Saturday, July 9, 2016

19th C. Washington Etiquette

State dinners are attended by those only who are formally invited—which invitation cannot be declined on account of any prior engagement. 


19th C. Washington Etiquette

A writer, in view of the approaching season at the capital, gives a resume of certain points of etiquette, which he asserts will be found to accord with old time usages at Washington: "All officials and non-officials call on the President. He is not required to return calls or accept invitations, but may waive this exemption at discretion. 


All are admitted to his public or formal receptions without cards or invitation, as well as to Mrs. President's receptions on stated days, of which notice is usually given to the city papers. State dinners are attended by those only who are formally invited—which invitation cannot be declined on account of any prior engagement. Senators who observe the old usages make no 'first calls,' on account of recognized superior rank, except on the President of the United States. 

Through courtesy to their own presiding officer, they make the 'first call' on the Vice President, but not by the virtue of any supposed higher official position. But Senators are expected to return calls like other mortals, and among themselves to observe the usual rules regulating the intercourse of private gentlemen. Those first at the capital make the advance, welcoming after arrivals.

Heads of departments and foreign ministers make 'first-calls' on the President, Vice-President and Senators. Members of the House make 'first calls' on the foregoing officials, and Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States. None of the classes above mentioned are expected to make 'first calls' on citizens, sojourners, and visitors, but are expected to return such calls in person, or 'by card' when personal calls are impracticable.


These usages have not been established without much friction, discussion, and even rebellion on the part of certain ambitious ones. Of course, officials may voluntarily waive their privilege; and men of brains, culture, and acknowledged power are never tenacious about their observance, and act at Washington very much as they do at home among their old neighbors, calling socially whenever they find agreeable society." — Marin Journal, 1873


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