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[321]

And here Mr. Semmes smiled pleasantly as he recalled the first time that he had ever seen Mr. Van Buren.

‘It was at a children's party given in Washington at the residence of Mr. Forsythe, one of the cabinet officers. I was a little boy then, and was among the invited guests. We children were playing merry games, in which Mr. Forsythe led, when President Van Buren entered the room. I remember him well. He was dressed in a blue cutaway coat, with brass buttons, frilled shirt front, nankeen breeches and long silk hose and low-quarter shoes with silver buckles. He was a splendid-looking man, and we children soon got over our awe of the President when he entered so heartily into our games and dances.’

Then Mr. Semmes recalled many facts of Mr. Van Buren's administration and the gay times at the capitol in Washington. Mr. Van Buren had been minister to England, and while there saw the magnificent gold service which was used on state occasions. When he became President of the United States he introduced gold spoons into the White House. This was considered a terrible piece of extravagance for a democratic country. His administration was characterized by his enemies as the most extravagant of the Presidents. In the next campaign, when he was a candidate for re-election, the ‘gold spoons’ were used against him with telling vengeance. Everywhere the cry rang out in the North against Martin Van Buren's extravagance, and with this cry that of ‘Tippecanoe and Tyler, too,’ with the result that Harrison was elected. But succeeding years have shown that Mr. Van Buren's administration was the most economical of all the Presidents, notwithstanding the ‘gold spoons,’ as it was certainly one of the most brilliant.

Then Mr. Semmes recalled personal experiences with all the Presidents of those succeeding days, and his reminiscences form a delightful history of themselves. After graduating at Georgetown College, in which he took first honors for three successive years, he began the study of law in the office of Clement Cox, of Georgetown. He was then about eighteen years of age. A few months afterward he entered Harvard College, whence he graduated in 1845. Harvard Law School was then presided over by Associate Justice Story, then of the United States bench, and Prof. Greenleaf, author of the well-known work on ‘Evidence.’

“Among my classmates,” said Mr. Semmes, ‘were Rutherford B. Hayes, afterwards President of the United States; Henry C. Semple, nephew of the then President, John Tyler, and Mr. Burlingame, ’

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