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levee on Fridays. These receptions, with a public dinner every week, were all the social entertainments for which the President had either time or health.
By these sensible and apparently unimportant arrangements, Washington managed to give free access to every one who was entitled to it, and yet preserved the dignity and reserve due to his office. It was one of the real although unmarked services which he rendered to the new government, and which contributed so much to its establishment, for it would have been very easy to have lowered the presidential office by a false idea of republican simplicity. It would have been equally easy to have made it odious by a cold seclusion on the one hand, or by pomp and ostentation on the other. With his usual good judgment and perfect taste, Washington steered between the opposing dangers, and yet notwithstanding the wisdom of his arrangements, and in spite of their simplicity, he did not escape calumny on account of them. One criticism was that at his reception every one stood, which was thought to savor of incipient monarchy. To this Washington replied, with the directness of which he was always capable, that it was not usual to sit on such occasions, and, if it were, he had no room large enough for the number of chairs that would be required, and that, as the whole thing was perfectly unceremonious, every one could come and go as he pleased. Fault was also found with the manner in which he bowed, an accusation to which
he answered with an irony not untinged with bitterness and contempt: “That I have not been able to make bows to the taste of poor Colonel B. (who, by the by, I believe never saw one of them) is to be regretted, especially too, as, upon those occasions, they were indiscriminately bestowed, and the best I was master of. Would it not have been better to throw the veil of charity over them, ascribing their stiffness to the effects of age, or to the unskillfulness of my teacher, rather than to pride and dignity of office, which God knows has no charms for me?”
As party hostility developed, these attacks passed from the region of private conversation to the columns of newspapers and the declamation of mob orators, and an especial snarl was raised over the circumstance that at some public ball the President and Mrs. Washington were escorted to a sofa on à raised platform, and that guests passed before them and bowed. Much monarchy and aristocracy were perceived in this little matter, and Jefferson carefully set it down in that collection of withered slanders which he gave to an admiring posterity, after the grave had safely covered both him and those whom he feared and hated in his lifetime. This incident, however, was but an example of the political capital which was sought for in the conduct of the presidential office. The celebration of the birthday, the proposition to put Washington's head upon the coins, and many other similar trifles, were all twisted to
the same purpose. The dynasty of Cleon has been a long one, so long that even the succession of the Popes seems temporary beside it, and it flourished in Washington's time as rankly as it did in Athens, or as it does to-day. The object of the assault varies, but the motives and the purpose are as old and as lasting as human nature. Envy and malice will always find a convenient shelter in pretended devotion to the public weal, and will seek revenge for their own lack of success by putting on the cloak of the tribune of the people, and perverting the noblest of offices to the basest uses.
But time sets all things even. The demagogues and the critics who assailed Washington's demeanor and behavior are forgotten, while the wise and simple customs which he established and framed for the great office that he honored, still prevail by virtue of their good sense. gladly with all remembrance of those bold defenders of liberty who saw in these slight forms forerunners of monarchy. We would even consent to drop into oblivion the precious legacy of Jefferson. But we will never part with the picture drawn by a loving hand of that stately figure, clad in black velvet, with the hand on the hilt of the sword, standing at one of Mrs. Washington's levees, and receiving with gentle and quiet dignity, full of kindliness but untinged by cheap familiarity, the crowd that came to pay their respects. well for the republic that at the threshold of its existence it had for President a man who, by the
kindness of his heart, by his good sense, good manners, and fine breeding, gave to the office which he held and the government he founded the simple dignity which was part of himself and of his own high character.
Thus the forms and shows, important in their way, were dealt with, while behind them came the sterner realities of government, demanding regulation and settlement. At the outset Washington knew about the affairs of the government, especially for the last six years, only in a general way. He felt it to be his first duty, therefore, to familiarize himself with all these matters, and, although he was in the midst of the stir and bustle of a new government, he nevertheless sent for all the papers of each department of the confederation since the signature of the treaty of peace, went through them systematically, and made notes and summaries of their contents. This habit he continued throughout his presidency in dealing with all official documents. The natural result followed. He knew more at the start about the facts in each and every department of the public business than any other one man, and he continued to know more throughout his administration. In this method and this capacity for taking infinite pains is to be found a partial explanation at least of the easy mastery of affairs which he always showed, whether on the plantation, in the camp, or in the cabinet. It was in truth a striking instance of that "long patience” which the great French naturalist said was genius.
While he was thus regulating forms of business, and familiarizing himself with public questions, it became necessary to fix the manner of dealing with foreign powers. There were not many representatives of foreign nations present at the birth of the republic, but there was one who felt, and perhaps not without reason, that he was entitled to peculiar privileges. The Count de Moustier, minister of France, desired to have private access to the President, and even to discuss matters of business with him. Washington's reply to this demand was, in its way, a model. After saying that the only matter which could come up would relate to commerce, with which he was unfamiliar, he continued: "Every one, who has any knowledge of my manner of acting in public life, will be persuaded that I am not accustomed to impede the dispatch or frustrate the success of business by a ceremonious attention to idle forms. Any person of that description will also be satisfied that I should not readily consent to lose one of the most important functions of my office for the sake of preserving an imaginary dignity. But perhaps, if there are rules of proceeding which have originated from the wisdom of statesmen, and are sanctioned by the common consent of nations, it would not be prudent for a young state to dispense with them altogether, at least without some substantial cause for so doing. I have myself been induced to think, possibly from habits of experience, that in general the best mode of conducting negotiations, the detail