Abbildungen der Seite

last of the State parlors, has crimson plush curtains at the windows and furniture upholstered with the same material. The walls are painted a Pompeiian red, and bronze and copper stars decorate the ceiling. The names “Red Room," “ Blue Room,” etc., recall an old colonial custom, when the parlors and state chambers of mansions were named after the prevailing color of their appointments.

From the parlors we pass out into a long corridor, separated from the public vestibule only by a screen of glass, and from it enter the grand dining-room, where, once or twice a week during the season, are given the formal dinners to Justices of the Supreme Court, Cabinet officers, Senators and Representatives, foreign ministers, and other distinguished persons whom the President is expected officially to honor. This room is also elegantly furnished. On state occasions it is lighted by numerous gas-jets and wax candles, and with the glittering silver and china and floral embellishments of the table presents a bright and animated appearance.

The upper story of the mansion is devoted to the business offices and private apartments of the President. The apartments of public interest here are the Library, where the President receives callers during the day, and the Cabinet-room, where, each Tuesday and Friday, the President and his Cabinet meet for consultation.

The library is a very interesting apartment. The numerous book-cases around the room are filled with books said to have been selected by Mrs. Millard Fillmore, when her husband was President. The

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors]



furniture is of mahogany upholstered in red leather. The massive desk which the Presidents use is of oak from the gallant ship Resolute, which the English Government sent to the Arctic zone, in 1852, to search for Sir John Franklin. The ship was abandoned in the ice by its crew in 1853, was found two years later in good condition and brought to New York by a New London whaler, and presented by the President to Queen Victoria, who had made from its timbers this famous desk, and then presented it to the United States for use in the White House.

One has only to recall the great state papers written upon the desk to perceive its historical importance and patriotic interest.

The principal feature of the Cabinet-room is a long table at which the President and his advisers sit for consultation on Cabinet days. If we could look in on them on such occasions we should find the President sitting at the head of the table, with the Secretary of State on his right hand and the Secretary of the Treasury on his left, these two gentlemen being considered the first and second in rank of the Cabi. net officers.

All this that we have been recounting is of modern, every-day interest: the White House has also its romantic and historical interest, as when, ensconced in a quiet corner of the East Room, one recalls the distinguished men and beautiful and stately dames whose presence has lent it dignity. They come back at fancy's summons-John Adams and Mrs. Adams with their formal, courtly, colonial ways; Thomas Jefferson, the lonely widower, who thinks he is inaugurating the rule of the people; the polished Madison, with his lovely, accomplished wife, in whose time the enemy overcame the city, and made of our stately pile a blackened ruin ; Talleyrand, Chateaubriand, Thomas Moore, Volney, General Moreau, Joseph and Jerome Bonaparte, Dr. Priestley, the famous philosopher; Thomas Paine, the revolutionist; Baron Humboldt, who gave new worlds to science; Lewis and Clark, the explorers; Meley-Meley, the first Turkish Minister to America, whose elaborate head-dress and turban of plaster-ofParis representing the finest muslin was the talk of the town ; and Gilbert Stuart, the portrait-painter, who was nearly “worked to death,” so eager were the ladies to have their beauty rendered immortal by his magic brush,-are some of the heroic figures of this era, closed by fire.

The work of restoring the mansion went on indefatigably under Hoban, the architect of the original building, and, on January 2, 1818, the National Intelligencer was able to say:

“ The President's House for the first time since its restoration was thrown open yesterday for the general reception of visitors. It was thronged from 12 to 3 o'clock by an immensely large concourse of ladies and gentlemen, among whom were to be found the foreign ministers, heads of departments, Senators and Representatives, and others of our distinguished citizens, residents and strangers. It was gratifying to be able to salute the President of the United States with the compliments of the season in his appropriate residence.”

The President thus saluted is the courtly soldier, statesman, and diplomatist, James Monroe, who, nine months before, has been inaugurated fifth President of the United States. He has a lovely, interesting wife—the daughter of Lawrence Kortright, the former English army captain,—who, when he married her, in 1786, was the belle of New York society, but so great an invalid now that she mingles little in the social gayeties of the capital. In amends she gives weekly “drawing-rooms," which the leading newspaper of the city thus describes—perhaps in exaggerated strains :

"The secretaries, senators, foreign ministers, consuls, auditors, accountants, officers of the army and navy of every grade, farmers, merchants, parsons, priests, lawyers, judges, auctioneers, and nothingarians, all with their wives, and some with their gawky offspring, crowd to the President's House every Wednesday evening : some in shoes, most in boots, and many in spurs ; some snuffing, others chewing, and many longing for their cigars and whiskey-punches left at home. Some with powdered heads, others frizzled and oiled, with some whose heads a comb has never touched, half hid by dirty collars reaching far above their ears as stiff as pasteboard.” It is still the reign of the people, you see.

In March, 1820, there is a wedding here in the East Room, the first wedding in the White House, Maria Monroe, the youngest daughter of the President, being married to her cousin, Samuel L. Gouverneur, of New York. It is celebrated in what the gossips call the “New York style,” only the relatives and immediate friends of the bride being present.

Among the throng is a small, delicately-featured old

« ZurückWeiter »