FOUR GREAT AMERICANS
A BOOK FOR YOUNG AMERICANS
BY JAMES BALDWIN, PH.D.
THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
I WHEN WASHINGTON WAS A BOY
II HIS HOMES
III HIS SCHOOLS AND SCHOOLMASTERS
IV GOING TO SEA
V THE YOUNG SURVEYOR
VI THE OHIO COUNTRY
VII A CHANGE OF CIRCUMSTANCES
VIII A PERILOUS JOURNEY
IX HIS FIRST BATTLE
X THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR
XI THE MUTTERINGS OF THE STORM
XII THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR
XIV THE FIRST PRESIDENT
XV "FIRST IN THE HEARTS OF HIS COUNTRYMEN"
THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
I THE WHISTLE
III THE BOYS AND THE WHARF
IV CHOOSING A TRADE
V HOW FRANKLIN EDUCATED HIMSELF
VI FAREWELL TO BOSTON
VII THE FIRST DAY IN PHILADELPHIA
VIII GOVERNOR WILLIAM KEITH
IX THE RETURN TO PHILADELPHIA
X THE FIRST VISIT TO ENGLAND
XI A LEADING MAN IN PHILADELPHIA
XII FRANKLIN'S RULES OF LIFE
XIII FRANKLIN'S SERVICES TO THE COLONIES
XIV FRANKLIN'S WONDERFUL KITE
XV THE LAST YEARS
THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
I CAPTAIN WEBSTER
II THE YOUNGEST SON
III EZEKIEL AND DANIEL
IV PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
V AT EXETER ACADEMY
VI GETTING READY FOR COLLEGE
VII AT DARTMOUTH COLLEGE
VIII HOW DANIEL TAUGHT SCHOOL
IX DANIEL GOES TO BOSTON
X LAWYER AND CONGRESSMAN
XI THE DARTMOUTH COLLEGE CASE
XII WEBSTER'S GREAT ORATIONS
XIII MR. WEBSTER IN THE SENATE
XIV MR. WEBSTER IN PRIVATE LIFE
XV THE LAST YEARS
THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
I THE KENTUCKY HOME
II WORK AND SORROW
III THE NEW MOTHER
IV SCHOOL AND BOOKS
V LIFE IN THE BACKWOODS
VI THE BOATMAN
VII THE FIRST YEARS IN ILLINOIS
VIII THE BLACK HAWK WAR
IX IN THE LEGISLATURE
X POLITICS AND MARRIAGE
XI CONGRESSMAN AND LAWYER
XII THE QUESTION OF SLAVERY
XIII LINCOLN AND DOUGLAS
XIV PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
XV THE END OF A GREAT LIFE
THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
[Illustration of George Washington]
THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
* * * * *
I.--WHEN WASHINGTON WAS A BOY.
When George Washington was a boy there was no United States. The land
was here, just as it is now, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the
Pacific; but nearly all of it was wild and unknown.
Between the Atlantic Ocean and the Alleghany Mountains there were
thirteen colonies, or great settlements. The most of the people who
lived in these colonies were English people, or the children of English
people; and so the King of England made their laws and appointed their
The newest of the colonies was Georgia, which was settled the year after
George Washington was born.
The oldest colony was Virginia, which had been settled one hundred and
twenty-five years. It was also the richest colony, and more people were
living in it than in any other.
There were only two or three towns in Virginia at that time, and they
were quite small.
Most of the people lived on farms or on big plantations, where they
they needed to eat. They also raised tobacco, which they
sent to England to be sold.
The farms, or plantations, were often far apart, with stretches of thick
woods between them. Nearly every one was close to a river, or some other
large body of water; for there are many rivers in Virginia.
There were no roads, such as we have nowadays, but only paths through
the woods. When people wanted to travel from place to place, they had to
go on foot, or on horseback, or in small boats.
A few of the rich men who lived on the big plantations had coaches; and
now and then they would drive out in grand style behind four or six
horses, with a fine array of servants and outriders following them. But
they could not drive far where there were no roads, and we can hardly
understand how they got any pleasure out of it.
Nearly all the work on the plantations was done by slaves. Ships had
been bringing negroes from Africa for more than a hundred years, and now
nearly half the people in Virginia were blacks.
Very often, also, poor white men from England were sold as slaves for a
few years in order to pay for their passage across the ocean. When their
freedom was given to them they continued to work at whatever
find to do; or they cleared small farms in the woods for themselves, or
went farther to the west and became woodsmen and hunters.
There was but very little money in Virginia at that time, and, indeed,
there was not much use for it. For what could be done with money where
there were no shops worth speaking
of, and no stores, and nothing to
The common people raised flax and wool, and wove their own cloth; and
they made their own tools and furniture. The rich people did the same;
but for their better or finer goods they sent to England.
For you must know that in all this country there were no great mills for
spinning and weaving as there are now; there were no factories of any
kind; there were no foundries where iron could be melted and shaped into
all kinds of useful and beautiful things.
When George Washington was a boy the world was not much like it is now.
