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The True George Washington
Family Relations
by Ford, Paul Leicester

Although Washington wrote that the history of his ancestors was, in his opinion, "of very little moment," and "a subject to which I confess I have paid very little attention," few Americans can prove a better pedigree. The earliest of his forebears yet discovered was described as "gentleman," the family were granted lands by Henry the Eighth, held various offices of honor, married into good families, and under the Stuarts two were knighted and a third served as page to Prince Charles. Lawrence, a brother of the three thus distinguished, matriculated at Oxford as a "generosi filius" (the intermediate class between sons of the nobility, "armigeri filius," and of the people, "plebeii filius"), or as of the minor gentry. In time he became a fellow and lector of Brasenose College, and presently obtained the good living of Purleigh. Strong royalists, the fortunes of the family waned along with King Charles, and sank into insignificance with the passing of the Stuart dynasty. Not the least sufferer was the rector of Purleigh, for the Puritan Parliament ejected him from his living, on the charge "that he was a common frequenter of ale-houses, not only himself sitting dayly tippling there ... but hath oft been drunk,"--a charge indignantly denied by the royalists, who asserted that he was a "worthy Pious man, ... always ... a very Modest, Sober Person;" and this latter claim is supported by the fact that though the Puritans sequestered the rich living, they made no objection to his serving as rector at Brixted Parva, where the living was "such a Poor and Miserable one that it was always with difficulty that any one was persuaded to accept of it."

Poverty resulting, John, the eldest son of this rector, early took to the sea, and in 1656 assisted "as second man in Sayleing ye Vessel to Virginia." Here he settled, took up land, presently became a county officer, a burgess, and a colonel of militia. In this latter function he commanded the Virginia troops during the Indian war of 1675, and when his great-grandson, George, on his first arrival on the frontier, was called by the Indians "Conotocarius," or "devourer of villages," the formidable but inappropriate title for the newly-fledged officer is supposed to have been due to the reputation that John Washington had won for his name among the Indians eighty years before.


Both John's son, Lawrence, and Lawrence's son, Augustine, describe themselves in their wills as "gentlemen," and both intermarried with the "gentry families" of Virginia. Augustine was educated at Appleby School, in England, like his grandfather followed the sea for a time, was interested in iron mines, and in other ways proved himself far more than the average Virginia planter of his day. He was twice married,--which marriages, with unconscious humor, he describes in his will as "several Ventures,"--had ten children, and died in 1743, when George, his fifth child and the first by his second "Venture," was a boy of eleven. The father thus took little part in the life of the lad, and almost the only mention of him by his son still extant is the one recorded in Washington's round school-boy hand in the family Bible, to the effect that "Augustine Washington and Mary Ball was Married the Sixth of March 17-30/31. Augustine Washington Departed this Life ye 12th Day of April 1743, Aged 49 Years."

The mother, Mary Washington, was more of a factor, though chiefly by mere length of life, for she lived to be eighty-three, and died but ten years before her son. That Washington owed his personal appearance to the Balls is true, but otherwise the sentimentality that has been lavished about the relations between the two and her influence upon him, partakes of fiction rather than of truth. After his father's death the boy passed most of his time at the homes of his two elder brothers, and this was fortunate, for they were educated men, of some colonial consequence, while his mother lived in comparatively straitened circumstances, was illiterate and untidy, and, moreover, if tradition is to be believed, smoked a pipe. Her course with the lad was blamed by a contemporary as "fond and unthinking," and this is borne out by such facts as can be gleaned, for when his brothers wished to send him to sea she made "trifling objections," and prevented his taking what they thought an advantageous opening; when the brilliant offer of a position on Braddock's staff was tendered to Washington, his mother, "alarmed at the report," hurried to Mount Vernon and endeavored to prevent him from accepting it; still again, after Braddock's defeat, she so wearied her son with pleas not to risk the dangers of another campaign that Washington finally wrote her, "It would reflect dishonor upon me to refuse; and that, I am sure, must or ought to give you greater uneasiness, than my going in an honorable command." After he inherited Mount Vernon the two seem to have seen little of each other, though, when occasion took him near Fredericksburg, he usually stopped to see her for a few hours, or even for a night.

