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would perhaps not occur, if there were an from their dignity, or in aught diminish that independent and sufficiently consequential so- influence on the inferior classes which causes ciety in Washington, capable of punishing these to emulate their matchless example. offenders against the proprieties of life. At all
There certainly exists something similar to events, if it be proper that Congress and the
this in Washington in regard to the peerless administration of the government should be
society of senators, members, and the corps placed beyond the influence of a mob of a great
diplomatique. These constitute, par excellence, the city, it would certainly not be amiss if they
society of Washington; and although the first were more frequently brought within the sphere
two, as above stated, are in general, selected of those more gentle attractions which can
| from the strongest and ablest men of the hardly exist for them, as long as they remain
country, yet as society is necessarily the probeyond the pale of social rewards and punish
vince of women and not of men, their very ments. Even an exclusively literary society
originality is calculated to give ladies a certain may be rude when it dictates instead of minis
degree of uneasiness. On the other hand, one tering to the accomplishments of the other
is frequently introduced to fashionable women classes. Society is naturally jealous of domi
| in Washington, whom it would be difficult to nion. It may be the creator and at times the
class in any other city in the Union, on account slave of fashion ; but it is always destitute of
of their being strangers, comparatively, in all taste when it is supremely ruled by a caste.
of them. This may, indeed, heighten their Where society is exclusively composed of one
charms, and increase the attractions of their set of men and women, no matter what their
company; but the season in Washington is qualifications may be, it soon becomes irksome.
too short to mature acquaintance into friendIts members become as familiar to each other
ship, or to leave more than partial regrets as old household furniture, and the whole cycle
for ties easily formed and quickly severed. of social pleasures is soon reduced to a series
There is little souvenir in Washington, and not of mutual entertainments. To this monotony,
enough of retired private life to compensate for even the most extensive society of London is
the wrongs inflicted by society. The city is reduced, from its exclusiveness. Thoughts,
too small for people to live in retirement, and ideas, feelings, and the mode of expressing
yet too large and noisy to promote the formathem, become tinctured with a fatal mannerism
tion of domestic habits. Washington is a which acts as a check on the mind, instead of
watering place, without its comforts, its social serving it merely as an agreeable mode of
equality, its abandon, and oh! shall I name it? conveyance. The frame becomes soon more
-without its bathrs ! It is a mere rendez-vous of valuable than the picture, and an acquaintance
politicians, not always statesmen—a public with forms, and the punctilio of politeness, a
exchange, on which power and place are dismystery known only to the craft. In this
counted—the arena of high ambition and vulrespect the best English society is probably
gar pride—the place to study men and women; nearest allied to the Chinese, only that the
but the most ill-chosen residence of those whose latter is much more democratic; Mandarins being made out of scholars and not out of the
happiness depends on the sympathy of others.
But to return to senators and members. offspring of noble families, and official position, which alone gives rank in the Celestial Empire, The members of the House of Representatives open to individual merit. The blood relations are only elected for two years, and the progress of Confucius, it is true, receive pensions; but of the country, and the genius of the people they do not set the fashion of Celestial society. are such, that but few of them comparatively,
It is a familiar saying in England that “a are re-elected, until they become fixtures, or person may be admitted to their best society, pass eventually into the Senate. Members, but that none but its members ever belong to it.” | therefore, are not surrounded by that préstige Society and the institutions of England, are of power and office, which could make their alike resting on a feudal basis which has office a passe partout in society. They are successfully withstood all revolutions in poli-| looked upon as in a transition state ; either tics, religion, ethics, and taste; and it is for | senators in embryo, or candidates for retired this reason that Madame de Staël, though her citizenship. The case is different with senaself but a distinguished commonplace, observed tors; and accordingly, next to the cabinet that English society was the most capital ministers in Washington, the members of the means of keeping ordinary men in prominent Senate of the United States are the enfants places. The perfect ease which pervades the gatés of society. Every senator of distinction first society in England is, no doubt, the result may be looked upon as a candidate for the of the conviction that its members are above presidency; many of them have been and will criticism—that no accidents, no voluntary or be, candidates during the period of their nainvoluntary demerit on their part, can derogate tural lives; and this state of things will con
tinue as long as the institutions of our country of dyspepsia ; nobody knowing what may be shall endure.
