Washington in 1802
By William E. Curtis, The Evening Star, November 26, 1907 [p. 14]
(Written for The Star and the Chicago Record Herald)
Charles Gates Dawes of Chicago has the diary of his ancestor, Manasseh Cutler, the founder of Ohio, the real author of the Ordinance of '87, a member of Congress for many years from Massachusetts, clergyman, merchant, teacher, scientist, surveyor, explorer and patriot - one of the ablest and most versatile characters in American history.
In his journal and his letters to his family and friends at home Mr. Cutler wrote many interesting accounts of his experiences in Washington, as a member of Congress during the administration of Thomas Jefferson. On January 1, 1802, he tells of the ceremonies at the White House:
"Although the president has no levees, a number of federalists agreed to go from the Capitol in coaches to the President's house and wait upon him with the compliments of the season. We were received with politeness, entertained with cake and wine. The mammoth cheese having been presented this morning, the President invited us to go, as he expressed it, to the mammoth room to see the mammoth cheese. There we viewed this monument of human weakness and folly as long as we pleased and then returned."
The Great Democratic Cheese
A few days later Mr. Cutler writes again: "Last Sunday, Leland, the cheese-monger, a poor, ignorant, illiterate clownish preacher who was the conductor of this monument of human weakness and folly to its place of destination, was introduced as preacher to both houses of Congress. The President, contrary to all former practice, made one of the audience, and a great number of ladies and gentlemen from I know not where. Such a performance I never heard before and hope never shall again. The test was: 'And behold, a greater than Solomon is her.' The design of the preacher was principally to apply the allusion, not to the pe4rson intended in the text, but to him (Jefferson), who was then present. Such a fa...ago bawled with stunning voice, horrid tone, frightful grimaces and extravagant gestures, I believe was never heard by any decent auditory before. Shame or laughter appeared in every countenance. Such an outrage upon religion, the Sabbath, and common decency was extremely painful to every sober, thinking person present."
John Leland, the mammoth cheese man, was born at Grafton, Mass. May 14, 1754, and died at North Adams, Mass., January 14, 1841. From 1792 until his death, forty-nine years, he was pastor of the Baptist Church at Cheshire, Mass. He is described as a man of great eccentricity and shrewdness, but without culture, and a zealous democrat.
Pleased With Site of the City
"I am not much pleased with the Capitol. It is a huge pile, built, indeed, with handsome stone, very heavy in its appearance without and not very pleasant within. The President's house is superb, well proportioned and pleasantly situated.
"The gentlemen, generally, spend a part of two or three evenings in a week in Mr. King's room, where Miss Anna entertains us with delightful music. After we have been fatigued with the harangues of the hall in the day, and conversing on politics, in different circles (for we all talk nothing else) in the evening an hour of this music is truly delightful. On Sunday evenings she constantly plays psalm tunes, in which her mother, who is a woman of real piety, always joins. Miss Anna plays 'Denmark' remarkably well, and, when joined with the other singers, it exceeds what I have ever heard before. But the most of the psalm tunes our gentlemen prefer are the old ones, such as 'Old Hundred,' 'Canterbury,' which you would be delighted to hear on the forte-piano, assisted by the organ and accompanied with the voice.
"We breakfast at 9; dine between 3 and 4. If we happen to be in the parlor in the first of the evening, at the time Mrs. King makes tea in her own room, she sends in the servant with a salver of tea and coffee and a plate of toast, but we never eat any supper."
Dinner With the President
Remarkable Effect of Electricity
A letter written by Dr. Mitchell, another member of the House, who boarded at the same place, gave a few more details, as follows: "A very singular occurrence has happened to Gen. Dayton of Elizabethtown, one of the New Jersey senators. He pulled off his stockings of silk, under which were another pair of woolen gauge, just as he was going to bed. The former were dropped on the small carpet by the bedside, and the latter were thrown to some distance near its foot. Electric snaps and sparks were observed by him to be unusually prevalent when he took off his stockings. He slept until morning, when the silk stockings were found to be converted to coal, having the semblance of sticks and thread, but falling to pieces on being touched. There was not the least cohesion. One of the slippers, which lay under the stockings, was considerably burned. One of the woolen garters was also burned to pieces. The carpet was burned through to the floor, and the floor itself was scorched to charcoal. It was a case of spontaneous combustion -- the candle having been carefully put out, and there being very little fire on the hearth, and both of them being eight or more feet from the stockings.
The Dandified Diplomat
While calling at the White House on New Year day, 1805, Mr. Cutler saw Gen. Taureau for the first time, and in his diary says: "We met him at the door covered with lace almost from head to foot, and very much powdered. Walked with his hat off, though it was rather misty. His secretary and one aid, and one other with him." Later Mr. Cutler called at the legation in Georgetown and says: "We proposed in our family (as he always refers to his fellow congressmen at the boarding house on Capitol Hill) to call on Mr. Taureau, French minister, who had left his card for us. Six of us went in a coach to his house. As he was at home we went in and were conducted to a large hall up one pair of stairs. Found him disposed to be quite social, though he speaks very little English. One of his aides-de-camp assisted in the conversation. We tarried about an hour and retired. We then went to the English minister's, and left our cards without getting out of our coaches."
Party at the British Legation
Mr. Cutler seems to have become quite intimate at the British legation, for he dined there again the following week and attended a card party there a few days later. His diary for February 26 contains the entry: "This evening at British minister's by invitation to tea and cards. The company very large. About thirty-five members of both houses of Congress, all the heads of departments, their ladies and daughters, many gentlemen and ladies of the city of Georgetown, and many strangers. I presume the number 150 or 200." and again, March 2, he writes: "Walked fifteen miles. Dined at Mr. Merry's by Mrs. Merry's invitation. She came twice to invite me. Presented me with 'Darwin.'" There are frequent references in his diary after that date to the British minister and Mrs. Merry, and their common interest in botany.
Sunday, February 17, 180?, he described the religious services which we held each Sabbath in the Hall of Representatives, where "two pieces of Psalmody were performed by the band of the Marine Corps in uniform; about 80 or 100."
So that it would seem that more than a hundred years ago the Marine Band was even larger than it is now.