Friday, October 3, 2014

Those Days Are Gone Forever

The recent news of a White House intruder and the increased restrictions over recent decades on public access to areas around the White House prompts us to go back to a time when things were a bit different in Washington DC.

In May of 1836 Alexander Stephens, a young Georgia lawyer (later to be Vice-President of the Confederacy) making his first visit to Washington decided to pay a call on President Andrew Jackson.  On January 30 of the prior year, the President was leaving the Capitol when Richard Lawrence, an unemployed house painter, attempted to shot Jackson at point blank range.  When his pistol misfired, Lawrence pulled out a second pistol which also misfired.  The President beat his assailant with a cane (Jackson was a tough hombre, for more see Presidential Knife Fight) while others nearby, including Congressman David Crockett, helped subdue Lawrence.
(Lawrence attempting to shoot Jackson; Wikipedia) from

Despite this incident there was no elaborate security around the President when Stephens decided to visit him the next year.  As recounted in Alexander H Stephens of Georgia by Thomas Schott, Stephens, without an appointment, simply went to the White House knocked on the door and asked to see the President.  Schott reports on what followed:
After a short wait, he was shown into a large room.  The Old Hero, dressed in a 'rather dirty' ruffled shirt and loose slippers, sat beside a coal fire at the end of a long table.  Motioning his young visitor around to a seat beside him, Jackson inquired of the news from Georgia. from
When Stephens mentioned some Indian disturbances, Jackson, who was in the midst of expelling five peaceful Indian tribes from the Southeastern states (for more on this see Sam Houston: The Raven), exploded and embarked on a 20 minute profanity-laced soliloquy. Stephens left "awed and slightly scandalized".

How far we have come from those days.

As Steely Dan reminds us:
Those days are gone forever
Over a long time ago
Oh yeah

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