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White House - Prince Of Wales And General Lafayette

( Originally Published 1908 )

PROBABLY the highest ranking royal visitor that ever entered the White House was the Prince of Wales, now King Edward VII., of England. In the autumn of 1860, the Prince arrived in Washington, and spent a week at the White House as the guest of President Buchanan. He was entertained with honors of a kind never before lavished upon a guest of the nation. For all this elaborate entertainment, which cost President Buchanan a large sum, the host of the White House refused to be reimbursed by Congress, though a liberal sum was proffered by that body for the purpose.

The Prince was accompanied by a very large suite, but owing to the limited accommodations of the White House, all but a very few of the suite were obliged to lodge at the British Embassy, as the guest of Lord Lyons, the British Minister. The Prince traveled incognito, in the sense that he took the rank of Baron, and was called for the time being, Baron Renfrew.

Prince of Wales Guest of President Buchanan

Of the Prince's formal reception at the White House, various correspondents of the time, from New York and else-where, wrote :

"The morning papers announced a Presidential reception for twelve o'clock. Long before that hour a motley crowd assembled before closed doors. Shortly before noon the doors opened, and the rush began. Mr. Buchanan, the Prince, Lord Lyons, the Duke of Newcastle, Earl St. Germains and General Bruce stood in that order at the back of the East Room. Into the room hurried, pell-mell, ladies, gentlemen, officers, workmen, children and nurses.

"The Royal party have certainly seen Democracy unshackled for once. All bowed to the Prince, and the Prince returned their salutations. The President shook hands with everybody and hurried them along as quickly as possible. The rush at the doors was terrible. People clambered in and jumped out of the windows, and confusion reigned. The band played well. Finally the Prince retired from the reception-room to an upper window and was cheered most heartily.

"At his reception at the White House, the Prince dressed in the usual blue coat and gray pants, and with ungloved hands, stood upon the right of the President, and Lord Lyons stood near the Prince. As each person passed, the President shook hands with his customary urbanity, and the Prince bowed his head as usual. Several ladies succeeded in shaking his hand, however.

"By way of preparation for dinner, the Prince played a game of ten-pins in the gymnasium of a school for girls, whither he went with Miss Lane (President Buchanan's niece) and Mrs. Secretary Thompson.

"A large number of Miss Lane's personal friends were invited to witness the fireworks from the windows of the White House. The Prince was in high spirits all the evening and made himself agreeable to many a fair dame, not alone by reason of his title, but because he developed himself for the first time as a gallant and gay young gentleman, who seemed desirous of pleasing."

Details of His Highness's Reception

Another correspondent later wrote of the Prince's visit, thus:

"That visit was made at the instance of President Buchanan, who, through Queen Victoria, invited the young Prince to extend his tour through Canada to the United States. Both President Buchanan and his niece, Miss Harriet Lane, had met the Prince, Mr. Buchanan having been United States Minister at the Court of St. James during the administration of President Pierce, and Miss Lane having lived in London with him. Queen Victoria, always kindness to American girls at the American Legation, was particularly so to the beautiful Miss Lane from the time of her presentation at Court.

"When the Prince's visit was decided upon, Miss Lane made ready for it, and though it was summer time and Washington was not altogether as pleasant as could have been desired, the Prince greatly enjoyed his visit, and he and his suite declared that their stay of one week at the White House, was the pleasantest part of their Western trip. President Buchanan, who was a bachelor, delighted in the companionship of the young, and he heartily enjoyed playing host for the nation to the son of Queen Victoria.

"This visit was the first an heir apparent of England had made to this country, and everything possible was done to make him feel warmth and sincerity of the welcome accorded him. He rode and walked in and about Washington, visiting everything of interest, and making himself entirely at home everywhere. Full of life and fond of pleasure, he wanted to have a good time, and to help others to enjoy themselves.

"And incidentally, the people were pleased that their President and his beautiful kinswoman did the honors so well.

"The Prince remained at the White House for a week, and during his stay he went with the President and Miss Lane and a large party of gusts to Mount Vernon to visit the tomb of Washington.

"He won the hearts of the American people on that visit by the homage he paid to the memory of Washington. As the Presidential party approached the tomb, the sarcophagus that contained the ashes of Washington came into view. Instantly the Prince uncovered, and as he reached the iron gateway he knelt down in silence and gazed into the interior. All stood about him in silence and with bowed, uncovered heads. The incident was a perfectly natural one, and the Prince impressed all who saw his conduct as a manly gentleman and one possessed of a generous and amiable character. When it became known in Washington that the Prince had journeyed to Mount Vernon to show reverence to the memory of Washington, the people followed him in the streets and cheered him whenever he appeared."

General Lafayette, Guest of President J. Q. Adams

During the administration of President John Quincy Adams, a distinguished foreign visitor in the person of General Lafayette, came to the White House as the guest of the President, and spent several weeks in the mansion. That was in 1825. Lafayette was present at Bunker Hill when Webster made his oration : "Fortunate, fortunate man !" he addressed him, "with what measure of devotion will you not thank God for the circumstances of your extraordinary life. Heaven saw fit to ordain that the electric spark of liberty should be conducted through you, from the new world to the old; and we have long ago received it in charge from our fathers, to cherish your name and your virtues."

Congress voted General Lafayette two hundred thousand dollars and twenty-four thousand acres of land, during the time of his visit.

On the day on which he was to bid farewell to America, September 7, 1825, a general holiday was proclaimed in Washington. The men of highest rank in the Government met at the White House, to be present at the final reception. About twelve o'clock, it is recorded, the officers of the general Government civil, military and naval, together with the authorities of Washington, Georgetown and Alexandria, with multitudes of citizens and strangers, assembled in the President's house. Lafayette entered the great hall in silence, leaning on the Marshal of the District and one of the sons of the President. Mr. Adams then addressed Lafayette with these words :

"At the painful moment of parting from you, we take comfort in the thought, that wherever you may be, to the last pulsation of your heart, our country will ever be present to your affections; and a cheering consolation assures us that we are not called to sorrow, most of all, that we shall see your face no more. We shall indulge the pleasing anticipation of beholding our friend again. In the meantime, speaking in the name of the whole people of the United States, and at a loss only for language to give utterance to that feeling of attachment with which the heart of the nation beats, as beats the heart of one man, I bid you a reluctant and affectionate farewell !"

Lafayette replied with a happy speech, very tender and sympathetic. At the close he burst out with this exclamation :

"God bless you, sir, and all who surround us. God bless the American people, each of their States, and the Federal Government. Accept this patriotic farewell of an overflowing heart. Such will be its last throb when it ceases to beat."

As the last sentence of farewell was pronounced Lafayette advanced and took President Adams in his arms, while tears poured down his venerable cheeks. Retiring a few paces, he was overcome by his feelings, and again returned, and, falling on the neck of Mr. Adams, exclaimed in broken accents, "God bless you!" It was a scene at once solemn and moving.



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