Though Washington always wrote to his mother as "Honored Madam," and signed himself "your dutiful and aff. son," she none the less tried him not a little. He never claimed from her a part of the share of his father's estate which was his due on becoming of age, and, in addition, "a year or two before I left Virginia (to make her latter days comfortable and free from care) I did, at her request, but at my own expence, purchase a commodious house, garden and Lotts (of her own choosing) in Fredericksburg, that she might be near my sister Lewis, her only daughter,--and did moreover agree to take her land and negroes at a certain yearly rent, to be fixed by Colo Lewis and others (of her own nomination) which has been an annual expence to me ever since, as the estate never raised one half the rent I was to pay. Before I left Virginia I answered all her calls for money; and since that period have directed my steward to do the same." Furthermore, he gave her a phaeton, and when she complained of her want of comfort he wrote her, "My house is at your service, and [I] would press you most sincerely and most devoutly to accept it, but I am sure, and candor requires me to say, it will never answer your purposes in any shape whatsoever. For in truth it may be compared to a well resorted tavern, as scarcely any strangers who are going from north to south, or from south to north, do not spend a day or two at it. This would, were you to be an inhabitant of it, oblige you to do one of 3 things: 1st, to be always dressing to appear in company; 2d, to come into [the room] in a dishabille, or 3d to be as it were a prisoner in your own chamber. The first you'ld not like; indeed, for a person at your time of life it would be too fatiguing. The 2d, I should not like, because those who resort here are, as I observed before, strangers and people of the first distinction. And the 3d, more than probably, would not be pleasing to either of us."

Under these circumstances it was with real indignation that Washington learned that complaints of hers that she "never lived soe poore in all my life" were so well known that there was a project to grant her a pension. The pain this caused a man who always showed such intense dislike to taking even money earned from public coffers, and who refused everything in the nature of a gift, can easily be understood. He at once wrote a letter to a friend in the Virginia Assembly, in which, after reciting enough of what he had done for her to prove that she was under no necessity of a pension,--"or, in other words, receiving charity from the public,"--he continued, "But putting these things aside, which I could not avoid mentioning in exculpation of a presumptive want of duty on my part; confident I am that she has not a child that would not divide the last sixpence to relieve her from real distress. This she has been repeatedly assured of by me; and all of us, I am certain, would feel much hurt, at having our mother a pensioner, while we had the means of supporting her; but in fact she has an ample income of her own. I lament accordingly that your letter, which conveyed the first hint of this matter, did not come to my hands sooner; but I request, in pointed terms, if the matter is now in agitation in your Assembly, that all proceedings on it may be stopped, or in case of a decision in her favor, that it may be done away and repealed at my request."

Still greater mortification was in store for him, when he was told that she was borrowing and accepting gifts from her neighbors, and learned "on good authority that she is, upon all occasions and in all companies, complaining ... of her wants and difficulties; and if not in direct terms, at least by strong innuendoes, endeavors to excite a belief that times are much altered, &c., &c., which not only makes her appear in an unfavorable point of view, but those also who are connected with her." To save her feelings he did not express the "pain" he felt to her, but he wrote a brother asking him to ascertain if there was the slightest basis in her complaints, and "see what is necessary to make her comfortable," for "while I have anything I will part with it to make her so;" but begging him "at the same time ... to represent to her in delicate terms, the impropriety of her complaints, and acceptance of favors, even when they are voluntarily offered, from any but relations." Though he did not "touch upon this subject in a letter to her," he was enough fretted to end the renting of her plantation, not because "I mean ... to withhold any aid or support I can give from you; for whilst I have a shilling left, you shall have part," but because "what I shall then give, I shall have credit for," and not be "viewed as a delinquent, and considered perhaps by the world as [an] unjust and undutiful son."

In the last years of her life a cancer developed, which she refused to have "dressed," and over which, as her doctor wrote Washington, the "Old Lady" and he had "a small battle every day." Once Washington was summoned by an express to her bedside "to bid, as I was prepared to expect, the last adieu to an honored parent," but it was a false alarm. Her health was so bad, however, that just before he started to New York to be inaugurated he rode to Fredericksburg, "and took a final leave of my mother, never expecting to see her more," a surmise that proved correct.

