Page images

their handsome appearance and endurance. Washington started from his residence, in Market Street, at twelve o'clock, on Monday, the 21st of March, 1791. Mr. Jefferson and General Knox escorted him into the State of Delaware, and there left him. Major Jackson, one of his private secretaries, accompanied him until he returned to Philadelphia, the capital of the nation. He arrived at Annapolis, Maryland, on the 25th of March, and remained two days. He stopped at Georgetown, thence proceeded to Mount Vernon, where he remained a week, thence to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he dined with his old friends and neighbors, recalling, with Chancellor Wythe, the scenes of his youth and early manhood. The party arrived at Richmond at eleven o'clock on Monday, the 11th of April, where, as at Annapolis, Washington was greeted with acclamations and public illuminations. They visited Halifax, Newbern, Wilmington, and other places in North Carolina. Leaving Wilmington, Washington was rowed across Cape Fear River in an elegantly decorated barge. He arrived at Charleston, South Carolina, on Monday, the 2d of May. Charleston was then the gayest of cities. Milliners and tailors corresponded directly with inventors of dresses in London and Paris. Women preferred French fashions, and often improved upon them. Gentlemen were partial to blue, the product of their staple, indigo. Pantaloons had been introduced, and were worn by some of the younger men, but in a few years were entirely laid aside, and breeches resumed. Duels were frequent. "Drunkenness," says Dr. Ramsey, was the endemic vice." There were periodical races, hunting and fishing, and luxurious dinners, followed by dancing and music. The Duc de Rochefoucauld Liancourt observed that "from the hour of four in the afternoon the people of Charleston rarely thought of any thing but pleasure. They had two gaminghouses, both constantly full. The inhabitants had acquired great knowledge of European manners, and a stronger partiality for them than was found in New York. A foreign style of life

[ocr errors]



prevailed." This view of the inner society of Charleston is interesting as the key to a future largely controlled by the political opinions there nurtured and disseminated. Here the President had a royal greeting. A twelve-oared barge, commanded by thirteen captains of American ships, conveyed him, with several distinguished gentlemen, from Hadrill's Point, surrounded by a fleet containing an instrumental band and a choir of singers, which greeted him with triumphant airs and songs on his way to the city, where he was received by the Governor, the Society of the Cincinnati, and the military, amid ringing of bells, firing of cannon, and public acclamations. He remained a week the centre of affection and admiration. At the corporation ball two hundred and fifty ladies wore sashes decorated with his likeness. A part of their head-dress was a fillet or bandeau, with the inscription "Long live the President," in gilt letters. He sat for his portrait to Colonel Trumbull, the same that now adorns the City Hall in Philadelphia. On Monday, the 9th of May, he left Charleston, accompanied by a committee from Savannah, and was escorted on board a richly decorated boat, rowed down the river by nine sea captains, dressed in light-blue silk jackets, black satin breeches, white silk stockings, and round hats with black ribbons, inscribed "Long live the President," in gold letters. Ten miles from Savannah they were met by other barges, in one of which the gentlemen sung the popular air, "He comes, the Hero comes!" Here new honors and festivities awaited him. He passed on to Augusta, where the populace rapturously received him; returned into South Carolina, visited Columbia, dined at Camden, passed through Charlotte, Salisbury, Salem, Guilford, and other towns in North Carolina, and arrived at Mount Vernon on the 12th of June. On the last day of that month he started for Philadelphia by way of Frederick, York, and Lancaster, and arrived at the Presidential residence about noon on the 6th of July, having been absent nearly three months, during that period

performing a journey of one thousand eight hundred and eightyseven miles. It was said of Washington that "no man in the army had a better eye for horses." This long tour was a severe test of the capacity of his steeds, and before reaching Charleston he wrote to Mr. Lear, his secretary, "that, though all things considered, they had got on very well, yet if brought back they would not cut capers as they did on setting out. My horses, especially the two I bought just before I left Philadelphia, and my old white one, are much worn down, and yet I have one hundred and fifty or two hundred miles of heavy sand before I get into the upper roads."

