JOHN TYLER, the first Vice-president to receive promotion to the Presidency in mid-term, was at his home in Virginia when Harrison died. He came to Washington at once and took lodgings at a hotel, where, two days later, he was sworn in by Chief Judge Cranch of the Circuit Court of the District. His administration was not picturesque in the usual sense ; the most it gave people to talk about was his narrow escape from impeachment for deserting the party which elected him. But his unpopularity bore valuable fruit for Washington. When the partisan excitement was at its highest pitch, a company of local politicians went to the White House one night and, drawn up in front of it, “groaned” their disapproval of Tyler’s conduct. To protect the Presidential office from further indignities of that sort, a bill was introduced in the Senate to establish an “auxiliary guard” for the defense of the public and private property against incendiaries, and “for the enforcement of the police regulations of the city of Washing ton,” with an appropriation of seven thousand dollars to equip a captain and fifteen men with the proper implements to distinguish them in the discharge of their duty. This was the foundation of the Metropolitan Police force, which now numbers seventy-five officers and more than six hundred privates.
Life at the White House was simple in Tyler’s time. The President was in the habit of rising with the sun, lighting a fire that had been laid overnight in his study, and working at his desk till breakfast was served at eight o’clock. At this meal he insisted on having the ladies of his family appear in calico frocks. In the evening all the household would gather in the green parlor and pass an hour or two in entertaining any visitors who happened in, interspersing conversation with piano music and old-fashioned songs. It was Tyler who introduced the custom of periodical open-air concerts by the Marine Band ; and on warm Saturday afternoons the garden south of the White House was a favorite resort of the best people of the city,, while the President would sit with his family and a few invited guests on the porch, listening to the music and responding to the salutations of his acquaintances. Tyler is rarely suspected of possessing a strong sense of humor; but he must have smiled when he signed an official letter to the Emperor of China, in which he described himself as “President of the United States of America, which States are Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas, and Michigan” an array which so impressed the mind of the Celestial despot that the envoy who presented the missive got everything he asked for.
Tyler lost his wife soon after he entered the White House, and his daughters presided over the domestic life there. He was fond of young society, and one of the belles who appeared pretty regularly at his parties was Miss Virginia Timberlake, daughter of the unfortunate naval purser and the lady whose cause Jackson and Van Buren had championed. Another was Miss Julia Gardiner of New York, who so captivated him that at one of his receptions in the second year of his term he made her a proposal of marriage. As she described it afterward, she was taken wholly by surprise, and gave her “No, no, no !” such emphasis by shaking her head that she whisked the tassel of her crimson Greek cap into his face with every motion. The controlling reason for her refusal, she explained, was her unwillingness to leave her father, to whom she was devotedly attached ; but an accident soon changed the whole face of things.
Captain Stockton of the navy invited a party of about four hundred ladies and gentlemen to inspect the sloop-of-war Princeton, then lying in the Potomac. President Tyler, the members of his Cabinet and their families, and a good many Congressmen were among the guests. The vessel had dropped down the river to a point near Mount Vernon, when some of the party importuned Stockton to fire his big gun, nicknamed “the peacemaker.” This was just at the close of the luncheon, and the ladies had lingered at table while most of the gentlemen went on deck. One lady, fortunately, had detained Tyler as he was about to leave, by inducing him to listen to a song ; for the gun exploded, killing Mr. Upshur, Secretary of State, Mr. Gilmer, Secretary of the Navy, Commander Kennon of the navy, Virgil Maxey, lately American Minister at the Hague, and David Gardiner of New York, the father of Miss Julia. A day of merrymaking was thus turned into one of mourning, as the vessel slowly moved up the stream again, bearing the bodies of the dead, for whom funeral services were held at the White House. After an interval the President renewed his suit and found Miss Gardiner more pliant. When he had composed in her honor a serenade beginning, “Sweet lady, awake !” she agreed to marry him if her mother would consent. Her mother did not approve of a union between a man of fifty-six and a girl of twenty, but, as she did not actually forbid it, they had a very quiet wedding.
