Awake, my boy! and let the rising sun
Blush to see his vigilance outdone;
In cheerful works consume the fleeting day,
Toil thy pleasure, and business all thy play.
BUT of all the virtues that adorned the life of this great man, there is none more worthy of our imitation than his admirable industry. It is to this virtue in her Washington, that America stands indebted for services past calculation: and it is from this virtue, that Washington himself snatched a wreath of glory that will never fade away. O that the good genius of America may prevail! that the example of this, her favourite son, may be but universally adopted! Soon shall our land be free from all those sloth-begotten demons which now haunt and torment us. For whence do all our miseries proceed, but from lack of industry! In a land like this, which heaven has blessed above all lands--a land abounding with the fish and flesh pots of Egypt, and flowing with the choicest milk and honey of Canaan--a land where the poorest Lazarus may get his fifty cents a day for the commonest labour--and buy the daintiest bread of corn flour for a cent a pound! why is any man hungry, or thirsty, or naked, or in prison? why but through his unpardonable sloth?
But alas! what would it avail, though the blest shade of Washington were to descend from his native skies, and with an angel's voice, recommend industry as the handmaid of health, wealth, innocence, and happiness to man. A notion, from the land of lies, has taken too deep root among some, that "labour is a low-lived thing, fit for none but poor people and slaves! and that dress and pleasure are the only accomplishments for a gentleman! But does it become a gentleman to saunter about, living on the charity of his relations--to suffer himself to be dunned by creditors, and, like a hunted wolf, to fly from the face of sheriffs and constables? Is it like a gentleman to take a generous woman from her parents, and reduce her to beggary--to see even her bed sold from under her, and herself and weeping infants turned out of doors ? Is it like a gentleman to reduce one's children to rags, and to drive them like birds of heaven, to hedges and highways, to pick berries, filling their pale bloated bodies with disease? Or is it like a gentleman to bring up one's sons in sloth, pleasure, and dress, as young noblemen, and then leave them without estates, profession, or trades, to turn gamblers, sharpers, or horse thieves? "From such gentlemen, oh save my country, Heaven! " was Washington's perpetual prayer, the emphatical prayer of his life and great example! In his ear, wisdom was heard incessantly calling aloud, " He is the real gentleman, who cheerfully contributes his every exertion to accomplish heaven's favourite designs, the beauty, order and happiness of human life; whose industry appears in a plentiful house and smiling wife; in the decent apparel of his children, and in their good education and virtuous manners; who is not afraid to see any man on earth; but meets his creditors with a smiling countenance, and with the welcome music of gold and silver in his hand; who exerts an honest industry for wealth, that he may become as a water-course in a thirsty land, a source of refreshment to a thousand poor."
This was the life, this the example set by Washington. His whole inheritance was but a small tract of poor land in Stafford county, and a few negroes. This appearing utterly insufficient for those purposes of usefulness, with the charms of which his mind seems to have been early smitten, he resolved to make up the deficiency by dint of industry and economy.-- For these virtues, how excellent! how rare in youth! Washington was admirably distinguished when but a boy. At a time when many young men have no higher ambition than a fine coat and a frolic, " often have I seen him (says the reverend Mr. Le Massey) riding about the country with his surveying instruments at his saddle," enjoying the double satisfaction of obliging his fellow citizens by surveying their lands, and of making money, not meanly to hoard, but generously to lend to any worthy object that asked it. This early industry was one of the first steps to Washington's preferment. It attracted on him the notice and admiration of his numerous acquaintance, and, which was still more in his favour, it gave such uncommon strength to his constitution, such vigour to his mind, such a spirit for adventure, that he was ready for any glorious enterprise, no matter how difficult or dangerous. Witness the expedition from Williamsburg through the Indian country to the Ohio, which at the green age of twenty-one, he undertook for Governor Dinwiddie. Indeed this uncommon attachment to industry and useful life, made such an impression on the public mind in his favour, that by the time he was one and twenty he was appointed major and adjutant- general of the Virginia forces in the Northern Neck!