Only Elizabeth--or "Betty"--of Washington's sisters grew to womanhood, and it is said that she was so strikingly like her brother that, disguised with a long cloak and a military hat, the difference between them was scarcely detectable. She married Fielding Lewis, and lived at "Kenmore House" on the Rappahannock, where Washington spent many a night, as did the Lewises at Mount Vernon. During the Revolution, while visiting there, she wrote her brother, "Oh, when will that day arrive when we shall meet again. Trust in the lord it will be soon,--till when, you have the prayers and kind wishes for your health and happiness of your loving and sincerely affectionate sister." Her husband died "much indebted," and from that time her brother gave her occasional sums of money, and helped her in other ways.

Her eldest son followed in his father's footsteps, and displeased Washington with requests for loans. He angered him still more by conduct concerning which Washington wrote to him as follows:
"Sir, Your letter of the 11th of Octor. never came to my hands 'till yesterday. Altho' your disrespectful conduct towards me, in coming into this country and spending weeks therein without ever coming near me, entitled you to very little notice or favor from me; yet I consent that you may get timber from off my Land in Fauquier County to build a house on your Lott in Rectertown. Having granted this, now let me ask you what your views were in purchasing a Lott in a place which, I presume, originated with and will end in two or three Gin shops, which probably will exist no longer than they serve to ruin the proprietors, and those who make the most frequent applications to them. I am, &c."

Other of the Lewis boys pleased him better, and he appointed one an officer in his own "Life Guard." Of another he wrote, when President, to his sister, "If your son Howell is living with you, and not usefully employed in your own affairs, and should incline to spend a few months with me, as a writer in my office (if he is fit for it) I will allow him at the rate of three hundred dollars a year, provided he is diligent in discharging the duties of it from breakfast until dinner--Sundays excepted. This sum will be punctually paid him, and I am particular in declaring beforehand what I require, and what he may expect, that there may be no disappointment, or false expectations on either side. He will live in the family in the same manner his brother Robert did." This Robert had been for some time one of his secretaries, and at another time was employed as a rent-collector.

Still another son, Lawrence, also served him in these dual capacities, and Washington, on his retirement from the Presidency, offered him a home at Mount Vernon. This led to a marriage with Mrs. Washington's grandchild, Eleanor Custis, a match which so pleased Washington that he made arrangements for Lawrence to build on the Mount Vernon estate, in his will named him an executor, and left the couple a part of this property, as well as a portion of the residuary estate.

As already noted, much of Washington's early life was passed at the homes of his elder (half-) brothers, Lawrence and Augustine, who lived respectively at Mount Vernon and Wakefield. When Lawrence developed consumption, George was his travelling companion in a trip to Barbadoes, and from him, when he died of that disease, in 1752, came the bequest of Mount Vernon to "my loveing brother George." To Augustine, in the only letter now extant, Washington wrote, "The pleasure of your company at Mount Vernon always did, and always will afford me infinite satisfaction," and signed himself "your most affectionate brother." Surviving this brother, he left handsome bequests to all his children.

Samuel, the eldest of his own brothers, and his junior by but two years, though constantly corresponded with, was not a favorite. He seems to have had extravagant tendencies, variously indicated by five marriages, and by (perhaps as a consequence) pecuniary difficulties. In 1781, Washington wrote to another brother, "In God's name how did my brother Samuel get himself so enormously in debt?" Very quickly requests for loans followed, than which nothing was more irritating to Washington. Yet, though he replied that it would be "very inconvenient" to him, his ledger shows that at least two thousand dollars were advanced, and in a letter to this brother, on the danger of borrowing at interest, Washington wrote, "I do not make these observations on account of the money I purpose to lend you, because all I shall require is that you return the net sum when in your power, without interest." Better even than this, in his will Washington discharged the debt.

To the family of Samuel, Washington was equally helpful. For the eldest son he obtained an ensigncy, and "to save Thornton and you [Samuel] the expence of buying a horse to ride home on, I have lent him a mare." Two other sons he assumed all the expenses of, and showed an almost fatherly interest in them. He placed them at school, and when the lads proved somewhat unruly he wrote them long admonitory letters, which became stern when actual misconduct ensued, and when one of them ran away to Mount Vernon to escape a whipping, Washington himself prepared "to correct him, but he begged so earnestly and promised so faithfully that there should be no cause for complaint in the future, that I have suspended punishment." Later the two were sent to college, and in all cost Washington "near five thousand dollars."