the consequence. As a body, the Senate of the United States As to the corps diplomatique, it is entitled to can probably boast of a greater array of talent, . a separate notice, both from its importance and vigour, and originality than any other body of its insignificance. To judge of its insignificance men on the globe. I doubt whether the Roman it is only necessary to compare its members senate, in its palmiest days, entertained more with the leading statesmen of Europe and Ameenlarged views of government, or were more rica; but especially with the diplomates of the familiar with the wants of the people, and the old world. Who, for instance, would dream of obligations of legislators. There certainly sending such a person as Chevalier Bodisco to never was, and is not now, a Chamber of Peers England or France? What figure would Mr. or a House of Lords in Europe, whose aggre- | Pageot have made by the side of Talleyrand, gate talent can at all be compared to that of Perrier, Guizot, Broglie? What place would our own Senate. As far as talent, energy, or Chevalier d'Hulseman, the forgotten Austrian originality can grace society, that of our sena- relic of Baron Marschall, occupy in London, tors must be particularly entertaining and Paris, or St. Petersburgh? I might go through instructive. But senators do not live in Wash- the whole list of foreign ministers and diploington; they merely sojourn there, and but few matic agents in Washington to show that, with of them ever honour the metropolis with the one or two prominent exceptions, there is presence of their wives or daughters. Neither scarcely a man among them known to reputaMr. Clay, the true personation of the beau tion or fame; and yet that corps furnishes ideal of American character, nor Mr. Webster, above all others the standard of refinement nor Mr. Calhoun, has been in the habit of and good breeding in the American capital! It bringing his family regularly to Washing- would seem as if, through the everlasting mutaton. Some of the most agreeable senators tions in Washington society, the foreign diplonever had wives ; and not more than two or mates were the only persons in the place whose three, as far as I can remember, ever kept position may, in some degree, be considered as house there, and entertained a circle of friends. secure ; partly because their offices are not Senator Benton is a long resident of Washing coveted, and partly because they are too far ton, and has contributed much to the intel from home to be reached by every change of lectual and social entertainment of strangers administration or politics. Washington seems and residents; Senator Dix, and his accom to be the Botany Bay of European diplomacy, plished family, were his neighbours; and the to which ministers and charges are sent for a Hon. Robert J. Walker's house has ever been number of years, or for life, according to their distinguished for its réunions of clever persons, respective standing at home-not so much for and its unpretending hospitality : but beyond the good they are expected to do there, as in these few exceptions to the rule, I know of few order to get rid of them in their own country, instances in which senators have become domes- where they might stand in the way of other ticated in the federal city. They live there in men's promotions. taverns and boarding-houses; and the people of But there is yet another reason why a diploWashington have as good a right to boast of matic appointment in Washington is a mere their society, as the citizens of modern Rome sinecure. The government of the United have a right to boast of the society of the States, being essentially one of public opinion English nobles who go there, from time to time, and not of individual ideas, negotiates with to spend the holy week. Neither senators nor the foreign governments on principles of recimembers constitute what may properly be procity. We have nothing to do with sinister called Washington society; they go there as alliances and wicked combinations against people go to a fair or a cattle show, or to any third powers. Our government is in reality other place of public notoriety; resolved to put what it purports to be-a truth and not a up with temporary accommodations, and satis- | fiction : it deals in principles, not in stratafied with any reasonable show of attention on gems-in public measures, not in diplomatic the part of their hosts and hostesses. They do intrigues. “Dissimuler c'est regner" was the not constitute a coterie of their own, but motto of Cardinal Mazarin, and has been the depend on the hospitalities of others; and as soul of diplomacy from that period. The they hold the power, and their entertainers United States have no occasion for dissimulaare, for the most part, clients who may have tion, which is at war with the principles of our favours to ask, the amphytrions of Washington government. We have no powerful neighbour city may reasonably be suspected of more than to harass our frontier population—no American one object in the choice of their guests. The coalition to arrest our progress. Our ultimate contemplation of the ulterior object of a dinner destiny is so irresistibly impressed on the party is often quite as bad as the anticipation / mind of the whole civilized world, that to oppose it by the petty intrigues of European, and doubts may arise whether it is entirely diplomacy, would seem like an attempt to expended for amphytrionic purposes by the resist the decrees of Providence. In that respective functionaries. respect, therefore, a European diplomate is all It has often been remarked, in and out of the man without a calling in Washington. He is halls of Congress, that our ministers abroad the mere representative of the conventional are not sufficiently well paid, and, in conseforms of the old feudal institutions of Europe, quence of it, obliged to remain behind their -an actor without a stage-an orator without colleagues even from the less powerful states a forum.
