Abbildungen der Seite

at Georgetown, which, though of a superior order, were three miles distant from the capital, and of course rendered the daily employment of hackney coaches indispensable.

Notwithstanding the unfavorable aspect which Washington presented on our arrival, I cannot sufficiently express my admiration of its local position. From the capital you have a distinct view of its fine undulating surface situated at the confluence of the Potomac and its eastern branch, the wide expanse of that majestic river to the bend at Mt. Vernon, the cities of Alexandria and Georgetown, and the cultivated fields and blue hills of Maryland and Virginia on either side of the river, the whole constituting a prospect of surpassing beauty and grandeur.

“The city has also the inestimable advantage of delightful water, in many instances flowing from copious springs, and always attainable by digging to a moderate depth ; to which may be added the singular fact that such is the due admixture of loam and clay in the soil of a great portion of the city, that a house may be built of brick made of the earth dug from the cellar; hence it was not unusual to see the remains of a brick kiln near the newly erected dwellings."

“Wilderness City,” “Capital of Miserable Huts,” City of Streets without Houses,” “ City of Magnificent Distances,” A Mud-hole almost Equal to the Great Serbonian Bog," were epithets that appear in the letters of these disgusted statesmen, who perhaps did not take into sufficient consideration the extreme difficulty of building a capital in ten years, with no other resources than the gifts of the charitable, and the proceeds of the sale of lots.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

The first ruler of the city was a strong, heroic figure-John Adams, the fiery patriot of the Revolution, the champion of the Declaration of Independence in Congress. Every one who takes the slightest interest in his country's history is familiar with his story. He had been the strong staff on which Washington leaned, the man whom he desired to be his successor; and so, on Washington's retirement in 1796, the people had elected Adams President. But Adams came to the capital in bitterness of soul. A few days before there had been a revolution in the political world. The Federal party, of which he was the head, had been sorely defeated in the contest for the Presidency, and the Republican party, led by Jefferson, his political rival, had won. His brief sojourn of barely four months was in the rôle of the setting rather than that of the rising luminary. This, except in one instance, did not deter him from a scrupulous observance of the courtesies of his office. In official and social life he adopted the courtly ceremonial inaugurated by Washington, riding up to the Capitol and delivering his message to Congress in person, and giving formal levees and stately dinners at stated times. Washington society, during his brief term, was courtly, polished, and exclusive to a degree.

If the President was sponsor to the infant city, so also was Congress ; indeed, the latter has always had the more direct control over its destinies, the government of the city being vested solely in that body. Let us consider briefly this Congress, the first to assume parental control. There were thirty-two Senators and one hundred and five Representatives, representing sixteen States. Jefferson, as Vice-President, was President of the Senate. Theodore Sedgwick, the eminent jurist, was Speaker of the House. Of the many able and eloquent men in both Houses the names of but few are to-day remembered. John Randolph of Roanoke is best known; tall, lean almost to the point of emaciation, a master of coarse invective and sarcasm, nothing delighted him so much as personal debate and opposition. He was in politics very much what Voltaire was in letters. Griswold, Tracy, and John Cotton Smith of Connecticut, Sumter and Rutledge of South Carolina, Gouverneur Morris of New York, Bayard of Delaware, and Baldwin of Georgia who drafted the Constitution, were the most influential members. At this first session too, as if to concentrate public attention on the infant city, occurred the famous tie contest between Jefferson and Burr for the Presidency. For seven days the contest was waged in the House. The whole country became aroused.

Every morning swift couriers sped north and south with news of the day's balloting. In store, tavern, work-shop, people talked of nothing but the great tie intrigues. Toward the last the excitement rose to fever-heat; threats of revolution were freely made, and if Congress had not sat in the wilderness city, it is probable that an armed mob would have stormed the gates of the Capitol. At last the votes of Maryland were won for Jefferson, and on the 17th of February, 1801, he was declared elected. On the 4th of March following, the new President was inaugurated. It was the first ceremony of the kind that the infant capital had ever seen ; it was the simplest and most democratic in form that it was destined ever to see. The inaugurations of Washington and Adams had been attended with something of the state and ceremony of English coronations. Jefferson determined to emphasize the triumph of democracy by a change. A recent historian, following partisan accounts, describes him as riding unattended up Pennsylvania Avenue on horseback through the mud, hitching his horse to a sapling, and as passing thence up into the Capitol, where he delivered his inaugural and took the oath. It is very unwise, however, to accept partisan accounts for sober history. In Raynor's “Life of Jefferson,” published in 1832, there is an authoritative account by an eye-witness, from which we quote :

The sun shone bright on that morning. The Senate was convened. Those members of the Republican party who remained at the seat of government, the judges of the Supreme Court, some citizens and gentry from the neighboring country, and about a dozen ladies made up the assembly in the Senate Chamber who were collected to witness the inauguration. Mr. Jefferson had not yet arrived. He was seen walking from his lodgings, which were not far distant, attended by five or six gentlemen who were his fellow lodgers. Soon afterward he entered, accompanied by a Committee of the Senate, and bowing to the Senate, who arose to receive him, he approached a table on which the Bible lay, and took the oath, which was administered to him by the Chief Justice. He was then conducted by the President of the Senate to his chair, which stood on a platform raised some steps above the floor. After a pause of a moment or two, he arose and delivered that beautiful inaugural address, which has since become so popular and celebrated, with a clear, distinct voice in a firm and modest manner. On leaving the chair he was surrounded by friends who pressed forward with eager congratulations, and some, though not many, of the more magnanimous of his opponents, most of whom, however, silently left the Chamber. The new President walked home with two or three of the gentlemen who lodged in the same house. At dinner he took his accustomed place at the bottom of the table, his new station not eliciting from his democratic friends any new attention or courtesy.”

Thus were inaugurated the days of “ Jeffersonian simplicity.” The inaugural, couched in Addisonian English, was remarked for its brevity, clearness, and simplicity of diction. In it the new President thus defined his position:

“Equal and exact justice to all men of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political ; peace, commerce, and honest friendships with all nations, entangling alli

« ZurückWeiter »