Reminiscences of Washington
THE JOHN QUINCY ADAMS ADMINISTRATION, 1825—1329.
THERE was little cordiality, during the administration of John Quincy Adams, between the occupants of the Capitol and of the Executive Mansion, or, as it has been called since the occupation of Washington by the British, the White House. The interior of the building was then burned, and the exterior walls were so blackened by the smoke that they were painted white to conceal the marks of the conflagration.
Mr. Adams, who had been defeated by the people, and whose election by the house of representatives was believed by many to have been secured by a bargain between his friends and those of Henry Clay, sought to conciliate his opponents by attempting in his inaugural message to ignore party lines. In this he followed the example of Mr. Jefferson, who commenced his administration, erected on the overthrow of his political antagonists, with the memorable declaration, “We have called by different names brethren of the same principle ; we are all republicans, — we are all federalists.” His early appointments were made without regard to the political opinions of the appointees, and he appeared determined so to distribute his “ patronage ” as neither to reward his partisans nor to proscribe his opponents. Instead of harmonizing the personal feuds between the friends of those who had been candidates with him, he antagonized each one with his administration at the earliest possible moment, and before the expiration of his first year in the White House he had wrecked the republican party left by Monroe as completely as his father had wrecked the federal party established by Washington.
Mr. Adams’s failure in the administration of an office for which he had been educated inspired him with a wayward and an obstinate sprite of contrariety. He was honest, in the common acceptance of the word, yet his sense of political morality was so warped that he was dogged and daring without the advantages accruing from honesty. The federalists hated him, because he had deserted their ranks, in which he naturally belonged; while the democrats (or republicans, as they called themselves) distrusted him, because they knew that at heart he was their enemy. He was faithful to his public duties, not only examining the details of executive business, as it was transacted in the different departments, but passing many of his evenings in mechanically signing patents and land-warrants. His annual and special messages to Congress displayed immense information and profound reflection; but many of the recommendations made in them were cold abstractions, of no practical value, and they were never heeded.
Copyright, 1880, by HOUGHTON, OSGOOD & Co
The president had married, when in London, Miss Louisa Catherine Johnson. Her father was an American by birth, but just before the Revolution he went to England, where he resided until after the independence of the colonies had been recognized. His brother, then the governor of Maryland, obtained the passage of an act by the Assembly of that State establishing his title to lands which would otherwise have been confiscated, and he returned to the United States, where he was appointed superintendent of revenue stamps. Mrs. Adams was well educated, highly accomplished, and well qualified to preside over the domestic affairs at the White House. She had four children, — three sons and one daughter, — of whom one only, Mr. Charles Francis Adams, survived her. It is related, as evidence of her good sense, that on one occasion Mrs. Mason, of Analostan Island, called, accompanied by two or three other ladies belonging to the first families of Virginia, to enlist Mrs. Adams in behalf of her son-in-law, Lieutenant Cooper (afterwards adjutant - general of the United States army, and subsequently of the Confederate forces), who wanted to be detailed as an aid-de-camp on the staff of General Macomb. Mrs. Adams heard their request, and then replied: “ Truly, ladies, though Mesdames Maintenon and Pompadour are said to have controlled the military appointments of their times, I do not think such matters appertain to women ; but if they did, and I had any influence with Mr. Adams, it should be given to Mrs. Scott, with whom I became acquainted while traveling last summer.”