| of Europe. It might perhaps be well, in conAnother function of diplomatic gentlemen in nexion with this subject, to compare the exEurope is to act as spies to their respective penditures of our ministers abroad with those governments in the country to which they are of the members of the corps diplomatique in accredited, in other words, to do those things, Washington. Considering that our own minunder the protection of their respective go-isters abroad entertain out of their own small vernments, for which, as individuals, they salaries or private fortunes, and that the would be expelled from all decent society; but entertainments of the foreign ministers in even in this respect diplomacy in Washington Washington are paid for by the respective is a useless commodity. The diplomate in governments, American hospitality abroad comWashington must be very shrewd who wishes pares exceedingly well with the meagre Euroto be in advance of the public press; the press pean show of that sort in the federal city. being in most cases ahead of the government Our ministers abroad not only entertain Euroitself. If the princes of Europe would regularly peans, but are also expected to show some subscribe and read half a dozen of our news- attention to their own countrymen, of whom papers which I could name, they would not only there are at least five hundred times as many derive more information in regard to our pro- in London or Paris as there are Englishmen gress and the institutions of our country than or Frenchmen entitled to similar honours from they can possibly receive from the official their ministers in Washington. I have known despatches of their ministers in Washington, quite a respectable array of educated Europeans but learn more in regard to their own position in Washington, but few of them could boast of at home than they are likely to know through receiving the merest official politeness from the means of their court flatterers.
their ministers; while our own travellers in The members of the diplomatic corps being Europe expect our ministers abroad not only functus officio, seem to have taken a notion to to breakfast and dine them, but to act as improve the manners of society; not that they showmen to the ladies of the party. They are essentially better bred than the people must be presented at court and launched in whose manners they purpose to refine, but society, or the minister may be presented with simply because they have nothing else to do some stricture in a newspaper which, perThey feel that in proportion as the internal chance, is the only thing he receives free development of our country is going on, its of postage while at his foreign post. Conexternal relations are of comparatively little sidering all these things, our ministers in consequence. The growth of the United States Europe maintain far more extensive establishdoes not depend on external circumstances; but ments than the ministers of European powers our manners betray, perhaps, too much of their in America. It is not uncommon for a foreign European origin, and thus invite “foreign in- | chargé in Washington to have rooms over a terference." The foreign ministers and their barber's shop, or to hire a corner of the estaattachés, enjoying more leisure than other blishment of a green-grocer, with a solitary people in Washington, are expected to entertain negro boy Pompey for his whole suite; and yet more, and as that seems to be the principal what is the rent of a respectable house in duty of their vocation, the most sensible of the Washington compared with that of suitable corps devote themselves to it with entire resig- apartments in London or Paris. The rent of nation. But it must not be supposed that this the latter would build a house in the city of is altogether voluntary on their part, or a Washington! spontaneous effort of their liberality; their It has been quite fashionable, for some years hospitality is in obedience to their instructions, past, to retail the gaucheries of which our minand is defrayed by their respective govern isters and chargés d'affaires were said to be ments. It is the Emperor of Russia, the guilty in Europe; yet it has been admitted on Emperor of Austria, or the King of Prussia all hands, and by none more readily than who entertains, not the minister ; and the Englishmen and Frenchmen, that our ill-paid, people of those countries pay for the enter- uninformed, gauche diplomatic servants have tainment. The table-money of foreign ministers generally acquitted themselves very handamounts in many cases to a considerable sum, somely of their tasks; while, not more than
three or four years ago, General Almonte, the respectability can well be excluded. The case then minister from Mexico, was considered is different with the invitations to parties en the LEADER of the corps diplomatique in Wash- petit comité, which are the only ones that ington! When the United States claimed entitle you to a call on the family of the twenty-five millions of francs, as an indemnity minister ;-all others give you only the prividue from France to our citizens, the best lege of carding. The fact is, the corps diploBritish periodicals, being fully convinced of matique, from its very position, cannot lead the awkwardness and inexperience of our society in any country. The elements of ministers abroad, made use of this laconic which it is composed are too heterogeneous remark: " Jonathan has claimed the money, to admit of assimilation; and if such an assiand Jonathan will have it;' and the prophecy milation were possible, every civilized country became true.
