THREE days after John Brown had been hanged for his Harper’s Ferry raid, the Thirty-sixth Congress convened. Brown’s exploit had sent a wave of excitement sweeping over the country, and the slavery controversy had entered a phase of emotional acuteness it had never known before. There was a strong Republican plurality in the new House of Representatives, but it was by no means of one mind, most of its members still hoping to avoid any action which might precipitate a dismemberment of the Union. It took fortyfour ballots, covering a period of eight weeks, for a combination of Republicans with a few outsiders to choose a Speaker, and the wrangling which preceded and followed the choice reached at times the verge of bloodshed. A large majority of the Representatives from both Northern and Southern constituencies attended the sessions armed.
Before the end of June, 1860, four Presidential tickets were in the field. The Republican ticket was headed by Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, the Northern Democratic ticket by his old rival in State politics, Stephen A. Douglas. The Southern Democrats had nominated John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, then Vice-president, and what was left of the Whig party had united with the peacemakers generally in naming John Bell of Tennessee. When Lincoln was elected in November, every one knew that a crisis was at hand ; for, although opposed to the use of violence for the extinction of slavery, he disbelieved utterly in the system, and the radical leaders in the South proceeded at once with their plans for divorcing the slave States from the free States.
South Carolina led the actual revolt by adopting an ordinance of secession and withdrawing her delegation from Congress. Almost simultaneously she sent three commissioners to Washington, “empowered to treat with the Government of the United States for the delivery of the forts, magazines, lighthouses and other real estate within the limits of South Carolina” to the State authorities. President Buchanan, fearing lest any discussion with them might be construed as a recognition of their claim to an ambassadorial status, referred them to Congress, which met the difficulty at the threshold by turning their case over to a special committee, with the result that their demands were disregarded. The committee, however, played a pretty important part in the activities of the succeeding winter, for the Union men in its membership organized themselves into a sort of subcommittee of safety, and opened confidential channels of communication with men and women all over the city who were in a position to tell them promptly what the enemies of the Union were planning to do. These secret informers included all classes of persons, from domestic servants to Cabinet officers. The correspondence was conducted not through the post-office, but by cipher notes hidden in out-of-the-way places, where the parties for whom they were intended could safely look for them after nightfall.
The militia and fire departments of the District of Columbia were modest affairs then, but their members were alert to the growing possibilities of trouble. Some who were secession sympathizers formed themselves into rifle clubs and drilled privately at night ; while the Unionists built up a little body of minutemen, who elected their own officers and secreted stands of arms at the Capitol and other convenient points, so that they could respond instantly, wherever they chanced to be, to a summons for emergency service. Day after day brought its budget of news from the South, saddening or thrilling. Thomas and Floyd quitted the Cabinet, Dix became Secretary of the Treasury, and Holt Secretary of War. In January, 1861, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi seceded, seizing all the forts, vessels, and other Government property on which they could lay hands ; and Dix put upon the wire his historic despatch to his special agent at New Orleans, “If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot,” but it was intercepted and never reached its destination.
February witnessed the secession of Texas, the election of Jefferson Davis as President and Alexander H. Stephens as Vice-president of the Confederate States of America, and the withdrawal of several Senators and Representatives from the United States Congress. The only cheering news of the month was the refusal of Tennessee and Missouri to secede, though both States contained a multitude of citizens who would have preferred to do so. Daily the galleries of Congress were crowded with spectators representing all shades of opinion and at times uncontrollable in their expressions of approval or disapproval. When the House voted to submit a Constitutional amendment forbidding the interference of Congress with slavery or any other State institution, one element in the gallery burst into deafening applause ; the opposing element in the Senate became equally boisterous in applauding a speech by Andrew Johnson, denouncing as a traitor any man who should fire upon the flag or conspire to take over Government property for the Confederacy. The difference in the treatment of the two outbreaks was significant : that in the House was merely rebuked in words, but in the Senate the gallery was cleared and closed to spectators for the rest of the day.
