January 1, 1807: New Year’s Day Levee at the White House

The greatest exhibition in Washington is the Levee of Mr. Jefferson on New Year’s day. A large number of fashionable and respectable people here make it a point to visit the President on the first of January, and that gentleman is always civil enough to be at home and receive them. It is the only great Levee day at our Court. On this occasion the company assembles voluntarily, and without invitation.

Among the personages present I observed the King and Queen of the Mandans, a tribe of Indians living about 1,600 miles up the River Missouri. LeveeHis Majesty was dressed in a sort of regimental Coat, given him by the Government since his arrival, and her Majesty, wrapped in a blanket sat on one of the sofas in the great Audience chamber, and received the visits of the ladies and people of quality; when I had the honor of being introduced she did not rise, nor did she quit her seat during any part of the ceremony.

Another person of distinction was the French minister. This great military character is distinguished by the uncommon size and extent of his whiskers, which cover the greater part of his cheeks, and also by the profusion of lace covering his full dress coat. The British minister and lady were there; they have lately succeeded Mr. and Mrs. Merry and being newly arrived, they attracted a good deal of notice, particularly the lady, who is a pretty Philadelphian.

The greater part of the Senators were there, and the few whose wives were in town brought them thither to partake of this great exhibition. So were present the principal heads of the executive departments, with their help mates. They came forth on this grand occasion to pay the homage of their respects to the chief magistrate of the Nation. The members of the House of Representatives, the respectable resident inhabitants, the officers of the army and navy, the strangers of consideration who happened to be in the city, and the Osage Indians, men and women, little and big, crowded into the President’s house to share in the festivities of the morning.

The day was very favorable, and the assembly brilliant as you may suppose. Great mirth and humor prevailed, and you may easily conceive wherefore, when it is computed that besides the smiles, cordiality and welcome which the Company received from their generous entertainer, they consumed for him a quarter cask of wine, a barrel of punch and an hundred weight of cake, besides other nicknacks to a considerable amount.

While the refreshments were passing around and the company were helping themselves, a band of music entertained them with martial and enlivening airs. Before the hour of dinner the assemblage of people dispersed, well pleased with their manner of spending the morning, and in high hope that Mr. Jefferson might long continue in the Presidential chair. The ladies in particular were charmed with his handsome way of doing things.

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