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Salomon de Rothschild Tours America (1861)

The Politicos, A Lady, and the Prince of Wales

Since Alphonse's visit to the capital of the Union (it is the seat of the disunion!) Washington has grown large, but it certainly hasn't changed...

In a few days I became acquainted with the most distinguished people of the country, some of whom I had already seen in New York: [Judah P.] Benjamin...[M.S.] Latham, one of the senators from California, very young and destined to become the first man of his country; President Buchanan, the Cabinet members, and all the candidates for the presidency: there are fifty-three of them.

In the Republican party, [William Henry] Seward has the best chance; among the Democrats, Joe Lane, [R.M.T.] Hunter, or [John C.] Breckenridge. The latter, who is now Vice President, has all my sympathies. He is a young man, charming, full of fire, intelligent, and, what is rare, a perfect gentleman. [John] Slidell gave a dinner in honor of Benjamin, [Edouard de] Stoekel, the minister from Russia, and myself. The most interesting men of the area attended, and I was showered by all these gentlemen with invitations which I could avoid only by promising to come back soon.

Breckinridge, who presides over the Senate, took me to the Capitol, which is a very beautiful structure, and showed me in detail the two Houses, the Supreme Court, and all their representatives.

I had intended...to go down to spend several days at the Charlestown [Charleston, S.C., Democratic presidential nomination] convention, but I took good care not to do so, after several large placards posted in Cincinnati announced to the public that the Rothschilds had sent incalculable millions to buy a President of their choice...

In my opinion, the Democrats will lose the game and Seward will win out...

You must have heard of the capture of two Mexican steamers by the American fleet, which is just waiting for a pretext to mix into everything. Brother Jonathan [the United States] is like John Bull: he worries little about justice and busies himself only with his own interest. Within two years, Mexico will be a province of the Union; meanwhile, the American government, as a reward for services rendered to the cause of Juarez [President of Mexico], will allow itself to be ceded the port of Sonora. When you have tasted the cake, you want to eat it all. The Yankees are also turning covetous eyes toward the beautiful island of Cuba. It would be so happy under American rule! It would be in the interests of humanity to rescue her from the Spaniards! The pretext will arise, as it has arisen for Mexico. Besides, General [William] Walker [the filibusterer] is highly esteemed here, though his intimate friend and confidant was arrested several days ago for swindling, but this is a detail of relatively little importance...

New York, April 26, '60.

...Something quite unusual happened to me the other day. I received a letter, telling me that an old woman, age sixty-seven, sick, and confined to her room, had an important message to give me. It asked me to stop over at her place at a certain time, when her family would be out. The letter was signed by a well-known and honorable name, but warned that I had to go alone to the address indicated.

In this country such a meeting could be a dangerous thing, so I was told. But the billet doux seemed so authentic that I went to the place it mentioned...armed with my revolver, a precaution which I considered completely useless.

I was escorted through many rooms and two or three dark corridors. A heavy door closed behind me. I began to feel quite happy that I had six bullets at my disposal, when I was led into the room where the old lady was. She almost fell down at my feet, thanking me for having come. I asked her what I could do for her. She answered that she was a Jewess, that her dream had always been to see a member of the Rothschild family, and that now she could die happy, since she had satisfied the most ardent of her desires.

Since I was very happy to please this poor lady, I had no need to make use of my revolver...

New York, May 1, '60.

...I should like to ask you to come in June, to spend some time in Canada, where the Prince of Wales is expected, and where his arrival will serve as a pretext for very elaborate Canadian and Indian celebrations. The Prince is then scheduled to visit the United States, where there is a great deal of embarrassment as to how to receive him. Since it will be impossible to establish categories and to declare which social class will have the right to entertain the future King of England, just about no one except government officials will be able to receive him, and since these persons usually have only a dubious education, the good Yankees fear, and rightly so, that people will make fun of them.

Right now they are in a dither trying to figure out how to receive properly the Japanese embassy which is going to arrive in Washington, and I can't tell you how amusing the newspapers are with their advice on how to receive these noble barbarians. They want to impress these new guests with American civilization. But since Emperor Tei Ho's representative is scheduled to go to Europe afterwards, they are afraid of a comparison, and don't know what to do, especially since they do not want to untie their purse strings. This Japanese embassy will share the honors of public interest with General Tom Thumb and the Barnum museum...