Mr. Adams’s private secretary was his son, John Adams, who had inherited many of his peculiarities, and who soon made himself very obnoxious to the friends of General Jackson. One evening, Mr. Russell Jarvis, who then edited The Washington Telegraph, a newspaper which advocated Jackson’s election, attended a “ drawing - room ” at the White House, escorting his wife and a party of visiting relatives from Boston. Mr. Jarvis introduced those who were with him to Mrs. Adams, who received them courteously, and they then passed on into the east room. Soon afterwards they found themselves standing opposite to Mr. John Adams, who was conversing with the Rev. Mr. Stetson. “ Who is that lady ? ” asked Mr. Stetson. “ That,” replied Mr. John Adams, in a tone so loud that the party heard it, “is the wife of one Russell Jarvis, and if he knew how contemptibly he is viewed in this house they would not be here.” The Bostonians at once paid their parting respects to Mrs. Adams and withdrew, Mr. Jarvis having first ascertained from Mr. Stetson that it was Mr. John Adams who had insulted them. A few days afterwards, Mr. Jarvis sent a note to Mr. John Adams, demanding an explanation, by a friend of his, Mr. McLean. Mr. Adams told Mr. McLean that he had no apology to make to Mr. Jarvis, and that he wished no correspondence with him. Considering his personal relations with the president, he had no right to be at the drawingroom.
A week later, Mr. John Adams went to the Capitol to deliver messages from the president to each house of Congress. Having delivered that addressed to the speaker of the house of representatives, he was going through the rotunda toward the senate-chamber, when he was overtaken by Mr. Jarvis, who pulled his nose and slapped his face. A scuffle ensued, but they were quickly parted by Mr. Dorsey, a representative from Maryland. President Adams notified Congress in a special message of the occurrence, and the house appointed a select committee of investigation. Witnesses were examined and elaborate reports were drawn up, but neither the majority nor the minority recommended that any punishment be inflicted upon Mr. Jarvis.
Mr. John Adams was married, while his father occupied the White House, to his mother’s niece, Miss Mary Ilellen, of Washington. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Dr. Hawley, of St. John’s Church, and General Ramsay, who was one of the groomsmen, is authority for the statement that the president, usually so grave and unsocial, unbent for the nonce, and danced at the wedding ball, in a Virginia reel, with great spirit.
Mr. Adams found the furniture of the White House in a dilapidated condition. Thirty thousand dollars had been appropriated by Congress for the purchase of new furniture during the administration of Mr. Monroe; but his friend, Colonel Lane, commissioner of public buildings, to whom he had intrusted it, became insolvent, and died largely in debt to the government, having used the money for the payment of his debts, instead of procuring furniture. When an appropriation of fourteen thousand dollars was made, to be expended, under the direction of Mr. Adams, for furniture, he took charge of it himself, and one of his first acts was to buy the silver plate of Mr. Crawford. This was severely criticised by the democratic press, as was the purchase of a billiardtable for the White House, about which so much was said that Mr. John Adams finally paid the bill from his own pocket.
Mrs. Adams won popularity at Washington by the graceful manner in which she presided over the hospitalities of the White House. The stiff formality of the drawing-rooms of Mrs. Washington and Mrs. John Adams, and the freeand-easy “ receptions ” of Mr. Jefferson’s daughters, had been combined by Mrs. Madison into what she christened “ levees,” at which all ceremonious etiquette was banished, and no requisitions were made beyond those which regulated good society in private houses. Mrs. Monroe, who had mingled in the fashionable circles of London and Paris, as well as of her native city of New York, had continued these evening levees ; and Mrs. Adams, in turn, not only kept up the custom, but improved the quality of the refreshments, which were handed around on waiters by servants. State dinners were also given during the sessions of Congress, to which such senators and representatives as had called at the White House to pay their respects were invited, and Mrs. Adams left no opportunity unimproved for making the administration of her husband popular.
Mr. Adams used to rise between four and six o’clock, according to the season, and either take a ride on horseback, or walk to the Potomac River, where he bathed, remaining in the water for an hour or more in the summer. Returning to the White House, he read two chapters of Scott’s Bible and the corresponding commentary of Hewlett, and then glanced over the morning papers and the budgets sent from the departments until nine, when he breakfasted. From ten until four he remained in the executive office, presiding over cabinet meetings, receiving visitors, or considering questions of state. Then, after a long walk, or a short ride on horseback, he would sit down to dine at half past five, and after dinner resume his public duties.