There was at this time a young fellow in Williamsburg by the name of Jack B , who possessed considerable vivacity, great good-nature, and several accomplishments of the bon companion sort. He could tell a good story, sing agreeably, scrape a little on the fiddle, and cut as many capers to the tune of old Roger, as any buck a-going; and being, besides, a young fellow of fortune, and a son of an intimate acquaintance, Jack was a great favourite of the governor, and much at his house. But all this could not save poor Jack from the twinges of envy. For, on hearing every body talk in praise of Major Washing- ton, he could not help saying one day at the governor's table, " I wonder what makes the people so wrapped up in Major Washington: I think, begging your excellency's pardon, I had as good a right to a major's commission." "Ah, Jack," replied the governor, " when we want diversion, we send for you. But when we want a man of business, we send for Major Washington."
Never was the great Alfred more anxious to improve his time than our Washington: and it appears that, like Alfred, he divided his time into four grand- departments, sleep, devotion, recreation, and business. On the hours of business, whether in his own or his country's service, he would allow nothing to infringe. While in camp, no company, however illustrious-- no pleasures, however elegant--no conversation, however agreeable--could prevail on him to neglect his business. The moment that his hour of duty was come, he would fill his glass, and with a smile, call out to his friends around the social board, " Well, gentlemen, here is bon repos," and immediately with- draw to business. Bon repos is a French cant for good night. Washington drank it as a signal to break up; for the moment the company had swallowed the general's bon repos, it was hats and off. General Wayne, who, happily for America, understood fighting better than French, had some how or other taken up a notion, that this same bon repos, to whom Washington made such conscience of giving his last bumper, must have been some great warrior of the times of old. Having, by some extraordinary luck, gotten hold of two or three dozen of good old wine, he invited a parcel of hearty fellow-officers to dine with him, and help him to break them to the health of America. Soon as the cloth was removed, and the bottles on the table, the hero of Stony Point cried out, " Come my brave fellows, fill your glass; here's old bon repos for ever." The officers were thunderstruck: but having turned off their wine, rose up, one and all to go. " Hey day! what's all this, gentlemen? what's all this?"
" Why," replied they, " did not you drink bon repos, or good night ? "
" What! is that the meaning of it? " " Yes." " Oh! then, damn old bon repos, and take your seats again: for, by the life of Washington, you shan't stir a peg till we have started every drop of our wine."
While he was employed in choosing a place on the Potomac, for the federal city, his industry was no less remarkable. Knowing how little is generally done before breakfast, he made it a rule to rise so early as to have breakfast over, and be on horseback by the time the sun was up. Let the rising generation remember that he was then sixty years of age!
On his farm, his husbandry of time was equally exemplary. He contemplated a great object: an object worthy of Washington. He aimed at teaching his countrymen the art of enriching their lands, and consequently of rendering the condition of man and beast more plentiful and happy. He had seen thousands of acres, which, by constant cultivation, had lost the power of covering their nakedness even with a suit of humble sedge. He had seen thousands of wretched cattle, which, driven out houseless and hayless into the cold wintry rains, presented such trembling spectacles of starvation and misery, as were enough to start the tear into Pity's eye. To remedy these cruel evils (which certainly they are, for He who lent us these animals never meant that we should make their lives a curse to them, much less to our children, hardened by such daily sights of misery), Washington generously set himself to make artificial meadows; to cultivate fields of clover; and to raise the most nutritious vegetables, such as cabbage, turnips, scarcity and potatoes; of which last article he planted in one year 700 bushels I To render these vast supplies of food the more beneficial to his cattle, he built houses of shelter for them all. " He showed me a barn," says Brissot, " upwards of IOO feet square, and of brick, designed as a store- house for his corn, potatoes, turnips, &c., around which he had constructed stables of an amazing length, for his cattle." Every one of them had a stall well littered with leaves or straw; and a rack and manger well furnished with hay and provender.
The pleasure and profits arising from such an arrangement are incalculable. How delicious must it have been to a man of Washington's feelings, to re-flect that, even in the very worst weather, every creature, on his extensive farms, was warmly and comfortably provided; to have seen his numerous flocks and herds, gamboling around him through excess of joy, and fullness of fat; to have beheld his steps washed with butter, and his dairies floated with rivers of milk; to have seen his once naked fields and frog- croaking swamps, now, by clearance or manure, converted into meadows, standing thick with heavy crops of timothy and sweet scented clover; while his farm- yards were piled with such quantities of litter and manure as afforded a constantly increasing fertility to his lands.
Here was an employment worthy of Washington; an employment, which we might indeed have expected from him, who, through life, had studied the best interests of his countrymen; who, first as a soldier, had defended them from slavery, and crowned them with liberty; then, as a statesman, had preserved them from war, and secured to them the blessings of peace; and now as the last, but not the least services of his life, was teaching them the great arts of improving their farms, multiplying their cattle, enriching their lands, and thus pouring a flood of plenty and of comfort through the joyful habitations of man and beast.
