"We are completely launched in Washington Society . . . . We spent a part of yesterday making calls, escorted by the first secretary of legation who introduced us."
"We traversed the city, therefore, in every direction. This town, whose population is inconsiderable, is yet immense in area. Distances are almost as great as in Paris. The consequence is that the houses are scattered here and there, without connection between them, without order and without symmetry. Outside of the fact that it makes a very ugly panorama, it's very annoying for those with visits to make."
Beaumont, letter to his mother (Pierson 666-7)
"If you would like to have an idea what power men possess to calculate the events of the future, you must visit Washington. Forty years ago, when it was a question of building a capital for the Union, they looked, as reasonable men would, for the most favorable spot. On the banks of the Potomack was located a green plain, which they selected. The broad and deep river, at one end, was to bring to the new city the products of Europe; the fertile districts behind would provision the market and surround the spot with a numerous population. Washington, in twenty years, would be the centre of the domestic and foreign trade of the Union. A million inhabitants, arriving before very long, were predicted for it. In consequence they began to build public edifices that could match so vast a population; streets were laid out of enormous width; there was an especial hurry to cut down, as far as one could see, the trees that might hinder the building of houses. All that was but, on a large scale, the story of the pot au lait:
Il etait, quand je l'eus, de grosseur raisonable.
J'aurai. . . .
The peasant's wife and Congress reasoned in the same fashion. The population did not come; the vessels did not mount the Potomack. Today, Washington offers the sight of an arid plain, burned by the sun, on which are scattered two or three sumptuous edifices and the five or six villages composing the town. Unless one is Alexander or Peter the Great, one must not meddle with creating the capital of an empire."
DeTocqueville, letter to his father (Pierson 667)
". . . We have been here a week, and shall remain till the sixth of February. Our sojourn here is useful and agreeable. Washington contains at the moment the outstanding men of the entire Union. It's no longer a question for us of obtaining from them ideas about things we know nothing about: but we review, in our conversations with them, all that we knew already more or less exactly. We determine the doubtful points. It's a kind of counter-inquiry, which is very useful. . . ."
Tocqueville, letter to his father (Pierson 671)