On one occasion, Mr. Adams imperiled his life by attempting to cross the Potomac in a small boat, accompanied by his son John and by his steward, Michael Antoine Giusta, who had entered his service at Amsterdam in 1814. Intending to swim back, they had taken off nearly all of their clothes, whicn were in the boat. When about half-way across, a gust of wind came sweeping down the Potomac; the boat filled with water, and they were forced to abandon it and swim for their lives to the Virginia shore. By taking what garments each one had on, Antoine managed to clothe himself decently, and started across the bridge to Washington. During his absence, Mr. Adams and his son swam in the river, or walked to and fro on the shore. At last, after they had been about three hours undressed, Antoine made his appearance with a carriage and clothing, so they were able to return to Washington. Mr. Adams purchased that day a watch, which he gave Antoine to replace one which he had lost in the boat, and he alluded to the adventure in his journal that night as “ a humiliating lesson, and a solemn warning not to trifle with danger.” A few weeks later a revolutionary veteran named Shoemaker, who had been for thirty years a clerk in the general postoffice, went in to bathe at Mr. Adams’s favorite spot, the Sycamores, was seized with cramp, and was drowned. The body was not recovered until the next morning, while Mr. Adams was in the water; but the incident did not deter him from taking his solitary morning baths, which he regarded as indispensable to health.
Mr. Adams took great interest in arboriculture, and was a constant reader of Evelyn. He had planted in the grounds of the White House the acorns of the cork-oak, black walnuts, peach, plum, and cherry stones, apple and pear seeds, and he watched their germination and growth with great interest. A botanic garden was established under his patronage, and naval officers were instructed to bring home for distribution the seeds of such grains and vegetables as it might seem desirable to naturalize.
Henry Clay, as secretary of state, was the most important member of Mr. Adams’s cabinet. He had obtained his position, it was asserted, by a bargain, and this was flung in his face with great pertinacity by his political opponents. The foreign policy of the administration, which encouraged the appointment of a minister to represent the United States in the Congress of American Republics at Panama, although in accordance with the “ Monroe doctrine,” was denounced as federalism. Mr. Clay, who had never been a federalist, did not wish to be regarded as a restorer of the old federal party, and he accordingly began to create the whig party, of which he naturally became the leader.
Mr. Clay made a good secretary of state ; but his place was in Congress, for he was formed by nature for a popular orator. He was tall and thin, with a rather small head and gray eyes, which peered forth less voluminously than would have been expected in one possessing such eminent control of language, His nose was straight, his upper lip long, and his under jaw light. His mouth, of generous width, straight when he was silent, and curving upward at the corners as he spoke or smiled, was singularly graceful, indicating more than any other feature the elastic play of his mind. When he enchained large audiences, his features were lighted up by a winning smile, the gestures of his long arms were graceful, and the gentle accents of his mellow voice were persuasive and winning. Yet there has never been a more imperious despot in political affairs than Mr. Clay. He regarded himself as the head-centre of his party, — “ L'état, c’est moi,” — and he wanted everything utilized for his advancement. The other members of the cabinet soon espoused his cause, or became the partisans of General Jackson, and Mr. Adams found himself deserted by those whose support he had reason to expect.
The diary of Mr. Adams shows that, while he never complained to his cabinet that they had deserted him, he felt bitterly disappointed that he was not the choice of the politicians and of the people for reelection. He would not, however, even write a few pleasant words of thanks (when asked to do so) to an editor who supported him ; neither would he appoint to, or remove from, office any one because of an individual preference for or against himself. Distinguished politicians from different sections of the country, who would call on him while sojourning at Washington, would be treated with glacial frigidity, and perhaps be unceremoniously dismissed, that he might take a solitary walk, or ride on horseback. General Jackson was meanwhile being brought before the public, under the direction of Aaron Burr, Martin Van Buren, and Edward Livingston, as a “ man of the people.” They had persuaded him to resign his seat in the senate of the United States, where he might have made political mistakes, and retire to his farm in Tennessee, while they flooded the country with accounts of his military exploits and his social good qualities. Daniel Webster told Samuel Breck, as the latter records in his diary, that he knew more than fifty members of Congress who had expended and pledged all they were worth in setting up presses and employing other means to forward Jackson’s election.