While the President was in the South, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were making a tour in the North. They proceeded to New York, sailed up the Hudson to Albany, visited the principal scenes of the British General Burgoyne's misfortunes, at Stillwater, Saratoga, and Bennington, Fort William Henry, Fort Ticonderoga, Crown Point, and other memorable Revolutionary places. Jefferson amused himself with his gun and hook and line, and indulged his strong taste for natural history.

I recall these facts to show that the custom of Presidential journeys did not originate with President Grant. The example of Washington was followed without censure or exception by all his successors, save Mr. Lincoln, who was constantly at work in the midst of a great war. Eighteen hundred and eighty-seven miles in three months was regarded as an extraordinary feat in 1791; and if the most hopeful of our statesmen had then predicted that the day would come when a successor of Washington would preside over thirty-seven States, with a population of nearly forty millions of people, and travel from Washington City to the Pacific and back, by way of New York and Philadelphia —a double distance of over seven thousand miles, with plenty of time to see and converse with the masses, all in one month -he would have been denounced as a lunatic.



Washington was pleased with his Southern tour. In one of his letters he said: "It was accomplished without any interruption by sickness, bad weather, or any untoward accident. Indeed, so highly favored were we that we arrived at each place where I proposed to halt on the very day I fixed before we set out. I am very much pleased that I undertook this excursion, as it has enabled me to see with my own eyes the situation of the country through which we traveled, and to learn more accurately the disposition of the people than I could through any information."

But these contrasts and comparisons do not end here. Official manners, customs, and costumes were different things when Washington lived in Philadelphia from what they are to-day. His habit, when the day was fine, was to take a walk, attended by his two secretaries, Mr. Lear and Major William Jackson, one on each side. He always crossed directly from his own door, on Market Street, near Fifth, to the sunny side, and walked down toward the river. He was dressed in black, and all three wore cocked hats. They were silent men, and seemed to converse very little. Washington had a large family coach, a light carriage, and a chariot, all light cream-colored, painted with three enameled figures on each panel, and very handsome. He went in the coach to Christ Church every Sunday morning, with two horses; used the carriage and four for his rides into the country, and the Lansdowne, the Hills, and other places. When he visited the Senate he had the chariot, with six horses. All his servants were white, and wore liveries of white cloth, trimmed with scarlet or orange. It was Mrs. Washington's custom to return calls on the third day. The footman would knock loudly and announce Mrs. Washington, who would then pay the visit in company with Mr. Secretary Lear. Her manners were easy, pleasant, and unceremonious. The late lamented Richard Rush, whom I knew well, and who occupied very many distinguished positions, local, State, national, and diplomatic, and

who died July 30, 1859, aged seventy-nine, recalls a scene in Philadelphia in 1794-95, when Washington opened Congress in person, and which Mr. Rush saw as a boy. His words are almost mine. "The carriage of the President was drawn by four beautiful bay horses. It was white, with medallion ornaments on the panels, the liveries of the servants white turned up with red. Washington got out of the carriage, slowly crossed the pavement, ascended the steps of the edifice, corner of Sixth and Chestnut, upon the upper platform of which he paused, and, turning half around, looked in the direction of a carriage which had followed the lead of his own. Thus he stood for a minute, distinctly seen by every body in the vast concourse. His costume was a full suit of black velvet; his hair, blanched by time, powdered to snowy whiteness, a dress sword hanging by his side, his hat in his hand. Profound stillness reigned throughout the dense crowd; not a word was heard; every heart was full. It seemed as if he stood in that position to gratify the assembled thousands with a full view of the Father of his Country. Not so; he paused for his secretary, who had got out of the other carriage, decorated like his own. The secretary ascended the steps, handed him a paper, probably a copy of the speech he was to deliver, when both entered the building. An English gentleman, a manufacturer, Mr. Henry Wansey, breakfasted with Washington and his family on the 8th of June, 1794. He was greatly impressed. The first President was then in his sixty-third year, but had little appearance of age, having been in his life exceedingly temperate. Mrs. Washington herself made tea and coffee for them; on the table were two small plates of sliced tongue and dry toast, bread and butter, but no broiled fish, as is generally the custom. Miss Eleanor Custis, her granddaughter, a very pleasant young lady, in her sixteenth year, sat next to her, and next, her grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, about two years older. There were but few slight indications of form; one servant only attended, who wore

« PreviousContinue »