« EdellinenJatka »
to cross the Atlantic, was ambitious to obtain letters from him to celebrated characters in Europe. With numbers of the officers of the late army, with many of the political characters of his own country and with several eminent individuals of Europe, he held a correspondence. Ceremonious visitors' and officious correspondents became oppressive to him, and in a letter to a friend, he thus complained of the burden of them. “ It is not, my dear Sir, the let. ters of my friends which give me trouble,or add ought to my perplexity. I receive them with pleasure, and pay as much attention to them as my avocations will permit.
It is references to old matters with which I have nothing to do; applications which often times cannot be complied with; inquiries to satisfy which would employ the pen of an historian ; letters of compliment, as unmeaning, perhaps, as they are troublesome, but which must be attended to; and the common place business, which employ my pen and my time, often disagreeably. Indeed these, with company, deprive me of exercise ; and unless I can obtain relief, must be productive of disagreeable consequences. Already, I begin to feel their effects. Heavy and painful oppressions of the head, and other disagreeable sensations often trouble me. I am therefore determined to employ some person who shall, ease me of the drudgery of this business. .... To correspond with those I love is
among my highest gratifications. Letters of friendship require no study ; the communications they contain flow with ease ; and allowances are expected and are made. But this is not the case with those which require research, consideration and recollection.” At length he engaged a young gentleman of talents and education, who relieved him from a great part of these irksoine attentions.
The patriotick mind of General WASHINGTON could not however be engrossed by his own concerns. In his retirement, he with solicitude watched over the interests of his country. The improvement of its inland navigation early engaged his reflections. Plans which the war had interrupted, were now resumed upon an enlarged scale. This year he visited the western country as far as Pittsburg, and hav: ing collected the necessary information, he opened his scheme to Mr. Harrison, then Governour of Vir. ginia. This was to render the rivers Potomack and James navigable as high as practicable ; to take accurate surveys of the country between these rivers and the streams which empty into the Ohio, and find the most advantageous portages between them; to survey the waters west of the Ohio, which empty into the lakes; and to open such inland navigation between these waters, as would secure the trade of the western country to Virginia and Maryland. “Nature," he observed “had made such an ample display of her bounties in those regions, that the more the country was explored the more it would rise in estimation.” He was persuaded that Pennsylvania and New York would adopt measures, to direct the trade of that country to their sea ports, and he was anxious that his native státe should seåsonably avail herself of the advantages she possessed to secure her share in it.
“ I am not,” he declared, “for discouraging the exertions of any state to draw the commerce of the western country to its seaports. The more com. munications we open to it, the closer we bind that rising world, (for it indeed may be so called) to our interests, and the greater strength shall we acquire by it. Those to whom nature affords the best communication, will, if they are wise, enjoy the greatest share of the trade. All I would be understood to mean therefore, is, that the gifts of Providence may not be neglected.” But political motives had higher influence in this transaction than commercial. “I need not remark to you, Sir,” said he in his communication to the Governour of Virginia, “ that the Aanks and rear of the United States are possessed by other powers, and formidable ones too; nor need I press the necessity of applying the cement of interest to bind all parts of the union together by indissoluble bonds; especially of binding that part of it which lies immediately west of us, to the middle states. For what ties, let me ask, should we have upon those people, how entirely unconnected with them shall we be, and what troubles may we not apprehend, if the Spaniards on their right, and Great Britain on their left, instead of throwing impediments in their way as they now do, should hold out lures for their trade and alliance ? When they get strength, which will be sooner than most people conceive, what will be the consequence of their having formed close commercial connexions with both, or either of those powers, it needs not in my opinion, the gift of prophecy to foretell.
“ The western settlers (I speak now from my own observations) stand as it were upon a pivot. The touch of a feather would turn them any way. Until the Spaniards (very unwisely as I think) threw difficulties in their way, they looked down the Missisippi ; and they looked that way for no other reason than because they could gently glide down the stream ; without considering perhaps the fatigues of the voyage back again, and the time necessary for its performance; and because they have no other means of coming to us, but by a long land transportation through unimproved roads."
These recommendations were not lost. Under the patronage of the governments of Virginia and Maryland, two companies were formed for opening the navigation of the Potomack and the James. Of both which Gen. WASHINGTON consented to be the president. The Legislature of Virginia by a resolution which passed unanimously, directed the treasurer of the state to subscribe for one hundred and fifty shares in each company for the benefit of General WASHINGTON. The appropriation was made in a manner the most affecting to a noble mind. The assembly expressed a wish, that while the improvements of their inland navigation were monuments of his glory, they might also be monuments of his country's gratitude. The donation placed him in a very delicate and embarrassed situation. The feelings excited by this generous and honourable act of his state, he fully expressed to the friend, who informed him of the passage of the bill. “It is not easy for me to decide by which
my mind was most affected upon the receipt of your letter of the sixth instant.....surprise or gratitude. Both were greater than I had words to express. The attention and good wishes which the assembly has evidenced by their act for vesting in me one hundred and fifty shares in the navigation of the rivers Potomack and James, is more than mere com. pliment.... There is an unequivocal and substantial meaning annexed. But, believe me sir, no circumstance has happened since I left the walks of publick life which has so much embarrassed me. On the one hand, I consider this act, as I have already observed, as a noble and unequivocal proof of the good opinion, the affection, and disposition of my country to serve me; and I should be hurt, if by declining the acceptance of it, my refusal should be construed into disrespect, or the smallest slight upon the general intention of the Legislature; or that an ostentatious display of disinterestedness, or publick virtue, was the source of refusal.
“On the other hand, it is really my wish to have my mind and my actions, which are the result of reflection, as free and independent as the air, that I may be more at liberty (in things which my opportunities and experience have brought me to the knowledge of) to express my sentiments, and if ne. cessary, to suggest what may occur to me, under the fullest conviction that although my judgment may be arraigned, there will be no suspicion that sinis. ter motives had the smallest influence in the suggestion. Not content then with the bare conscious. ness of my having in all this navigation business,