Amazing articles on just about every subject...

Inaugurations — Lincoln To Roosevelt

( Originally Published 1908 )

AT THE time of his first election to the Presidency, Abraham Lincoln told a friend that one night he looked into the mirror and saw a "ghostly face." He said that he told his wife of the incident, and that she regarded it as an omen of evil, but that it was "Abraham's duty to go to Washington, whether for better or for worse."

"My wife was worried about it," said Lincoln. "She thought it was a `sign' that I was to be elected to a second term of office, and that the paleness of one of the faces was an omen that I should not live through a second term."

The day of his first inauguration came and Lincoln was welcomed to the White House as no President was ever welcomed before, thousands joining in the festivities.

Four years later came his second inauguration, at which he spoke the now famous lines :

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation's wounds ; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphans—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations."

This second inauguration is best described by Mrs. Shelby M. Cullom, wife of Senator Cullom, as given in an interview with Margaret B. Downing. In this interview Mrs. Cullom gives a number of most interesting facts, as follows :

"I came to Washington in time to witness the second inau guration of Lincoln. Mr. Cullom and I were neighbors of the Lincolns in Springfield, and I knew both very well. I am often surprised to remember that we Springfielders were proud of the reputation which Lincoln had as a lawyer and public speaker, but we had no conception of his grand attributes, and we fully demonstrated the old saying about the prophet being great everywhere save at home. But local pride urged us to see every feature of that inaugural parade, and to attend the ceremonies at the Capital. It was something to represent the President's home town in Congress, though I must confess that no great attention was paid us at the Capital.

"We were one of that memorable throng which pressed into the great edifice, almost at the risk of suffocation. I saw every detail of the ceremony of taking the oath of office, and we heard part of the inaugural address. But I wished to get to the window reserved for us by a friend on the avenue, so we left early. As the carriage containing the President came before our window, I noted the exalted look which Mr. Lincoln wore. Many who saw the procession have remarked the same thing. It was the look of a man inspired, of one who saw far into the future and realized what the pageant meant and would mean to the future generations. It was the first time that anything about Lincoln impressed me as remarkable. His face wore what might be described as the most peaceful, sublime and prophetic look which a human countenance could assume. Turning to Mr. Cullom, I said that at last I could see what men meant about the sublimity of the President's character. The look reminded me of what a martyr's face must wear when he is about to lay down his life for his convictions.

"That evening we attended the reception given at the White House by the new President. In this detail I remark another of those remarkable evolutions of Washington, socially and politically. Instead of the magnificent function called the inauguration ball, at which thousands and thousands of dollars are spent on flowers and music and toilets and bunting adornments, the only festivity was a reception given at the White House.

In the days just before the peace of Appomatox, few had the heart for elaborate ceremonial or gay attire, and those who attended the reception which Lincoln extended to the official and social world wore for the most part the same clothes in which they had viewed the inaugural procession. The President, I remember, was identically attired with perhaps a fresh white lawn tie and a flower for his lapel. He was in high spirits that night and both Mr. Cullom and I had a little chat and talked over our old neighbors at home. This occasion was memorable, not only to me, as the first large reception I had attended in Washington, but as the last large official function at which Mr. Lincoln entertained."

Johnson Enters Sadly, Grant Proudly

On June 19, following the death of President Lincoln, Andrew Johnson entered the White House to finish the term of his predecessor as President of the United States, a Washington newspaper recording the fact of Mr. Johnson's arrival, thus :

"The family of the President consisting of Mrs. Johnson and their daughter, Mrs. Patterson (the new mistress of the White House), and Andy, Jr., (who is expected to supply the place of the frolicsome Tad Lincoln), arrived here yesterday, in a special train."

General U. S. Grant came to the White House proudly, as the youngest President to occupy the mansion up to that time. Grant was then only forty-seven and he held the record for youth among Presidents until the coming of Mr. Roosevelt at the age of forty-three. Other youthful Presidents were Franklin Pierce and James A. Garfield, age forty-nine ; and Grover Cleveland, age forty-eight.

Hayes--Only President Taking the Oath in the hite House

A peculiar feature of President Hayes' inauguration was that he took the oath of office within the White House, the only President in history sworn in actually inside the historic mansion. Nearly all other Presidents took the oath at the Capitol ; while, in the case of Vice-Presidents suddenly called to the high office by the death of a President, the oath was taken wherever they happened to be at the time.