would have a right to expect that its own And now let us see what men the United standard of manners should be adopted by States has had to represent her interests, suc- foreigners. cessively, in England, France, Russia, and Passing from the corps diplomatique to the Germany, and compare them with the com- other privileged classes of Washington, we paratively obscure men whom Europe has come to the secretaries and heads of bureaux. sent to America. We were represented The former live in Washington pretty much as by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Jef- they like—sometimes in accordance with their ferson, Monroe, Clay, John Quincy Adams, future hopes and aspirations. Those who exLivingston, Rush, Gallatin, Dallas, Bucha- pect to rise higher, entertain pretty liberally; nan, Cass, Everett, Wheaton, and Bancroft,-a those who expect to return to private life, or galaxy of statesmen, jurists, historians, and to try their fortunes once more in an inferior philosophers, of which any country in its capacity, generally manage to live within their palmiest days might well be proud, and em- income, which is modest enough even for the bracing a greater number of men of historical sternest republicans. Once a year only they renown, than fill the annals of all European are obliged, by the custom of the place, to keep diplomacy in the same space of time. In open house, and entertain whoever chooses to comparison to these men, all the names Europe visit them, viz., on New Year's day; but a glass has sent us, might well befit the inmates of a of wine and a piece of cake is all that is expected charity hospital, and the best European writers of their hospitality. The heads of bureaux, would hardly assign them a better place among for some time past, seem to have given up the the notabilities of their own country. In short, practice of entertaining members and senators. our ill-paid diplomatio agents, the objects of Life is too short, and living too expensive, to 80 much private and official pity, have managed waste money and politeness on men who, as to maintain their rank and position; while the the experience of former times has shown, whole business of the corps diplomatique in the are seldom propitiated by such a course. United States seems to consist in gracing the Instances have occurred, in which the invited social circles of the boundless metropolis. It guests of such parties have actually intrigued is they who set the fashions in Washington; against their hospitable entertainers in favour but it does not appear that their influence of absent friends, so that mine host not only extends over more than a dozen families. The lost his wine and his trouble, but his place to people of Washington are essentially poor, and boot. their imitation of outlandish manners seldom The President of the United States is, socially goes beyond a late hour for breakfast or dinner. | speaking, a being sui generis, that is, altogether The foreign ministers themselves have, within beyond the reach of ordinary capacities. He the last ten or twelve years, gradually reduced is bound by no rule of etiquette except such their expenses, and it is no exaggeration to as he establishes himself; and it is precisely say that the greater part of them do not nearly for this reason that even the chief magistrate live surrounded by the comfort and elegance cannot contribute to the refinement and agreeof our wealthy merchants in the Atlantic cities. able entertainment of Washington society.
