Perley's Reminiscences of Sixty Years in the National Metropolis - Vol. 1

By Ben: Perley Poore | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI.
SOCIETY IN JACKSON'S TIME.

THE VAN NESS MANSION--A BENEFACTRESS--A POPULAR CITIZEN--A
MUCH-TALKED-OF LAWSUIT--A RUNAWAY NUN--GENERALJACKSON'S
DIPLOMACY--WASHINGTON SOCIETY--ANECDOTES TOLD BY MR. CLAY
--MAELZEL'S AUTOMATA--CONDEMNED LITERATURE.

THE most elegant estate in Washington in Jackson's time was the Van Ness mansion, built on the bank of the Potomac, at the foot of Seventeenth Street. Mr. John Van Ness, when a member of the House from the State of New York, had married Marcia, the only child of David Burns, one of the original proprietors of the land on which the Federal City was located. At that time every able-bodied man between eighteen and forty-five (with a few exceptions) had to perform militia duty, and the District Volunteers, organizing themselves in a battalion, complimented Mr. Van Ness by electing him Major. The President commissioned him, but so strict were the Congressmen of those days that the House investigated his case, and declared that he had forfeited his seat as a Representative by accepting a commission from the General Government. For the empty honor of wearing a militia uniform three or four times a year, and paying a large share of the music assessments, Major Van Ness lost his seat in Congress.

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