In the case of Mr. Hayes' inauguration, the fourth of March fell on Sunday, and instead of postponing the ceremony of the oath until Monday, Mr. Hayes took the oath in advance, Saturday evening, following a dinner at the White House, the new President going through this necessary ceremony in the Red Room.

The dinner that preceded the taking of the oath was given by President Grant, thirty-six guests being present. At the conclusion of the banquet, Mr. Hayes was escorted into the Red Room by President Grant and Secretary Fish, where Chief Justice Waite administered the oath. Mr. Hayes did not use a Bible for the purpose, as had his predecessors, but was sworn in by the uplifting of his hand. A report of the ceremony says :

"At the time the oath was administered, the Red Room was profusely decorated with flowers, and the table in the centre, near which the new President stood, was covered with rare plants. The principal wall decoration of this room is the life-size group of General Grant and his family, painted by Coggswell in 1867."

Garfield and Arthur Inaugurations

A sight that elicited prolonged cheering on the part of the onlooking crowd at President Garfield's inauguration, was that of the President turning to his mother and kissing her and saying:

"It's all because of you, mother."

In describing the coming of the Garfields to the White House, one reporter wrote :

"The White House grounds put on a gala dress. Lines of streamers and signal flags ran from tree to tree across the semi-circular drive to the entrance and across the lawn itself, lighting up the grounds with their gay colors. The columns of the portico were decorated with evergreen, and in the pediment of the portico was a large glass star which blazed out to-night in the red, white and blue. In front of the White House grounds, a large stand was erected from which President Garfield, after the Inaugural ceremony, reviewed the procession. It is a plain wooden stand, no better than those erected for spectators, except that it is surmounted with a wooden eagle.

"General Garfield was more than prompt, so much so that he reached the Capitol with President Hayes, half an hour before the latter's term expired. General Garfield's escort, the Cleve-land Cavalry, were formed in front of the White House at an early hour and awaited the coming of the two Presidents. About eleven o'clock two four-in-hand carriages drove into the White House grounds, the fine bays of the first being driven by Albert, the Presidential coachman, who has held office now under several Administrations. General Garfield and President Hayes stepped into this carriage and took the back seat, President Hayes being on the right. Opposite to them sat Senators Anthony and Bayard of the Senate Committee of Arrangements. The second carriage was taken by Vice-President-elect Arthur, who was accompanied by Senator Pendleton, another member of the Committee. The procession then started at the sound of a signal gun."

Of President Arthur's inauguration, a very simple ceremony following the death of President Garfield, we learn that in accordance with the dispatch received from the Cabinet in regard to taking the oath of office, messengers were sent to the different judges of the Supreme Court. The first to put in an appearance was judge John R. Brady, who was closely followed by justice Donohue. The party, comprising the Vice-President and the judges named, besides District Attorney Rollins, and Elihu Root, and the eldest son of the new President, assembled in the front parlor of No. 123 Lexington Avenue (General Arthur's residence), where the oath of office was administered.

Cleveland to Roosevelt--First Days in Washington

President Cleveland, on the day of his inauguration, was received at the White House by President Arthur, and together the two drove to the Capitol, the coachman being Albert Hawkins, who had driven White House carriages for Grant, and Hayes and Garfield.

After the usual ceremonies at the Capitol, President Cleve-land returned to the White House and reviewed the military procession, which, on this occasion, included some 25,000 troops. Then followed a lunch in the White House, given by Mr. Arthur, the last entertainment of an official character given by the outgoing President.

Doorkeeper Pendel, who had served as a White House attache longer even than the coachman already mentioned, Hawkins, relates the story of the coming of President Cleveland to the White House for his second term, after the lapse of four years during which President Harrison was the occupant of the mansion. In his book, Thirty-six Years in the White House, Mr. Pendel says :

"The fourth of March on which Mr. Cleveland took the oath of office for the second time was one of the most blustering days imaginable. It was very cold and bleak. The first thing I did that night when I came on duty was to take a prescription out for one of the President's children, who was somewhat indisposed. Four years previous to that I had escorted Mrs. Cleveland to her carriage. It was pouring rain, and I had the pleasure of shaking hands with her and bidding her goodbye. Now I stood at the Blue Parlor door and let her in the same door out of which she had gone four years before and had a kindly handshake with her. She looked charming, and seemed to be perfectly happy."

