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The screeching of the steam whistle at the Williamsburg station seemed a curious anachronism, a noisy, pushing impertinence, a strident voice of latter-day vulgar haste. But when the big engine had rolled away, puffing and blowing and screaming as if in mischievous and irreverent effort to disturb the archaic dreams of the fast-asleep town, the "exceeding peace" which always dwells in Williamsburg, fell upon our hilarious spirits. We wandered about the streets with hushed voices and reverent eyes. The throbbing pulse of the gay, stirring, rebellious heart of the old capital of Virginia had been still for a century.

 

On entering Bruton church, the eye is first attracted on the right of the chancel to the novel sight of the governor's seat, high canopied and richly upholstered in crimson and gilt. The high-backed chair is railed off from the "common folk," and the name Alexander Spotswood in gold lettering runs around the top of the canopy. At once you realize that this was indeed the court church of the vice-regal court at Williamsburg, and that you are in old Colonial Virginia. The lines "He rode with Spotswood and Spotswood men," the knights of the "Golden Horse Shoe," run through the brain, and the knightly figure of Raleigh, the chivalric founder of the colony, and brave John Smith and a score of others, heroes of that elder day, come from out the shadowy past, and hover about one. You look at the quaint old pulpit, on the left of the church, with its high-sounding board, and then glance down at the pew on your right, which bears the name of George Washington, and opposite the plate on the pew reads Thomas Jefferson, and next are James Madison and the seven signers of the Declaration of Independance, and Peyton Randolph and Patrick Henry and the doughty members of the house of burgesses who worshiped here, and whose liberty-loving spirits fired the world with their brave protests against tyranny. When you read these names, suddenly the church seems full of the men who bore them, and you are surrounded by that goodly company of heroes who made Virginia and America, the cradle of liberty. The magic spell is upon you. You turn cold and burning hot with high enthusiasm and the glory of the vision. You are roused from your trance by the pleasant voice of the young minister, Mr. John Wing, who is saying: "Now we will go down into the crypt."

There are treasures in the crypt indeed. We follow in a dazed fashion, and are shown the Jamestown communion service; the communion silver bearing the coat-of-arms of King George III; the ancient communion silver of the College of William and Mary; the Colonial prayer book, with the prayer for the president pasted over the prayer for King George III; a parish register of 1662, the pre-Revolutionary Bible; coins found while excavating in the church, and brass head-tack letters and figures by which some of the graves in the aisles and chancel were identified. We are told that the date of parish was 1632, first brick church, 1674-83; present church 1710-15. Precious and deeply interesting, but I imagined that I could hear the tread of that "knightly company" upstairs, who let neither silver nor gold nor the glitter of the vice-regal court at Williamsburg seduce them from their love of liberty, nor dull their hatred of tyranny in its slightest exercise. Ah! there were giants in those days among those Virginia pioneers, in whose veins ran the hot blood of the cavalier, who loved truth and hated a lie, who loved life and despised danger, and feared not death nor "king nor kaiser," descendants of the valiant Jamestown colonists to whom Nathaniel Bacon cried one hundred years before: "Come on, my hearts of gold!"

The tombstones in the aisle and chancel of the church include the tombs of two Colonial governors--Francis Fauquier and Edmund Jennings--and the graves of the great-grandfather, the grandfather and grandmother of Mrs. Martha Washington. After reading the quaint inscription on the marble mural tablet in memory of Colonel Daniel Parke and the inscriptions on the bronze mural tablets memorial to Virginia churchmen and patriots, we climb to "Lord Dunmore's gallery," where, tradition says, the boys of William and Mary College used to be locked in for their soul's edification until service was over, and where we sat in Thomas Jefferson's accustomed place, from whence he looked down upon the heads of the members of the house of burgesses and the Colonial vestrymen of distinguished memory. Is it any wonder that in such environment the boy's dreamy aspirations crystallized into the high resolve of becoming a patriot and statesman? For in those stormy days preceding the Revolution this little Bruton parish church was a very Pantheon of living heroes.

Fiske, the New England historian, says that "the five men who more than any others have shaped the future of American history were Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Marshall and Hamilton." All but Hamilton were Virginians and worshipers at Bruton church, and two of them were students of the College of William and Mary. Distinction unrivaled for the state, the church, the college.

And now we walk into the church yard, under venerable trees, among crumbling grave stones and see the Pocahontas baptismal font and the tombs of the Custis children and Colonial Governor Knott.