The supreme court then sat in the room in the basement of the Capitol, now occupied as a law library, which has an arched ceiling supported by massive pillars that obstruct the view, and which was badly ventilated. But it was rich in traditions of hair powder, cues, ruffled shirts, knee-breeches, and buckles. At that time no justice had ever sat upon the bench in trousers, nor had any lawyer ventured to plead in boots, or wearing whiskers. Their honors, the chief-justice and the justices, wearing silk judicial robes, were treated with the most profound respect. When Mr. Clay stopped, one day, in an argument, and advancing to the bench took a pinch of snuff from Judge Washington’s box, saying, “ I perceive that your honor sticks to the Scotch,” and then proceeded with his case, it excited astonishment and admiration. “ Sir,” said Mr. Justice Story, in relating the circumstance to a friend, " I do not believe there is a man in the United States who could have done that but Mr. Clay.”
Mr. Justice Washington, who inherited Mount Vernon, where his remains lie interred near those of his illustrious uncle, George Washington, was a small, insignificant - looking man, deprived of the sight of one eye by excessive study. He was a rigid disciplinarian and a great stickler for etiquette, and on one occasion he sat for sixteen hours without leaving the bench. He was also a man of rare humor. One day, as the judges were disrobing, after having heard Senator Isham Talbot, of Kentucky, argue a case with extraordinary rapidity of utterance, he dryly remarked, “ Well, a person of moderate wishes could hardly desire to live louger than the time it would take Brother Talbot to repeat moderately that four hours’ speech we have just heard.”
Chief-Justice Marshall, who had then presided in the supreme court for more than a quarter of a century, was one of the last survivors of those officers of the revolutionary army who had entered into civil service. He was a tall, gaunt man, with a small head and bright black eyes. He used to wear an unbrushed, longskirted black coat, a badly fitting waistcoat and knee-breeches, a voluminous white cambric cravat, generally soiled, and black worsted stockings, with low shoes and silver buckles. He was a rapid walker, and he never wore an outer garment, even in the most inclement weather. A great judge, prominent among the mighty intellects of his epoch, and uniting inflexible honesty with rare genius, he was greatly endeared to those who knew him in private life, and his homeliness and slovenliness were attractive, as epicures value the cobwebs on a bottle of old wine. Pitching quoits was his favorite amusement, and when his iron circle “ rung the Meg,” or so fell that it encircled the peg at which he had thrown it, he exhibited childish joy.
Mr. Chief-Justice Marshall was originally a federalist, and many of Mr. Adams’s friends thought that if General Jackson should be elected president he would resign, and Mr. Justice Johnson, of South Carolina, would be made chiefjustice. “ Then,” predicted Daniel Webster, “in half an hour Mr. Justice Washington and Mr. Justice Story will resign. A majority will be left with Mr. Johnson, and every constitutional decision heretofore made will be reversed.” This prediction was not realized, as Chief-Justice Marshall remained on the bench until his death, which occurred near the middle of General Jackson’s second presidential term.
The circle of what was termed “ good society” at Washington had been, and was then, very limited in its extent and simple in its habits. Few senators or representatives brought their wives to cheer their congressional labors, and a parlor of ordinary size would contain all of those who were accustomed to attend social gatherings. A few diplomats, with the officers of the army and navy stationed at head-quarters, were accompanied by their wives, and there were generally a few visitors of social distinction. The most friendly and cordial intercourse prevailed, and those who met at dinner parties and at evening entertainments were like members of one family, in general sympathy.
