« PreviousContinue »
city, as was done at Alexandria. Thu would have benefitted the victors without exposing them to the censure of posterity. Besides, nothing during the whole war tended so much to unite the Americans as the burning of the metropolis. Those who would not perhaps have opposed the British troops very heartily, were now obliged to do so out of fear. "If," said the Baltimoreans, the Philadelphians, &c. &c. "these fellows come here, they will act as they did at Washington."
The City Hall, when finished, will be the hand* somest building in the United States. It fronts the PotOwmac, and commands a very advantageous view of the city.
Few places could have been selected possessing greater natural beauties, and, at the same time, better adapted for the scite of a metropolis. I think, indeed, that Washington, in point of situation, ranks first among the American cities.
The Patent Office, to which strangers are freely admitted, contains a number of very interesting models. Among those of bridges, I particularly admired that of a straight bridge, constructed by means of timbers, connected diagonally over a span of 200 feet, at Fayettesville, in North Carolina. The model was placed across a division between two of the cases of the smaller models; and though it was apparently very slight, yet when a piece of wood was fastened to it by several small cords, it supported three or four of the visitors.
The entrance to the Navy-yard is through a very handsome, though simple, arched gateway of white stone. Immediately fronting this is a beautiful little rostrated column of white marble, surmounted by the American eagle. Round the column, and standing on a large and elevated pedestal of the same material, are some fine emblematical statues. This monument was erected by the officers of the American navy, to the memory of their comrades who fell at Tunis. It is one of the handsomest and most chaste little monuments that I have ever seen, and was made in Italy; indeed, I recognized it as a copy of the column of Duilius. I observed that some of the figures surrounding it had been broken, evidently on purpose; and accordingly at the base of the column I found this inscription: "Mutilated by Britons, August 14, 1814."—But would not the English officers have punished any man detected in injuring it? Surely the damage must have been done by some ignorant and brutal soldier, when the Navy-yard was destroyed: for had it been otherwise, or had the British really intended to have injured the figures, they would not have stopped at breaking an arm or two. I should be glad to see this inscription effaced, as it tends to increase hostile feelings, which are contrary to the interest of both countries. ..'' . , '::; .i .'• «.
The chief curiosity in the Navy-yard is the ingenious and beautiful machinery, contrived by Commodore Rodgers, for hauling up vessels of war out of the water; and thus obviating the necessity of dry docks, which, owing to the small rise and fall of the tide, could not be constructed without great difficulty. Large strong beams are run completely through the vessel, entering at the port-holes on one side and coming out at those on the opposite, while both the ends of the beams rest upon an inclined plane that slopes down to the water. Attached to each beam, just where it enters the porthole, are two very strong chains, which are fastened to a large block of wood, made to fit the keel. These chains are tightened by wedges and screws—and, by this means, the ship is supported on its keel the same as when on the stocks. A large chain or two is put entirely round the vessel, from the bows to the stern, and to these a cable is attached, which is stretched forward to a windlass. The vessel is thus easily drawn up out of the water. Indeed, 150 men were able to draw up the Potowmac the largest frigate I ever saw, and which was on the plane when I was at Washington. Over the whole machine a very handsome roof has been built, which completely protects the vessel. . Besides the Potowmac, there was building, in the Navy-yard, a large frigate with an elliptical stern.
The Armoury is very prettily arranged, and kept in excellent order. I saw there several of the celebrated " repeating swivels." Each is composed of seven parallel barrels, fastened together with iron hoops, in the manner of Roman fasces, six forming the circle, with one in the centre. Each barrel is about four feet and a half long, and a quarter of an inch thick; and the whole engine turns on a pivot, much resembling that which is ordinarily used for a swivel, and is directed by means of a crooked iron handle. The lock that fires it, is placed about eighteen inches from the muzzle. The chief secret is in the loading, which is difficult, and takes a long time. They are, therefore, sent ready loaded to the vessels and forts, where they are wanted, and after being once fired> are sent home again. Their calibre is nearly the same as that of a musket, and they discharge altogether 350 balls, that is, seven at a time for fifty successive discharges, at half a second interval. These moat formidable weapons appeared to be of a rough and cheap construction. A fort or vessel provided with a great number might keep up such a murderous fire, that advancing or boarding in the face of it Would be almost impossible. . •• .if . ••• '\ i
The Navy-yard is on what is called the eastern branch of the Potowmac. At a little distance. off, on the main branch, is a straight wooden bridge, nine furlongs in length, which presents a curious appearance. :.i...»i
The President's house, a noble mansion, or rather palace, built on an eminence fronting the Potowmac, was not quite finished when I was at Washington, but already formed a majestic object. The former mansion, with every thing it contained, was burnt by the British.
Shortly after my arrival at Washington, as I was one day coming with a friend from visiting the public offices, he pointed out to me a welL dressed gentleman, walking by himself. "That," said he, "is the President of the United States." When this great personage met us, my friend introduced me to him. I took off my hat as a mark of respect; upon which the President did the same, and shook me by the hand, saying he was glad to see me. I went soon afterwards to pay my respects to him at his house, in company with the same friend. We were shown into a handsome room, where the President had been writing. When he came in, he shook us by the hand, requested us to sit down, and conversed upon a variety of topics. I may here observe, that whenever, in America, you are introduced to any one, the custom is to shake hands. I like this custom, as it is much more friendly, and puts you more at your ease, than the cold formal bow, with which, in England, and indeed in most of Europe, you are greeted at the performance of this ceremony. I was very much pleased with the unaffected urbanity and politeness of the President, so entirely different from what I should have met with on being introduced to a person of anything like the same importance in Europe. When going to