Concerning the inaugurations of President McKinley and Roosevelt, little need be said here, as these events are still fresh in the minds of readers. It is perhaps sufficient to state that both Mr. McKinley's first and second welcomes at the White House were events of wide interest and of general rejoicing in a political sense, while the first coming of Mr. Roosevelt to the White House was an occasion of profound sorrow, the mansion being in deep mourning for the martyred President who had just passed to the Great Beyond.

Early "First Gentlemen" and their Daily Routine

THE PERSONALITY, character, habits and methods of work of the various Presidents, as evidenced in their lives in the White House, were, in each instance, the outcome of individual training and previous experience.

The most scholarly of all the Presidents was probably John Quincy Adams, John Adams, Madison, Monroe and Van Buren were polished courtiers. William Henry Harrison, and Jackson, and Taylor, were more used to rough military camps than to the refinements of court life. Grant remained a soldier to the end, and White House life was irksome to him. Among the wealthiest of the Presidents was Arthur, who was also the handsomest ; while among the poorest in worldly goods were Jefferson and Tyler, Lincoln and Garfield, and Cleveland.

Theodore Roosevelt will live in White House history as the most active of the Presidents. Probably the most dignified of Presidents were the Southerners, including Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, all of Virginia. The hardest worker, so far as the routine business of the nation was concerned, was Cleveland; while Roosevelt has shown himself to be the greatest of all as an originator of new business, and as a host.

The personal appearance and daily life of many of the Presidents are given in this and the succeeding chapter.

First of the "First Gentlemen" in the White House

Though John Adams was the second President, he was the ' first to occupy the White House as the "First Gentleman" of the nation.

The second President is described as stout, florid, bald, of medium height, large of nose, heavy of expression and a typical "John Bull" in appearance.

Mr. Adams' family, it is stated in The Rulers of the World at Home, consisted of his wife and little orphaned granddaughter, Susanna, who preserved as a treasure of memory that she was the first child to play in the Executive Mansion, although only three years old at the time. The habits of this thrifty Massachusetts President were simple and abstemious. They went to church every Sunday in spite of rain or snow. Their refreshment for lunch was regularly lemonade and oat-cakes ; and when Mr. Adams died he left his children a fortune of $50,000. Mrs. Adams longed for her New England home, and at the end of four months relinquished without a sigh the chilly honor of being the lady of the new, barn-like mansion.

Jefferson Polished Despite "Simplicity"

Despite all the simplicity that has been described as characterizing Jefferson and his life at the White House, he was a gentleman of the old school, polished and trained in the arts of social life. His uncouth dress was simply part of his determination to set an example to others in the matter of practicing simplicity and in eliminating ostentation and class distinction from White House life. Hence it happens that one friend of his described him as "a tall man, with a very red, freckled face and grey neglected hair; his manners good-natured, frank, and rather friendly, though he had somewhat of a cynical expression of countenance. He wore a blue coat, a thick grey-colored hairy waistcoat, with a red under waistcoat lapped over it, green velveteen breeches with pearl buttons, yarn stockings, and slippers down at the heels."

John Quincy Adams the Scholar

President John Quincy Adams, a man of learning, a pro-found student, often said that he preferred his books to the social whirl of official life. At the time of his incumbency he was said to be stockily built, with a large head, high, bald forehead, bushy eyebrows, large, firm mouth and dark eyes.

In the matter of daily habits of life at the White House, John Quincy Adams was in the habit of rising between four and seven, and then walking four miles, and on his return seeing the sun rise from the northeastern window. He breakfasted at nine, dined at five, and received visitors in the intervals. He wrote letters or official papers, read despatches and newspapers in the evening, and went to bed at ten.