An even greater trouble was their sister Harriot, whose care was assumed in 1785, and who was a member of Washington's household, with only a slight interruption, till her marriage in 1796. Her chief failing was "no disposition ... to be careful of her cloathes," which were "dabbed about in every hole and corner and her best things always in use," so that Washington said "she costs me enough!" To her uncle she wrote on one occasion, "How shall I apologise to my dear and Honor'd for intruding on his goodness so soon again, but being sensible for your kindness to me which I shall ever remember with the most heartfelt gratitude induces me to make known my wants. I have not had a pair of stays since I first came here: if you could let me have a pair I should be very much obleiged to you, and also a hat and a few other articles. I hope my dear Uncle will not think me extravagant for really I take as much care of my cloaths as I possibly can." Probably the expense that pleased him best in her case was that which he recorded in his ledger "By Miss Harriot Washington gave her to buy wedding clothes $100."

His second and favorite brother, John Augustine, who was four years his junior, Washington described as "the intimate companion of my youth and the friend of my ripened age." While the Virginia colonel was on the frontier, from 1754 to 1759, he left John in charge of all his business affairs, giving him a residence at and management of Mount Vernon. With this brother he constantly corresponded, addressing him as "Dear Jack," and writing in the most intimate and affectionate terms, not merely to him, but when John had taken unto himself a wife, to her, and to "the little ones," and signing himself "your loving brother." Visits between the two were frequent, and invitations for the same still more so, and in one letter, written during the most trying moment of the Revolution, Washington said, "God grant you all health and happiness. Nothing in this world could contribute so to mine as to be fixed among you." John died in 1787, and Washington wrote with simple but undisguised grief of the death of "my beloved brother."

The eldest son of this brother, Bushrod, was his favorite nephew, and Washington took much interest in his career, getting the lad admitted to study law with Judge James Wilson, in Philadelphia, and taking genuine pride in him when he became a lawyer and judge of repute. He made this nephew his travelling companion in the Western journey of 1784, and at other times not merely sent him money, but wrote him letters of advice, dwelling on the dangers that beset young men, though confessing that he was himself "not such a Stoic" as to expect too much of youthful blood. To Bushrod, also, he appealed on legal matters, adding, "You may think me an unprofitable applicant in asking opinions and requiring services of you without dousing my money, but pay day may come," and in this he was as good as his word, for in his will Washington left Bushrod, "partly in consideration of an intimation to his deceased father, while we were bachelors and he had kindly undertaken to superintend my Estates, during my military services in the former war between Great Britain and France, that if I should fall therein, Mt. Vernon ... should become his property," the home and "mansion-house farm," one share of the residuary estate, his private papers, and his library, and named him an executor of the instrument.

Of Washington's relations with his youngest brother, Charles, little can be learned. He was the last of his brothers to die, and Washington outlived him so short a time that he was named in his will, though only for a mere token of remembrance. "I add nothing to it because of the ample provision I have made for his issue." Of the children so mentioned, Washington was particularly fond of George Augustine Washington. As a mere lad he used his influence to procure for him an ensigncy in a Virginia regiment, and an appointment on Lafayette's staff. When in 1784 the young fellow was threatened with consumption, his uncle's purse supplied him with the funds by which he was enabled to travel, even while Washington wrote, "Poor fellow! his pursuit after health is, I fear, altogether fruitless." When better health came, and with it a renewal of a troth with a niece of Mrs. Washington's, the marriage was made possible by Washington appointing the young fellow his manager, and not merely did it take place at Mount Vernon, but the young couple took up their home there. More than this, that their outlook might be "more stable and pleasing," Washington promised them that on his death they should not be forgotten. When the disease again developed, Washington wrote his nephew in genuine anxiety, and ended his letter, "At all times and under all circumstances you and yours will possess my affectionate regards." Only a few days later the news of his nephew's death reached him, and he wrote his widow, "To you who so well know the affectionate regard I had for our departed friend, it is unnecessary to describe the sorrow with which I was afflicted at the news of his death." He asked her and her children "to return to your old habitation at Mount Vernon. You can go to no place where you can be more welcome, nor to any where you can live at less expence and trouble," an offer, he adds, "made to you with my whole heart." Furthermore, Washington served as executor, assumed the expense of educating one of the sons, and in his will left the two children part of the Mount Vernon estate, as well as other bequests, "on account of the affection I had for, and the obligation I was under to their father when living, who from his youth attached himself to my person, and followed my fortunes through the vicissitudes of the late Revolution, afterwards devoting his time for many years whilst my public employments rendered it impracticable for me to do it myself, thereby affording me essential services and always performing them in a manner the most filial and respectful."