Great stress is laid in Washington on having The President is a stranger in Washington; the entrée to a foreign minister, and great are residing there only for a few years, and inthe social privileges granted to some of these capable, during that short period, either to gentlemen for this sort of favour. In Europe, shake off the burdensome dignity of office, an ambassador's house is scarcely looked upon or the predilections and prejudices of party. as more private than a public hotel, and an Presidential usage requires him to receive invitation to the ball of a foreign minister is friends and foes with apparent cordiality, not valued higher than in New York the per- and what is more, to dine them alphabetimission of joining "a hop” at the Astor. cally. Such entertainments must, from their Everybody goes, and no man of a certain | very nature, be stiff and ceremonial, and can
only serve to render the hospitality of the ment. Washington is beautifully situated, and White House an onerous duty to the American laid out in a manner infinitely superior to that President. The presidential mansion, on this of any other city in the Union. It might be account, always has the appearance of the made the abode of science and the arts, and most cheerless building in the whole city ; become the resort of fortune, retired from the although its windows look into Virginia, the more arduous pursuits of life. It has admimost hospitable state of the old confederacy. rable drives in the neighbourhood, and the It is neither a castle, nor the humble dwelling Capitol grounds themselves are unsurpassed in of a private citizen; everybody has a right to the whole country for the beauty of the prospect go there, and yet none may say that he is sure enjoyed from them. The avenues are all as of a hearty welcome. To the occupants pro wide, or nearly so, as the Champs Elysées in tem, it may be something between a boarding- Paris, and might, with proper care, be rendered house and a family mansion, without the inde- shady and delightful. Congress ought to appendence or comfort of either; but to the people propriate annually not less than the sum of of Washington, it is very little more than one one hundred thousand dollars towards making of the departments of the government. It is a Washington worthy of its name, and of being place for official receptions and bows; but the the metropolis of the giant republic of the civilities there interchanged seldom warm into nineteenth century; and this appropriation the agreeable liking of an acquaintance, and would probably be agreed to in Congress, but rarely into lasting friendship. There is no for the party hostilities exhibited by some of greater stranger in Washington than the Pre- its inhabitants. Washington, with suitable imsident himself; and strangers cannot be sup- provements, might be made the most delightful posed to set the fashions or to exercise much city in the United States. It might not, indeed, influence on the standard of conventional rival New York or Philadelphia in some respects; manners. The early Virginia Presidents were, but it would possess advantages possessed by in this respect, a little better circumstanced. no other city—such as close contact with the Their homes being near, they maintained epitome of the national mind, constant freshan agreeable intercourse with their personal ness of society, moving sketches of metropolitan friends, which served as an introduction to a and provincial life, and the indispensable prelarger sphere of interesting acquaintances. requisites of refined society—a constant number
One of the misfortunes of Washington con- of families of independent fortune and position, sists undoubtedly in the asperity of political who would be able to fix on some national, feelings, and the strong partisan character of purely American standard of manners. Such many of its most conspicuous inhabitants. The a society, no doubt, Washington will, in the people of the District have no vote in regard end, command in a superior degree to any to the presidency, and yet nowhere are poli- other city in the Union; but it is not to be tical distinctions more rigidly preserved and found there now, and may not be called into cherished. The town being small, every person existence for the next ten years. of note is soon known; and as there seem to be To sum up, Washington is the most singular few other pursuits in Washington than politics, place in the world. Its most distinguished differences in relation to them are constantly inhabitants, the gentlemen highest in office, brought in view and commented upon. The have little or no influence on society, indeed best breeding cannot entirely suppress all feel- they may hardly be said to belong to it; while ing on the subject, and the periodical changes those who constitute its chief ornaments are, of members and officers are admirably calcu- after all, but officials; the few fortunes in Washlated to sharpen the stings of disappointment ington being hardly sufficient to take the lead. and revenge. There are, of course, men above Washington is, and will yet remain for many the vexations of party; but their number is years, a huge caravansary for politicians from small, from the fact that there are but few all parts of the globe; but few of the faithful private fortunes in Washington of sufficient will ever think of erecting mosques and harems magnitude to render their possessors indepen- in its neighbourhood. You may there meet dent, and scarcely any road to wealth, or even with many agreeable and entertaining people; competence, except through official patronage. but they are birds of passage like yourself, Everybody in Washington lives on the govern- and so completely interspersed with persons ment or its functionaries, and every new admi- of accidental position, whom nobody cares to nistration necessarily unsettles every species of know, that they only excite the desire of meetreal and personal property.
| ing them elsewhere, where one could enjoy The strong partisan feeling in Washington their society without intrusion. is undoubtedly the cause why Congress has The President's social intercourse with the heretofore shown so little disposition to make people of Washington is usually confined to the necessary appropriations for its improve- receptions and levees, to which the public are