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JOURNEY OF MRS. WASHINGTON TO NEW YORK-HONORS PAID HER IN
HER PROGRESS-RECEPTIONS AT THE SEAT OF GOVERNMENT-THE
On the 17th of May, Mrs. Washington, accompanied by her grandchildren, Eleanor Custis and George Washington Parke Custis, set out from Mount Vernon in her travelling carriage, with a small escort of horse, to join her husband at the seat of government; as she had been accustomed to join him at head-quarters, in the intervals of his revolutionary campaigns.
Throughout the journey she was greeted with public testimonials of respect and affection. As she approached Philadelphia, the President of Pennsylvania and other of the State functionaries, with a number of the principal inhabitants of both sexes, came forth to meet her, and she was attended into the city by a numerous cavalcade and welcomed with the ringing of bells and firing of cannon.
Similar honors were paid her in her progress through New Jersey. At Elizabethtown she alighted at the residence of Governor Livingston, whither Washington came from New York to meet her. They proceeded thence by water, in the same splendid barge in which the general had been conveyed for his inauguration. It was manned, as on that occasion, by thirteen master pilots, arrayed in white, and had several persons of note on board. There was a salute of thirteen guns as the barge passed the battery at New York. The landing took place at Peck Slip, not far from the presidential residence, amid the enthusiastic cheers of an immense multitude.
On the following day, Washington gave a demiofficial dinner, of which Mr. Wingate, a senator from New Hampshire, who was present, writes as follows:
The guests consisted of the Vice President, the foreign ministers, the heads of departments, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senators from New Hampshire and Georgia, the then most Northern and Southern States. It was the least showy dinner that I ever saw at the President's table, and the company was not large. As there was no chaplain present, the President himself said a very short grace as he was sitting down. After dinner and dessert were finished, one glass of wine was passed around the table, and no toast. The President rose, and all the company retired to the drawing-room, from which the guests departed, as every one chose, without ceremony."
On the evening of the following day, (Friday, May 29th,) Mrs. Washington had a general reception, which was attended by all that was distinguished in official and fashionable society. Henceforward there were similar receptions every Friday evening, from eight to ten o'clock, to which the families of all persons of respectability, native or foreign, had access, without special invitation; and at which the President was
THE PRESIDENT'S HOUSEHOLD.
always present. These assemblages were as free from ostentation and restraint as the ordinary receptions of polite society; yet the reader will find they were soon subject to invidious misrepresentation; and cavilled at as “ court-like levees” and “queenly drawing-rooms.
Beside these public receptions, the presidential family had its private circle of social intimacy; the President, moreover, was always ready to receive visits by appointment on public or private business.
The sanctity and quiet of Sunday were strictly observed by Washington. He attended church in the morning, and passed the afternoon alone in his closet. No visitors were admitted, excepting perhaps an intimate friend in the evening, which was spent by him in the bosom of his family.
The household establishment was conducted on an ample and dignified scale, but without ostentation, and regulated with characteristic system and exactness. Samuel Fraunces, once landlord of the city tavern in Broad street, where Washington took leave of the officers of the army in 1783, was now Steward of the presidential household. He was required to render a weekly statement of receipts and expenditures, and warned to guard against waste and extravagance. We are happy to inform our readers,” says Fenno's Gazette of the day, “that the President is determined to pursue that system of regularity and economy in his household which has always marked his public and private life.”
In regard to the deportment of Washington at this juncture, we have been informed by one who had opportunities of seeing him, that he still retained a mili
tary air of command which had become habitual to him. At levees and drawing-rooms he sometimes appeared cold and distant, but this was attributed by those who best knew him to the novelty of his position and his innate diffidence, which seemed to increase with the light which his renown shed about him. Though reserved at times, his reserve had nothing repulsive in it, and in social intercourse, where he was no longer under the eye of critical supervision, soon gave way to soldier-like frankness and cordiality. At all times his courtesy was genuine and benignant, and totally free from that stately condescension sometimes mistaken for politeness. Nothing we are told could surpass the noble grace with which he presided at a ceremonial dinner; kindly attentive to all his guests, but particularly attentive to put those at their ease and in a favorable light, who appeared to be most diffident.
As to Mrs. Washington, those who really knew her at the time, speak of her as free from pretension or affectation; undazzled by her position, and discharging its duties with the truthful simplicity and real goodbreeding of one accustomed to preside over a hospitable mansion in the “ Ancient Dominion.” She had her husband's predilection for private life. In a letter to an intimate she writes: " It is owing to the kindness of our numerous friends in all quarters that my new and unwished for situation is not indeed a burden to
When I was much younger, I should probably have enjoyed the innocent gayeties of life as much as most persons of my age; but I had long since placed all the prospects of my future worldly happiness in the still enjoyments of the fireside at Mount Vernon.
THE PRESIDENT'S EQUIPAGE.
“I little thought, when the war was finished, that any circumstances could possibly happen, which would call the General into public life again. I had anticipated that from that moment we should be suffered to grow old together in solitude and tranquillity. That was the first and dearest wish of my heart."*
Much has been said of Washington's equipages, when at New York, and of his having four, and sometimes six horses before his carriage, with servants and outriders in rich livery. Such style we would premise was usual at the time both in England and the colonies, and had been occasionally maintained by the continental dignitaries, and by Governors of the several States, prior to the adoption of the new constitution. It was still prevalent, we are told, among the wealthy planters of the South, and sometimes adopted by ' merchant princes' and rich individuals at the North. It does not appear, however, that Washington ever indulged in it through ostentation. When he repaired to the Hall of Congress, at his inauguration, he was drawn by a single pair of horses in a chariot presented for the occasion, on the panels of which were emblazoned the arms of the United States.
Beside this modest equipage there was the ample family carriage which had been brought from Virginia. To this four horses were put when the family drove out into the country, the state of the roads in those days requiring it. For the same reason six horses were put to the same vehicle on journeys, and once on a state occasion. If there was any thing he was likely to take a pride in, it was horses ; he was passionately fond of
* Quoted in a note to Sparks, p. 422.