The Education of Henry Adams By Henry Adams Chapter XVI - The Press

Perhaps for this very reason, Sumner was the more valuable acquaintance for a newspaper-man. Adams found him most useful; perhaps quite the most useful of all these great authorities who were the stock-in-trade of the newspaper business; the accumulated capital of a Silurian age. A few months or years more, and they were gone. In 1868, they were like the town itself, changing but not changed. La Fayette Square was society. Within a few hundred yards of Mr. Clark Mills's nursery monument to the equestrian seat of Andrew Jackson, one found all one's acquaintance as well as hotels, banks, markets and national government. Beyond the Square the country began. No rich or fashionable stranger had yet discovered the town. No literary or scientific man, no artist, no gentleman without office or employment, had ever lived there. It was rural, and its society was primitive. Scarcely a person in it had ever known life in a great city. Mr. Evarts, Mr. Sam Hooper, of Boston, and perhaps one or two of the diplomatists had alone mixed in that sort of world. The happy village was innocent of a club. The one-horse tram on F Street to the Capitol was ample for traffic. Every pleasant spring morning at the Pennsylvania Station, society met to bid good-bye to its friends going off on the single express. The State Department was lodged in an infant asylum far out on Fourteenth Street while Mr. Mullett was constructing his architectural infant asylum next the White House. The value of real estate had not increased since 1800, and the pavements were more impassable than the mud. All this favored a young man who had come to make a name. In four-and-twenty hours he could know everybody; in two days everybody knew him.

After seven years' arduous and unsuccessful effort to explore the outskirts of London society, the Washington world offered an easy and delightful repose. When he looked round him, from the safe shelter of Mr. Evarts's roof, on the men he was to work with — or against — he had to admit that nine-tenths of his acquired education was useless, and the other tenth harmful. He would have to begin again from the beginning. He must learn to talk to the Western Congressman, and to hide his own antecedents. The task was amusing. He could see nothing to prevent him from enjoying it, with immoral unconcern for all that had gone before and for anything that might follow. The lobby offered a spectacle almost picturesque. Few figures on the Paris stage were more entertaining and dramatic than old Sam Ward, who knew more of life than all the departments of the Government together, including the Senate and the Smithsonian. Society had not much to give, but what it had, it gave with an open hand. For the moment, politics had ceased to disturb social relations. All parties were mixed up and jumbled together in a sort of tidal slack-water. The Government resembled Adams himself in the matter of education. All that had gone before was useless, and some of it was worse.

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