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TO THE READER.
A DESIRE to diffuse among the people a more intimate knowledge of the origin, progress, adoption, and administration of the Constitution and government under which they live and flourish; and to give them a more distinct and accessible history of the two great Founders of the Republic, have been among the chief inducements to this publication. Having remarked, that, no work of this kind was to be procured in a cheap, popular, and current form, it occurred to the Editor, that much prejudice might be removed, and much information imparted by presenting in a shape susceptible of general perusal, the leading events of history, and the prominent traits of character, peculiar to the two Statesmen, whose lives are here delineated. Popular information on these points, is certainly a desideratum; and the Editor, without presumption, ventures to indulge the hope, that this. volume may contribute to supply a deficiency, which on all hands is acknowledged to be a reproach to our national character. Ignorance on any subject is disreputable; but to be ignorant of the genius, virtues, and achievements of GEORGE WASHINGTON, and THOMAS JEFFERSON, ought justly to raise a blush to the cheek of every American.
In selecting the incidents of the life of WASHINGTON, I have followed a guide, whose love of truth, and ardour of patriotism, was an ample guarantee that he would not misciples; his integrity of mind being only equal to his purity of purpose, and lofty independence of character and sentiment-attributes and virtues, which have secured to MARSHALL’s LIFE OF WASHINGTON, the reputation of an elegant and sterling history of that great man; which must cause every American to regret, that its voluminous size, places it beyond the reach of the popular reader.
Towards the venerable author of that work, now in the age of the Patriarchs, after having consummated the labours of the Patriot, I cannot withhold the homage of my
entire esteem; not less as the friend and historian of the Father of his Country, than as the impartial and unr. expounder of the laws and Constitution of the U.. States, who, combining the highest genius with the pui cut virtue, presents us with a model of those Statemen, who flourished in the days of Washington, as ornaments of their country, and the best friends of rational Liberty.
The disinterested patriot, might now be permitted to cherish the hope, that the time has at length arrived, when difference of political opinion need not beget inveterate personal animosity; and that variety of views in respect to national policy, may be tolerated without that impeachment of motive, which would originate accusations of harbouring schemes of monarchy on the one hand, or disorganizing tenets of jacobinical licentiousness on the other. In this matter, the venerable CHIEF JUSTICE has set us an example, every way worthy of the father of his Country, whose biography he has so elegantly composed, and whose creed of political tolerance, he has so faithfully illustrated. And whatever may be our opinion of the powers of the Court over which he presides, with so much genius, learn. ing, and dignity, we cannot abstain from yielding him the homage of our veneration and gratitude; veneration for his unspotted patriotism, and gratitude for his public services; to say nothing of the esteem we cherish for his virtues, the admiration in which we hold his talents, and the encomiums we are ever ready to lavish on his beautiful literary productions; his profound legal investigations, and his honest juridical expositions of the laws and Constitution of our country.
The sources from which I have drawn the facts of Mr. Jefferson's life and history, are too authentic to admit of dispute; being his own pen, and his own letters. We have too, on all important points, preferred that he should give his own sentiments in his own language; so that instead of being seen through a mirror, he might be contemplated in his own naked proportions of truth and reality; not like the statute of Jupiter, in cold and doubtful resemblance, but like the living Deity himself, full of life, and breathing immortality.
FEW men, either of ancient or modern times, have extorted such universal homage from mankind, as the subject of this biography; whose virtues and prudence seem to have supplied what was deficient in his genius—and whose genius appears to have supplied whatever might be wanting in those political perfections, which are always implied in the unity of a great and illustrious character. Equally distinguished for public services, and private virtuemas eminent in the cabinet for wisdom of council, as he was skilful in his plans of war, and brave in the conflicts of the field-endowed with the highest patriotism, or love of country, mixed with a wholesome ambition, whose end and aim was true glory—it is not surprising that mankind should have become, as it were, fascinated, by a concentration of rare qualities in the person of GeorGE WASHINGTON, which have seldom, if ever, been found so happily united in the same individual-or allotted, in such harmonious proportions, as to produce a character so exempt from all vicious excess, as to border close upon perfection; yet, at the same time, presenting the full force of all those passions, which are so apt to run into violence, degenerate into evil, or become pernicious and disgusting by their extravagance.
The contemplation of the life of such a man must ever excite the curiosity of mankind, and kindle a feeling of laudable pride in the bosom of every American citizen, who values the principles of liberty, or appreciates the glory of the country to which he is indebted for the enjoyment of happiness, and the exercise of the rights and dignity of a
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human being. Identified with the rise, history, and independence of his country, the life of Washington becomes à subject of double interest to all, as combining the great events of the most memorable revolution recorded in history, with the genius and virtues of an individual, who realises the grandeur of ancient heroes, blended with the best traits of virtue peculiar to the sages and philosophers of Greece and Rome.
GEORGE WASHINGTON was born on the 22d of February, 1732. He was a native of Virginia, the son of Augustin Washington, and first drew his breath at Bridges Creek, in the County of Westmoreland of that state, in the family mansion of his great grandfather, John Washington, who had emigrated from the north of England about the year 1657. He was the eldest of five children, by the second marriage of his father, with Miss Mary Ball, a lady of fortune, who had descended from one of the first families in Virginia. The first wife of his father was a Miss Dandridge, by whom he had two children.
By the death of his father, he was left an orphan at the tender age of ten years; but his patrimonial estate being small, his education was necessarily limited to a mere English course of study, while his youth, from the same cause, was devoted to pursuits of useful industry; and it appears that his first profession was that of a Surveyor, which is said to have given him a knowledge of vacant lands, that materially contributed to the subsequent increase of his fortune.
Being a favourite son, left at a tender age to the care of an affectionate mother, he naturally became an object of great solicitude to his surviving parent.
At fifteen, his propensity for military life became so far developed, that he succeeded, by his importunity, in obtaining the berth of Midshipman in the British navy; having manifested that irresistible enthusiasm for war, which characterises an inherent propensity for a particular profession, upon the occasion of hostilities being declared by England against France and Spain.
But the fears of his mother induced her to oppose this perilous destination of her son, and for a time suspended the commencement of his military career.
At the age of nineteen, he was appointed an Adjutant General of Virginia, when the militia were in training for