In fairness it should be said that at this trying juncture several men in positions of responsibility, who had made no secret of their interest in the Southern cause, acted the honorable part when put to the test. Vice-president Breckinridge was credited by current gossip with an intention, at the official count of the electoral vote, to refuse to declare Lincoln elected, or permit a mob to break up the session and destroy the authenticated returns. On the contrary, he conducted the count with as much scrupulousness in every detail as if his heart were in the result. Equal praise is due to the chief of the Capitol police, who, though bitterly hostile to Mr. Lincoln, took all the precautions for his safety on the day of inauguration that his best friend could have taken.
Thus the Buchanan administration went out, and the Lincoln administration came in. The persistent warnings of a plot to kill or kidnap the President-elect led to the adoption of an extraordinary program for bringing him safely to Washington. Under the escort of an experienced detective, he made the journey from Harrisburg at high speed, in a special train provided by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, all the tracks having been previously cleared, and the telegraph wires cut along the route. Meanwhile, a sensational newspaper had published locally a story that Lincoln was already in the city, having been smuggled through Baltimore in disguise in order to elude the conspirators who were waiting there to assassinate him. This fiction so incensed William H. Seward, who had been in Washington preparing for the arrival of his future chief, that Lincoln was not allowed to make a toilet after his night’s journey, but was hurried, all unwashed and unshaven, to the Capitol, so that the members of Congress could see him and satisfy themselves of the falsity of what they had read.
His immunity thus far did not quiet the apprehensions of Lincoln’s friends, who took especial pains to prevent the interruption of his inauguration at any point. A temporary fence was built around the space immediately in front of the platform from which his address was to be delivered, and an enclosed alley of boards was constructed from the place where he would leave his carriage to the place where he would pass into the Capitol. On the morning of the fourth of March, armed men in citizen’s clothing were stationed on the roofs of all the buildings overlooking the main east portico, and others on and under its platform, while yet others mingled with the crowd of thirty thousand spectators that early assembled on the plaza. Batteries of light artillery were posted in commanding positions, with their cannon loaded and prepared to sweep any of several converging streets on the approach of a mob. Buchanan drove with Lincoln to the Capitol, and their carriage was surrounded by a hollow square of regular troops, in formation so dense that the occupants of the vehicle were scarcely visible from the sidewalk. Hannibal Hamlin, the Vice-president-elect, walked up from Willard’s Hotel, on purpose to hear what the people who lined the Avenue were saying. Their comments were, as a rule, far from friendly to the incoming administration, and some were distinctly ominous.
Lincoln appeared very calm, in spite of the general atmosphere of excitement. Buchanan’s face was graver than usual, and he spoke little during the drive. When the party came upon the platform, Senator Baker of Oregon stepped forward and said simply, “Fellow citizens, I introduce to you Abraham Lincoin, President-elect of the United States”; and the tall, ungainly hero of the day advanced to the rail. He laid his manuscript, to which he had put the finishing touches at daybreak that morning, upon the little desk with his cane for a paperweight, and looked about for somewhere to lay his high silk hat ; Stephen A. Douglas, who was sitting near, reached for the hat and held it throughout the proceedings. Lincoln, after a brief pause, drew from his pocket a pair of steel-bowed spectacles, which he adjusted very deliberately, and began to read with a seriousness of manner that soon quenched all disposition to frivolity in his audience. The address was a plea for the preservation of that friendship between the North and the South which had been hallowed by their united warfare in the past against the enemies of their country, and ended thus :
“Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic cords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every loving heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
When the last syllable had passed his lips, he stood still a moment, slowly sweeping the multitude with his eyes. Then he bowed to Chief Justice Taney, who, in a voice tremulous with emotion, administered the oath of office.
