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Potomac was fired simultaneously, at both ends, by the British and Americans, under the false apprehension of an attack from the opposite shore. In its destruction some military stores were burned upon the Virginia side.
On the morning of the 25th the two commanders renewed their work of demolition by burning the building occupied by the War and Navy Departments. Cockburn, mounted upon a switch-tailed mare, and followed by her foal, paraded the streets, enjoying the effect of his ludicrous appearance and the terror of the women and children. The Post and Patent Office was, with reluctance, spared by the enemy, upon the appeal of Dr. Thornton, to save private property stored in the building.
Cockburn took personal revenge upon the editors of the National Intelligencer, for some remarks published concerning him, by destroying the presses in the office and throwing the type out of the windows,—the Admiral enjoining upon them to “be sure that all the C's were destroyed, that the rascals could have no further means of abusing his name,” and declaring that "he would punish Madison's man, Joe, as he had his master, Jim.” That venerable sheet, in its usual conservative spirit, a few days afterwards attributed the acts of plunder entirely to lawless citizens. This article was the basis of the statement, in a London journal, that “the only acts of robbery and destruction of private property were admitted to have been perpetrated by our own countrymen !” Besides the destruction of private property already mentioned, the houses of General Washington and Mr. Frost, and the hotel of Daniel Carroll, were burned on Capitol Hill.
The destroyers then proceeded to the Navy Yard to complete the ruin in which they had been too promptly anticipated. Not content with burning the public works and stores, they also set fire to the private rope-walks of Tench, Ringgold, Heath & Co., and John Chalmers, and shamefully mutilated the beautiful monument erected by the officers of the navy to the gallant heroes who fell, at Tripoli, in a war to secure British as well as American rights, and to punish pirates, the enemies of mankind.
After setting fire to the rope-walks on Greenleaf's Point, the torch was thrown into a dry well, in which the Americans had previously cast a large quantity of pow. der, arms, and military stores. The consequence was a tremendous explosion, which brought death and destruction upon all around. Nearly one hundred of the barbarous invaders were killed and wounded, and their mutilated remains scattered in every direction.
In addition to the general consternation produced by this casualty, a frightful tornado swept over the city, which threw down buildings and dealt destruction to everything in its path. The blackness of the sky, the howling of the tempest, the cataract of rain, the gleaming of the lightning, the roar of thunder, and the crash of falling buildings, conspired to render the scene terrific beyond description, striking terror to the hearts of friend and foe. Trees were torn up by the roots, and roofs of houses whirled in the air like sheets of paper. Scores of the enemy, as well as inhabitants, were buried amid the ruins of fallen buildings, and the elements seemed to unite in completing the work of the despoilers. The British now taking a needless alarm for their own safety, falsely apprehending an attack, withdrew stealthily from the city, as the evening closed in, and took up their march for the point of embarkation.
EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS OF THE GOVERNMENT.
BEFORE entering upon a description of the departments of the government, we have some pride and much pleasure in stating that any individual having legitimate business with any department, from the President downwards, will find that all reasonable requests are met with the utmost politeness. From the highest to the lowest, the conduct of the officials at the seat of government is regulated by a code of courtesy which is based upon the recognized sovereignty of the people. No fees are needed to procure access to the President or the chiefs of departments during the hours set apart for the approach of the public. If a document has been filed away in some dusty pigeon-hole for half a century, and you are entitled to peruse it, although it may require several days of labor, the proper officer will in due time produce it for your inspection. No armed sentinels morosely oppose the entrance of the humblest; patience seems to be the universal characteristic of the employes.
Perhaps it may not be out of place to suggest that an equal courtesy requires the visitor to‘avoid an unnecessary consumption of public time by requesting what cannot be given, or asking questions which cannot be answered.
? THE GOVERNMENT.
ption of the departments
seat of government is
several days of labor,
The Executive Mansion, generally known “White House,” is situated in the western portion city, surrounded by the War, Navy, Treasury, an Departments. The building was commenced in 179 was modeled after the palace of the Duke of Leinst premium for the best design having been offered Commissioners of the City of Washington, James presented a plan, which was accepted. On the 1 October, 1792, a procession was formed, and the stone was laid with due formality. The building hundred and seventy feet front and eighty-six deep built of freestone, painted white, with Ionic pilasters prehending two lofty stories of rooms, crowned balustrade. The north front is ornamented with a p of four Ionic columns in front, and a projecting scree three columns. The outer intercolumniation is fc riages; the middle space is the entrance for visitors come on foot; the steps from both lead to a broad form in front of the door of entrance. The garden is varied by having a rusticated basement story und Ionic ordonnance, and by a semicircular projecting nade of six columns, with two flights of steps leading the ground to the level of the principal story. interior, the north entrance opens immediately into cious hall of forty by fifty feet. Advancing throu screen of Ionic columns, apparently of white marble only an imitation, the door in the centre opens int oval room, or saloon, of forty by thirty feet. Adja this room are two others, each thirty by twenty-two
in size; these form a suite of apartments devoted to occasions of ceremony. The great banqueting-room occupies the whole depth of the east side of the mansion, and is eighty feet long by forty feet wide, with a clear height of twenty-two feet. Inadequate as the building is now confessed to be for the accommodation of the chief magistrate of the nation; there was a time when it was deemed quite too extensive and grand, as is evident by the following extract from the correspondence of Oliver Wolcott, under date of July 4, 1800: “It was built to be looked at by visitors and strangers, and will render its occupant an object of ridicule with some and of pity with others. It must be cold and damp in Winter, and cannot be kept in tolerable order without a regiment of servants.”
Notwithstanding this prophetic declaration, in which there is much of truth, time has demonstrated that, despite all the risks of cold, damp, ridicule, and pity, a tenant has always been found willing to venture the dangers of its occupancy. As indicated in Chapter II., the Executive Mansion was injured during the British invasion ; in 1815 it was repaired, under the superintendence of James Hoban. So unfit is the mansion for the purpose to which it is devoted that the Commissioner of Public Buildings has frequently called the attention of Congress to the fact, and, in 1860, felt obliged to use the following plain but emphatic terms :
Much has been done to the President's House in the way of repairs. The roof requires constant attention and expenditure of money. The copper was not put on properly. The sheets simply lap, instead of being grooved, and consequently the temperature acting upon the copper, alternately contracting and expanding it, opens the seams and produces leaks which disfigure and greatly injure the