Full of the greatly benevolent idea, no wonder that he was so frugal of his time. Though the most hospitable of all the hospitable Virginians, he would not suffer the society of his dearest friends to take him from his business. Long accustomed to find his happiness in doing his duty, he had attained to such a royal arch degree of virtue, as to be restless and uneasy while his duty was neglected. Hence, of all that ever lived, Washington was the most rigidly observant of those hours of business which were necessary to the successful management of his vast concerns. " Gentlemen, (he would often say to his friends who visited him) I must beg leave of absence a few hours in the forenoon: here is plenty of amusements, books, music, &c. Consider yourselves at home, and be happy." He came in about twelve o'clock; and then, as if animated by the consciousness of having done his duty, and that all was going right, would give himself up to his friends and to decent mirth the rest of the day.
But his mornings were always his own. Long before the sun peeped into the chambers of the sluggard, Washington was on horseback, and out among his overseers and servants: and neither himself nor any about him were allowed to eat the bread of idleness. The happy effects of such industry were obvious.Well manured and tilled, his lands yielded a grateful return: and it was at once pleasing and astonishing to behold the immense quantities of fine hay, of fat cattle, and choice grain, that were raised on his farms; of wheat 7000 bushels in one year, and 5000 bushels of Indian corn! His servants fared plentifully. His cattle never had the hollow horn. And the surplus of his prudence, sold to the merchants, furnished bread to the needy, and a revenue to himself more than sufficient to defray his vast expenditures, and to spread a table of true Virginian hospitality for those crowds of friends and foreigners whom affection or curiosity led to visit him.
Oh! divine Industry! queen mother of all our virtues and of all our blessings! what is there of great or of good in this wide world that springs not from thy royal bounty ? And thou, O ! infernal Sloth ! fruitful fountain of all our crimes and curses! what is there of mean or of miserable in the lot of man that flows not from thy hellish malice?
What was it that betrayed David, otherwise the best of kings, into the worst of crimes ? Idleness. Sauntering about idly on the terrace of his palace, he beheld the naked beauties of the distant Bathsheba. Lust, adultery, and murder were the consequences.
What was it that brought on a ten years' war between the Greeks and Trojans ? Idleness. Young Paris, the coxcomb of Troy, having nothing to do, strolls over to the court of Menelaus (a Greek prince); whose beauteous wife, Helen, the black-eyed queen of love, he corrupts and carries off to Troy. A bloody war ensues. Paris is slain. His father, brothers, and myriads of wretched subjects are slaughtered: and Troy, the finest city of Asia, is reduced to ashes!
What was it that hurried poor Mr. A_d to that horrid act of suicide, which froze the blood of all who heard it? Idleness. His young wife, with all that we could conceive of sweetness, tenderness, and truth in an angel's form; and his three beauteous babes were the three graces in smiling infancy. But oh, wretched man! having nothing to do! he strolled to a tavern, and to a card table, where he lost his all! five thousand pounds, lately settled on him by a fond father! He awakes to horrors unutterable! What will become of his ruined wife! his beggared babes? Believing his torments little inferior to those of the damned, he seizes the fatal pistol; drives the scorching bullet through his brains; and flies a shrieking ghost to join the mournful throng!
O sad sight! see yon tall young man, in powder and ruffles, standing before his judges, trembling like an aspen, and pale and blank as the picture of guilt; while the crowded court house, every countenance filled with pity or contempt, is fixed upon him. Alas! what could have brought him to this ? Idleness. His father happening to possess 500 acres of poor land, and a few negroes, thought it would be an eternal disgrace to his family to bring up his son, (though he had many,) to be a mechanic. No: he must be a gentle- man!! Grown to man's estate, and having no profession, trade, or habit of industry to support this pleasant life, he took to horse-stealing. If we had leisure to wait, we should presently see this unhappy youth, on receiving sentence of death, bursting into sobs and cries sufficient to make us wish he had never been born. But let us leave these horrible scenes of shame, misery, and death, into which idleness never fails to bring poor deluded youth, and joyfully return to our beloved Washington, and to his health, wealth, and glory-giving goddess, Industry.