Within six weeks thereafter Fort Sumter had been fired upon, and the new President had issued his call for seventy-five thousand volunteers to maintain the laws of the United States, and summoned Congress to meet in extra session on the fourth of July. Almost the first thing the Senate did when it came together was to expel six of its members who had cast their fortunes with the seceding States. Meanwhile, Washington had been transformed from an outwardly peaceful town into a military camp. A home defense corps was hurriedly enlisted by Cassius M. Clay of Kentucky and James H. Lane of Kansas, and a guard was posted around the White House every night. The minutemen were called out repeatedly for special service. Once they seized a vessel which was about to sail from a Potomac wharf for a southern port, laden with munitions of war alleged to have been stolen from the Government. Again, they marched to Georgetown and took forcible possession of the flour stored in a mill there and reported to them as destined for the Confederate army ; this, by commandeering all the wagons in the neighborhood, they removed to the Capitol and stowed away in the basement rooms. In the streets, all strangers were eyed with suspicion. Signals to the police, the home defense corps, and the minutemen were conveyed by certain tollings of big bells ; and, as every signal meant trouble either present or imminent, the townspeople lived continually as if on the brink of a volcano.
Among the earliest State volunteers to reach the city were regiments from Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania. The Massachusetts Sixth, which had been fired on by a mob while passing through Baltimore, was quartered in the Hall of the Senate, and the New York Seventh in the Hall of Representatives ; while bivouacked in other parts of the same building were about five hundred Pennsylvanians and a company of United States artillery, for there was general expectation of a Confederate attack upon the Capitol. The New York Seventy-first was assigned to the Washington Navy Yard, so as to be convenient for repelling approaches from Alexandria by way of the river.
The first incident of the war in which Alexandria figured, however, was not a foray on Washington but a tragedy at home. Colonel Ephraim E. Ellsworth, who had recruited a regiment of zouaves from New York City, came to Washington at its head. He was young, handsome, soldierly in bearing, and full of enthusiasm ; but Mr. Lincoln, though greatly attracted to him, felt some misgivings as to his ability to control his zouaves, for the New York firemen of that period had a reputation for turbulence. Hence, when arrangements were made for moving troops into Virginia to occupy a region which must be held for the defense of the capital, the President consented to let Ellsworth’s regiment go only on condition that it should be instantly disbanded if its members committed any breach of discipline.
At two o’clock on the morning of May 24, 1861, the zouaves boarded two Potomac steamboats, which before sunrise had dropped down to Alexandria. Leaving most of his men on the wharf, Ellsworth started with a small squad toward a telegraph office whence he could report to Washington by wire. He observed a Confederate flag flying from the roof of a hotel known as the Marshall House, and, realizing what might happen if his men caught sight of it, entered with the purpose of directing its removal. Jackson, the land-lord, was abed, and the man in charge of the office seemed irresponsible, so Ellsworth and his squad hauled down the flag themselves. As they were descending with it, Jackson suddenly emerged from his chamber in the second story and leveled a double-barreled shotgun at Corporal Brownell, the soldier nearest him. Brownell, with his rifle, struck Jackson’s gun just as its trigger was pulled, and the shot went wild ; but in an instant Jackson had aimed again and discharged the contents of the second barrel into Ellsworth’s breast. The Colonel fell dead, and Brownell, firing and using his bayonet almost simultaneously, killed Jackson where he stood.
Except one who had lost his life by an accident, Ellsworth was the first Union soldier to fall in the Civil War. He was buried from the White House by the President’s order ; and the news of his death so aroused the North that volunteers poured into Washington for a time faster than the Government could arm and provision them: Mostly they were militia regiments which had come on under their own officers. In Washington they were united in brigades, with generals of some experience in command, and sent into Virginia by way of the “Long Bridge,” which had its terminus on the fringe of the Arlington estate ; it was a wooden structure, and the troops had to break step in crossing it. The first battle between the two armies was at a point near Manassas, and took its name, Bull Run, from a small stream which, about twentyfive miles southwest of Washington, joins the Occoquan River.
So little conception had the people at large of the actualities of war that many Washingtonians and tourists, of all ages and sexes, drove down in carriages to watch the battle from a safe position on the hillside. Fighting began on the morning of Sunday, July 21, and the first reports that reached the city described everything as going favorably to the Union cause. The despatches sent to Northern newspapers all reflected this view, and some went pretty elaborately into detail concerning incidents on various parts of the field. But suddenly the tide turned, and with a panicky force which started the whole body of Federal troops on a pellmell rush for Washington. The light hearted spectators ran, too, often impeding the retreat of the soldiers by getting their carriages wedged together on a bridge or a narrow road, while the air shook with mingled profanity and prayers, punctuated with hysterics. Not a few of the carriage folk, as night drew near, became so terrified that they cut their harness and rode their horses bareback, two sometimes clinging to one animal. The Confederates, discovering the rout, were as much surprised as the Federals. They set out to follow their foes, but, not fully grasping the real conditions, stopped about fifteen miles short of Washington and waited for morning, thus giving the fugitive army a chance to recover from its first demoralization. Had they pressed on, they might have taken possession of the capital that night, captured the stored munitions, and looted the Treasury ; and the record of the next four years must have been written in a different vein.
Meanwhile, the true story had been brought in by the fleeing non-combatants, and the Associated Press attempted to send out a correction of first reports, but discovered too late that the Government had seized all the telegraph lines and established a temporary censorship, postponing any further dissemination of news. As far as known, only one prominent paper in the North was able to describe the disaster in its Monday morning’s issue. That was a Philadelphia journal, whose correspondent had taken to his heels as soon as the panic began. By the time he reached Washington, he was so convinced that the Confederates were going to capture the city at once,, that he boarded a train which was just pulling out for Philadelphia, and at his desk in his home office dictated his observations of the battle and the stampede.
The President, having received only cheering bulletins in the earlier part of Sunday, went out for his usual drive in the cool of the afternoon. On his return, about halfpast six o’clock, he found awaiting him a request to come immediately to General Scott’s room at the War Department. All his Cabinet had gathered there, and his hurried consultation with them resulted in messages directing various movements of troops in the field, and appeals to the Governors of the loyal States for more men. When he came back to his office, he threw himself upon a lounge, where he spent the night, not in sleep, but in listening to, and closely catechising, parties of civilians who had made their way in from Manassas and had hastened to the White House to pour their disjointed narratives into his ear. By daylight the streets of Washington presented a pitiful spectacle. Ordinary business was almost at a standstill ; excited citizens were gathered in knots at every corner; and a multitude of disheartened soldiers, lacking leaders and organization, not knowing where to look for their next orders and thinking with dread of the effect the bad news would have upon their friends at home, were wandering aimlessly about. The President, after twentyfour hours of anxiety, was greatly relieved when the responses from the Northern States began to reach him, showing that the shock had not broken the faith of the people but had awakened them to the realities of the situation. This change was reflected in the Cabinet councils, too, where a sudden revision of opinion was observed on the part of those members who had fancied that the war would be merely a three months’ holiday a triumphal march of a Northern army from Mason and Dixon’s line to the Gulf of Mexico.
This is not a history of the civil conflict; its be L. ginnings have been thus outlined only because they made so deep an impress on the future of Washington, which, from being generally regarded by the American people with comparative indifference, had become a center of interest for all the world. The city was not again seriously threatened with capture till July, 1864, when the Confederate General, Jubal A. Early, with a corps of seasoned soldiers, had worked his way around so as to descend upon it from the north. The news of his approach, spreading through the community, did not cause the consternation which might have been expected in view of the slight defensive preparation that had been made in the menaced quarter. Requisitions were sent to the army in Northern Virginia for such troops as could be spared. Wounded and discharged Union veterans shouldered their guns once more. The male nurses in the hospitals were drafted for active duty. A troop of cavalry was recruited among the civilian teamsters at work in the city. From all the executive Departments the able-bodied clerks were called out, armed with rifles or muskets as far as possible, and for the rest with pistols, old cutlasses, axes, shovels, and whatever other implements might be turned to emergency use, and ranged up on the sidewalks for elementary instruction and drill. Those who were least strong or most poorly armed were organized into a home-guard, to act as a last reserve if the Confederates succeeded in piercing a line of earthworks thrown out north of the city. Some of these fortifications can still be identified, though worn away by a half-century’s exposure to a variable climate, overgrown with trees and vines, and at intervals used as building sites. The most interesting of the chain is Fort Stevens, near the present Seventh Street Road, for there President Lincoln stood for hours under fire, refusing to go home as long as there seemed a chance that his presence could lend any inspiration to the men. The invading force was repulsed after a two days’ effort to break through, and Washington breathed freely once more.
