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Diversity of Character in the Population.-Proportion of the black to white Inhabitants.
-Residents, Members, Strangers, and Visiters.--Members of the Senate, Appear. ance, Manners. -Great Speeches of Mr. Calhoun, Clay, and Preston.-Opinions of the Newspapers on these Efforts.-Two Days' Speech of Mr. Webster on the Treasury Bill. --- Opinions of the Press on this great Speech.-Opinions of Mr. Webster's great Speech.-Anecdote of Mr. Webster's Physiognomy.--Anecdote of General Washington's Temper.-Character of the House of Representatives.- Remarkable Members.-John Quincy Adams.- Quorum of the Houses.- No counting out.-Public Funerals of the Members of Congress. -Specimen of an Oration on such Occa. sions.-Pay of the Members.- Privilege of franking:-State of the general and fashionable Society at Washington.-Madame Caradori Allan's Concert.-Anecdote of Mr. Wood.-Hotels of Washington.-Boarding houses.- Inferiority of both to those of New York.-Domestic Attendants.-Style of Apartments.--Manner of living. Hurry at Meals.-Inattention to Comfort.-Coarseness of Fare.-Coldness and Selfishness of Manners
The population of Washington is of a more motley complexion than that of any of the cities or towns we had yet seen in the United States. Of the 15,000 settled residents, most of whom have come from all parts of the Union, it may be said that their chief characteristic is variety; and among the strangers and visiters this distinction is even still more marked. The members of Congress, for instance, come, of necessity, from every state in the Union, as fixed residence and property in the state represented are necessary qualifications. With many of the members it is usual to bring their families for the session. These attract visiters for pleasure, who desire to see the Capitol, hear the public debates, and enjoy the pleasures and parties of the Washington world of fashion; so that here, perhaps, more than in any other city of the Union, may all the different races of its population be seen. The fierce and impetuous Southerner, the rough and unpolished Western-man, and the more cautious and prudent Northerner, all mingle together; while Indians of different tribes, coming and going on deputations, lawful traders, land-speculators, gamblers, and adventurers, help to make up the variety, and give a tone of carelessness and recklessness to the general exterior of the moving crowd, such as none of the Northern citie exhibit. The proportion of the black and mulatto people is also very great: equal, it is thought, including the free and the enslaved, to the whole number of the whites, as all the domestics, nearly all the drivers of vehicles, and most of the labouring classes, are of the coloured race; this gives an unpleasant aspect to the streets and the groups that occupy them, from the assoVOL. I.EE
ciations of degradation and inferiority which the presence of the whites among the blacks must necessarily connect with the condition of the latter.
Of the members of the Senate, fifty-two in number, two being elected by the Legislature of each of the separate states of the Union to represent them in this body, the greater number are undoubtedly men of information and ability, and some of very distinguished talents; they are generally persons above the middle age, of competent fortunes, possessors of freehold property in the state in which they reside; and they add to knowledge experience, gravity, and sober judgment.
I attended the Senate often, having admission to the floor among the members themselves; and on two occasions I had the opportunity of hearing, under the greatest advantages, the speeches of some of their most eminent orators: John C. Calhoun, from South Carolina ; Henry Clay, from Kentucky; Colonel Preston, from South Carolina; and Daniel Webster, from Massachusetts. To show that these were thought most highly of, and that the particular occa. sion of their speeches was an important one, I subjoin the notices of the Washington papers on the occasion, and will then add an observation on them of my own. The follow, ing is from the Washington Chronicle of March 13, 1838, a paper advocating the inviolability of state-rights, and gener
. ally representing the extensive Southern interests, of which Mr. Calhoun is the great leader. The editor says:
"We presume that on no past occasion was there so much interest felt in the Senate as on Saturday last. It was the promised' day of settlement between the senator from South Carolina and his assailant, Mr. Clay. At a very early hour in the morning, the galleries, the ante-chamber, the doors and entrances, every vacant spot, were crowded to the last inch of space. Hundreds were unable to get within hearing, though the doors that led to the Senate Chamber were thrown open, to allow those who could not see to hear. The House, too, adjourned at an early hour (a quorum not being obtainable), and the hall poured out its population on the floor of the Senate. A still, earnest, and dense mass filled every portion of tenable space.
