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Journey down the Mississippi: Washington

View of Washington

View of Washington, anonymous © BNF

Having abandoned their plans to visit Charleston, due to time constraints, Tocqueville and Beaumont arrived in Washington on January 16, 1832. They were greatly disappointed: both had the impression of a city that was in large part still waste land. They thought the proposed plans for the great future nation's capital were so excessive that they would never - given the immensity of the public buildings and the unimaginable width of the streets - be in stride with the city's real importance. Of course, the two travelers had often witnessed in their travels the rapidity with which civilization can progress and cities can grow, but they clearly could not picture it during their visit to Washington, so impossibly grand did the plans for the city seem.   play sound extractlire l'extrait sonore  

« Unless you're Alexander or Peter the Great, it's best to stay away from creating the capital of an empire. »
(Letter to his father, January 24, 1832)

They were received by the French ambassador, Serurier, who even hosted a great ball in their honor. It was at this time of the year that "the most prominent men in the Union" were present in the capital, and Tocqueville and Beaumont even encountered certain figures that they had already met since their arrival on American soil. Serurier also introduced them to President Andrew Jackson, whose casual attitude surprised them.and led them to mistakenly think that his actual powers was limited. Finally, their stay in Washington provided them with the chance, as "a sort of crosscheck", to verify their impressions that they had formed all throughout their journey and to clear up any remaining points before their return to France.

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Portrait of Andrew Jackson, George Peter Alexandre Healy

Portrait of Andrew Jackson, President of the United States of America (1767-1845), George Peter Alexandre Healy
© RMN/Gérard Blot

The Signing of the Declaration of Independence, Charles-Edouard Armand-Dumaresq

The Signing of the Declaration of Independence, Charles-Edouard Armand-Dumaresq
© RMN/Gérard Blot

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