We come now to the concluding stage of the great struggle. Mr. Lincoln was reelected in November, 1864, and inaugurated on the fourth of March, 1865, making the chief theme of his address a plea for generous treatment of the South. Within a month Richmond fell, and five days after that General Lee surrendered his army. There was great rejoicing in Washington over both these portents of peace, and parties of men and women paraded the streets after nightfall, singing patriotic songs in front of the dwellings of prominent Government officers. On the night of April 11 a great crowd gathered in the White House yard, loudly cheering the President and calling for a speech. Having been notified in advance, he had jotted down a few remarks which he now read from manuscript. This memory of him we shall take away with us, as he stood framed in an open window, with one of his secretaries at his side holding a lighted candle for him to see by, and his little son Tad taking from his hand the pages of manuscript, one by one, as he finished reading them, while the rest of his family, with radiant faces, were grouped where they could overlook the scene.
Three nights later, almost at the same hour, Booth’s bullet laid the good man low in his box at Ford’s Theater ; and in a little back hall bedroom of the house across the street to which he was carried, he breathed his last at an early hour on the following morning. Simultaneously with the shooting of Mr. Lincoln, an attempt was made to kill Secretary Seward, and the detectives unearthed evidence of a wide conspiracy, which contemplated a simultaneous murder of the President, the Vice-president, all the Cabinet, and General Grant. The conspirators were soon tracked. Booth was shot in a Virginia barn in which he had taken refuge from his pursuers ; four others were tried by a military commission and hanged.
Andrew Johnson, the Vice-president, was not a tactful man, and had already drawn upon himself the enmity of the radical wing of his party in Congress, which was intensified by his first acts as President, foreshadowing a considerate policy toward the South. A tiresome petty warfare set in, Johnson vetoing bill after bill, only to see it repassed over his veto. Of the members of the Lincoln Cabinet he had retained, Secretary Stanton was the one with whom he had most friction, and in August, 1867, he called for Stanton’s resignation, designating General Grant to manage the War Department temporarily. On Stanton’s refusal to resign, Johnson suspended him, and Grant took over the Department and held it till the Senate adopted a resolution declaring its non-concurrence in Stanton’s suspension. Then Grant stepped out, and Stanton returned to duty. Johnson suspended him again, this time designating General Lorenzo Thomas to act in his stead. Matters had now reached a climax, and the House in 1868 impeached the President. His trial by the Senate consumed nearly two months and. ended in a failure to convict. In view of this defeat, Stanton resigned, and from that time till the close of his term President Johnson continued his quarrel with the opponents of his policy, celebrating his last Christmas in the White House by proclaiming a general pardon and amnesty, so framed as to include all grades of political offenders.
Johnson was President when the enlargement of the Capitol building was finished, including the rearing of the present dome. While the alterations were in progress, the grand two days’ parade of the victorious armies took place on Pennsylvania Avenue, the President reviewing it as it passed the White House. General Grant was elected by the Republicans to succeed Johnson, taking office in March, 1869. During the next sixteen years, divided between his two terms and the administrations of Hayes, Garfield, and Arthur, Washington almost doubled in population. While Grant was President, it was so constantly in the public eye that many rich men discerned its future possibilities and invested in real estate there. Army and navy officers, retired from active duty, found it pleasant to settle down where they would be most likely to meet their old comrades. A few scholars drifted in, so as to have easy access to the Government libraries and records. Thus, in both a material and a social way, Washington took a strong upward start.
