His agricultural career has its lessons for us, even though we should not do well to follow some of his methods. The lessons lie rather in his conception of farming as an honorable occupation capable of being put on a better and more scientific basis by the application of brains and intelligence; in his open-minded and progressive seeking after better ways. Many of his experiments failed, it is true, but for his time he was a great Farmer, just as he was a great Patriot, Soldier and Statesman. Patient, hard-working, methodical, willing to sacrifice his own interests to those of the general good, he was one of those men who have helped raise mankind from the level of the brute and his whole career reflects credit upon human nature.
Peace hath its victories no less renowned than war, and the picture of the American Cincinnatus striving as earnestly on the green fields of Mount Vernon as he did upon the scarlet ones of Monmouth and Brandywine, is one that the world can not afford to forget.
A various times in his career Washington raised deer, turkeys, hogs, cattle, geese, negroes and various other forms of live stock, but his greatest interest seems to have been reserved for horses, sheep and mules.
From his diaries and other papers that have come down to us it is easy to see that during his early married life he paid most attention to his horses. In 1760 he kept a stallion both for his own mares and for those of his neighbors, and we find many entries concerning the animal. Successors were “Leonidas,” “Samson,” “Steady,” “Traveller” and “Magnolia,” the last a full-blooded Arabian and probably the finest beast he ever owned. When away from home Washington now and then directed the manager to advertise the animal then reigning or to exhibit him in public places such as fairs. Mares brought to the stallion were kept upon pasture, and foal was guaranteed. Many times the General complained of the difficulty of collecting fees.
During the Revolution he bought twenty-seven worn-out army mares for breeding purposes and soon after he became President he purchased at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, thirteen fine animals for the same use. These last cost him a total of L317.17.6, the price of the highest being L25.7.6 and of the cheapest L22.10. These mares were unusually good animals, as an ordinary beast would have cost only five or six pounds.
In November, 1785, he had on his various Mount Vernon farms a total of one hundred thirty horses, including the Arabian already mentioned. Among the twenty-one animals kept at the Mansion House were his old war horses “Nelson” and “Blewskin,” who after bearing their master through the smoke and dangers of many battles lived in peace to a ripe old age on the green fields of Virginia.