Of his wife's kith and kin Washington was equally fond. Both alone and with Mrs. Washington he often visited her mother, Mrs. Dandridge, and in 1773 he wrote to a brother-in-law that he wished "I was master of Arguments powerful enough to prevail upon Mrs. Dandridge to make this place her entire and absolute home. I should think as she lives a lonesome life (Betsey being married) it might suit her well, & be agreeable, both to herself & my Wife, to me most assuredly it would." Washington was also a frequent visitor at "Eltham," the home of Colonel Bassett, who had married his wife's sister, and constantly corresponded with these relatives. He asked this whole family to be his guests at the Warm Springs, and, as this meant camping out in tents, he wrote, "You will have occasion to provide nothing, if I can be advised of your intentions, so that I may provide accordingly." To another brother-in-law, Bartholomew Dandridge, he lent money, and forgave the debt to the widow in his will, also giving her the use during her life of the thirty-three negroes he had bid in at the bankruptcy sale of her husband's property.

The pleasantest glimpses of family feeling are gained, however, in his relations with his wife's children and grandchildren. John Parke and Martha Parke Custis--or "Jack" and "Patsey," as he called them--were at the date of his marriage respectively six and four years of age, and in the first invoice of goods to be shipped to him from London after he had become their step-father, Washington ordered "10 shillings worth of Toys," "6 little books for children beginning to read," and "1 fashionable-dressed baby to cost 10 shillings." When this latter shared the usual fate, he further wrote for "1 fashionable dress Doll to cost a guinea," and for "A box of Gingerbread Toys & Sugar Images or Comfits." A little later he ordered a Bible and Prayer-Book for each, "neatly bound in Turkey," with names "in gilt letters on the inside of the cover," followed ere long by an order for "1 very good Spinet" As Patsy grew to girlhood she developed fits, and "solely on her account to try (by the advice of her Physician) the effect of the waters on her Complaint," Washington took the family over the mountains and camped at the "Warm Springs" in 1769, with "little benefit," for, after ailing four years longer, "she was seized with one of her usual Fits & expired in it, in less than two minutes, without uttering a word, or groan, or scarce a sigh." "The Sweet Innocent Girl," Washington wrote, "entered into a more happy & peaceful abode than she has met with in the afflicted Path she has hitherto trod," but none the less "it is an easier matter to conceive than to describe the distress of this family" at the loss of "dear Patsy Custis."

[Illustration Removed: JOHN AND MARTHA PARKE CUSTIS]

The care of Jack Custis was a worry to Washington in quite another way. As a lad, Custis signed his letters to him as "your most affectionate and dutiful son," "yet I conceive," Washington wrote, "there is much greater circumspection to be observed by a guardian than a natural parent." Soon after assuming charge of the boy, a tutor was secured, who lived at Mount Vernon, but the boy showed little inclination to study, and when fourteen, Washington wrote that "his mind [is] ... more turned ... to Dogs, Horses and Guns, indeed upon Dress and equipage." "Having his well being much at heart," Washington wished to make him "fit for more useful purposes than [a] horse racer," and so Jack was placed with a clergyman, who agreed to instruct him, and with him he lived, except for some home visits, for three years. Unfortunately, the lad, like the true Virginian planter of his day, had no taste for study, and had "a propensity for the [fair] sex." After two or three flirtations, he engaged himself, without the knowledge of his mother or guardian, to Nellie Calvert, a match to which no objection could be made, except that, owing to his "youth and fickleness," "he may either change and therefore injure the young lady; or that it may precipitate him into a marriage before, I am certain, he has ever bestowed a serious thought of the consequences; by which means his education is interrupted." To avoid this danger, Washington took his ward to New York and entered him in King's College, but the death of Patsy Custis put a termination to study, for Mrs. Washington could not bear to have the lad at such a distance, and Washington "did not care, as he is the last of the family, to push my opposition too far." Accordingly, Jack returned to Virginia and promptly married.