For the esthetic side of the general change, less can be said in praise. Most of the dwellings built during this era can still be distinguished by their gratuitous ugliness. The parks became strewn with flower-beds of fantastic shape, overrun by a riot of inharmonious colors. Statues sprang up like mushrooms, unrelated in size or style or any other quality. Alterations of street grades left little houses perched on bluffs and leaning against big neighbors built at the new level, or sunk in dingy pits. All this contributed to give the city an unfinished look, like that of a child growing out of its small clothes. Over the whole process of transformation loomed its master figure, Alexander R. Shepherd.
No man of his day, unless it were Grant himself, endured more wholesale denunciation or found more valiant defenders than he. Like Grant, who believed in him thoroughly, he had an iron will which treated all obstacles as negligible when he had set himself to accomplish a certain end. As a plumber by trade and a very competent one, he had accumulated a fortune before middle life. Early in his business career he had made up his mind that Washington’s failure to fulfil L’Enfant’s ideal of a beautiful capital was due to the sluggishness which pervaded it, and this he resolved to dispel. Grant listened to his projects and encouraged them. The first step was to abolish the existing form of municipal government and to substitute a Territorial form, with a Governor and a Board of Public Works. Shepherd was made vice-president of the Board and virtually its dictator.
What he had to face in his effort to launch the city afresh can hardly be conceived by an observer of today. Although ten years had elapsed since the out-break of the great war of which Washington was the focal center, local conditions had improved but slightly upon those described toward the close of the previous chapter. The road-bed of Pennsylvania Avenue had received a pavement of wood, which was fast going to pieces. A single square in Vermont Avenue was surfaced with a coaltar product that had proved its unfitness. A few other streets had been spread with a thick coat of gravel, which, as it was gradually ground down, filled the air with fine grit whenever the wind blew. The rest of the highways were either paved with cobblestones or left in their primitive dirt, which became nearly impassable in very wet weather for mud, and in very dry weather for dust. It was not uncommon for a heavy vehicle like a fire-engine to get stalled when it most needed to hurry, and to avoid this contingency the engines sometimes ran over the sidewalk. In the northwestern quarter, now so at-tractive, the marshes were undrained, and the people forced to live there suffered tortures from chills and fever. There was no efficient system of scavenging, but swine were kept in back yards of dwellings to devour the kitchen refuse. Poultry and cattle roamed freely about the vacant lots in thinly settled neighborhoods. There were several open sewers ; and the street sweepings, including offal of a highly offensive sort, were dumped on the common south of Pennsylvania Avenue and strewn over the plots set apart for lawns.
Because Shepherd foresaw the hostility he would excite by his program of reforms, and that what he did must therefore be done quickly, he crowded into three years what might well have consumed twenty. To save time and cut red tape, he awarded contracts to friends whom he believed to be as much in earnest as he was a practice which of course laid him open to accusations of favoritism ; he experimented with novel materials and methods, many of which proved ill-adapted to his needs ; and his expenditures reached figures which surprised even him when he found lei-sure to foot up his debit page. But he shirked nothing because of the danger or trouble it might involve for himself, and his opponents had to lie awake nights to outwit him.
For instance, there stood on the present site of the Public Library in Mount Vernon Square a ramshackle old market building, the owners of which had contrived so to intrench themselves behind legal technicalities that they could not be ousted by any ordinary process. One evening, after the courts were closed, a platoon of brawny laborers was marched up to the building, armed with battering-rams, axes, and sledge-hammers, and, before proprietors or tenants could hunt up a judge to interfere, the party had reduced the market to kindling wood and prepared the ground for conversion into a public park. Again, when the time came to improve the lower end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a railroad crossing stood in the way. It had been laid during the war, with no legal warrant but as a temporary military necessity, and the company had repeatedly refused to remove it. So at one o’clock one Sunday morning, when injunctions were out of the question, Shepherd brought down a gang of trusty men and proceeded to tear up the rails, which could never thereafter be replaced.
