Imagini ale paginilor



THERE was at the outset considerable diversity of pattern among the governments of the colonies. As time wore on, the diversity lessened, and one great type became visible in all. There was a governor appointed by the king. There was a Parliament chosen by the people. Parliament held the purse-strings. The governor applied for what moneys the public service seemed to him to require. Parliament, as a rule, granted his demands, but not without consideration, and a distinct assertion of its right to refuse should cause appear. As the Revolution drew near, the function of the governor became gradually circumscribed by the pressure of the assemblies. When the governor, as representing the king, fell into variance with the popular will, the representatives of the people assumed the whole business of government. most loyal of the colonies resolutely defied the encroachments of the king or his governor. They had a pleasure and a pride in their connection with England; but they were, at the same time, essentially a self-governing people. From the government which existed before the Revolution it was easy for them to step into a federal union. The colonists had all their interests and all their grievances in common. It was natural for them, when trouble arose, to appoint representatives who should deliberate regarding their affairs. These representatives required an executive to give practical effect to their resolutions. The officer who was appointed for that purpose was called, not king, but President; and was chosen,


not for life, but for four years. By this simple and natural process arose the American government.

At first Virginia was governed by two councils, one of which was English, and the other colonial. Both were entirely under the king's control. In a very few years the representative system was introduced, and a popular assembly, over whose proceedings the governor retained the right of veto, regulated the affairs of the colony. Virginia maintained her loyalty to the Stuarts. Charles II. ruled her in his exile, and was crowned in a robe of Virginian silk, presented by the devoted colonists. The baffled Cavaliers sought refuge in Virginia from the hateful triumph of Republicanism. Vir

ginia refused to acknowledge the Commonwealth, and had to be subjected by force. When the exiled house was restored, her joy knew no bounds.


The New England States were of different temper and different government. While yet on board the Mayflower, the Pilgrims, as we have seen,

formed themselves into a body politic, elected their governor, and bound themselves to submit to his authority, "confiding in his prudence that he would not adventure upon any matter of moment without consent of the rest." Every church member was an elector. For sixty years this democratic form of government was continued, till the despotic James II. over


George Washington.


turned it in the closing years of his unhappy reign. The Pilgrims carried with them from England a bitter feeling of the wrongs which kings had inflicted on them, and they arrived in America a people fully disposed to govern themselves. They cordially supported Cromwell. Cromwell, on his part, so highly esteemed the people of New England that he invited them to return to Europe, and offered them settlements in Ireland. They delayed for two years to proclaim Charles II. when he was restored to the English throne. They sheltered the regicides who fled from the king's vengeance. They hailed the Revolution, by which the Stuarts were expelled and constitutional monarchy set up in England. Of all the American colonies, those of New England were the most democratic and the most intolerant of royal interference with their liberties.


New York was bestowed upon the Duke of York, who for a time appointed the governor. Pennsylvania was a grant to Penn, who exercised the same authority. Ultimately, however, in all cases, the appointment of governor rested. with the king, while the representatives were chosen by the people.


In the year 1740 there broke out a great European war. There was some doubt who should fill the Austrian throne. The emperor had just died, leaving no son or brother to inherit his dignities. His daughter, Maria Theresa, stepped into her father's place, and soon made it apparent that she was strong enough to maintain what she had done. Two or three kings thought they had a better right than she to the throne. The other kings ranged themselves on this side or on that. The idea of looking on while foolish neighbors destroyed themselves by senseless war, had not yet been suggested. Every king took part in a great war, and sent his

people forth to slay and be slain, quite as a matter of course. So they raised great armies, fought great battles, burned cities, wasted countries, inflicted and endured unutterable miseries, all to settle the question about this lady's throne. But the lady was of an heroic spirit, well worthy to govern, and she held her own, and lived and died an empress.

During these busy years a Virginian mother, widowed in early life, was training up her eldest son in the fear of God, all unaware, as she infused the love of goodness and duty into his mind, that she was giving a color to the history of her country throughout all its coming ages. That boy's name was George Washington.

He was born in 1732. His father, a gentleman of good fortune, with a pedigree which can be traced beyond the Norman conquest, died when his son was eleven years of age. Upon George's mother devolved the care of his early education. She was a devout woman, of excellent sense and deep affections; but a strict disciplinarian, and of a temper which could brook no shadow of insubordination. Under her rule gentle, and yet strong-George learned obedience and self-control. In boyhood he gave remarkable promise of those excellences which distinguished his mature years. His schoolmates recognized the calm, judicial character of his mind, and he became in all their disputes the arbiter from whose decision there was no appeal. He inherited his mother's love of command, happily tempered by a lofty disinterestedness and a love of justice, which seemed to render it impossible that he should do or permit aught that was unfair. His person was large and powerful. His face expressed the thoughtfulness and serene strength of his character. He excelled in all athletic exercises. His youthful delight in such pursuits developed his physical capabilities to the utmost, and gave him endurance to bear the hardships which lay before him.

George Washington.

Young gentlemen of Virginia were not educated then so liberally as they have been since. It was presumed that Washington would be a mere Virginian proprietor and farmer.





as his father had been; and his education was no higher than that position then demanded. He never learned any language but his own. The teacher of his early years was also

« ÎnapoiContinuă »