable disease, which became a worse enemy that he had ever found on the field of battle. After nine months’ of struggle he died at Mount McGregor, near Saratoga, on July 23, 1885. His body was laid to rest in Riverside Park, on the Hudson, where in 1867 a magnificent monument was erected to his memory. Like Lincoln and Washington, he will ever live in the hearts of his countrymen.
Some Leaders and Heroes in the War with Spain
Thus far we have directed our attention to the prominent events in American history centering about certain leaders and heroes. In so doing we have in every chapter given emphasis to the achievements of some one man. But in all these cases there were many other men that received no mention by name, and yet their cooperation was necessary to the success of the leader in working out his plans.
This is no doubt true of all times and countries, but it is eminently true of our own country, whose history is full of striking instances of individual heroism and devotion to the flag. We shall find no better example of patriotic daring than in the late war with Spain—a war which exhibited to us and to the world the strong and manly qualities of American life and character. It seems fitting, therefore, that we should in this closing chapter briefly consider a few of the recent events that help us to understand what manner of people we have come to be, and what we are able to accomplish in time of earnest endeavor.
From the very beginning of her dominion in Cuba, Spain ruled the people there with extreme cruelty and oppression. Again and again did the Cubans, driven to desperation by unjust treatment rise in rebellion, without success. But in 1895 they organized an uprising that Spain strove in vain to put down. In the last extremity of her power, she sent over as governor-general a man who tried to starve the Cubans into submission. A large part of the population lived in the country, and furnished the Cuban troops with food and recruits. The Spanish commander’s brutal method was to drive these country people into the towns and cities, burning their homes, and destroying everything that might be of use to feed and support the fighting Cubans. But the Cubans were determined to win their independence or die in the attempt.
As the war continued, and this inhuman policy of starvation grew more brutal, the horror and indignation of the Unite States were aroused. Our Government tried to induce Spain to stop her barbarous methods, but while the attempt was still in progress an event took place which greatly embittered the feeling of Americans against Spain. On the night of February 15, 1898, one of our battleships, the Maine, was blown up in the harbor of Havana, and 266 of our sailors were killed. Many believed that this awful deed was the work of Spanish officials; and this conviction deepened when a careful investigation was made by a court of naval inquiry. In all parts of this country the excitement of the people increased until they were ready to go to war with Spain if were would not change her policy toward Cuba.
But Spain was so stubborn that President McKinley, after trying in every possible way to prevent hostilities, was obliged to say that “the war in Cuba must stop”; and on April 25, 1898, Congress took the momentous step of declaring war.
Our Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Long, lost no time in sending a dispatch to Commodore Dewey,—who was in command of an American fleet of six war-vessels at Hong-Kong,—directing him to proceed at once to the Philippine Island and capture or destroy the Spanish flee there.
Two days later Commodore Dewey’s fleet was steaming southward toward Manila Bay, in search of the Spanish squadron of ten war-vessels and two torpedo-boats. It was extremely important that these ships of war should be captured or destroyed before they could make their way to our Pacific coast and attack American cities.
On the night preceding May 1st our fleet entered Manila Bay. The supreme moment that these ships of war should be captured or destroyed before they could make their way to our Pacific coast and attack American cities.
On the night preceding May 1st our fleet entered Manila Bay. The supreme moment in the life of Commodore Dewey, now in his sixty-second year, had come. He was 7,000 miles from home and in Hostile waters. Without even a pilot to guide his fleet as it moved slowly but boldly into the bay, for he knew well that he might be going into a death-trap. Two torpedoes exploded just in front of the flag-ship Olympia, which was in the lead, but the fearless commander did not swerve from his course.
Drawn up at the entrance of Bakor Bay, not far from Manila, was the Spanish fleet, protected on either side by strong shore batteries. When about three miles distant Commodore Dewey quietly said to the captain of the Olympia, “If you are ready, Gridley, you may fire.” Spanish shells had already filled the air all about the American fleet, but as the Spanish gunnery was exceedingly poor it did little serious damage. During the battle the American fleet steamed forward in single battle the American fleet steamed forward in single file, the Olympia in the lead. After going for some distance toward Manila the ships swung round and returned, firing terrible broadsides into the Spanish fleet as they passed. Five times they followed the course in this way, each time drawing nearer the enemy’s position, and each time pouring in a more furious and deadly fire.
