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   Chapter 5 LAND SPECULATION AS THE BEGINNING LEADING TO AMERICAN SELF-GOVERNMENT

The Wonderful Story of Washington By Charles M. Stevens Characters: 3653

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


We may reasonably find a beginning of the American republic, involving the career of George Washington, in the formation of what is known as the Ohio Company. If this company had been formed of unscrupulous speculators, as were other big franchises granted by kings, it could well have been a near-relative to the get-rich-quick manias that present so queer a view of men's minds, not only in those days but even in present times. But such honorable men as Lawrence and Augustine Washington were prominent in that company, and it was not long till Lawrence had chief management of the company.

A very significant controversy concerning freedom of conscience arose in the endeavor to induce the Dutch from Pennsylvania to settle on the new land grants. These Pennsylvanians were what is known as dissenters. They had a religious belief of their own. If they moved into the territory of the Ohio Company they would have to attend Episcopalian service and contribute taxes to the support of the Church of England.

Lawrence Washington was opposed to the English laws that demanded such sectarian contribution of means and life.

"It has ever been my opinion," he argued, "and I hope it will ever be, that restraints on conscience are cruel in regard to those on whom they are imposed, and injurious to the country imposing them.... Virginia was greatly settled in the latter part of Charles the First's time, and during the usurpation, by the zealous churchmen; and that spirit, which was then brought in, has ever since continued; so that, except a few Quakers, we have no dissenters. But what has been the consequence? We have increased by slow degrees, whilst our neighboring colonies, whose natural advantages are greatly inferior to ours, have become populous."

This view may look as if it had been taken from the

old saying that nothing succeeds like success, and yet this may, in the long run, be the necessary proof found in a thing being true as it works. In any event, the Washington idea was that of individual freedom, and this was the first essential in a mind that was to have such a large share in founding the government of America.

The romantic contest was now on for the possession of the great region of the Ohio and its tributaries. It was a vast wilderness of pathless forests, rich in the wild game that was then the fortune of new-world traders. The friendship of the Indians was of the highest importance to both sides. Every effort was made by both French and English to form alliances with the Indians. The French addressed themselves in all their meetings as "Fathers" to the Indians, while the English always used the term "Brothers." It was clear to all that if the "Fathers" won the allegiance of the Indians, the "Brothers" would have to go, or likewise "t'other way 'round."

While Mr. Gist, the surveyor of the Ohio Company, was finding the boundaries of their territory, he was met by an old Delaware Sachem who asked him a very embarrassing question.

"The French," said the old Indian chief, "claim all the land on one side of the Ohio, and the English claim all the land on the other side, now where does the Indian's land lie?"

The question was answered at last by time. The French "Fathers" and the English "Brothers" took it all, after which the new government of the United States came into possession; and the orator and the poet could fittingly say of the Indians, "Slowly and sadly they climb the distant mountains and read their doom in the setting sun."

But American responsibility, if not its humanity, at last settled "The Indian Question," and the "good Indian" became a new American.

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