The diary of this second President Adams is the best authority, for the facts relating to his daily routine in the President's House. In May following his inauguration, he wrote in his diary (and this, so far as we know, is the only diary of a President that has come down to us) this:

"Sunday, May 1.—Since my removal to the Presidential Mansion, I rise about five, read two chapters of Scott's Bible and Commentary, and the corresponding Commentary of Hewlett; then the morning newspapers and public papers from the several Departments ; write seldom and not enough ; breakfast an hour from nine to ten; then have a succession of visitors, upon business in search of a place, solicitors for donations, or for mere curiosity from eleven till between four and five o'clock. The heads of Departments, of course, occupy much of this time. Between four and six I take a walk of three or four miles. Dine from half-past five till seven, and from dark till about eleven I generally pass the evening in my chamber, signing land-grants or blank patents, in the interval of which, for the last ten days, I have brought up three months' arrears in my diary index. About eleven I retire to bed."

And a year later, December, 1825—this:

"The life that I lead is more regular than it has perhaps been at any other period. It is established by custom that the President of the United States goes not abroad into any private companies ; and to this usage I conform. I am, therefore, compelled to take my exercise, if at all, in the morning before breakfast. I usually rise between five and six that is, at this time of the year, from an hour and a half to two hours before the sun. I walk by the light of moon or stars or none, about four miles, usually returning home in time to see the sun rise from the eastern chamber of the House. I then make my fire, and read three chapters of the Bible with Scott's and Hewlett's Commentaries. Read papers till nine. Breakfast, and from ten till five P.M. receive a succession of visitors, sometimes without intermission very seldom with an interval of half an hour never such as to enable me to undertake any business requiring attention. From five to half-past six we dine ; after which I pass about four hours in my chamber alone, writing in this diary, or reading papers upon some public business—excepting when occasionally interrupted by a visitor. Between eleven and twelve I retire to bed, to rise again at five or six the next morning."

"Old Hickory" in a Rocking Chair

Andrew Jackson is said to have been tall, lean and angular; long of face, homely, large-featured and bushy-haired.

Mrs. Fremont, the daughter of Senator Benton, of Missouri, gives the following account of her youthful observations in the White House when "Old Hickory" was President:

"Among my earliest memories of the White House is the impression that I was to keep still and not fidget, or show pain, even if General Jackson twisted his fingers a little too tightly in my curls ; he liked my father to bring me when they had their talks, and would keep me by him, his hand on my head—forgetting me of course in the interest of discussion-so that sometimes his long bony fingers took an unconscious grip that would make me look at my father, but give no other sign. He was sure to praise me afterward if I did not wince, and would presently contrive my being sent off to the nursery to play with the Donelson children.

"We would find the President in an upper room, where the tall south windows sent in long breadths of sunshine ; but his big rocking-chair was always drawn close to the large wood fire. Wounds and rheumatism went for much in the look of pain fixed on his thin face.

"President Jackson at first had suppers at the general receptions, but this had to be given up. He had them, however, for his invited receptions of a thousand or more. It was his wish I should come to one of these great supper-parties ; and I have the beautiful recollection of the whole stately house adorned and ready for the company—(for I was taken early and sent home after a very short stay)—the great wood-fires in every room, the immense number of wax lights softly burning, the stands of camellias and laurestina banked row upon row, the glossy dark-green leaves bringing into full relief their lovely wax-like flowers ; after going all through this silent waiting fairyland, we were taken to the State dining-room, where was the gorgeous supper-table shaped like a horseshoe, and covered with every good and glittering thing French skill could devise, and at either end was a monster salmon in waves of meat jelly."

Van Buren the President Serene

President Van Buren was small and slender. He had large dark eyes, broad high brow and shrewd expression, with curly hair and side-whiskers.

His good friend, William Allen Butler, of New York, describes President Van Buren's character thus. "Mr. Van Buren in his personal traits was marked by rare individuality. He was a gentleman, and he cultivated the society of gentlemen. He never had any associates who were vulgar or vicious. He affected the companionship of men of letters, though I think his conclusion was that they are apt to make poor politicians and not the best of friends. Where he acquired the peculiar neatness and polish of manner which he wore so lightly, and which served every turn of domestic, social and political intercourse, I do not know. As far as my early recollections go, it was not indigenous in the social circles of Kinderhook. I do not think it was essentially Dutch. It could hardly be called natural, although it seemed so natural in him.

It was not put on, for it was never put off. As you saw him once you saw him always always punctilious, always polite, always cheerful, always self-possessed. It seemed to any one who studied this phase of his character as' if, in some early moment of his destiny, his whole nature had been bathed in a cool, clear and unruffled depth, from which it drew this life-long serenity and selfcontrol."