At seven o’clock the Spanish flagship dashed boldly out, as if with the purpose of running down the Olympia. But the American war-vessels concentrated their fire upon her so that she had to turn back. As she was swinging around, the Olympia hurled a shell which raked her dick, killing or wounding her captain and sixty of her sailors. About this time two Spanish torpedo-boats darted out toward the American fleet, and one of them, with the evident purpose of blowing her up, headed for the Olympia. But a well-aimed shell exploded upon the deck of the torpedo-boat, and sank it to the bottom of the sea.
At the end of two hours, it being plain that the Spanish fleet was nearly done for, Commodore Dewey decided to give his tire men a rest. He therefore withdrew his fleet from the scene of battle, and gave his brave soldiers breakfast. Three hours later he renewed the fight, which ended with the destruction of the entire Spanish fleet. Although 1,200 Spaniards were killed or wounded, not one American was killed and only eight were wounded. None of Dewey’s war-vessels received serious injury. The battle was a brilliant exhibition of superb training and seamanship on the part of the American sailors, whose rapid and accurate handling of the guns was marvelous. The people were electrified with joy when the news of the glorious achievement in Manila Bay was cabled to America. On May 9th, Congress voted that ten thousand dollars ($10,000) should be spent in securing a sword for Commodore Dewey and medals for all his men, and President McKinley promptly appointed him a rear-admiral. Before the middle of August an army of 15,000 troops, under General Merritt, was sent to Manila to unite with the fleet under Admiral Dewey in capturing the city. Manila surrendered on August 13th.
With the destruction of the Spanish fleet at Manila, within a week after Congress declared war, all danger of attack from Spanish war-vessels upon our Pacific coast was at an end. But there was grave fear that the Spanish fleet under Admiral Cervera might attack the large and wealth cities upon our Atlantic coast. Shortly after the war began, this fleet was reported to have left the Cape Verde Island and have directed its course toward Cuban waters.
At once Americans began to put serious questions which nobody could answer. “Where is Cervera going?” they asked. “Will he try to break the blockade which an American fleet under Admiral Sampson is keeping up on the northern coast of Cuba? Will he try to intercept and destroy the battle-ship Oregon? Or, will he bring havoc and destruction upon us by sailing straight for some great Atlantic seaport?” Americans looked anxious and worried as the considered these questions.
But the uncertainty did not long continue, for soon it was learned by cable that Cervera had stopped at Martinique, and later at a small island off the coast of Venezuela, whence he had speedily steamed northward toward Cuba. We now know that he went to Santiago harbor, which he though would prove a good hiding place while his fleet took on board coal and other supplies. Shortly after Cervera’s arrival at Santiago an American fleet under Commodore Schley discovered him, and blockaded the harbor in order to prevent his escape. It was extremely important to keep him “bottled up” there until an American army might come down and capture Santiago and the Spanish army which held the place. This capture accomplished, Cervera would have to fight either in the harbor or out in the open sea. But there was still some anxiety lest he might on some dark, stormy night manage to steal out and make his escape.
One reason why Cervera went into the Santiago harbor was that the entrance was very narrow and well protected by headlands surmounted by batteries. At its narrowest place, the channel was not much more than a hundred yards wide. If, therefore, the American war-vessels should attempt to enter the harbor they would have to enter in single file, and the foremost one would possibly be blown up by the Spanish torpedoes, many of which were planted in the channel. The sinking of a single vessel would block the way for all the rest.
With these facts in mind Admiral Sampson planned to obstruct the entrance to Santiago harbor to prevent the Spanish fleet from getting out. Lieutenant Hobson, a young man of twenty-eight, worked out the plan of sinking the collier Merrimac across the channel; and to him the important task of carrying it out was assigned. Torpedoes were so arranged on the sides of the Merrimac that their explosion would shatter her bottom and sink her in the channel.