We are shown the home of George Wythe, the signer of the Declaration, the teacher of Jefferson, Monroe and Marshall. Great teacher of greater pupils! Inspirer of high thoughts and immortal deeds! One of the students at William and Mary, Jefferson, wrote the declaration, three were presidents, and another, John Marshall, was Chief Justice of the United States. The headquarters of Washington, the site of the first theater in America, 1732, the Ancient Palace green on the right hand of which is the fictional home of Audrey, and several ancient colonial homes are pointed out to us. If any vestige remains of the old Raleigh tavern, whose "Apollo" room was famous as the gathering place of the burgesses, who, after their dismissal in 1769 asked an agreement not to use or import any article upon which a tax is laid--it was not shown to us.

The old powder horn or powder magazine, a curious hexagonal building, has been admirably restored and stands as a reminder of that dramatic scene in Virginia history in 1775 when, after Lord Dunmore had removed the powder from the magazine into one of the vessels in the James, fearing an uprising of the colonists, Patrick Henry, with an armed force from Hanover, stalked into the governor's presence and demanded the return of the powder or its equivalent in money. Lord Dunmore, looking into those dauntless eyes, beholds the dauntless soul of the "Firebrand of the Revolution" behind them, and yields at once and pays down £330 sterling. Patrick Henry, with splendid audacity, seizes a pen and signs the receipt, "Patrick Henry, Jr." making himself alone responsible for this act of high treason, and then, that there may be no doubt as to his signature, he has it attested by two distinguished gentlemen. What heroic daring! What impassioned love of liberty! While Peyton, Randolph and Richard Henry Lee counsel caution, Patrick Henry acts and becomes the inspired genius of the revolution, fusing the disunited and hesitating colonies into a nation by the white heat of his burning passion for freedom.

First in importance of all the historic places in Williamsburg is the venerable college of William and Mary. Founded in 1693, next to Harvard the oldest college in the United States, it soon became the "intellectual center of the colony of Chesapeake Bay," the alma mater of the patriots who fought for the life of the young republic and of the statesmen who formed its constitution and guided its course in its infant years. It has furnished to our country fifteen senators and seventy representatives in congress; thirty-seven judges, and Chief Justice Marshall; seventeen governors of states and three presidents of the United States--Jefferson, Monroe and Tyler. James Blair, a Scotchman, was its first president and remained so for fifty years. The ivy-clad buildings of the old college nestle among ancient trees on a wide campus, and so venerable is the look of the place that the new hall seems a modern intruder, though of quiet and well-mannered architecture. The quiet air of scholarly seclusion reminds one of Oxford. It was commencement day, and we found the buildings decorated with white and yellow, the college colors. The chapel, with its oil paintings of presidents, donors and patriots, and the library with its rare volumes and priceless old documents and portraits and engravings, are full of interest. A marble statue of one of the old governors--Botetourt, I believe--stands in the silence of the centuries in front of the old college.

"Yas'm ris de place, de house er buggesses, dey call it, 'cause de big bugs of ole Virginny sot dere er making laws. 'Fo de Lawd, marm, dey wuz big bugs; quality folks, quality folks." And John Randolph, our colored coachman, waved his hand with a proud air of ownership, as if he were displaying lofty halls with mahogany stairs and marble pillars, instead of the mortar and brick foundation, in its bare outline, of the old capitol, or House of Burgesses.

"Walk right in, suh. Bring de ladies dis way, boss," John Randolph urged, in a tone of lordly hospitality. "Right hyah is the charmber (room) whar Marse Patrick Henry made dat great speech agin de king--old Marse King George--or bossin' uv de colonies. He wuz er standing on dis very spot, and he lif' up his voice like a lion and he sez, sez he--"

"What did he say?" as the old man paused.

Striking a dramatic attitude, the gray-haired old Virginia darky rolled out in sonorous voice, with impassioned gesture:

"Tarquin and Caesar had each his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell and George the Third--" "Treason! treason!" said the speaker of the house. "May profit by their example. If that be treason, make the most of it."

In spite of John Randolph's oratory, Rothermel's painting came before me, and I could see the Virginia cavaliers gazing at the speaker with startled, breathless look, while the colonial dames with their powdered hair and stiff brocade leaned eagerly forward in the gallery to catch each note of the immortal voice; and in the doorway stood Thomas Jefferson, the slim young student of William and Mary College, electrified by the fiery eloquence, "such as I had never heard from any other man," he said: "he appeared to me to speak as Homer wrote."

"But why didn't you say 'Give me liberty or give me death,' Uncle John?" asked the young interrogation point of the party.

"'Cause Marse Patrick never said dem words here, chile. He spoke 'em in old St. John's Church up in Richmond ten year arterwards. I gin you his Williamsburg speech, his fust great speech." And the darky orator and historian smiled with that superior wisdom which we had seen illumminate the dark Italian features of Antonio Griffenreid, the famous sexton of old St. John's as he enlightened the ignorance of a party of sightseers.--_Atlanta Constitution._