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rick Magruder's family; Colonel Goodwine and daughter; Mr. Coles, the Private Secretary ; Washington Irving, the author of Knickerbocker' and 'Salmagundi ;' Mr. Thomas, an European ; Mr. Poindexter; William R. King, and two other gentlemen; and these, with Mr. and Mrs. Madison, and Payne Todd, her son, completed the select company.
“Mrs. Madison very handsomely came to me and led me nearest the fire, introduced Mrs. Magruder, and sat down between us, politely conversing on familiar subjects, and by her own ease of manner making her guests feel at home. Mr. King came to our side, sans ceremonie, and gayly chatted with us until dinner was announced. Mrs. Magruder, by a priority of age, was entitled to the right hand of her hostess, and I, in virtue of being a stranger, to the next seat, Mr. Russell to her left, Mr. Coles at the foot of the table, the President in the middle, which relieves him from the trouble of receiving guests, drinking wine, etc. The dinner was certainly very fine, but still I was rather surprised, as it did not surpass some I have eaten in Carolina. There were many French dishes, and exquisite wines, I presume, by the praises bestowed on them; but I have been so little accustomed to drink that I could not discern the difference between sherry and rare old Burgundy madeira. Comment on the quality of the wine seems to form the chief topic after the removal of the cloth and during the dessert, at which, by-the-way, no pastry is countenanced. Ice-creams, macaroons, preserves, and various cakes are placed on the table, which are removed for almonds, raisins, pecan- nuts, apples, pears, etc.
Candies were introduced before the ladies left the table; and the gentlemen continued half an hour longer to drink a social glass. Meantime Mrs. Madison insisted on my playing on her elegant grand piano a waltz for Miss Smith and Miss Magruder to dance, the figure of which she instructed them in. By this time the gentlemen came in, and we adjourned to the tea-room; and here, in the most delightful man
ner imaginable, I shared with Mrs. Smith, who is remarkably intelligent, the pleasure of Mrs. Madison's conversation on books, men and manners, literature in general, and many special branches of knowledge. I never spent a more rational or pleasing half-hour than that which preceded our return home. On paying our compliments at parting we were politely invited to attend the levee the next evening. I would describe the dignified appearance of Mrs. Madison, but I fear it is the woman altogether whom I should wish you to see. She wears a crimson cap that almost hides her forehead, but which becomes her extremely, and reminds one of a crown from its brilliant appearance, contrasted with the white satin folds and her jet-black curls; but her demeanor is so far removed from the hauteur generally attendant on royalty that your fancy can carry the resemblance no further than the head-dress. In a conspicuous position every fault is rendered more discernible to common eyes, and more liable to censure; and the same rule certainly enables every virtue to shine with more brilliancy than when confined to an inferior station in society. But I-and I am by no means singular in the opinion-believe that Mrs. Madison's conduct would be graced by propriety were she placed in the most adverse circumstances in life. “Mr. Madison has no leisure for the ladies, for every
moment of his time is engrossed by the crowd of male visitors who court his notice; and, after passing the first complimentary salutations, his attention is unavoidably withdrawn to more important objects. Some days ago invitations were issued to two or three hundred ladies and gentlemen to dine and spend the day with Colonel Wharton and Captain Stewart, on board the Constellation, an immense ship of war. This, of all the sights I have ever witnessed, was the most interesting, grand, and novel. William, Joseph R., and I went together, and as the vessel lay in the stream off the point, there were several beautiful little yachts to convey the guests to the scene of festivity. On reaching the deck we were ushered immediately under the awning, composed of many flags, and found ourselves in the presence of hundreds of ladies and gentlemen. The effect was astonishing-every color of the rainbow, every form and fashion ; nature and art ransacked to furnish gay and suitable habiliments for the belles, who, with the beaux, in their court dresses, were gayly dancing to the inspiring strains of a magnificent band. The ladies had assured youth and beauty in their persons, taste and splendor in their dress. Thousands of dollars were expended by the dashing fair ones in preparation for this fête.
“At the upper end of the quarter-deck sat Mrs. Madison, to whom we paid our respects, and then participated in the conversation and amusements with our friends, among whom were Mrs. Monroe, Mrs. Gallatin, etc.