There was serious difficulty in selecting the small number of brave, coolheaded men who were to accompany Lieutenant Hobson in this perilous enterprise, for several hundred American sailors were eager to go, even though they knew that in so doing they were running serious risk of capture or death. But such was the heroic temper of the American sailors that many of them begged for an opportunity of rendering this loyal service.
On the night appointed for the daring feat, the Merrimac did not get well started before the morning light began to appear in the eastern sky, so that Admiral Sampson recalled the expedition. After a long, nervous day of waiting, the next morning, June 3rd, the Merrimac started off a second time. The vessel moved stealthily forward with its eager silent crew, but before the place of sinking could be reached the Spaniards discovered her. Suddenly from the forts and the war vessels in the harbor a storm of shot and shell beat in pitiless fury about the Merrimac. But she pressed forward. When the moment came for her to be swung across the channel Hobson found that the rudder of the ship had been shot away, so that she could not be swung about according to the plan. He therefore had to be content with sinking her along instead of across the channel.
When the torpedoes exploded and she went down, her crew of eight men, struggling for life in the seething waters, managed to reach a float which they had brought with them on the deck of the collier. To this float they clung, hanging on with their hands, for they dared not expose their bodies as targets to Spanish soldiers on land or to Spanish sailors in the launches that were trying to find out what had happened. For some hours Hobson and his men remained in this uncomfortable position, shivering with the cold. At length Hobson hailed an approaching launch to which he swam. He was pulled in by an elderly man, with the exclamation, “You are brave fellows.” This was Admiral Cervera, who treated the prisoners, Lieutenant Hobson and his crew, with great kindness. With the rest of the world he admired the courageous spirit of the “brave fellows” who had given so much in the service of their country.
During the remainder of June, the American fleet kept watch at the harbor entrance. Before the end of the month an American army of 15,000 men was ready to advance through a tropical forest upon the Spanish defenses outside of Santiago. On July 1st the Americans made a vigorous attack upon these outworks, and won a glorious victory.
It looked to Cervera as if he might be compelled to surrender his fleet without striking a blow. Although he was likely to suffer defeat in battle, there was nothing to gain by remaining in the harbor. So he decided to dash boldly out, in a desperate effort to escape. When at about half-past nine of that quiet Sunday morning (July 3rd) the foremost Spanish war vessel was seen heading at full speed out of the harbor, the American sailors sent up a shout, “The Spanish fleet is coming out!” and leaped forward to their places at the guns. As at Manila, the battle was one-sided. The superior seamanship and gunnery of the Americans enable them quickly to win a victory as brilliant as that won by Dewey and his men. Every Spanish vessel was destroyed, 600 Spaniards were killed, and 1,300 captured. Not one American ship was seriously injured, wile but one American was killed and one badly wounded. About the middle of July, Santiago and a Spanish army of 22,000 men surrendered to the Americans.
Although this ended the serious fighting of the war, the treaty of peace was not ratified by the United States Senate until February 6, 1899. In accordance with this treaty Spain gave up Cuba and ceded Porto Rico to the United States; and she also ceded to us the Philippine Islands, in return for which we agreed to pay her $20,000,000.
But some of the most striking results of the war with Spain received no mention in the terms of the treaty. From the beginning of the struggle, Spain doubtless hoped that one or more of the Great Powers of Europe might intervene in her behalf. Some of the, with ill-concealed dislike for the United States, were quite ready to interfere in Spain’s interests. But England refused to take any part in the movement. Her friendly attitude toward us in this struggle had done much to bring the two countries into closer sympathy with each other. A reflection of this good-will toward England was especially evident at the time of Queen Victoria’s death in January, 1901. But, after all, one of the most striking results of the war with Spain has been the bringing of the various sections of our own country into closer sympathy and union. It is safe to say that never before have the North, the South, the East, and the West felt so closely bound together in thought and feeling. Let us hope that with noble ideals of the high destiny that awaits us, we shall go forward to greater achievements that we have yet known in our history.