These are the things,
which once possess’d
Will make a life that’s truly bless’d
A good Estate on healthy Soil,
Not Got by Vice nor yet by toil;
Round a warm Fire, a pleasant Joke,
With Chimney ever free from Smoke:
A strength entire, a Sparkling Bowl,
A quiet Wife, a quiet Soul,
A Mind, as well as body, whole
Prudent Simplicity, constant Friend,
A Diet which no art Commends;
A Merry Night without much Drinking
A happy Thought without much Thinking;
Each Night by Quiet Sleep made Short
A Will to be but what thou art:
Possess’d of these, all else defy
And neither wish nor fear to Die
These are things, which once Possess’d
Will make a life that’s truly bless’d.
George Washington did not affect the role of a Cincinnatus; he took it in all sincerity and simpleness of heart because he loved it.
Nor was he the type of farmer—of whom we have too many—content to vegetate like a lower organism, making scarcely more mental effort than one of his own potatoes, parsnips or pumpkins. As the pages that follow will reveal, he was one of the first American experimental agriculturists, always alert for better methods, willing to take any amount of pains to find the best fertilizer, the best way to avoid plant diseases, the best methods of cultivation, and he once declared that he had little patience with those content to tread the ruts their fathers trod. If he were alive to-day, we may be sure that he would be an active worker in farmers’ institutes, an eager visitor to agricultural colleges, a reader of scientific reports and an enthusiastic promoter of anything tending to better American farming and farm life.
BUILDING AN ESTATE
Augustine Washington was a planter who owned thousands of acres of land, most of it unimproved, besides an interest in some small iron works, but he had been twice married and at his death left two broods of children to be provided for. George, a younger son—which implied a great deal in those days of entail and primogeniture—received the farm on the Rappahannock on which his father lived, amounting to two hundred and eighty acres, a share of the land lying on Deep Run, three lots in Frederick, a few negro slaves and a quarter of the residuary estate. He was also given a reversionary interest in Mount Vernon, bequeathed to his half-brother Lawrence. The total value of his inheritance was small, and, as Virginia landed fortunes went, he was left poorly provided for.