Mr. Ticknor dined with President Madison soon after his arrival in Washington. In a letter to his father he gives an account of the dinner. of what I was to see,—the desolate and forsaken greatness in which it stood, without a building near it, except a pile of bricks on its left more gloomy than itself, and the ruins of the house from which General Ross was fired at,—no, not even a hill to soften the distant horizon behind it, or a fence or a smoke to give it the cheerful appearance of a human habitation.
Washington, January 21, 1815.About half the company was assembled when I arrived. The President himself received me, as the Secretary was not on hand, and introduced me to Mrs. Madison, and Mrs. Madison introduced me to Miss Coles, her niece. This is the only introduction, I am told, that is given on these occasions. The company amounted to about twenty. There were two or three officers of the army with double epaulets and somewhat awkward manners, but the rest were members of Congress, who seemed little acquainted with each other. The President, too, appeared not to know all his guests, even by name. For some time there was silence, or very few words. The President and Mrs. Madison made one or two commonplace remarks to me and others. After a few moments a servant came in and whispered to Mr. Madison, who went out, followed by his Secretary. It was mentioned about the room that the Southern mail had arrived, and a rather unseemly anxiety was expressed about the fate of New Orleans, of whose imminent danger we heard last night. The President soon returned, with added gravity, and said that there was no news! Silence ensued. No man seemed to know what to say at such a crisis, and, I suppose, from the fear of saying what might not be acceptable, said nothing at all. Just at dark, dinner was announced. Mr. Madison took in Miss Coles, General Winder followed with Mrs. Madison. The Secretary invited me to go next; but I avoided it, and entered with him, the last. Mrs. Madison was of course at the head of the table; but, to my surprise, the President sat at her right hand, with a seat between them vacant. Secretary Coles was at the foot. As I was about to take my place by him, the President desired me to come round to him, and seeing me hesitate as to the place, spoke again, and fairly seated me between himself and Mrs. M. This was unquestionably