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habits; and seems to have thought, that the gravity of his historical functions would have been impaired by any thing approaching to familiar and easy description. We cannot, indeed, go quite the length of the amiable and ingenious writer who informs us, that he was grateful for being told Milton wore shoe-buckles; but we do not recollect any book calling itself the history of a life, more unpardonably deficient, in all that constitutes the soul and charm of biography. We are never permitted to see the great man in his private and voluntary occupations, in his happier hour, when relaxed from the cares of policy and war. We look in vain, through these stiff and countless pages, for any sketch or anecdote that might fix a distinguishing feature of private character in the memory. When Chastellux mentions, for example, that Washington broke his own horses, and that he read with peculiar delight the King of Prussia's Instructions and Guibert's Tactics, every one is gratified and instructed; and in omitting such traits, Mr Marshall may be assured, that he has greatly impaired the interest, as well as the utility of his book;-that his ungraphic generalities will neither satisfy the curious, nor the superficial inquirer into character;—and that what seems to have passed with him for dignity, will, by his reader, be pronounced dulness and frigidity.
The truth is, that Mr Marshall has given us rather a history of America, than a life of Washington. Though the latter was his professed object, he seems to have been contriving, from the be-. ginning, how he might render it subservient to the former. The history of a great statesman and warrior must indeed involve a large portion of the history of his country; but a discriminating mind will still find limits to the interference of biography with the province of general history. Mr Marshall, however, does not appear to have felt himself at all circumscribed by the personality of his subject. His range is bounded only by the horizon of the United States; and he has even gone the length of giving us, under the title of a life of Washington, a whole quarto volume, in which his name is not once mentioned, except at the head of the page. This volume brings down the general history of the colonies to the era of the revolution, and was necessary to complete the author's grand project of a general history of America; but it is obvious, that a rapid and comprehensive retrospect, connected with a similar view of the origin of the revolution, was all that could possibly appertain to a legitimate history of General Washington. In like manner, in the third and fourth volumes, which, with a large portion of the second, are dedicated to the events of the war, we find him expatiating upon expeditions and transactions, in which Washington was noway concerned, with
the same minuteness with which he has recorded the subjects of his immediate agency. A more diffuse and undiscriminating narrative, indeed, we have seldom perused. It is deficient in almost every thing that constitutes historical excellence. Without comprehensiveness or spirit, it moves on, in a pace at once desultory and heavy; and records the history of a revolution, and a new political system, without indulging in one emotion, or hazarding one original reflection-innocent of all speculation, and neither seeking distinction, nor assistance, from the lights of philosophy. But, with all these defects, we still think the book contains many valuable and interesting details-that it displays industry, good sense, and, so far as we can judge, laudable impartiality-and that the style, though neither elegant nor impressive, is yet, upon the whole, clear and manly.
With regard to Dr Ramsay's book, it is plainly an abridgement of Mr Marshall's; written, we presume, upon the supposition, that a moderate octavo is more likely to be read than five massy quartos. In other respects, it bears all the lineaments of its bulky progenitor. It is quite as well written, and contains all the private history that is to be found in the other; but without the addition of one original sketch or anecdote. The General's will is given in an appendix, and it has the advantage of an index. It is dedicated to Emperors, Kings, and others, exercising sovereign power in the old world; but though it should never meet the eyes of any of those august personages, which we think the more likely supposition, it will, we presume, fulfil the ends of its creation, if it be more frequently called for at the circulating library, by the general reader, than its expensive compe
Washington was born in Westmoreland county, Virginia, on the 22d February 1732; and was great grandson of John Washington, a gentleman of the south of England, who, about the middle of the 17th century, emigrated to this province. These books afford very scanty accounts of his earlier years. His education extended only to his native tongue, and some of the more practical branches of mathematics. When very young, he obtained the commission of midshipman in the British navy, but was soon induced to relinquish that service, by the pressing intreaties of his mother. After this, he entered upon the business of landsurveying; and was remarked for his diligence and expertness, but particularly for a certain gravity and dignity of demeanour, that would have graced riper years, and a more elevated station. In this humble sphere, however, his countrymen seem early to have discovered his capacity; for, when only nineteen years of age, he was appointed one of the Adjutants-Gene
ral of the Virginia militia, with the rank of Major. But the opinion of his prudence and capacity was still more conspicuously displayed by his appointment as envoy to the French commandant on the Ohio, to remonstrate against certain encroachments of his troops upon the province of Virginia. These hostile movements were the results of a plan to connect their possessions in Canada with Louisiana by a chain of posts, the completion of which interfered with the Virginia territories. Upon his return, he published a very clear and interesting account of this arduous mission, and was immediately appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of a regiment which had been ordered to proceed against the French, the answer of the commandant not having proved satisfactory. He had not proceeded far, when the command devolved upon him by the death of the Colonel, and his services in this campaign obtained the thanks of the legislature of Virginia. Soon after, he resigned his commission, in consequence of certain regulations which he thought derogatory to the officers of the provincial troops, and retired to Mount Vernon, an estate on the banks of the Potomac, to which he had lately succeeded by the death of his brother, purposing to devote himself to the occupations of a country life.
