An Interview With President Grant
By Charles K. Landis
During the last Grant Administration, I had occasion to visit Washington in company with the Hon. Wm. A. House, on the business of a friend. Mr. House of that day was a promilawyer, banker and local statesman of our town.
When we visited the proper department for our business in Washington we got through with it very successfully in about fifteen minutes. I then asked Mr. House, "What shall we do?" Said he, "I wish to visit the White House and ask, if possible, to see the President."
I had never been there myself and heartily agreed with this suggestion. When we got to the White House, we were ushered into a large room, around the sides of which were a great many distinguished looking men, some in uniform, evidently upon the same errand, and waiting to see the President. We were requested to take a seat at the tail end, which we did. Shortly an important looking individual came up and asked us for our cards, which we gave him. In a little while he came back and requested to know what our business was, or to write it in a memorandum book which he held in his hand, I forget which. I told him that we had no business.
"No business?" he repeated interrogatively.
Said I, "No business whatever, we have only come to see the President." At which he looked rather surprised. He left, and returned to us immediately and said that the President would see us at once. All the people who had come before us, some of whom no doubt had been waiting for hours, looked astonished and as though they thought we must be some princes or ambassadors, though I do not think that any appearance of ours would justify that belief.
We were ushered into a moderate sized room and General Grant was standing at a table, with a pile of clippings from newspapers before him.
Looking at us, said he, "Gentlemen," (extending his hand,) "you are the first I have seen this year. I am glad to see you. How is Vineland?" Sit down and do not hurry. I have been in Vineland and it is certainly a beautiful place. I have a vivid recollection of its green hedges and long avenues of beautiful shade trees, also of a long prayer which a very good clergyman made when I attended the dedication of the High School. He appeared to pray for everything upon earth and it was painfully near dinner time. I do not think that he would have stopped yet if a smart shower had not come up. You must have had a forester to select all those fine tree."
"No," said I, "The selection was made by the people themselves under stipulations upon which I sold the land."
"Well then," said he, "you must have very intelligent people, and in the beauty of 3^our trees you beat Washington. But I hope some day this defect in Washington will be cured. I should like if my duties will permit, some time in the future to see Vineland again."
I do not think that this talk was merely complimentary or courtly, as Gen. Grant impressed me as being a very plain and sincere man.
Not wishing to take up his time we left. But I have often thought of what he said and of the efforts which have since made Washington one of the best and most beautifully shaded cities in the world; and what the example of Vineland may have had to do with it.
One of the founders of Colorado Springs told me in the city of Mexico that they owed all the beauty of that place to the act that he had seen Vineland before starting it.