“At one o'clock Mr. Calhoun rose, with that calm dignity which so eminently distinguishes him, and with that coolness and confidence which belong only to conscious innocence. He commenced by briefly reviewing the perversions, omissions, and misstatements which characterized the late criminating speech of Mr. Clay. This task he performed in a brief, clear, and pointed manner. He then took up the particular charges of inconsistency one by one; went back to the commencement of his political life, and traced with wonderful force and precision the great questions in which he had taken part from 1813 up to the present time. He adverted to the rise, progress, and termination of the great questions of a National Bank, the Protective Tariff, Inter
nal Improvements, State Interposition, and the more recent measures connected with the currency, and the connexion of the government with the banks. He read copious extracts from his speeches delivered in the Senate since he was a member of the body, and referred to documents drawn up by himself, while in other situations, to prove the consistency of his course, and the groundlessness of the charges brought against him by the passionate senator from Kentucky. The whole of this retrospect was made in a manner so dignified, so eloquent and conclusive, as to carry conviction to every mind not filed against the influence of truth. A more triumphant vindication of innocence, and sublime statesmanship, never was made in any assembly. The trite, testy, fugitive charges of his assailant vanished before it as the thistle-beard driven by the tornado. He wrested from his adversary even the pretext upon which he had based his accusation, and exposed him naked before the Senate, as one whose passions, personal and political, had made him to play with shadows.
“He then responded to the remarks of his assailant having personal bearing; and while he vindicated his motives from the malignant aspersions of his adversary, he applied the experimentum crucis, and stretched his own limbs on the wheel. For keen, piercing, epigrammatic sarcasm, we have never heard anything that we could compare with it. And yet there was not the slightest departure from that dignity and self-respect which mark his character and conduct on all occasions. Sternly, yet without the least appearance of bullyism in phrase or ges. ture, he trampled the insinuations of his antagonist under his feet, and hurled back his pointless darts in scorn upon him. Maintaining only and strictly a position of defence, he left his assailant to pursue his remedy in the mode best suited to his purposes or inclinations. His remarks occupied about two hours in the delivery, during which time the most profound silence reigned throughout the immense crowd of listeners. Every eye was nxed on him with a stidltos and absorbing attention. He stood like Demosthenes, on a very similar occasion, in the Areopagus, pouring forth the precepts of an elevated patriotism, and hurling the shafts of indignant innocence against Æschines, his accuser. Perhaps there is no other example in ancient or modern history more aptly illustrative of the scene in the Senate Chamber, whether we regard the vindictive malignity of the accuser, or the triumphant vindication of the accused. The scene will be long remembered by all who witnessed it; and we trust it will convince party leaders that the aspirations of personal ambition are not to be advanced by menace, nor measures of policy carried by malignant invective and empty declamation."
This was the opinion of a partisan, it is true; but even with all the allowance for the high colouring in which par. tisanship too often indulges, this surpassed all my previous experience in matters of this description. I went to the Senate strongly impressed with the most favourable expec. tations from Mr. Calhoun ; and agreeing much more nearly in his general views about the impolicy of protecting duties for trade and the mischievous influence of irresponsible banks, than with his opponents, who were advocates of high tariffs and an almost unlimited issue of paper money, my prepossessions would assist, rather than retard, a favourable
opinion. But, with all these appliances, truth compels me to say that I was grievously disappointed. Mr. Calhoun's style of speaking is what would be called in England clear, self-possessed, and firm; but with nothing approaching to eloquence, and the entire absence of all action, however gentle, the monotony of tone, and the continual succession of emphasis on every sentence, made it tiresome to the ear after the first half hour. By the monotonous voice and perpetual emphasis, I was reminded strongly of Mr. Matthias Atwood, the member for Whitehaven; and by the motionless attitude and passionless expression, I was equally reminded of Mr. Grote, the member for London. As far as persuasion may be considered a test of success, I could not learn in any quarter of this being the effect of Mr. Calhoun's speech on a single individual: and I do not wonder at it.
