Thomas Jefferson Papers

Notes on Ceremonial at New York, 10 June 1793

Notes on Ceremonial at New York

June 10. 93. Mr. Brown gives me the following specimen of the phrenzy which prevailed at New York on the opening of the new government. The first public ball which took place after the President’s arrival there, Colo. Humphreys, Colo. W. S. Smith, and Mrs. Knox, were to arrange the ceremonials. These arrangements were as follows. A Sopha at the head of the room raised on several steps whereon the Presidt. and Mrs. Washington were to be seated. The gentlemen were to dance in swords. Each one when going to dance was to lead his partner to the foot of the Sopha, make a low obeisance to the Presidt. and his lady, then go and dance, and when done bring his partner again to the foot of the Sopha for new obeisances and then to retire to their chairs. It was to be understood too that gentlemen should be dressed in bags.—Mrs. Knox contrived to come with the President and to follow him and Mrs. Washington to their destination, and she had the design of forcing an invitation from the Presidt. to a seat on the Sopha. She mounted up the steps after them, unbidden, but unfortunately the wicked Sopha was so short that when the Presidt. and Mrs. Washington were seated, there was not room for a 3d. person; she was obliged therefore to descend in the face of the company and to sit where she could. In other respects the ceremony was conducted rigorously according to the arrangements, and the President made to pass an evening which his good sense rendered a very miserable one to him.

MS (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand; written on same sheet as “Anas” entries for 7 and 12 June 1793. Recorded in SJPL under 7–12 June 1793: “[Notes.] ceremonials at N. York.” Included in the “Anas.”

John Brown, then of the part of Virginia soon to become Kentucky, was elected to the House of Representatives in the first Congress but did not take his seat until 15 June 1789 (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United StatesCompiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , i, 471). Thus he was not in attendance on 7 May 1789 at the first public ball after George Washington’s arrival in New York, and his account is implausible, because on that date Mrs. Washington had not yet reached New York and Mrs. Knox was apparently also absent (Rufus W. Griswold, The Republican Court: or American Society in the Days of Washington [New York, 1855], 154–7; W. W. Abbot, Dorothy Twohig, and others, eds., The Papers of George Washington, Pres. Ser., 4 vols. [Charlottesville, 1987], ii, 205n).

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