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A PERUsAL of Strickland’s “Queens of England” first originated the idea of writing the “Ladies of the White House;” and the material thus dauntlessly presented to the public is the result of the desire to attempt for American ladies what Miss Strickland has done for English Queens. The contrast is great; the fault lies not in the subject treated, nor yet in the biographer, but may rather be attributed to the genius of our simple and unostentatious form of government. The work is barren of any grand spectacular or dramatic incidents so calculated to interest, but the short and simple annals of virtuous and exemplary women, who occupied the highest social and semiofficial position known to their country, are replete with matter “to point a moral or adorn a tale.” The genius of democratic liberties condemns the assumed emblems of nobility, and the practice of prefixing titles to the names of American women is reprehensible. We do but ape our foreign friends and render ourselves ridiculous, when we forget the lessons inculcated by ancestors who fled from oppression, and
gave to the cause of freedom their blood—and to their
there is but one plain rule to follow, and that I conceive to be a truthful expression of opinions, founded on a fair and sufficiently full investigation. Biased in judgment toward none, withholding naught that is necessary to be known, and fearless in truth to myself, as to the persons of whom I write, the book, with its faults and merits, is committed to the care of a discerning public. Mrs. Washington has been more fortunate than any succeeding occupant of a similar position. Her life has been repeatedly written, and the few interesting incidents recorded of it are universally known. Women, stimulated with a desire to rescue her memory from the dust of years, have been indefatigable in their labors, and I can offer nothing which has not already been more ably written. If I have been somewhat minute in describing the personal appearance of the subjects of my sketches, my reason for so doing lies in the fact that I believe we are so wisely created that our outward shapes and figures best express the quality of our inner being. Many noble women have shared the popularity of their husbands' high place—not a few strong, gifted natures have been content to lead automaton lives in that famous old mansion, while all have been the recipients of their country's gratitude. To the many kind friends who have contributed by their valuable assistance and effectual aid toward the success of this volume, I can only add here, as I have expressed elsewhere, my heartfelt thanks and grateful acknowledgments.