The young couple were much at Mount Vernon from this time on, and Washington wrote to "Dear Jack," "I am always pleased with yours and Nelly's abidance at Mount Vernon." When the winter snows made the siege of Boston purely passive, the couple journeyed with Mrs. Washington to Cambridge, and visited at head-quarters for some months. The arrival of children prevented the repetition of such visits, but frequent letters, which rarely failed to send love to "Nelly and the little girls," were exchanged. The acceptance of command compelled Washington to resign the care of Custis's estate, for which service "I have never charged him or his sister, from the day of my connexion with them to this hour, one farthing for all the trouble I have had in managing their estates, nor for any expense they have been to me, notwithstanding some hundreds of pounds would not reimburse the moneys I have actually paid in attending the public meetings in Williamsburg to collect their debts, and transact these several matters appertaining to the respective estates." Washington, however, continued his advice as to its management, and in other letters advised him concerning his conduct when Custis was elected a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. In the siege of Yorktown Jack served as an officer of militia, and the exposure proved too much for him. Immediately after the surrender, news reached Washington of his serious illness, and by riding thirty miles in one day he succeeded in reaching Eltham in "time enough to see poor Mr. Custis breath his last," leaving behind him "four lovely children, three girls and a boy."

Owing to his public employment, Washington refused to be guardian for these "little ones," writing "that it would be injurious to the children and madness in me, to undertake, as a principle, a trust which I could not discharge. Such aid, however, as it ever may be with me to give to the children especially the boy, I will afford with all my heart, and on this assurance you may rely." Yet "from their earliest infancy" two of Jack's children, George Washington Parke and Eleanor Parke Custis, lived at Mount Vernon, for, as Washington wrote in his will, "it has always been my intention, since my expectation of having issue has ceased, to consider the grandchildren of my wife in the same light as my own relations, and to act a friendly part by them." Though the cares of war prevented his watching their property interests, his eight years' absence could not make him forget them, and on his way to Annapolis, in 1783, to tender Congress his resignation, he spent sundry hours of his time in the purchase of gifts obviously intended to increase the joy of his homecoming to the family circle at Mount Vernon; set forth in his note-book as follows:

"By Sundries bo't. in Phil'a.
    A Locket                         5  5
    3 Small Pockt. Books              1 10
    3 Sashes                          1  5 0
    Dress Cap                         2  8
    Hatt                              3 10
    Handkerchief                      1
    Childrens Books                      4 6
    Whirligig                            1 6
    Fiddle                               2 6
    Quadrille Boxes                   1 17 6."
Indeed, in every way Washington showed how entirely he considered himself as a father, not merely speaking of them frequently as "the children," but even alluding to himself in a letter to the boy as "your papa." Both were much his companions during the Presidency. A frequent sight in New York and Philadelphia was Washington taking "exercise in the coach with Mrs. Washington and the two children," and several times they were taken to the theatre and on picnics.

For Eleanor, or "Nelly," who grew into a great beauty, Washington showed the utmost tenderness, and on occasion interfered to save her from her grandmother, who at moments was inclined to be severe, in one case to bring the storm upon himself. For her was bought a "Forte piano," and later, at the cost of a thousand dollars, a very fine imported harpsichord, and one of Washington's great pleasures was to have her play and sing to him. His ledger constantly shows gifts to her ranging from "The Wayworn traveller, a song for Miss Custis," to "a pr. of gold eardrops" and a watch. The two corresponded. One letter from Washington merits quotation:

