Chapter XI. The Mutterings of the Storm
And now for several years Washington lived
the life of a country
gentleman. He had enough to do, taking care of his plantations,
foxes with his sport-loving neighbors, and sitting for a part
year in the House of Burgesses at Williamsburg.
He was a tall man--more than six feet in height. He had a
presence and a noble air, which plainly said: "This is
no common man."
He was shrewd in business. He was the best horseman and the
walker in Virginia. And no man knew more about farming than
And so the years passed pleasantly enough at Mount Vernon,
were few who dreamed of the great events and changes that were
King George the Third of England, who was the ruler of the
colonies, had done many unwise things.
He had made laws forbidding the colonists from trading with
countries than his own.
He would not let them build factories to weave their wool
and flax into
He wanted to force them to buy all their goods in England,
and to send
their corn and tobacco and cotton there to pay for them.
And now after the long war with France he wanted to make the
pay heavy taxes in order to meet the expenses of that war.
They must not drink a cup of tea without first paying tax
on it - they
must not sign a deed or a note without first buying stamped
which to write it.
In every colony there was great excitement on account of the
and the stamp act, as it was called.
In the House of Burgesses at Williamsburg, a young man, whose
Patrick Henry, made a famous speech in which he declared that
had no right to tax them without their consent.
George Washington heard that speech, and gave it his approval.
Not long afterward, news came that in Boston a ship-load of
tea had been
thrown into the sea by the colonists. Rather than pay the tax
they would drink no tea.
Then, a little later, still other news came. The king had
port of Boston, and would not allow any ships to come in or
More than this, he had sent over a body of soldiers, and had
them in Boston in order to keep the people in subjection.
The whole country was aroused now. What did this mean? Did
intend to take away from the colonists all the liberties that
dear to men?
The colonies must unite and agree upon doing something to
themselves and preserve their freedom. In order to do this
was asked to send delegates to Philadelphia to talk over the
see what would be the best thing to do.
George Washington was one of the delegates from Virginia.
Before starting he made a great speech
in the House of Burgesses. "If
necessary, I will raise a thousand men," he said, "subsist
them at my
own expense, and march them to the relief of Boston."
But the time for marching to Boston had not quite come.
The delegates from the different colonies met in Carpenter's
Philadelphia, on the 5th of September, 1774. Their meeting
been known as the First Continental Congress of America.
For fifty-one days those wise, thoughtful men discussed the
question that had brought them together. What could the colonists
escape the oppressive laws that the King of England was trying
Many powerful speeches were made, but George Washington sat
was a doer rather than a talker.
At last the Congress decided to send an address to the king
him of the rights of the colonists, and humbly beg that he
enforce his unjust laws.
And then, when all had been done that could be done, Washington
back to his home at Mount Vernon, to his family and his friends,
plantations, his fox-hunting, and his pleasant life as a country
But he knew as well as any man that more serious work was
near at hand.