« ZurückWeiter »
remain as nearly as possible as he left it, and raised the money to buy it. Since then, it has been kept up for the benefit of all who care to visit it.
There are many relics of Washington at Mount Vernon, as well as some of his wife. Among the former you can see the chest containing the tableware he used during the Revolutionary War, some of his clothes, and the big key Lafayette sent him. Among the latter are pieces of the gowns once worn by Mrs. Washington, and the heel of one of her slippers, made of pure silver.
Of course, every one wants to know just how Washington looked and what he did. So painters and sculptors, poets and historians, have all tried to give us some idea of the man whom "Providence left childless that his country might call him Father."
The best pictures of Washington are said to be copied from a bust made by the Frenchman Houdon (oo-dawN'), in 1785. We are told that this artist went to Mount Vernon-to take a plaster cast of Washington's face. Just as he began operations, Mrs. Washington came into the room. She seemed so horrified when she saw what he was doing, that although Houdon had warned Washington to keep quite still, the latter could not help smiling. It is said that his efforts to get his face straight again, while the plaster flowed down over his cheeks, caused the deep lines on either side of his mouth which are so noticeable to-day in the Houdon bust.
IX. THE UNITED STATES BUYS LAND.
THE third President of our country was Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, and of the Act of Religious Freedom in Virginia. A good and honest man, the " Sage of Monticello " always kept the resolution made at the age of twenty-six, when elected a burgess: "Never to engage while in public office in any kind of enterprise for the improvement of my fortune, nor to wear any other character than that of farmer."
It was Jefferson who suggested our national motto, " E pluribus unum " [one composed of many], but, though one of the most learned and accomplished of all our Presidents, he was very plain and unassuming. Indeed, the story goes that at the time of his inauguration (1801), he rode alone to the Capitol, tied his horse to a picket fence, went in, took his oath as President, made a fifteen-minute speech, and rode off again as quietly as he had come.
This pleased the plain people, who showed their approval by sending the President a huge cheese, weighing more than a thousand pounds. It reached him on New Year's day, and was placed in the East Room in the White House, where all the callers could read the inscription: "The greatest cheese in America, for the greatest man in America."
As Jefferson never would hold stately receptions like those of Washington and Adams, and insisted upon doing everything simply, expenses were greatly reduced, and part of the national debt was paid. Jefferson's election, however, had not been a quiet one, for both he and Aaron Burr received the same number of electoral votes. As there was then no way of telling which was elected President and which Vice President under these circumstances, the election was left to the House of Representatives, which chose Jefferson. But, to prevent any such doubt in the future, a new clause, or amendment, was added to the Constitution. This says that the electors shall cast separate votes for President and for Vice President.
Many interesting events took place under Jefferson's rule. For instance, our country doubled its size in a very strange way. At the end of the French and Indian wars, France had given New Orleans and all her land west of the Mississippi to Spain. The Spaniards, after owning Lou i-si-a'na, as this great colony was called, for thirty-seven years, made a secret treaty giving it back to France. As it was very important that the Americans should be able to sail as much as they pleased up and down the Mississippi, and sell their produce in New Orleans, Jefferson thought it might be well to buy that city. He therefore sent a man to France to see if it could be done.
Now, it happened just at this time that Napoleon needed money to make war against his enemies the British. Besides, he could not spare any of his troops to occupy Louisiana, and he feared that the British would secure it. He therefore suddenly proposed to sell all Louisiana for the sum of fifteen million dollars, or about two and a half cents an acre; and the offer was accepted.
Napoleon, on signing the papers, gleefully remarked that he had now given England a rival, which, he added, " will sooner or later humble her pride." At first, Jefferson thought that under the Constitution our government had no right to acquire so much land; but, seeing what a fine bargain it was, he stretched his authority " until it cracked," to secure all Louisiana. Congress agreed with him, and the fifteen millions were duly paid.
In those days, no one knew anything about most of the country on the west side of the Mississippi, where only a few hunters and trappers had gone. Indeed, people so little suspected how quickly it would be settled that, at the time of the purchase, in 1803, some Americans said we would probably not send a settler across the Mississippi for a hundred years!
But Jefferson had long wished to have this part of our country explored, and even before the purchase was completed, he urged Congress to send out an exploring party under his secretary, Meriwether Lewis, and William Clark. Congress consented, so these two men and their followers left St. Louis, then a mere village (1804), and went up the Mis-sou'ri to the " Gate of the Rocky Mountains." They passed through what is now called Yel'low-stone Park, saw the many natural curiosities there, and tried to make friends with the Indians wherever they went. With much trouble, they crossed the mountains, where they carved their names upon a high rock. Then, although their supply of food was very scanty, they journeyed bravely on, until they reached the Columbia River.
Floating down this stream, the forty-six men composing the expedition reached the Pa-cif'ic Ocean, in 1805. It is said they were thus the first white men who crossed our country to the Pacific since Cabeza de Vaca (cah-ba'sah da vah'cah) had done so, more than two and a half centuries before. But the Columbia River had already been