[Illustration Removed: ELLANOR (NELLY) CUSTIS]
"Let me touch a little now on your Georgetown ball, and happy, thrice happy, for the fair who assembled on the occasion, that there was a man to spare; for had there been 79 ladies and only 78 gentlemen, there might, in the course of the evening have been some disorder among the caps; notwithstanding the apathy which one of the company entertains for the 'youth' of the present day, and her determination 'Never to give herself a moment's uneasiness on account of any of them.' A hint here; men and women feel the same inclinations towards each other now that they always have done, and which they will continue to do until there is a new order of things, and you, as others have done, may find, perhaps, that the passions of your sex are easier raised than allayed. Do not therefore boast too soon or too strongly of your insensibility to, or resistance of, its powers. In the composition of the human frame there is a good deal of inflammable matter, however dormant it may lie for a time, and like an intimate acquaintance of yours, when the torch is put to it, that which is within you may burst into a blaze; for which reason and especially too, as I have entered upon the chapter of advices, I will read you a lecture from this text."
Not long after this was written, Nelly, as already mentioned, was married at Mount Vernon to Washington's nephew, Lawrence Lewis, and in time became joint-owner with her husband of part of that place.

As early as 1785 a tutor was wanted for "little Washington," as the lad was called, and Washington wrote to England to ask if some "worthy man of the cloth could not be obtained," "for the boy is a remarkably fine one, and my intention is to give him a liberal education." His training became part of the private secretary's duty, both at Mount Vernon and New York and Philadelphia, but the lad inherited his father's traits, and "from his infancy ... discovered an almost unconquerable disposition to indolence." This led to failures which gave Washington "extreme disquietude," and in vain he "exhorted him in the most parental and friendly manner." Custis would express "sorrow and repentance" and do no better. Successively he was sent to the College of Philadelphia, the College of New Jersey, and that at Annapolis, but from each he was expelled, or had to be withdrawn. Irritating as it must have been, his guardian never in his letters expressed anything but affection, shielded the lad from the anger of his step-father, and saw that he was properly supplied with money, of which he asked him to keep a careful account,--though this, as Washington wrote, was "not because I want to know how you spend your money." After the last college failure a private tutor was once more engaged, but a very few weeks served to give Washington "a thorough conviction that it was in vain to keep Washington Custis to any literary pursuits, either in a public Seminary or at home," and, as the next best thing, he procured him a cornetcy in the provisional army. Even here, balance was shown; for, out of compliment and friendship to Washington, "the Major Generals were desirous of placing him as lieutenant in the first instance; but his age considered, I thought it more eligible that he should enter into the lowest grade."

In this connection one side of Washington's course with his relations deserves especial notice. As early as 1756 he applied for a commission in the Virginia forces for his brother, and, as already shown, he placed several of his nephews and other connections in the Revolutionary or provisional armies. But he made clear distinction between military and civil appointments, and was very scrupulous about the latter. When his favorite nephew asked for a Federal appointment, Washington answered,--
"You cannot doubt my wishes to see you appointed to any office of honor or emolument in the new government, to the duties of which you are competent; but however deserving you may be of the one you have suggested, your standing at the bar would not justify my nomination of you as attorney to the Federal District Court in preference to some of the oldest and most esteemed general court lawyers in your State, who are desirous of this appointment. My political conduct in nominations, even if I were uninfluenced by principle, must be exceedingly circumspect and proof against just criticism; for the eyes of Argus are upon me, and no slip will pass unnoticed, that can be improved into a supposed partiality for friends or relations."
And that in this policy he was consistent is shown by a letter of Jefferson, who wrote to an office-seeking relative, "The public will never be made to believe that an appointment of a relative is made on the ground of merit alone, uninfluenced by family views; nor can they ever see with approbation offices, the disposal of which they entrust to their Presidents for public purposes, divided out as family property. Mr. Adams degraded himself infinitely by his conduct on this subject, as Genl. Washington had done himself the greatest honor. With two such examples to proceed by, I should be doubly inexcusable to err."

There were many other more distant relatives with whom pleasant relations were maintained, but enough has been said to indicate the intercourse. Frequent were the house-parties at Mount Vernon, and how unstinted hospitality was to kith and kin is shown by many entries in Washington's diary, a single one of which will indicate the rest: "I set out for my return home--at which I arrived a little after noon--And found my Brother Jon Augustine his Wife; Daughter Milly, & Sons Bushrod & Corbin, & the Wife of the first. Mr. Willm Washington & his Wife and 4 Children."

His will left bequests to forty-one of his own and his wife's relations. "God left him childless that he might be the father of his country."


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