The boldness of this performance so stirred the admiration of John W. Garrett, one of the most powerful railway magnates of the day, that he offered Shepherd a vice-presidency of the Baltimore and Ohio Company. But Shepherd was not to be lured away. He was promoted by Grant from the vice-presidency of the Board of Public Works to the Governorship of the District, a move which, though flattering, made him all the more shining a mark for attack ; and a group of large landowners, shuddering at the prospect of further increases in taxation, induced Congress to reorganize the local government, wiping out entirely the Territorial system and popular suffrage, and putting the administration of affairs into the hands of three Commissioners to be appointed for limited terms by the President. This plan has remained substantially unchanged for more than forty years, to the satisfaction of the citizens who have most at stake in the welfare of the city.
Having entered office rich at the age of thirty, Shepherd quitted it at thirty-three so poor that he had to begin life anew in the Mexican mining country. He left as his monument a record expenditure of twenty-six million dollars, about half that amount remaining as a bonded debt; many miles of newly opened or extended streets ; a splendid achievement in shade tree installation and parking improvement ; modern water, sanitation, and lighting plants; and, above all, an awakened popular spirit as to civic advancement. Albeit his ways of working out his plans often were so crude as to shock the sense of quieter people and not to be commended as a continuing force for good, they served their time, which needed the application of a crowbar rather than a cambric needle.
True to his human type, Shepherd was an odd mixture of incongruities. He poured out public funds like water, yet profited never a cent himself. In his own fashion he was pious, yet he could swear like a trooper when aroused, and once halted in the midst of family prayers to order a servant to “drive that damned cow out of the rose-bushes !” He was over-heard, after hurling imprecations at some contractor who had mishandled a job, murmuring a prayer to the Almighty to forgive and forget his momentary loss of temper. A lady who once engaged him as a plumber to hang a chandelier in her parlor noticed that it swayed under her touch, and sent for him again to make sure that it would not fall upon the heads of her guests. His answer was to mount a chair on one side of the room, pull the chandelier toward him till he could grasp it with both hands, jump off, and swing his whole weight of two hundred and twenty-five pounds across to a chair on the opposite side. This exhibition of his confidence in his work completely restored hers.
Little more need be told here. The sodden soil plowed up by Shepherd was gradually harrowed and seeded, watched and watered, till it brought forth a new city, which under later administrations, in spite of many vicissitudes, has prospered in the main. Presidents Cleveland, Harrison, and McKinley took an interest in it which, while kindly, had some of the detached quality of their interest in any of the States or Territories ; under them, however, the beautiful Rock Creek National Park and its neighbor the “Zoo” were planned and largely developed, and the pleasure ground and suburban expansion programs received a considerable impetus. President Roosevelt felt a lively sense of the importance of the city as the capital of a great nation. It was in his time that the White House underwent its restoration, and the L’Enfant plan generally was revived as a standard. He was responsible, also, for attracting to Washington, as permanent residents, many literary and scientific workers whom it had formerly welcomed only as visitors, and the foundation of the Carnegie Institution went far to make this period notable in local annals. Mr. Taft’s interest took more the neighborly bent, as if Washington were his home. He bore an active part in the popular movements for beautifying the city, not so much because it was a capital, as because he wished to have a hand in the civic enterprises of his fellow townsmen.
President Wilson’s attitude has not thus far been so clearly defined as that of his recent predecessors. Other pressing public concerns have left him scant time for looking into municipal improvement projects. Mrs. Wilson, however, gave them much attention ; and a hope expressed during her last illness so touched the heart of Congress as to bring about the enactment of some long-delayed legislation to abate the use of unwholesome alleys for the tenements of the poor.