In spite of the enjoyment he took in social intercourse, Tyler was often criticized for his frigid manners. A virulent type of influenza which became epidemic during his administration received the name of “the Tyler grip,” from the remark of a Boston man who fell ill a few hours after being presented to him : “I probably caught cold from shaking hands with the President.” A good deal was made of this in the campaign of 1844, and added point to John Quincy Adams’s denunciation of Tyler for “performing with a young girl from New York the old fable of January and May !” Tyler’s general unpopularity, and a deadlock between two other prominent candidates, led the Democrats to nominate James K. Polk for President. He was so little known to most of the voters that throughout the campaign the Whigs, who were supporting Henry Clay, rang the changes on the question, “Who is James K. Polk ?” thus contrasting his obscurity with Clay’s eminence. The count of ballots showed that a candidate of whom little was known might have certain advantages over one long before the public eye ; and as on inauguration day it rained heavily, exultant Democrats kept themselves warm by hurling back at the Whigs the familiar cry, “Who is James K. Polk ?” and then laughing wildly at their own humor. It was on this occasion that the telegraph first conveyed out of Washington the news that one President had retired and another had come in Professor Morse having set up an instrument at the edge of the platform on which the President-elect stood, and ticked off a report of the proceedings as they occurred.
Mrs. Polk being a devoted church-member, of a school which disapproved of dancing, the inaugural ball that evening shrank into a mere promenade concert till after she and her husband had quitted the hall. The social activities of the Polks, through the four years which followed, were consistent with this beginning, all the functions at the White House being too sober to suit the diplomats or the younger element among the resident population. On its practical side, Polk’s term was perhaps the most notable in that generation, including as it did the war with Mexico, which resulted in the annexation of California and the great southwestern area afterward carved into the States of Utah, Nevada, and Arizona and parts of Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. This war, moreover, furnished the usual crop of Presidential candidates, chief among them General Zachary Taylor, who had led the first army across the Rio Grande, and General Winfield Scott, who had wound up the invasion by capturing the city of Mexico.
Believing Taylor the easier to handle, the Whig managers fixed upon him, although, having passed the larger part of his sixty-four years with the army, he had never voted. Indeed, he had always expressed an aversion to office-holding, and, when approached on the subject of the Presidency, met the overture with frank disfavor, declaring that he had neither the capacity nor the experience needed for such a position. But his “availability” overcame the force of his protests, and the Whigs won with him a sweeping victory at the polls. There is pathos in the story of the break-up of the pleasant home in Baton Rouge, and the reluctant removal of the family to Washington, taking with them only a faithful negro servant, a favorite dog, and “Old Whitey,” the horse the General had ridden through the Mexican war. Taylor was with difficulty dissuaded from his purpose of imitating his military predecessors and riding “Old Whitey” either to or from the Capitol on inauguration day. What his friends most feared was his loss of dignity in the eyes of the crowd, for his legs were so short that, in certain emergencies, an orderly had to lift one of them over his horse’s flanks whenever he mounted or dismounted.
Taylor was as simple a soul as Harrison. His unostentatious ways in the army had led the soldiers to dub him “Old Rough and Ready,” and this title stuck to him always afterward. One of his favorite amusements was to walk about Washington, chatting informally with people he met and watching whatever was going on in the streets. His love of comfort was such that he could never be induced to wear clothes that fitted him, but his suits were always a size or two larger than his measure, and these, with a black silk hat set far back on his head, made him recognizable at any distance. His message at the opening of Congress contained one announcement as voluminous as his costume : “We are at peace with all the nations of the world, and the rest of mankind.” The bull was discovered too late to prevent its going out in the original print ; but in a revised edition the sentence was made to end : “And seek to -maintain our cherished relations of amity with them.”
The White House underwent another grand refurbishing while the Taylors were in it. The east room was newly carpeted, its walls were decorated, and gas replaced its candles and lamps. The ladies of the family were good housekeepers particularly the younger daughter, who made the old place look actually homelike, and whom an appreciative guest described as doing the honors “with the artlessness of a rustic belle and the grace of a duchess.” But this pleasant picture was soon to be clouded over. On the fourth of July, 185o, a patriotic meeting was held at the base of the Washington National Monument, with long addresses by prominent men. It lasted the whole of a very hot afternoon, and President Taylor, as a guest of honor, felt bound to stay through it, refreshing him-self from time to time with copious drafts of ice-water. He reached home in a state of some exhaustion and at once ate a basketful of cherries and drank several glasses of iced milk. From a party to which he had accepted an invitation for that evening he was obliged to excuse himself at the last moment on the score of indisposition. He was violently ill through-out the night, and five days later he died.