The costume of the ladies was classic in its scantiness, especially at balls and parties. The fashionable ball dress was of white India crape, and five breadths, each a quarter of a yard wide, were all that was asked for to make a skirt, which only came down to the ankles, and was elaborately trimmed with a dozen or more rows of narrow flounces. Silk or cotton stockings were adorned with embroidered “ clocks,” and thin slippers were ornamented with silk rosettes and tiny buckles.
Those gentlemen who dressed fashionably wore “ Bolivar ” frock-coats of some gay-colored cloth, blue, or green, or claret, with large lapels and gilded buttons. Their linen was ruffled; their “ Cossack” trousers were voluminous in size, and were tucked into high " Hessian ” boots with gold tassels. They wore two and sometimes three waistcoats each, of different colors, and from their watch-pockets dangled a ribbon, with a bunch of large seals. When in full dress, gentlemen wore dress-coats with enormous collars and short waists, well-stuffed white cambric cravats, smallclothes, or tight-fitting pantaloons, silk stockings, and pumps.
One of the leading belles was the daughter of General Adair, a stately Kentucky beauty, who had married Colonel Joseph M. White, the delegate from Florida, and was known as “ Florida White.” Visiting Europe afterwards, she was received in the highest circles, and among other characteristic stories told of her is her attendance at a fancy ball given by one of the Bonaparte family. On receiving the invitation, she called on the hostess, and asked what she should wear. “ Why,” replied the princess, “ wear an American costume. Have you no original American costumes ? ” “ Oh, no,” said Mrs. White, “we follow your fashions.” “ But,” answered the princess, “ you are a Kentuckian. Have you no Indians in Kentucky ? ” Mrs. White took the idea, aud appeared at the ball as an Indian girl, gay with beads and feathers, with a quiver at her back and a bow in her hand. Her tall, stately, and graceful figure never appeared to greater advantage, and she was afterwards known as “ la belle sauvage.”
Great Britain was then represented by Mr. Charles Richard Vaughan, a trained diplomat, whose urbanity and hospitality contributed largely to the social enjoyments of Washington. The delightful manner in which he managed not to offend the sensibilities of the citizens, which smarted under the recollections of the British raid on the capital, was displayed when he was by a mistake invited with other dignitaries to attend a dinner on Independence Day. Knowing well that the staple of the toasts and of the speeches on that occasion would be abuse of the British, which he could not quietly listen to, he wrote a polite response, saying that he must decline, as he thought that he should be indisposed on the Fourth of July.
Prominent as an adopted citizen of Washington and as a personal friend of President Adams was Dr. Wm, F. Thornton, superintendent of the patent office. He had resided in the house on F Street adjacent to that occupied by Mr. Adams when secretary of state, and the two families were very intimate. Dr. Thornton was the original architect of the Capitol, and he had by personal appeals to his conquering countrymen, in 1814, saved the patent office, with its models, from the general conflagration of the public buildings. He was also a devoted lover of horse-racing, and on one occasion, when he expected that a horse of his would win the cup, Mr. Adams walked out to the race-course to enjoy the doctor’s triumph, but witnessed his defeat. After his death and the death of his accomplished wife, it became known that she was the daughter of the unfortunate Dr. Dodd, of London, who was executed for forgery in 1777. Her mother emigrated to Philadelphia soon afterwards, under the name of Brodeau, and brought her infant daughter with her. In Philadelphia, she opened a boarding-school, which was liberally patronized, as she had brought excellent letters of recommendation, and displayed great ability as a teacher. The daughter grew up to be a lady remarkable for her beauty and accomplishments, and married Dr. Thornton, who brought her to Washington in 1800. It is not believed that she was aware that she was the daughter of Dr. Dodd, although her husband was, and mentioned it to some of his intimate friends.