"It is customary to breakfast at nine o'clock, dine at four, and drink tea at eight, which division of time I do not like, but am compelled to submit. I am more surprised at the method of taking tea here than any other meal. In private families, if you step in of an evening, they give you tea and crackers or cold bread, and if by invitation, unless the party is very splendid, you have a few sweet cakes and macaroons from the confectioner's. Once I saw a ceremony of preserves at tea, but the deficiency is made up by the style at dinner, with extravagant wines, etc. Pastry and puddings going out of date, and wine and ice-cream coming in, does not suit my taste, and I confess to preferring Raleigh hospitality. I have never even heard of warm bread at breakfast.
“On Thursday last was the grand naval bill, given in honor of Captains Hull, Morris, and Stewart, of which I must say a few words. *** The assembly was crowded with a more than usual portion of the youth and beauty of the city, and was the scene of an unprecedented event-two British flags unfurled and hung as trophies in an American assembly by American sailors. 1o triumphe! Before we started, our house had been
MRS. JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.
illuminated in token of our cheerful accordance with the general joy which pervaded the city, manifested by nearly every window being more or less lighted. This was inspiring, and calculated to give every patriot and old officer in Washington an inclination to join in the festivities of an event devoted to the pleasing task of paying homage to the bravery and politeness of the naval heroes."
James Monroe, who succeeded with his “era of good feeling," did not follow the free-and-easy reunions, parties, balls, and dinners, under the auspices of Mrs. Madison, who saw every body, visited every where, and allowed no distinction of sect or party. John Quincy Adams, Mr. Monroe's Secretary of State,
. drew up a severe series of rules of etiquette, which gave great offense. But when the President's daughter, Maria, was married to her cousin, Sam Gouverneur, of New York, she had quite a reception at the Presidential Mansion, Mrs. Monroe, her mother, yielding the post of honor to the bride, and mingling with the other guests. There was a grand birthnight ball at Washington on the 22d of February, 1821, at which the contrast between the plain attire of President Monroe and John Quincy Adams and the splendid costumes and decorations of the foreign legations was much remarked. They had a handsome foreigner present in the person of the new British Minister, Mr. Stratford Canning, cousin of George Canning, afterward the celebrated Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe.
Of course, the administration of John Quincy Adams was rather austere. His wife, Mrs. Louisa C. Adams, was a lady of high literary tastes and great precision; and it is not going too far to say that their only son, the present Charles Francis Adams, owes almost as much to her care and attention to his manners and education as to his myriad-minded, indefatigable, and illustrious father. They succeeded Monroe, a man of peace with a peaceful administration, and they had a hot and violent time of it for four years. John Randolph openly charged Henry Clay with having traded off the vote of Kentucky for a place in the Adams Cabinet, and George Kremer cried aloud and spared not. Andrew Jackson felt that he had lost the glittering prize, and took a lofty and imperious tone. This was not a time for poor Mrs. Adams to show her social points, however graceful and numerous.
Mrs. Andrew Jackson seldom appeared at receptions and other public entertainments. She was a plain, domestic woman, little accustomed to society and devoted to her husband, who, in turn, showed her the utmost affection. The account of her burial, by Henry A. Wise, in his book lately published, is one of the most striking illustrations of Old Hickory's private character. The first lady of the White House I ever saw was Mrs. James K. Polk, in 1846. She presided at all the state dinners, and was the queen of her own social circle ; a woman of striking presence, stately and tall, perhaps a little too formal and cold, yet not the less an ornament and an example. Mrs. President Pierce was in such ill-health as rarely to be seen save on her evenings with ladies. Amiable, gentle, and long-suffering, she filled the picture of a good woman, and nothing in her husband's character stands more to his credit than his devotion to her during her painful invalid years. Miss Harriet Lane was the most accomplished young mistress of the Presidential Mansion of modern times. She was a valuable auxiliary to her uncle, the bachelor President, and did much to assuage the asperities of his unfortunate administration. Mrs. Lincoln was always present with her husband at public dinners and receptions, conversed freely, and took pleasure in introducing the wives and daughters of members of Congress. Mrs. A. Johnson was rarely seen on great occasions, but was beloved by all who knew her. Of Mrs. Grant, the present lady of the White House, it only needs to be said that she sustains her delicate position with quiet dignity, and is never mose interesting than when surrounded by her little family in the evening, with Mr.