His military bias, however, did not permit him to remain long in retirement; for, on the invitation of General Braddock, he accompanied that officer in the character of volunteer and aid-decamp. In the fatal battle of the Monongahela, in which Braddock fell, Washington had two horses shot under him; and his conduct, during the whole expedition, was so much approved, that, though only twenty-three years of age, he was soon madecommander of all the provincial troops of Virginia. The duty of this situation was both arduous and ungracious. An extensive frontier was, by the preceding defeat, completely laid open to the ravages of the enemy; and, owing to the defectiveness of the military establishment, he found it impossible to give sufficient protection to the colonists, with whose complaints he was, in consequence, continually assailed. When at length the French were expelled from the Ohio, by the capture of Fort du Quesne, an enterprize which he had long urged as the only means of securing the colonists from their incursions, he again (1758) resigned his commission, amidst the applauses and regrets of his associates in arms.
And here, had Britain been wise, would have terminated the military career of George Washington. He would have passed through life respected as a valiant soldier, as a wise and dignified private character, but would have obtained no niche in the temple of Fame. But her evil genius was soon to dazzle her eyes, by playing before them the deceitful image of an American re
venue, * and to instigate her to an ill-judged contest, which has made the name of Washington lasting as time. The sanguine people of this country would do well, though the retrospect cannot be pleasing, sometimes to turn back their thoughts upon this unhappy contest,-to recollect, that measures, triumphantly voted wise and just and vigorous, proved only wasteful folly,-that a spirit of arrogant domination, and heedless indifference to the rights of others, lost the wing of an empire,-that there may be abounding loyalty, with very deficient prudence,-and that counsels called factious, because opposed to the wishes of the court, may, when misfortune shall have silenced both sycophancy and prejudice, come to be acknowledged as the oracles of wisdom.
We do not think it necessary, at the present day, to enter at all into the long agitated question of the right of Great Britain to tax America; but it seems proper to remark, that various writers have thought it necessary, in order to account for what they thought an unjustifiable opposition to the legitimate claims of the parent state, to assert, that her object, from the beginning, was political independence,—that_the_taxing system only afforded a pretext for separation,-in short, that the acquisition of wealth and power had brought to maturity that latent principle of revolt which inheres in all distant colonial establishments. This opinion was vehemently asserted by Dean Tucker and his followers in Parliament; and America was compared to a charged cannon, ready for instant explosion, when the match should be applied. If we are not mistaken, M. Talleyrand, in his admirable Essay on Colonies, and Mr Baring also, in his late excellent pamphlet, (though not by any means in reference to the arguments or views of those writers), have stated similar opinions, and seem to hold, that the period was come when Britain must have either voluntarily abandoned her sovereignty, or foolishly exposed herself to a revolutionary shock to uphold it. We admit, with all these writers, that independence is a stage at which all distant and prosperous colonies are destined ultimately to arrive. If foresight does not voluntarily relax the ties of the metropolis, force will in time assuredly break them. This is a catastrophe to which nations expose themselves when they found colonies in distant regions, upon the narrow maxims of the commercial system, and have not wisdom to accommodate their policy to the natural course of events. Still, however, a colony will not break asunder its antient ties with its parent, round which many illusions of common glory and kindred must have twisted themselves, without some pressing cause: they will not seek independence, till sub
mission is pernicious. If a people, become sufficiently powerful to protect themselves, find their liberty, or their industry, materially impaired by the laws, or the monopoly of the mother country-if they find their stock and skill forcibly excluded from channels into which they would otherwise flow, by a rigid maintenance of restraints, to which they submitted in their infancy,then, undoubtedly, they will feel a natural want of independence, and will not long endure a yoke, of which they have discovered at once the weight and the weakness. But no view, either of the political or economical state of the colonies, at the era of the revolution, can justify the supposition, that they were in a situation to feel this need of independence. Their political state was as near as possible to that of self-government; the monopoly, from reciprocal peculiarities in the state of parent and colonies, was strictly natural; and any feeling of uneasiness which the idea of sovereignty may have produced, was fully balanced by advantages which must have ceased with that sovereignty. The reasonings, then, by which it is justly inferred, that all colonies will one day set up for themselves, do not seem to apply to the case of America at the revolution, whatever application they might have to a future period of her progress. It is true, that there was in America, at that time, a degree of self-consequence and intelligence which made her firmly oppose an open attempt upon her liberties; but this only shows the error of that policy by which her affairs were administered; and, but for which, she would, in all probability, have remained a colony, at least till the events, consequent upon the French revolution, should have opened to her prospects of opulence, compatible only with her exist ́ence as an independent power. The era of her separation, then, was not the natural era, and the taxing system was not opposed merely as a pretext for separation. In addition to the evidence of Franklin, we have that of Mr Marshall to show, that the colonists proceeded slowly and reluctantly to declare their independ ence, even after the war had assumed a serious aspect.
• When the appeal was first made to arms,' says he, and the battle of Lexington was fought, a great majority of those who guided the councils, and led the battalions of America, wished only for a repeal of the obnoxious acts of Parliament which had occasioned their resistance to the authority of the Crown; and would have been truly unwilling to venture into the regions of self-government. Having imbibed, from education, strong prejudices in favour of the British nation, and of the British constitution, they wished only to enjoy its benefits. For some time, the King was still prayed for in the celebration of divine service; and in the proclamation of a "fast by Congress, in June 1775, one of the motives for recommending it was, to beseech the Almighty to bless our rightful Sove. "reign King George, and inspire him with wisdom. " II. 394.