What is it that braces the nerves, purifies the blood, and hands down the flame of life, bright and sparkling, to old age? What, but rosy checked Industry. See Washington so invigorated by constant exercise, that, though hereditarily subject to the gout, of which all his family died, he entirely escaped it; and, even at the age of 66, continued straight and active as a young grenadier, and ready once more at his country's call, to lead her eager warriors to the field.
What is it that preserves the morals of young men unsoiled, and secures the blessings of unblemished character and unbroken health ? What, but snow- robed industry? See Washington under the guardianship of industry, walking the slippery paths of youth, safe and uncorrupted, though born in a country whose fertility and climate furnished both the means and invitation of vice. Early smitten with the love of glory; early engaged in the noble pursuit of knowledge, of independence, and of usefulness; he had no eyes to see bad examples, nor ensnaring objects; no ears to hear horrid oaths, nor obscene language; no leisure for impure passions nor criminal amours. Hence he enjoyed that purity of soul, which is rightly called its sunshine; and which impressed a dignity on his character, and gave him a beauty and loveliness in the eyes of men, that contributed more to his rise in the world, than young people can readily conceive.
And what is it that raises a young man from poverty to wealth, from obscurity to never-dying fame ? What, but industry ? See Washington, born of humble parents, and in humble circumstances--born in a narrow nook and obscure corner of the British plantations! yet lo! What great things wonder-working industry can bring out of this unpromising Nazareth. While but a youth, he manifested such a noble contempt of sloth, such a manly spirit to be always learning or doing some- thing useful or clever, that he was the praise of all who knew him. And, though but 15, so high were the hopes entertained of him, he was appointed a surveyor! arduous task! But his industry was a full match for it. Such was the alertness with which he carried on his survey; such the neatness and accuracy of his plats and drafts, that he met with universal applause. Full-fed and flushed with so much fare of praise, a fare of all other the most toothsome and wholesome to generous minds, our young eagle began to flap his wings of honest ambition, and to pant for nobler darings. A fair occasion was soon offered--a dangerous expedition through the Indian wilds, as already mentioned, to the French Mamelukes on the Ohio. Nobody else having ambition for such an adventure, Washington's offer was gladly accepted. And he executed that hazardous and important trust with such diligence and propriety, that he received the thanks of the governor and council, Honours came down on him now in showers. He was appointed major and adjutant-general of the Virginia forces; then a colonel; afterwards a member of the house of burgesses; next, generalissimo of the armies of the United States; and, finally, chief magistrate of the Union. All these floods of prosperity and honour, which in thousands would have but served to bloat with lust or pride, with him served but the more to rouse his industry, and to enlarge his usefulness; for such was his economy of time, and so admirable his method and regularity of business, that he always kept a-head of it.* No letters of consequence were unanswered. No reasonable expectations were disappointed. No necessary information was ever neglected. Neither the congress, nor the governors of the several states, nor the officers of his army, nor the British generals, nor even the overseers and stewards on his farms, were uninformed what he expected from them. Nobody concerned with him was idle or fretted for want of knowing what to do.
O admirable man! O great preceptor to his country! no wonder every body honoured him who honoured every body; for the poorest beggar that wrote to him on business, was sure to receive a speedy and decisive answer. No wonder every body loved him who, by his unwearied attention to the public good, manifested the tenderest love for every body. No wonder that his country delighted to honour him, who 'shewed such a sense of her honours that he would not allow even a leaf of them to wither; but so watered them all with the refreshing streams of industry, that they continued to bloom with ever-increasing glory on his head.
Since the day that God created man on the earth, none ever displayed the power of industry more signally than did George Washington. Had he, as prince of Wales, or as dauphin of France rendered such great services, or attained such immortal honours, it would not have seemed so marvellous in our eyes. But that a poor young man, with neither king, lords, nor commons to back him--with no princes, nor strumpets of princes, to curry favour for him--with no gold but his virtue, no silver but his industry, should, with this old- fashioned coin, have stolen away the hearts of all the American Israel, and from a sheep-cot have ascended the throne of his country's affections, and acquired a name above the mighty ones of the earth! this is marvellous indeed! It is surely the noblest panegyric ever yet paid to that great virtue, industry, which has " length of days in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honours."
Young reader! go thy way; think of Washington; and HOPE. Though humble thy birth, low thy fortune, and few thy friends, still think of Washington; and HOPE. Like him, honour thy God; and delight in glorious toil. Then, like him, " thou shalt stand before kings. Thou shalt not stand before common men."