Mr. Clay followed Mr. Calhoun, and spoke at still greater length—about three hours. He professed to labour under indisposition, and his admirers said he was not in good voice; but, making all allowance for these drawbacks, his effort appeared to me hardly more successful than Mr. Calhoun's. He had the advantage, no doubt, of more graceful elocution, more varied intonation, and more easy and unconstrained action But with all this, it was what would be thought in England a third or fourth rate speech, such as might be delivered by Sir James Graham, Mr. Poulett Thompson, or Mr. Clay of London; clear and intelligible, and sometimes impressive, but having nothing of the higher characteristics of oratory in it. And yet, by Mr. Clay's partisans, this speech was said “to have surpassed all that was ever delivered in ancient or modern times, in any age or in any country!” So excessive is the exaggeration in which all parties seem here to indulge.
Colonel Preston, of South Carolina, rose at the close of Mr. Clay's speech, to reply to some unjust aspersions, as he considered them, on the political conduct of the Nullifiers, as they were called, of the state he represented. He spoke for about half an hour, with his arm in a sling, and still suffering from a recent accident by which he had been hurt. His language, emphasis, gesture, and action were more elegant than either of those who preceded him; and his speech was, to my judgment, by far the most eloquent and impressive of the day, and might be compared with a speeeh of Mr. Canning, Lord Holland, or any other of the more im. passioned speakers of the old English school.
Mr. Webster having moved the adjournment of the House, had the possession of the floor, as it is called, for the next day, on which he spoke for four hours, from one to five, but without concluding; and, resuming his argument on the following day at one, he closed about four, thus making a speech of seven hours on the main question in debate, namely, the merits and defects of the sub-treasury bill, from which the speeches of the others were merely episodes or digressions for the settlement of personal disputes. A speech of seven hours would be deemed of intolerable length in England; but here it is not at all unusual for a speaker to occupy the floor for three days in the session, speaking four hours in each; for no sort of restraint seems to be placed on the orator, who may wander over every topic that his mind suggests, and no one rises to call him to order, or bring him back to the question, however far he may wander from it. An instance was mentioned to me of the late John Randolph, a senator from Virginia, speaking for twelve hours in succession, from one in the afternoon to one on the following morning. By the Constitution the Congress must expire on the 3d of March, at midnight, in the second year after its being elected; and as sore measure was before the Senate which wanted only ale third reading, and which Mr. Randolph desired to feat, he spoke against time, and continued on his legs till the Congress had ex. pired by law, at one in the murning of the 4th of March; by which the measure was a course extinguished.
Mr. Webster is, and I wink justly, considered to be the most powerful orator, the best reasoner, and the most sound. judging of all the senavrial or representative body; yet even he, I think, is greatlı-overrated. The doctrine of high duties, tariffs, and protecton for domestic manufactures, so long exe ploded by all the best writers on political economy in Europe (French Italian, and German, as well as English), is dear to Mr Webster, and he lauds it as the keystone of the Americax System. Bank monopolies, and the possession of the immense power which such monopolies give to those who enjoy them, appear to him wholesome and beneficial to trade. He is what in England would be called truly Con. servative; and if he were in the English House of Commons, he would act with Mr. Matthias Atwood, Mr. Alderman Thompson, Mr. George Robinson, Mr. Aaron Chapman, and Mr. George Frederic Young, on all questions of protection for shipping and trade. He is, no doubt, a more able man than any of these, and a far better speaker. In