Another noted resident of English birth was Thomas Law, a younger brother of Lord Ellenborough, who had held a high civil trust in British India, and who came to the United States, it was said, to avoid being called as a witness against Warren Hastings. He brought with him half a million of dollars in gold, which General Washington advised him to invest in real estate in Washington, and, when this advice had been followed, consented to his marriage to His wife’s granddaughter, Miss Annie Custis. Neither the investment of his affections nor of his money proved satisfactory, for he quarreled with his wife, and his real estate, when sold after his death, did not bring one quarter of what he had paid for it. He was a very eccentric man, one of his habits being to carry in his hands a piece of dough, which he constantly manipulated, to preserve the thread of his story in conversation. Such was his absence of mind that on asking, one day, at the post-office if there were any letters for him, he was obliged to confess that he did not remember his name; but when, a few moments afterwards, a friend addressed him as “ Mr. Law,” he hurried back, gave the address, and received his mail. He was an inveterate gambler, and once sent a man to Paris with a programme for breaking the banks of the gambling houses there. Instead of breaking a bank, the unlucky agent lost every cent of his money, and was obliged to work his passage home, to be reproached by Mr. Law for not having succeeded.
Mrs. Law’s brother was George Washington Parke Custis, the adopted son of General Washington, who resided at Arlington, an estate on the Virginia bank of the Potomac, which he had inherited from his grandmother. It was his delight to indulge in recollections of the Pater Patriœ, although the old inhabitants used to say that many of his reminiscences were apocryphal. “ I ought to know,” he used to say. “ Taken from my orphaned cradle to his paternal arms, nourished at his board, cherished by him from childhood to manhood, I ought to know something of the first president of the United States and the illustrious farmer of Mount Vernon.” Mr. Custis was a short, stout, ruddyfaced gentleman, who resembled the traditionary British fox-hunting squire, and who was an enthusiastic sportsman, a miserable painter, and a tolerable farmer.
A protégé of General Washington’s, whose name is identified with Washington city, died in its vicinity soon after Mr. Adams became president. It was Pierre Charles 1’Enfant, whose design for laying out the metropolis is just beginning to be displayed to advantage. A native of France, educated as an officer of engineers, he tendered his services and his sword to the United States early in the revolutionary struggle. Having distinguished himself in several engagements, receiving a severe wound at the siege of Savannah, he was subsequently sent by General Washington to France, to have executed there his designs for the diploma and the badge of the Order of the Cincinnati. A few years later, he was employed to design a plan for the federal city and to lay it out, but he soon became embroiled with the commissioners and was discharged. He then became an unsuccessful petitioner before Congress for a redress of his real and fancied wrongs, and his tall, emaciated figure, enveloped in an old green surtout coat and crowned with a napless beaver hat, was well known at the Capitol.
Ireland contributed to the educated society of the district the widow and the son of Theobald Wolfe Tone, the illstarred founder of the United Irishmen, an association which had unsuccessfully attempted the emancipation of Ireland. The young man, who bore his father’s name, had inherited his genius, and was thoroughly acquainted with his romantic career. A life of the father, by the son, contained much information concerning the Irish rebellion, and shed much light on many important transactions. The younger Tone was commissioned in the United States army, and wrote a treatise on Light Artillery.
Eleazar Williams, who afterwards figured as the Lost Prince of the Bourbon House, was at Washington during the Adams administration, and was then known as “ the half-breed Seneca Indian preacher.” He was lobbying in favor of the ratification of a treaty under which the Senecas residing in the State of New York were to be removed to Michigan, and it was rumored that he was well paid for his services by those who wanted to have the New York lands vacated. Nearly every winter there was a delegation of Indians at Washington on some similar errand, in the full glory of war-paint, leggins of scarlet cloth, bright blue blankets, pouches embroidered with porcupine quills, and with stolid looks of self-complacency.
The visit of General Lafayette to Washington had given a great impetus to free-masonry there. The cornerstone of a new masonic temple was laid, and many of the leading citizens had taken the degrees, when the rumored abduction of William Morgan was made the basis of a political and religious antimasonic crusade. It was asserted that Morgan, who had written and printed a book which professed to reveal the secrets of free-masonry, had been kidnaped, taken to Fort Niagara, and then plunged into the river, “ with all his imperfections on his head.” Many well-informed persons are of the opinion that he was hired to go to Smyrna, where he lived some years, and then died ; but his real or supposed assassination awakened a profound indignation. Many good men who belonged to “ the mystic tie ” felt it their duty to dissolve their connection with it, and the anti-masonic party was at once got up by a goodly number of hopeful political aspirants. As General Jackson and Mr. Clay were both “free and accepted masons,” Mr. Adams had at first some hopes that he might secure his reelection as the anti-masonic candidate, but those hopes were speedily dissipated.
A small theatre was occasionally opened by a company of actors from Philadelphia, who used to journey every winter as far South as Savannah, performing in the intermediate cities as they went and returned. The Jeffersons, the Warrens, and the Burkes belonged to this company, in which their children were trained for histrionic fame, and President Adams first saw the elder Booth when that tragedian accompanied one of these dramatic expeditions as its brightest star. On another occasion he saw Edwin Forrest, then unknown to fame, and enjoyed the finished acting of Cooper as Charles Surface, in the School for Scandal. The popular performance at that time was Tom and Jerry, or Life in London, and the flash sayings of Corinthian Tom and Bob Logic were quoted even in congressional debates.
Card-playing was then a fashionable and popular amusement, and the Guelphs and the Ghibelines who withstood each other in debate would meet fraternally at whist tables, enlivened by their “ keen encounter of wits.” Grave political questions were often discussed while the shuffling and dealing was going on, by that class of congressmen who hoped that by rubbing their opinions together a light might be struck at last. Refreshments were usually served at nine o’clock, and midnight seldom found the players out of bed.
Sunday was religiously observed at Washington. The prominent denominations had, by collections taken up throughout the country, raised funds for the erection of churches dedicated to their respective creeds, and the Unitarians had been especially well cared for by their New England brethren, who had not only aided them liberally in the erection of their place of worship, but had given them a fine-toned bell. During the sessions of Congress, there was some divine service on Sunday mornings in the hall of the house, the chaplains of the two bodies officiating alternately. Sunday afternoon was a favorite time for dinner parties, followed by political conferences. How to elect or how to defeat General Jackson was the subject of prolonged discussion among those interested on the one side or the other.
Washington was also favored once a year with a discourse, generally in the open air, by that celebrated itinerant, Lorenzo Dow. The style of his impassioned oratory was as singular as the matter of his sermons and his personal appearance. He was then a middle-aged man, tall and well formed, with remarkably pale and emaciated features, long black hair, and a heavy black beard. He spoke with great earnestness, and many “ who came to scoff remained to pray.”
Christmas was then observed in the District of Columbia as a high day and a holy-day. The descendants of the gallant Episcopal cavaliers of Virginia, of the sturdy Presbyterians of Scotland, and of the devout Romanists of Maryland united with the newly arrived immigrants from New England in making Christmas a merry day for all. Glad peals of swinging bells ushered in the morning, while young and old, bond and free, rejoiced that the sacred birthday had come again. The yule-log blazed on ample hearths; huge punch-bowls were filled with apple-toddy or egg-nog; dining-rooms were green with holly and cedar; bands of young masqueraders went about with jokes and gambols ; and as the night came on, fair maidens were kissed under the mistletoe boughs, while the happy negroes sang in rude style an equivalent for the carols of Old England. When the old year was rung out and the new year was rung in, there was a visiting observance of the day which President Washington had inaugurated when the federal government was located at New York; but Christmas was the favorite holiday.
Newspaper “ organs ” formed an important feature of the early political machinery at Washington. Railroads as well as the magnetic telegraph were then unknown, and it took two days or more for the transmission of intelligence between the federal metropolis and New York, while it was a week or two in reaching Portland, St. Louis, New Orleans, or Savannah. This made it advisable for each successive administration to have a newspaper published at Washington, which would reliably inform the subordinate officials what was being done, and keep alive a sympathy between them and the president. The “ outs ” and prominent aspirants-for the presidency also had their organs, to keep their partisans advised of what was going on, and to secure uniformity of action.
The National Intelligencer was never devoted to Mr. Adams, as its proprietors had a kind regard for Mr. Clay, but it was always hostile to the election of General Jackson. Mr. Joseph Gales, its editor, wrote ponderous leaders on the political questions of the day, and occasionally reported, in short-hand, the speeches of congressional magnates. His partner, Mr. W. W. Seaton, attended to the business of the establishment, and by hospitable attentions to congressmen secured the public printing and several lucrative typographical jobs. During Mr. Adams’s administration these matters were investigated by a committee of the house of representatives, but there was no evidence of any intention to defraud the government.
The National Journal had been established as a Calhoun organ, with John Agg, an Englishman of great ability, as its editor, and Richard Houghton, afterwards the popular editor of the Boston Atlas, as its congressional reporter. In 1825 the paper was purchased by Peter Force (afterwards noted as a bibliologist), and became the “hand-organ ” of all the elements of opposition of General Jackson. Such abusive articles and scurrilous remarks as the dignified National Intelligencer would not publish appeared in the columns of the National Journal. Some of these articles, which reflected upon the character of Mrs. Jackson, gave great offense to her husband, who was persuaded that they were inspired by President Adams.
Mr. Houghton was succeeded as congressional reporter for the National Journal by Eliab Kingman, a graduate of Brown University, who inaugurated Washington correspondence with the press. Others had written letters to some one paper, but Mr. Kingman was the first to write to several journals in different places, sending to all the same items of news in different forms. Among the other newspaper men in Washington were William Hayden, congressional reporter for the National Intelligencer, who afterwards succeeded Mr. Houghton as editor of the Boston Atlas ; Lund Washington, equally famed as a performer on the violin and a writer of short-hand; James Gordon Bennett, afterwards the founder of the New York Herald, who wrote spicy political letters for the New York press ; S. L. Knapp, a graduate of Dartmouth, who abandoned the law for journalism, and corresponded with the Boston Gazette ; James Brooks, a graduate of Waterville, afterwards the founder of the New York Express and a representative in Congress, who was the correspondent of the Portland Advertiser; and J. S. Buckingham, who used to write editorial letters to his paper, the Boston Courier. Mrs. Ann Royal was the only “ interviewer ” and the only female writer for the press, and she published her impressions of men and things in an annual volume, which was supplemented in later years by The Huntress.
The administration of Mr. Adams, which had been commenced in harmony, ended in disappointment. General Jackson, when he came to Washington after his election, was received with high honors, and the apartments which had been fitted up for him at Gadsby’s National Hotel were thronged, while the White House was deserted. Mr. Justice Story wrote to his wife that “ Mr. Adams has no more favors to bestow, and he is now passed by with indifference by all the fair-weather friends. They are all ready to hail the rising sun. Never have I felt so forcibly the emptiness of public honor and public favor.”
General Jackson, who had in previous years accepted courtesies from Mr. Adams, did not call on him, in accordance with usage, on his arrival at Washington. Mr. Adams, stung by this neglect, determined not to play the part of the conquered leader at the inauguration, and quietly removed to the house of a friend in the suburbs on the morning of the 3d of March. When General Jackson was being inaugurated, amid the shouts of the assembled thousands, Mr. Adams was taking his usual constitutional horseback exercise. The artillery salute, fired when his successor had taken the oath of office, must have reached his ears, and notified him that he was again a private citizen.