[Illustration: First page of the Diary for 1760]
In 1794 our Farmer had five thousand white thorn sent from England for hedge purposes, but they arrived late in the spring and few survived and even these did not thrive very well. Another time he sent from Philadelphia two bushels of honey locust seed to be planted in his nursery. These are only instances of his activities in this direction.
Much of what he undertook as a planter of trees failed for one reason or another, most of all because he attended to the business of his country at the expense of his own, but much that he attempted succeeded and enough still remains to enable us to realize that by his efforts he made his estate attractive. He was no Barbarian or Philistine. He had a sense of beauty and it is only in recent years that his countrymen, absorbed in material undertakings, have begun to appreciate the things that he was enjoying so long ago.
“The visitor at Mount Vernon still finds a charm no art alone could give, in trees from various climes, each a witness of the taste that sought, or the love that sent them, in fields which the desolating step of war reverently passed by, in flowers whose root is not in graves, yet tinged with the lifeblood of the heart that cherished them from childhood to old age. On those acres we move beneath the shade or shelter of the invisible tree which put forth whatever meets the eye, and has left some sign on each object, large or small. Still planted beside his river, he brings forth fruit in his season. Nor does his leaf wither.”
WHITE SERVANTS AND OVERSEERS
In colonial Virginia, as in most other new countries, one of the greatest problems that confronted the settlers was that of labor. It took human muscle to clear away the forest and tend the crops, and the quantity of human muscle available was small. One solution of the problem was the importation of black slaves, and of this solution as it concerned Washington something will be said in a separate chapter. Another solution was the white indentured servant.
Some of these white servants were political offenders, such as the followers of Monmouth, who were punished by transportation for a term of years or for life to the plantations. Others were criminals or unfortunate debtors who were sold in America instead of being sent to jail. Others were persons who had been kidnapped and carried across the sea into servitude. Yet others were men and women who voluntarily bound themselves to work for a term of years in payment of their passage to the colonies. By far the largest number of the white servants in Washington’s day belonged to this last-mentioned class, who were often called “redemptioners.” Some of these were ambitious, well-meaning people, perhaps skilled artisans, who after working out their time became good citizens and often prospered. A few were even well educated. In favor of the convicts, however, little could be said. In general they were ignorant and immoral and greatly lowered the level of the population in the Southern States, the section to which most of them were sent.