Monday, January 21, 2013

Review of Washingtonion and White House Etiquette, Then and Now

The White House ~ Etiquette And Precedence in 1908

 "The life of a lady in society at Washington is exceedingly onerous, and more especially so if she be the wife of any official." Eliza Duffey, 1877

George Washington saw the necessity which would confront his successors, as well as himself, for some plan regulating the etiquette at the White House entertainments, dinners, receptions and the like. Upon consulting Alexander Hamilton, he received from Hamilton the following formal "Code of Procedure," which, with certain broad changes, has governed every President from Washington to Teddy Roosevelt.

1. The President to have a levee once a week for receiving visits ; an hour to be fixed at which it shall be understood that he will appear, and consequently that the visitors are to be previously assembled. The President to remain half an hour, in which time he may converse cursorily on different subjects, with such persons as shall invite his attention, and at the end of that half hour disappear. A mode of introduction through particular officers will be indispensable. No visits to be returned.

2. The President to accept no invitations, and to give formal entertainments only twice or four times a year, the anniversaries of important events in the Revolution. If twice on the day of the Declaration of Independence, and that on the day of the Inauguration of the President, which completed the organization of the Constitution, to be preferred; if four times, the day of the treaty of alliance with France, and that of the definitive treaty with Great Britain to be added. The members of the two houses of the Legislature; principal officers of the Government; foreign ministers, and other distinguished strangers only to be invited. The President on levee days, either by himself or some gentleman of his household to give invitations to family dinners on the days of invitation. Not more than six or eight to be invited at a time, and the matter to be confined essentially to members of the Legislature and other official characters. The President never to remain long at the table.

Washington's Conception of Official Etiquette

  Among the records of the social customs of George Washington, as President, in Philadelphia, the following vivid and detailed description is given :

"He devoted an hour every other Tuesday from three to four to visits. He understood himself to be visited as the President of the United States, and not on his own account. He was not to be seen by anybody and everybody ; but required that every one who came should be introduced by his Secretary, or by some gentleman, whom he knew himself. He lived on the south side of Chestnut Street, just below Sixth. The place of reception was the dining-room in the rear, twenty-five or thirty feet in length, including the bow projecting into the garden. Mrs. Washington received her visitors in the two rooms on the second floor.

"At three o'clock, or at any time within a quarter of an hour afterwards, the visitor was conducted to this dining-room, from which all seats had been removed for the time. On entering one saw the tall, manly figure of Washington clad in black velvet; his hair in full dress, powdered and gathered behind in a large silk bag; yellow gloves on his hands; holding a cocked hat with a cockade on it, and the edges adorned with a black feather about an inch deep. He wore knee and shoe buckles; and a long sword, with a finely wrought and polished steel hilt, which appeared at the left hip; the coat worn over the blade, and appearing from under the folds behind. The scabbard was white polished leather.

"He always stood in front of the fireplace, with his face towards the door of entrance. The visitor was conducted to him, and he required to have the name so distinctly pronounced that he could hear it. He had the very uncommon faculty of associating a man's name and personal appearance so durably in his memory as to be able to call any one by name who made him a second visit. He received his visitor with a dignified bow, while his hands were so disposed of as to indicate that the salutation was not to be accompanied with shaking hands. This ceremony never occurred in those visits, even with his most near friends, that no distinction might be made.

"As visitors came in, they formed a circle around the room. At a quarter past three, the door was closed, and the circle was formed for that day. He then began on the right and spoke to each visitor, calling him by name and exchanging a few words with him. When he had completed his circuit, he resumed his first position, and the visitors approached him, in succession, bowed and retired. By four o'clock this ceremony was over.

"On the evenings when Mrs. Washington received visitors, he did not consider himself as visited. He was then as a private gentleman, dressed usually in some colored coat and waistcoat (the only one recollected was brown, with bright buttons), and black on his lower limbs. He had then neither hat nor sword ; he moved about among the company, conversing with one another. He had once a fortnight an official dinner, and select companies on other days. He sat (it is said), at the side, in a central position, Mrs. Washington opposite ; the two. ends were occupied by members of his family, or by personal friends."

Such, then, with modifications, is the basis upon which some of the rules of etiquette are in force in the White House today.

Jefferson's Simple Social Forms

Thomas Jefferson, with his ideas of simplicity, abolished some of the more formal of the rules, stopping entirely the formal weekly receptions, or levees, and the State receptions. Among the quaintest of Mr. Jefferson's rules is the one wherein it is stated that "gentlemen offering their arms to ladies and going in to dinner in any order of rank or honor is prohibited."

White House levee of Franklin Pierce, 14th President of the United States

 The Order of Precedence Today

The order of precedence has always been a source of some embarrassment and a great deal of discussion among those invited to the White House. Among Cabinet Ministers and their wives, and among the foreign diplomats, especially, the question has sometimes caused amusing complications.

