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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 Executive Mansion, generally known as the “White House,” is situated in the western portion of the city, surrounded by the War, Navy, Treasury, and State Departments. The building was commenced in 1792, and was modeled after the palace of the Duke of Leinster. A premium for the best design having been offered by the Commissioners of the City of Washington, James Hoban presented a plan, which was accepted. On the 13th of October, 1792, a procession was formed, and the cornerstone was laid with due formality. The building is one hundred and seventy feet front and eighty-six deep; it is built of freestone, painted white, with Ionic pilasters, comprehending two lofty stories of rooms, crowned with a balustrade. The north front is ornamented with a portico, of four Ionic columns in front, and a projecting screen with three columns. The outer intercolumniation is for carriages; the middle space is the entrance for visitors who come on foot; the steps from both lead to a broad platform in front of the door of entrance. The garden front is varied by having a rusticated basement story under the Ionic ordonnance, and by a semicircular projecting colonnade of six columns, with two flights of steps leading from the ground to the level of the principal story. In the interior, the north entrance opens immediately into a spacious hall of forty by fifty feet. Advancing through a screen of Ionic columns, apparently of white marble, but only an imitation, the door in the centre opens into the oval room, or saloon, of forty by thirty feet. Adjoining this room are two others, each thirty by twenty-two feet
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
ceilings. To repair it as it ought to be would cost almost as much as a new roof. The house is now in as good order as it can be made, with the temporary repairs that are usually put upon it. Unless thoroughly renovated, owing to its age, it will soon again be out of repair. It is almost impossible to keep such an old building in a habitable condition.
A fine conservatory and green-house are connected with the house, and the grounds adjacent are well kept and tastefully laid out. Looking southward, the view of the Potomac River is very beautiful, and during the Summer a fountain gratifies the eye and soothes the ear with its ripplings.
In the lawn, on the north side, is a bronze statue of Jefferson, the ownership of which is somewhat doubtful, as it was purchased by Capt. Levy, U. S. N., and offered to, but not accepted by, the Senate of the United States.
In other portions of this volume, as the reader will perceive by referring to the index, we have indicated the mode of election, tenure of office, salary and duties of the President; in the chapter upon etiquette, we have also explained the laws of courtesy governing the citizen in his approach to the elected chief of the government. It only remains therefore to announce that, while the President is a public servant, he is not the servant of each individual composing that mythical tyranny, “ The Public.” Let it be understood that while every man who becomes President of the United States agrees to devote certain portions of certain days to miscellaneous hand-shakings and applications for opportunities to serve the republic, his time is very precious, and no one individual, unless charged with most extraor
dinary public business, is entitled to more than two minutes of conversation with him.
The inauguration of the President usually, but not necessarily, takes place in Washington. The Constitution provides for the election of President by the observance of the following forms:
1. He must be a native-born citizen, or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and must have attained the age of thirty-five years ; and, from the commencement of the government, so wisely was this requirement conceived, that no person under the age of forty years has filled the presidential chair.
2. Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes, which day shall be the same throughout the United States.
3. Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress; but no Senator, or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector. The electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same State with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President; and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit, sealed, to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the