Millard Fillmore of New York, fifty years old, of moderate political views and fair ability, was Vice-president at the time. Unlike Tyler, he went to the Capitol to be sworn in the presence of a committee of the two houses, but made no inaugural address. Mrs. Fillmore, who had formerly been a teacher, cared little for society. She was of studious habits and soon converted the oval sitting room in the second story of the White House into a library, personally selecting the books. Her taste ran chiefly to standard historical and classical works; and, as the editions then available were generally not very good specimens of the typographic art, most of her collection has disappeared. In this administration the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, and Fillmore, by signing it, alienated the North so largely that the Whig party refused to nominate him for another term. General Scott, to whom it turned, did precisely what most of the politicians had predicted he would : made a number of public utterances which ruined his chances and thus gave the election to his Democratic competitor, Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire.
During Fillmore’s term Louis Kossuth visited Washington. The country was just passing through one of its occasional periods of revolutionary fervor, and Kossuth’s stand for the rights of Hungary against Austria had aroused much sympathy here. Our public men were divided in opinion as to how far to go with their demonstrations in his favor, wishing to win the support of the Hungarians in the United States and of immigrants who had fled from other countries to escape oppression, yet hoping to keep clear of entanglements with Austria. As Kossuth had left home to escape death for high treason and taken refuge in Constantinople, one of our men-of-war was sent to the Dardanelles to bring him to America. He did not then care to go further than England, whence, after an agreeable visit, he came over, in the expectation of inducing our Government to take up arms for Hungarian liberty. Henry Clay, who was already stricken with his last illness, promptly put a damper upon that scheme ; but Kossuth remained the guest of the nation for a time and was dined and feted prodigiously. He maintained the state of a royal personage, keeping a uniformed and armed guard about the door of his suite of apartments at what is now the Metropolitan Hotel, and a lot of carousing young subalterns always in his anteroom. He never appeared in public except in full military uniform, with his cavalry sword, in its steel scabbard, clanking by his side. Mrs. Kossuth, who accompanied him on his tour, was unable to overcome her distrust of American cooking, and used to scandalize her neighbors at table by ostentatiously smelling of every new dish before tasting it.
The inauguration of Pierce was marked by several innovations : he drove to and from the Capitol standing up in his carriage, delivered his address without notes, and made affirmation instead of taking the oath of office. A tragic interest attaches itself to his administration, because, just as he was preparing to remove to Washington, he lost his only child, a boy of thirteen, in a railway accident. Mrs. Pierce, who was an invalid, was terribly broken by this bereavement, and all social festivities at the White House were abandoned till toward the close of her stay there. The new Vice-president, William R. King, was not inaugurated at the same time and place with the President. He had gone to Cuba in January for his health, and, as he was not well enough to come home, Congress passed a special act permitting him to take the oath before the American Consul-general at Havana. Soon after his return to the United States, in April, he died.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was a college mate and intimate friend of Pierce, was anxious to see something of Europe, but had not the means to gratify his desire ; so Pierce appointed him consul at Liverpool, where he was able to live in comfort on his pay and save enough for a sojourn on the Continent. To this experience American literature owes most of his later work, including “The Marble Faun” and “Our Old Home.” In Washington still linger stories of a visit Hawthorne paid the city about the time of his appointment. Pierce tried to show him some informal attentions ; but Hawthorne’s shyness, which went to such an extreme that he could not say anything to the lady next him at table without trembling and blushing, prevented his making much headway socially.
All through Pierce’s term, political conditions were working up to the point which caused the irruption of a few years later. The habit of carrying deadly weapons on the person became so common in Washington, especially in Congress, that scarcely an altercation occurred between two men without the exposure, if not the use, of a pistol or a dirk. The newspapers in their serious columns treated such incidents severely, while the comic paragraphers satirized them ; and Preston Brooks, a Representative from South Carolina, in a half-earnest, half-cynical vein, gave notice one day of his intention to offer this amendment to the rules of the House : “Any member who shall bring into the House a concealed weapon, shall be expelled by a vote of two-thirds. The Sergeant-at-Arms shall cause a suitable rack to be erected in the rotunda, where members who are addicted to carrying concealed weapons shall be required to place them for the inspection of the curious,- so long as the owners are employed in legislation.”
Senator Sumner of Massachusetts having, a few days later, in a speech on slavery, spoken disparagingly of a South Carolina Senator who was absent, Brooks, on the twenty-second of May, 1856, entered the Senate chamber when it was nearly deserted, and, with a heavy gutta-percha cane, rained blows with all his strength upon the head of Sumner, who was quietly writing at his desk. Sumner fell to the floor and for some days thereafter hovered between life and death. He was three or four years in recovering from the direct effects of the assault, and never was entirely restored to health and strength. The incident excited bitter feeling throughout both North and South. For denouncing the assault as paralleling that of Cain upon Abel, Representative Anson Burlingame of New York was challenged by Brooks ; he accepted the challenge, naming date, place, and weapons, but Brooks failed to appear on the field.
The next President was James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, also a Democrat. The two incidents in his term which most impressed Washington were the first successful experiments with the Atlantic cable in August, 1858, and the visit to the White House of the Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VII. Cyrus W. Field, after a struggle as soul-wearing as Morse’s over the introduction of the telegraph, succeeded in making his submarine cable work and induced Queen Victoria to send the first despatch, a message of greeting to President Buchanan, who was requested to answer it in kind. The skepticism of the day toward all scientific novelties was reflected in Buchanan’s summoning a newspaper correspondent whom he trusted and begging to be told frankly whether he were not the victim of a hoax. At the White House all the members of the Cabinet were gathered, earnestly debating the same question. The most stubborn disbeliever was the Secretary of the Treasury, Howell Cobb, who jeered at the whole thing as a wild absurdity. In spite of Cobb’s resistance, the correspondent persuaded the President to answer the Queen’s message. As bad luck would have it, the cable parted in mid-ocean soon thereafter and was not restored to working order for several years ; and in the interval the skeptics were appropriately exultant.
Buchanan, who was our first bachelor President, was sometimes slangily called “the O. P. F.,” having once referred to himself in a message as an “old public functionary.” The image of him carried in the popular mind is derived from contemporaneous pictures, which show him as a stiff, precise, ministerial-looking old man, wearing a black coat, a high choker collar, and a spotless white neckerchief. But this was the style of the day in portraiture and must not be accepted too literally. The late Frederick O. Prince of Boston used to tell of a morning call he paid Buchanan, whom he had imagined a model of formality and elegance, and of his astonishment when the President entered the room clad in a greenish figured dressing-gown, woolen socks, and carpet slippers, and, to put the standing visitors at their ease, called to a servant : “Jeems, sit some cheers !”
When Buchanan came to Washington for his inauguration, attended by a number of Pennsylvania friends, he took lodgings at the National Hotel, where the whole party fell ill with symptoms which today we should charge to ptomaine poisoning. One or two of the sufferers died. Buchanan escaped with a comparatively light attack; but a rumor gained circulation that the Free Soilers had tried to assassinate him because of his conservative disposition toward slavery. For some time after he entered the White House, therefore, the police kept a watch on his movements, and one rough-looking Kansan was arrested on suspicion, having bought an air-gun and engaged a room in a building which the President was in the habit of passing every day when he went out for exercise.
The domestic accommodations at the White House were already so limited that, when the Prince of Wales visited it in 186o, the President had to give up his bedchamber to his guest and sleep on a cot in the ante-room of his office. As I recall the Prince he was not inordinately tall, but for some reason possibly because the legs of royalty were supposed to need more space than those of common folk the old bedstead in the President’s room was replaced by one of extra length. Society in Washington was agog over the Prince’s advent, and the reigning belles insisted that his entertainment must include a ball at least as brilliant as that given in his honor in New York ; but Mr. Buchanan, whose ideas on certain subjects were rigid, would not listen to the suggestion of dancing in the White House, and the ball was turned over to the British legation. Miss Harriet Lane, the President’s niece, who managed his household affairs, gave instead a large musicale, at which was performed for the first time the once favorite song, “The Mocking Bird,” its composer having dedicated it to her.
Trained as attorney, diplomatist, and politician, to regard the letter of the law rather than its spirit, Buchanan found himself in an unhappy situation when the preliminary mutterings of sectional warfare grew loud. In January, 1861, he was urged by some of the Cabinet to recall Major Robert Anderson from Charleston Harbor as a rebuke for having removed the Fort Moultrie garrison to the stronger Fort Sumter without orders from Washington, and he was holding the matter under advisement when Justice McLean of the Supreme Court came to dine with him one evening. After the ladies had left the table, the Justice drew the President aside and inquired what was going to be done about the Major. “Anderson has exceeded his instructions,” answered Buchanan, “and must be disciplined.” McLean raised his hand and fairly shook it in the President’s face as he ejaculated: “You dare not do it, sir! You dare not do it !” This unique defiance of the executive by the judiciary had an immediate effect: Major Anderson was left undisturbed, to become within a few weeks the first hero of the Civil War.
General Scott, who filled a large place in national affairs from Polk’s administration till the autumn of 1861, was a good officer and a pure patriot but full of eccentricities. His love for military forms gave him the nickname “Old Fuss and Feathers,” and a letter he wrote during the Mexican war, excusing his absence from his headquarters when the Secretary of War called there, on the plea that he had just stepped out to get “a hasty plate of soup,” had won for him the punning title “Marshal Turenne.” He was a good deal of a gourmet and did his family marketing himself, especially delighting in the delicacy which he persisted in calling “tarrapin,” and ordering his oysters by the barrel. One of his favorite dishes was pork jowl, and once he told of having eaten sauerkraut “with tears in his eyes.” He was a keen stickler for the dignity due him on all occasions. Just after Taylor had been inaugurated President, the two men met in Washington for the first time since a somewhat acrimonious parting in Mexico. Taylor, passing over old animosities, invited Scott to call. Scott did so the next day, and Taylor, who was engaged with some other gentlemen in his office, sent word that he would be down in a moment. Five minutes later, having cut his business short, the President descended to the parlor, to find his visitor already gone : Scott had waited two minutes by the clock and then stalked in high dudgeon out of the door, not to come back again.
The drama of the Lincoln administration, on which the curtain rose to a bugle-blast and fell to the beat of muffled drums, deserves a volume to itself ; but in my limited space I have been able to outline only some of its features directly related to the capital city. Lincoln’s first levee was held not in the White House but at Willard’s Hotel, some days before the inauguration. The higher public functionaries and their wives, and a number of private citizens of prominence, had been notified rather than invited to come to the hotel on a certain evening for a first glimpse of the new chief magistrate. Into this presence stalked the lank, loose-jointed, oddly clad “Old Abe,” with his little, simple, white-shawled wife at his elbow, and the never failing jest on his lips as he made his own announcement : “Ladies and gentlemen, let me present to you the long and the short of the Presidency !”
The Lincolns received several social courtesies from members of Congress and others before the fourth of March, and on the evening of that day the usual inaugural ball was given in their honor. It was plain from the start that they had not made a favorable impression in their new setting, for the ball was a failure in point of attendance ; few ladies wore fine costumes, and of the men the majority came in their business clothes. As neither Mr. nor Mrs. Lincoln knew how to dance, or felt enough confidence even to walk through a quadrille, the early part of the evening was devoted to a handshaking performance which threw a chill upon the rest. Mrs. Lincoln’s feminine instinct had led her to exchange the stuffy frock and shawl of her first reception for a blue silk gown. Mr. Buchanan had been expected but sent belated regrets ; and Stephen A. Douglas, the “Little Giant” who always became a big one in an emergency, stepped into the breach as representative of the abdicating party, and established himself as the personal escort and knight-in-waiting of Mrs. Lincoln.
In the White House, Lincoln took for his office the large square room in the second story next the southeast corner, from the windows of which he could look over at the Virginia hills. The room adjoining on the west was assigned to his clerks and to visitors waiting for an interview. To secure him a little privacy in passing between his office and the oval library, a wooden screen was run across the south end of the waiting room, and behind this he used to make the transit in fancied invisibility, to the delight of the people sitting on the other side, to whom, owing to his extraordinary height, the top locks of his hair and a bit of his fore-head were exposed above the partition. He was persistently hounded by candidates for appointment to office ; and it is recalled that in one instance, where two competitors for a single place had worn him out with their importunities, he sent for a pair of scales, weighing all the petitions in favor of one candidate and then those of the other, and giving the appointment to the man whose budget weighed three-quarters of a pound more than his rival’s.
Visitors admitted to his office usually found him very kind in manner, though now and then a satirical impulse would give an edge to his humor. When an irate citizen with a grievance called and poured it out upon him, accompanied by a variegated assortment of profanity, Lincoln waited patiently till the speaker halted to take breath, and then inquired : “You’re an Episcopalian, aren’t you ?”
“Why do you ask that ?” demanded the visitor, momentarily forgetting his anger in his surprise.
“Because,” answered Lincoln, “Seward’s an Episcopalian, and you swear just like him.”
The Reverend Doctor Bellows of New York, as chair-man of the Sanitary Commission, called once during the Civil War to tell Lincoln of a number of things he ought to do. Lincoln listened with the most flattering attention, slightly inclining his head in recognition of every separate reminder of a duty left unperformed, and at the close of the catalogue remained a minute or two in silent meditation. Then, throwing one of his long legs over an arm of his chair, he looked up with a quizzical smile. “Dominie,” said he, “how much will you take to swap jobs with me ?
He could not always keep his humor out of his official communications, as in this despatch to General Hooker in Virginia : “If the head of Lee’s army is at Martinsburg, and the tail of it on the plank road between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, the animal must be pretty slim somewhere. Couldn’t you break him ?”
Indeed, it was his instinctive discernment of the ridiculous side of everything which, though it gave his enemies their chance to assail him as a mountebank and a jester, undoubtedly served as a buffer to many a heavy blow. Sometimes his laughs were at his own expense. About the middle of the war a young man from a distant State procured an interview with him, to expound a project for visiting Richmond in the disguise of a wandering organ-grinder and making drawings of the defenses of the city for the use of the Union commanders. Lincoln was so impressed that he contributed one hundred and fifty dollars or more to purchase the organ and pay other preliminary expenses. The young man disappeared for some weeks and then returned with a thrilling account of his adventures, and with plats and charts covering every-thing of military importance around Richmond and at various points on the way thither. As a reward, the President nominated him for a second lieutenancy in the army and spurred some other patriot into sending him a brand new uniform and sword. After a little, and by accident, it came out that the youth had never been anywhere near Richmond, but had spent the President’s money on a trip to his home, where, at his ease, he had prepared his fictitious report and maps. Of course his nomination was at once withdrawn ; but Lincoln was so amused at his own childlike credulity that he could not bring himself to punish the offense as it deserved.
The Cabinet were often annoyed at the obtrusion of the President’s taste for a joke at what seemed to them inopportune moments especially Secretary Stanton, whose sense of humor was not keen. On September 22, 1862, they were peremptorily summoned to a meeting at the White House. They found the President reading a book, from which he barely looked up till all were in their seats. Then he said : “Gentlemen, did you ever read anything from Artemus Ward ? Let me read you a chapter which is very funny.” When the reading was finished, he laughed heartily, looking around the circle for a response, but nobody even smiled ; if any countenance revealed anything, it was irritation. “Well,” said he, “let’s have another chapter ;” and he suited action to word. Finding his listeners no more sympathetic than before, he threw the book down with a deep sigh and exclaimed : “Gentlemen, why don’t you laugh ? With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die, and you need this medicine as much as I do.” With that, he ran his hand down into his tall hat, which sat on the table near him, and drew forth a sheet of paper, from which he read aloud, with the most impressive emphasis, the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. “If any of you have any suggestions to make as to the form of this paper or its composition,” said he, “I shall be glad to hear them. But” and the deliberateness with which he pronounced the next words left no doubt that the die had already been cast “this paper is to issue !”
The Lincolns brought two young children with them into the White House, both boys. Of the elder, Willie, we hear little, except that he died there, and that his loss added one more to the many lines which the war had worn into the brow of his father. The younger boy, “Tad,” is better known to the public through the exploitation of his juvenile pranks by the news-papers and his appearance in some of the President’s portraits. Many stories are told of his fondness for bringing ragged urchins from the streets into the kitchen and feeding them, to the sore distress of the cook and sometimes to the disturbance of the domestic routine in other ways ; but for whatever he wished to do in the charitable line he found his father a faithful ally. There is a pretty tale of his having espied in the lower corridor of the White House, one very rainy day, a young man and woman, rather shabbily dressed, who seemed depressed in spirits and anxious to consult with some one. Tad called his father’s attention to them, and the President went up and asked them what they wished. His sympathetic manner loosed their tongues and they told him their story.
It appeared that the girl was from Virginia and had run away from home to marry her lover, an honorably discharged soldier from Indiana. They had met by arrangement in Washington, but they were strangers there and very unsophisticated, and had little money to pay a minister or spend on hotel accommodations ; so they had been wandering about the city for hours, not knowing where to go, and had taken refuge in the White House from the storm. They had no idea that they were talking to the President till he made himself known. With characteristic directness, he sent for a clergyman of his acquaintance and had the nuptial knot tied in his presence. Then he invited bride and groom to remain as his guests till the next day, when the weather cleared and they went their way rejoicing.
Although Mrs. Lincoln was the titular head of the President’s household, the woman recognized as the social leader of the administration was Kate Chase, daughter of the Secretary of the Treasury. She was handsome, accomplished, and, after her marriage with William Sprague, the young War Governor of Rhode Island, rich as well. Mrs. Lincoln never liked her, but the President’s gift for peacemaking came into action here, and there was no public display of the coolness of feeling between them. Mrs. Sprague had a strong taste for politics, and her chief ambition was to see her father President ; but Lincoln cut off that chance at the critical moment by making him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Among the young and rising Congressmen with whom Mrs. Sprague was brought into contact during this period was Roscoe Conkling, a Representative from New York, who later became a Senator. He was the pink of elegance in person and attire, of stately and somewhat condescending manners, and master of the arts of verbal expression. They formed a firm friendship which lasted as long as both lived. Edgewood, the Chase home on the northern border of the city, was for many years one of the show places of Washington, and after Chase’s death Conkling procured from Congress an act exempting it from taxation as a tribute to the public services of its former owner. Another young Representative of whom Mrs. Sprague saw almost as much as of Conkling, but liked less, was James G. Blaine of Maine, a brilliant orator who in after years became Conkling’s most powerful adversary.
A warm friend of Chase’s who used to drop in at Edgewood whenever he was in Washington was Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune. He was a quaint character, who wore his clothes awry and his hair long and always tousled. His face he kept clean shaven, but raised a heavy blond beard under his chin and jaws ; and this, with his ruddy cheeks, blue eyes, beaming spectacles, and generally bland aspect, made him look like the typical back-country farmer of theatrical tradition. He accentuated the peculiarities of his appearance by affecting a large soft hat and not spotless white overcoat, the pockets of the latter habitually bulging with newspapers. His handwriting was as unconventional as his attire, and compositors in the Tribune office had to be specially trained in deciphering it, for Mr. Greeley was often unable to read it himself after the subject-matter had grown cold in his mind.
Greeley was an anti-slavery man, but not an aggressive abolitionist ; nevertheless he smiled benignantly upon the work of the Hutchinson family and took some pains to introduce them in Washington wherever their music would be likely to meet with a cordial reception. The Hutchinsons were a Massachusetts family of sixteen brothers and sisters, nearly all of them bearing Bible names given them by a deeply religious mother. They learned as children to lead the singing in the Baptist church attended by their parents, and, as their musical fame spread, one of the brothers developed a talent as a versifier and began writing songs adapted to their interpretation, breathing an earnest spirit of patriotism and pleading for human freedom. From giving concerts in their native town and neighborhood, they gradually essayed more and more ambitious ventures, and with Greeley’s aid came under the favorable notice of the administration. Lincoln, realizing the appeal their homely entertainments would make to the Union volunteers, gave them a roving commission to visit the camps of the Army of the Potomac and encouraged them to take in the recruiting stations wherever they happened to be. They mixed fun with their seriousness in such proportions as they believed would please all classes in their audiences ; and in their way they did as much to keep the soldiers cheerful as Tom Paine had done fourscore years before.
So accustomed is the public mind to associating Lincoln and Grant as coworkers for the Union cause that few persons suspect that the two men never met till the Civil War was three-fourths over. Then, Congress having revived the grade of Lieutenant-general of the Army, Grant was ordered to Washing-ton to receive his promotion. Arriving early in March, 1864, he went at once to the White House, where the President happened to be holding a reception in the east room. He held back till most of the people had passed, when Lincoln, recognizing him from his portraits, turned to him with hand outstretched, saying : “This is General Grant, is it not ?”
“It is, Mr. President,” answered Grant. And with this self-introduction, fittingly simple, the two great figures of the war faced each other for the first time.