- Historic Sites
Protégé Of Cornwallis, Guest Of Washington
August 1973 | Volume 24, Issue 5
He made a few turns up and down the wharf, managed to get a porter, and started off with his trunk for the London Tavern. Mr. Pringle, the supercargo, came up and urged him to pay a call first on Mordecai Lewis. This worthy citizen received me very kindly, saying “How dost thou do, friend? I am glad to see thee”; for he was, in the phraseology of Philadelphia, one of the Society of Friends, that is to say, a Quaker. He introduced me to Mrs. Lewis and his daughters, who received me with the same salutation, “I am glad toseethee, friend; I hope thou art well. “I drank tea with these good people, in whom I found a kindness which the simplicity of their manners seemed to make the more cordial. The safe arrival of their ship at a favorable market put all the family in good spirits.
After tea Pringle took him to call on Lewis’partner, William Bingham. Mr. Bingham … was the principal person in Philadelphia and the wealthiest, probably, in the Union. His house [at Third and Spruce streets] stood alone and occupied, with the gardens attached to it, a spacious piece of ground. It was by far the handsomest residence in the city. I found here a large party. … Mr. Bingham, the President of the Pennsylvania State, not only gave me a general invitation to his house, but offered to take care of my great sheep during my stay in America.
Twining dined at the Binghams’ and returned to spend the night at Lewis’ house. His sleep and sense of propriety were disturbed after an hour when a stranger crawled into bed with him. I inferred … that in America, when a stranger was invited to pass the night with his host, it was never meant to give him the whole of a bed. When the light of the morning shown upon the features of my companion, whose face should I see but Mr. Pringle’s. … I felt that I could not reasonably complain, for as his attentions had procured me this bed, no one certainly had so fair a claim to half of it as himself.
Twining took a room the next morning at the London Tavern, but finding it “deficient in comfort,” he sallied forth in search of better quarters. Where, he asked a passer-by, did the members of Congress stay? Many of them, he was told, lived together in a house on Fourth Street kept by an old Frenchman named Francis. Mr. Francis rudely declined to take him in, but on learning that he was newly arrived from India “repeated, in a tone of diminished repugnance almost amounting to civil regret, that his house was full.” Mrs. Francis, his young American wife, intervened to offer Twining a small room at the top of the house, which he might change in a day or two for one next to that occupied by John Adams, the Vice President. The maidservant who showed him upstairs was a Negro woman, the property of Mr. Francis, “young, active, obliging, and spoke English.” It was Twining’s first encounter with slavery in America, and he was disturbed : “It caused me both pain and surprise to meet with it in the country which so boasted of the freedom of its institutions.”
At dinner that noon and at tea, both presided over by Mrs. Francis, he met several members of the two houses of Congress “and thought them most amiable, sensible men.” Twining congratulated himself on his good fortune at “being already established in the most respectable society of the United States. ” He breakfasted the next morning “at the public table, ” again with several congressmen and senators. Mrs. Francis helped me to some of the celebrated buckwheat cake, whose excellence had been the subject of much commendation during our voyage. … It is superior to the crumpet or muffin, having the peculiar taste of the buckwheat, which is extremely agreeable.…
After breakfast he called on Bingham, to inspect his animals. … I found my doombah grazing upon the garden lawn at the back of the house. While I was looking at it with Mr. Bingham, several inhabitants of the city came to gratify their curiosity, for Mr. Bingham, having observed this, had ordered that everybody should be admitted, and considerable numbers had already come to the garden in consequence. My Bengal cow, which I found in a stable not far off, also had numerous visitors.
Twining that day presented his oyster shell to Charles Willson Peale, the artist and naturalist, for his National Museum (“it was very graciously accepted”) and called on Mr. Bond, the British consul. “He asked me many questions about India and said he must introduce me to General Washington.” I dined with the Members of Congress. Mr. Adams took the chair always reserved for him at the head of the table, though himself superior to all sense of superiority. He appeared to be about sixty years of age. In person he was rather short and thick; in his manner somewhat cold and reserved, as the citizens of Massachusetts, his native state, are said generally to be. His presence caused a general feeling of respect, but the modesty of his demeanour and the tolerance of his opinions excluded all inconvenient restraint. He was generally dressed in a light or drab-coloured coat, and had the appearance rather of an English country gentleman who had seen little of the world, than of a statesman who had seen so much of public life.