* * * * *
George Washington's father owned a large plantation
on the western
of the Potomac River. George's great-grandfather, John Washington, had
settled upon it nearly eighty years before, and there the family had
dwelt ever since.
was in Westmoreland county, not quite forty miles above
the place where the Potomac flows into Chesapeake Bay. By looking at
your map of Virginia, you will see that the river is very broad there.
On one side of the plantation, and flowing through it, there was a
creek, called Bridge's Creek; and for this reason the place was known as
the Bridge's Creek Plantation.
It was here, on the 22d of February, 1732, that George Washington was
Although his father was a rich man, the house in which he lived was
neither very large nor very fine--at least it would not be thought so
It was a square, wooden
building, with four rooms on the ground floor
and an attic above.
The eaves were low, and the roof was long and sloping. At each end of
the house there was a huge chimney; and inside were big fireplaces, one
for the kitchen and one for the "great room" where visitors were
But George did not live long in this house. When he was about three
years old his father removed to another plantation
which he owned, near
Hunting Creek, several miles farther up the river. This new plantation
was at first known as the Washington Plantation, but it is now called
Four years after this the house of the Washingtons was burned down. But
Mr. Washington had still other lands on the Rappahannock River. He had
also an interest in some iron mines that were being opened there. And so
to this place the family was now taken.
The house by the Rappahannock was very much like the one at Bridge's
Creek. It stood on high ground, overlooking the river and some low
meadows; and on the other side of the river was the village of
Fredericksburg, which at that time was a very small village, indeed.
George was now about seven years old.
* * * * *
III.--HIS SCHOOLS AND SCHOOLMASTERS.
There were no good schools in Virginia at that time. In fact, the people
did not care much about learning.
There were few educated men besides the parsons, and even some of the
parsons were very ignorant.
It was the custom of some of the richest families to send their eldest
sons to England to the great schools there. But it is doubtful
young men learned
much about books.
They spent a winter or two in the gay society of London, and were taught
the manners of gentlemen--and that was about all.
George Washington's father, when a young man, had spent some time at
Appleby School in England, and George's half-brothers, Lawrence and
Augustine, who were several years older than he, had been sent to the
But book-learning was not thought to be of much use. To know how to
manage the business of a plantation, to be polite
to one's equals, to be
a leader in the affairs of the colony--this was thought to be the best
And so, for most of the young men, it was enough if they could read and
write a little and keep a few simple accounts. As for the girls, the
parson might give them a few lessons now and then; and if they learned
good manners and could write letters to their friends, what more could
George Washington's first teacher was a poor sexton, whose name was Mr.
Hobby. There is a story that he had been too poor to pay his passage
from England, and that he had, therefore, been sold to Mr. Washington as
a slave for a short time; but how true this is, I cannot say.
From Mr. Hobby, George learned
to spell easy words, and perhaps to write
a little; but, although he afterward became a very careful and good
penman, he was a poor speller as long as he lived.
When George was about eleven years old his father died. We do not know
what his father's intentions had been regarding
him. But possibly, if he
had lived, he would have given George the best education that his means
But now everything was changed. The plantation
at Hunting Creek, and,
indeed, almost all the rest of Mr. Washington's great estate, became the
property of the eldest
George was sent to Bridge's Creek to live for a while with his brother
Augustine, who now owned the old home plantation
there. The mother and
the younger children remained on the Rappahannock farm.
While at Bridge's Creek, George was sent to school to a Mr. Williams,
who had lately
come from England.
There are still to be seen some exercises which the lad wrote at that
time. There is also a little book, called _The Young Man's Companion_,
from which he copied, with great care, a set of rules for good behavior
and right living.
Not many boys twelve years old would care for such a book nowadays. But
you must know that in those days there were no books for children, and,
indeed, very few for older people.
The maxims and wise sayings which George copied were, no doubt, very
interesting to him--so interesting that many of them were never
There are many other things also in this _Young Man's Companion_, and we
have reason to believe that George studied
There are short chapters on arithmetic
and surveying, rules for the
measuring of land and lumber, and a set of forms for notes, deeds, and
other legal documents. A knowledge of these things was, doubtless, of
greater importance to him than the reading
of many books would have
Just what else George may have studied
in Mr. Williams's school I cannot
say. But all this time he was growing to be a stout, manly boy, tall and
strong, and well-behaved. And both his brothers and himself were
beginning to think of what he should do when he should become a man.
* * * * *
IV.--GOING TO SEA.
Once every summer a ship came up the river to the plantation, and was
moored near the shore.
It had come across the sea from far-away England, and it brought many
things for those who were rich enough to pay for them.
It brought bonnets and pretty dresses for George's mother and sisters;
it brought perhaps a hat and a tailor-made suit for himself; it brought
tools and furniture, and once a yellow coach that had been made in
London, for his brother.
When all these things had been taken ashore, the ship would hoist her
sails and go on, farther up the river, to leave goods at other
In a few weeks it would come back and be moored again at the same place.
Then there was a busy time on shore. The tobacco
that had been raised
during the last year must be carried on shipboard to be taken to the
markets in England.
The slaves on the plantation
back and forth, rolling