New York, May 17, 1789
The Vice-President has the honor to present his humble opinion on the points proposed for his consideration.
1. That an association with all kinds of company, and a total seclusion from society, are extremes, which, in the actual circumstances of this country, and under our form of government, may be properly avoided.
2. The system of the President will gradually develop itself in practice, without any formal communication to the legislature, or publication from the press. Paragraphs in the public prints may, however, appear, from time to time, without any formal authority, that may lead and reconcile the public mind.
3. Considering the number of strangers from many countries, and of citizens from various States, who will resort to the seat of government, it is doubted whether two days in a week will not be indispensable for visits of compliment. A little experience, however, will elucidate this point.
4. Under the fourth head, it is submitted to consideration, whether all personal applications ought not to be made, in the first instance, to a minister of state. Yet an appeal should be open, by petition, to the President, who, if he judges the subject worthy of it, may admit the party to a personal interview. Access to the supreme magistrate ought not to be rigorously denied in any case that is worthy of his consideration. Nevertheless, in every case, the name, quality, and, when these are not sufficient to raise a presumption in their favor, their business, ought to be communicated to a chamberlain, or gentleman in waiting, who should judge whom to admit and whom to exclude. Some limitation of time may be necessary, too, as, for example, from eight to nine or ten; for, without it, the whole forenoon, or the whole day, may be taken up.
5. There is no doubt that the President may invite what official characters, members of congress, strangers, or citizens of distinction he pleases, in small parties, without exciting clamors; but this should always be done without formality.
6. The entertainments mentioned in this article would much more properly be made by a minister of state for foreign or domestic affairs, or some other minister of state, or the Vice-President, whom, upon such occasions, the President, in his private character, might honor with his presence. But in no case whatever can I conceive it proper for the President to make any formal public entertainment.
7. There can be no impropriety in the President’s making or receiving informal visits among his friends or acquaintances, at his pleasure. Undress, and few attendants, will sufficiently show that such visits are made as a man, a citizen, a friend, or acquaintance. But in no case whatever should a visit be made or returned in form by the President; at least, unless an emperor of Germany, or some other sovereign, should travel to this country. The President’s pleasure should absolutely decide concerning his attendance at tea-parties in a private character; and no gentleman or lady ought ever to complain, if he never, or rarely attends. The President’s private life should be at his own discretion, and the world should respectfully acquiesce. As President, he should have no intercourse with society, but upon public business, or at his levees. This distinction, it is, with submission, apprehended, ought to govern the whole conduct.
8. A tour might, no doubt, be made, with great advantage to the public, if the time can be spared; but it will naturally be considered, as foreign affairs arrive every day, and the business of the executive and judicial departments will require constant attention, whether the President’s residence will not necessarily be confined to one place.
Labels: Works of John Adams