In the Roosevelt administration, however, in order to settle this long standing question of precedence that is, the question of who, by reason of rank, shall precede another at White House entertainments the United States Government established a set of rules embracing an "order of precedence" for those in official life, as follows :

The President, the Vice-President, the foreign Ambassadors, the Secretary of State, the foreign envoys and plenipotentiaries, the Chief Justice, the President pro tem, of the Senate (only upon the death of a Vice-President and the consequent election of a President pro tern. of the Senate does he precede the Speaker of the House) ; Cabinet Secretaries, other than the Secretary of State; Foreign Ministers-resident, Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, the Admiral of the Navy, Senators, Governors of States, Representatives in Congress, the Chief of Staff of the Army, Foreign Charges d'Affaires, Major Generals of the Army, Rear Admirals, Foreign Secretaries of Embassy and Legation, Assistant Secretaries of the Executive Departments, Judges of the Court of, Claims, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, District Commissioners, District Court of Appeals, District Supreme Court, Brigadier-Generals, Captains in the Navy, Director of Bureau of American Republics, Army and Navy Officers below army brigadiers and navy captains, Foreign guests in private life, untitled, American guests in private life.

For the wives of the officials named, the order of precedence is precisely the same as in their husbands, thus :

The wife of the President, who is exempt from returning visits.

The wives of Ambassadors in the order of their official recognition. These ladies make the first call upon the wife of the President and the Vice-President, but upon no others.

The wives of envoys plenipotentiary, who should make the initial visits on those ranking above them:

The wife of the Chief Justice.

The wife of the Speaker of the House.

The wives of Cabinet Ministers other than the Secretary of State.

The wives of Foreign Ministers-resident.

The wives of the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court. The wife of the Admiral of the Navy.

The wives of Senators.

The wives of Governors of States.

The wives of Representatives in Congress; and so,on, to the end of the order of procedure as given for the officials.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Etiquette, Ethics and Journalistic Standards


All the News That's Not Fit to Print, Nor Spread 

Below is an actual news story headline; 

Braless ***** ***** looks disheveled as she heads out for coffee without her engagement ring

Why do formerly, serious newspapers and news shows pass on gossip? Better still, why print this gossipy, non-news garbage?  Because evidently, it sells.  And as that is the case, it is getting much harder to distinguish any news from fluff, or gossip pieces.

There is a website I used to read nightly.  It was where I got interesting news stories to pass on to friends and family members. More than the news I get from my favorite cable channel, and my sister from hers.  We would swap photos and stories and send them out to friends who shared our interests.  Not any longer.

Over the last 6 months, what used to be a story a story or two I might see on a site like TMZ, or pass by on the cover of the National Enquirer in line at the local grocers, has evolved into a half of what this newspaper's website prints.  There is no escaping these stories now.  I have no clue what happened.  Sure, they still have interesting stories on their Science page and other headlines of actual newsworthy stories, but the gossip seems to have taken over.  I now check the site only from interesting health, science or historic stories that they tweet.  That way I am not subjected to the headlines I sampled for this post tonight.  These are all actual headlines, with the names of the people removed.  I don't want to promote any more than they are already promoted.

You see, my sister and I have a theory.  We share this theory with many others.  If they would stop publishing the poor manners, bad behavior and trash these people put out as 'entertainment", maybe more young people today would be less interested in following in their footsteps.  Bad behavior should not be promoted, praised, nor rewarded.  

When we were young, we were taught never to "air our dirty laundry in public".  Now we understand why; It is ugly and smelly!  No one really wanted to see it, but more and more, people are taking a look and thinking they can do it too.  After all, following in the footsteps of those with the dirty laundry exposed, they can see a trail of faux-fame, faux-celebrity, and, for a time, money. The smelly laundry starts to get a bit sweeter to them and finally we wind up with what we have now on television; The Honey BooBoos, Kate Gosselins, Snookis, Situations, Salahis and Dina Lohans of the world.  Follow at your own peril, youngsters, stage moms and dads.  Dodge the reality show and show business bullets if at all possible.  Otherwise, you too will wind up a hideous shell of your former self, drunk and dancing nude over camera lenses.

'You're an ******!' a pop singer tells fellow t.v. show judge  what she really thinks and makes fun of his 'man cleavage'  on a late-night comedy talk show

I do not watch that particular late-night show for a reason... that is a good example of the reason

Rap-singer smokes a bong lit by his 18-year-old son in controversial new pictures! 

Yes, they are very controversial.  So why are you showing them?

Should've bought the bigger size? A "fashionista" regrets tiny string bikini as she covers modesty during birthday beach trip

Is it possible this young woman your paper names, and dubs a 'fashionista', (honestly I do not recognize her name, nor do I know what 'fashionista' means) is covering up from your camera lens!  She was obviously not enjoying walking around covering herself there, in all of those snaps you took.  Shame on you, cameraman!

'She was straddling cameras naked!' Some Housewife's wild antics are too extreme... even for the show she is on

Then why are you printing every detail of these two women on their holiday in the Caribbean?  Certainly if it is too extreme for a reality program, why is it fit to print in a newspaper? 

I welcome any thought my readers may have on this subject, as I am at a loss for more words at the apparent lack of journalistic standards and ethics these news outlets display.