"Rough and Ready" Taylor

President Taylor has been described as stout, and of middle height, with swarthy complexion and rugged but kindly face, with a high forehead, keen eyes, dark hair and side-whiskers.

While President Taylor occupied the White House, few persons had any difficulty in reaching the Chief Executive.

This President was a born host and knew how to make each particular guest at home in the Presidential mansion. When his guests called they would sometimes gather on the White House grounds, each waiting for the President to approach and converse with them in his democratic fashion. One such occasion is described by Frederika Bremer, in a diary of her's subsequently published, in which she says :

"The Senator from New Hampshire took Miss Lynch and myself to the White House, just out of the city, where in the park, every Saturday afternoon, there is military music, and the people walk about. The President was out among the crowd. I was introduced to him, and we shook hands. He is kind and agreeable, both in appearance and manner, and was simply, almost negligently dressed. He is universally esteemed for the spotless purity of his character."

Another admirer of Taylor's, Mr. D. W. Mitchell, writes of a similar gathering, thus :

"Perhaps few scenes in the United States would impress a stranger more favorably than one often to be witnessed at Washington on a summer evening. The military or Marine Band is playing excellent music in the garden of the White House, everybody walking in and out and about without restric tion ; the President perhaps strolling over the lawn among the company, ready to shake hands with any one who chooses to introduce himself, or whom any citizen, however humble, may please to introduce. Well dressed women mid all the sorts of people assembled, not a poorly dressed woman is to be seen public men, clerks, and groups of various kinds, are promenading, while children are gambolling about. Laborers roughly dressed stand or lounge on the grass ; there is no guard, no police; all behaving themselves properly. No one not the Irish Biddy taking her mistress's children out for an airing, nor the neat negro wench engaged in like manner—fears any annoyance or rudeness from any person. More than once on these occasions I saw General Taylor, and could not but conclude that he was a plain, good hearted, honest, hard working man, of well-balanced mind, favored by circumstances and fortunate in the enemies whom he had fought and conquered."

President Fillmore a Physical Marvel

In a tribute paid to Millard Fillmore, one of his visitors at the White House said to him :

"Take him for all in all, Millard Fillmore is one of the most remarkable men our country has produced—remarkable for his appearance, remarkable for his fortunes, remarkable for the dignity, the prudence and the wisdom of his Administration."

President Fillmore was often asked : "How is it, Mr. President, that despite the physical and mental strain of public office, you have retained your health in such a remarkable degree?" Mr. Fillmore possessed a personality abounding in magnetism as the result of his perfect health. Cheerfulness characterized his every moment. And in explanation of these characteristics, he himself wrote, after leaving the White House, saying:

"I owe my uninterrupted bodily vigor to an originally strong constitution, to an education on a farm, and to life-long habits of regularity and temperance. Throughout all my public life, I maintained the same regular and systematic habits of living to which I had previously been accustomed. I' never allowed my usual hours or sleep to interrupted.The Sabbath I kept as a day of rest. Besides being a religious duty, it was essential to health. On commencing my Presidential career, I found that the Sabbath had been frequently employed by visitors for private interviews with the President. I determined to put an end to this custom, and ordered my doorkeeper to meet all Sunday visitors with an indiscriminate refusal. While Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, and during my entire Presidential term, my labors were always onerous, and often excessive, but I never suffered an hour of sickness through them all."

President Pierce Eulogized by Admirers

"Mr. Pierce was personally popular, engaging in his manners, agreeable in all social intercourse, and generous and kindly in his disposition. He inspired the personal respect and love of all with whom he came in contact. He was exceedingly fond of sport, particularly fishing, and would spend days in his favorite amusement."

So wrote one admirer of President Pierce, while another, no less a man than Washington Irving, who was delighted with President Pierce's decision to send Nathaniel Hawthorne, an intimate friend of the President's, to Liverpool to represent the United States as Consul-General at that place, said :

"I have become acquainted with the President-elect. He is a quiet gentleman-like man in appearance and manner, and I have conceived a goodwill for him, from finding in the course of our conversation that he has it at heart to take care of Hawthorne, who was his early fellow-student."

Home | More Articles | Email: