« PreviousContinue »
you can not make them dead.” As with Johnson, when I saw that he was gone, so with our dear friend, James H. Orne, whom we carried into his vault one icy afternoon last December; and so, too, with William S. Huntington, whom you Washington people are just now mourning. I can see Orne now at the head of his dinner-table, or in his own parlors, or on Chestnut Street, or in his business—the air, the bearing, the tone of a gentleman; graceful, unselfish, polite, practical, and I “can not make him dead." I think it was two weeks ago this
very Sunday that I was passing by the new club house, on New York Avenue, Washington City, with some friends, when Mr. Huntington saw us, came out on the steps, invited us in, showed us through the establishment, and asked us to enroll our names. He was most courteous, and, though not robust, seemed cheery and hopeful. He described to me his trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, and back; how many days it consumed ; how much he had seen in his meteor flight. His face was always one of singular interest to me; its classic outlines indicated brain of the highest order; his whole bearing was distingué. And now he is gone, at thirty-one. Even on the threshold of an earthly future, crowded with hopes and honors, he is suddenly introduced into the mysteries of another world.
[March 31, 1872.)
To preside over a large dinner-party is always a trying task to a woman. Those who recall the sparkling descriptions of the entertainments of Lady Blessington, by Nathaniel P. Willis, during his stay in London, many years ago, need not be told that the post is one which requires rare qualities. There is the necessity of knowing something of the guests, then the art of conversation, and, above all, easy address, refinement, and tact. When New York was the political capital of the United States, which embraced but one winter—that succeeding the formal ratification of the Constitution-President Washington's ill-health, the death of his mother, and other circumstances, prevented him from attending public balls, and Mrs. Washington had little inclination for such amusements, and was never present at grand entertainments. She was a plain, old-fashioned person, and rarely figured save in the subsequent Presidential receptions in Philadelphia, after the removal of the capital to that city.
Mrs. John Adams, wife of the second President, removed while her husband was Vice-President from Boston to Philadelphia to her new residence at Bush Hill, which she describes as a very beautiful place. She was fond of the theatre, having acquired the taste during her sojourn in Paris. “She was not without tenderness, and womanly, but her distinction was a masculine understanding, energy, and decision, fitting her for the bravest or most delicate periods of affairs, and in an eminent degree for that domestic relation which continued unbroken through so many changeful years, herself unchangeful—always making her own lot a portion of her husband's, in a manner that illustrates the noblest ideas that we have of marriage." She remained in Paris and London four years, and was fortyfive when summoned to America by the election of her husband to the office of Vice-President. She was very intimate with Martha Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson's daughter, who had been intrusted to her care in Paris, and spoke of her as a young woman of uncommon delicacy and sensibility.
Mr. Jefferson kept a liberal table for his friends, but there is little note of the ladies who figured at his dinners.
He was a widower when he entered the Presidency. He married Martha Skelton, the widow of Bathhurst Skelton, of Virginia, and daughter of John Wayles. The marriage took place at "The Forest,” in Charles County. The bride was left a widow when very
MRS. MARTHA JEFFERSON.
young, and was only twenty-three when she married Mr. Jeffer
She is described as having been very beautiful, a little above the middle height, with a lithe and exquisitely formed figure. She was well educated for her day, and a constant reader; inheriting from her father method and industry, as the accounts kept in her clear handwriting, still in the possession of her descendants, testify. Several other prominent men aspired to her hand, but Jefferson carried off the prize. She did not survive to enjoy the brilliant career of her husband, but died on the 6th of September, 1782, after the birth of her sixth child, leaving three female children. Jefferson wrote the following epitaph for his wife's tomb:
“To the memory of Martha Jefferson,
Daughter of John Wayles;
Born October 19, 1748, O. S.;
Torn from him by death, Septemper 6, 1782,
This monument of his love is inscribed.
The flames of friends and lovers cease to glow,
Burn on through death, and animate my shade.'” These four lines Mr. Jefferson left in the Greek in the original epitaph. There is a photograph from a portrait by Sully in "The Domestic Life of Jefferson," compiled from family letters and reminiscences by his great-granddaughter, Sarah N. Randolph, of Virginia, which fully confirms the above description.
Mr. Jefferson thought it becoming a Republican that his inauguration should be as unostentatious and free from display as possible; and such it was. An English traveler, who was in Washington at the time, thus describes him: "His dress was of plain cloth, and he rode on horseback to the Capitol without a single guard, or even servant, in his train, dismounted without
assistance, and hitched the bridle of his horse to the palisades." He was accompanied to the Senate Chamber by a number of his friends, where, before taking the oath of office, he delivered his inaugural address, whose chaste and simple beauty is so familiar to the student of American history.
Congress opened December 7, 1801. It had been the custom for the session to be opened pretty much as the English Parliament is by the Queen's speech. The President, accompanied by a cavalcade, proceeded in state to the Capitol, took his seat in the Senate Chamber, and, the House of Representatives being summoned, he read his address. Mr. Jefferson, however, on the opening of this session of Congress (1801), swept away all these inconvenient forms and ceremonies by introducing the custom of the President reading a written message to Congress. Soon after his inauguration he did away with levees, and established only two public days for the reception of company, the first of January and the Fourth of July, when his doors were thrown open to the public. He received private calls, whether of courtesy or on business, at all other times.
We have had preserved to us by his great-granddaughter an amusing anecdote of the effect of abolishing levees. Many of the ladies of Washington, indignant at being cut off from the pleasure of attending them, and thinking that their discontinuance was an innovation on former customs, determined to force the President to hold them. Accordingly, on the usual levee
. day, they resorted in full force to the White House. The President was out taking his habitual ride on horseback. On his return, being told that the public rooms were filled with ladies, he at once divined their true motives for coming on that day. Without being at all disconcerted, all booted and spurred, and still covered with the dust of his ride, he went in to receive his fair guests. Never had his reception been more graceful or courteous. The ladies, charmed with the ease and grace of his
manners and address, forgot their indignation with him, and went away, feeling that, of the two parties, they had shown most impoliteness in visiting his house when not expected. The result of their plot was for a long time a subject of mirth among them, and they never again attempted to infringe upon the rules of his household.
Madison succeeded Jefferson as President, and his wife, Dolly Payne, the Quakeress, is still remembered by surviving statesmen like Reverdy Johnson and Horace Binney. She was born in North Carolina, but had been educated under the strictest rules of the Friends of Philadelphia, where, at an early age, she married a young lawyer of this sect named Todd; but when she became a widow she threw off drab silks and plain laces, and was for several years one of the gayest and most attractive women in the city. She had many lovers, but she gave the preference to young Madison, whose wife she became in 1794. To this day there are anecdotes told of her peculiar fascinations in Washington City, and especially at dinner-parties and receptions. Mrs. Stephen A. Douglas (now Mrs. General Williams) is one of her descendants. She made a jolly and happy social administration. One of Mrs. Seaton's letters graphically describes a dinner at the President's, and a naval ball, under date of November 12, 1812 :
“On Tuesday, William and I repaired to the place' between four and five o'clock, our carriage setting us down after the first comers and before the last. It is customary, on whatever occasion, to advance to the upper end of the room, pay your obeisance to Mrs. Madison, courtesy to his Highness, and take a seat; after this ceremony, being at liberty to speak to acquaintances, or amuse yourself as at another party. The party already assembled consisted of the Treasurer of the United States; Mr. Russell, the American Minister to England; Mr. Cutts, brother-in-law of Mrs. Madison ; General Van Ness and family; General Smith and daughter, from New York; Pat