National Geographic : 1913 Jun
THE NATION'S CAPITAL BY JAMES BRYCE AUTHOR OF "THE AMERICAN COMMONWEALTH," "IMPRESSIONS OE SOUTH AMER ICA," ETC., AND AMBASSADOR FROM GREAT BRITAIN, 1906-1913 An address to the Committee of One ington, D. C. Specially revised by Mr. Geographic Magazine. I HAVE been asked to give you the impressions of a visitor who, having seen something of the capitals of other countries and having spent six happy and interesting years in Washing ton, and having grown always more and more interested in your own plans for the adornment of Washington, may pos sibly be able to look at the matter from a somewhat different angle from that at which most of you have seen it. It is, I think, impossible for any one who speaks our common language, who is familiar with your institutions and his tory, who recognizes how much there is in common between us-your nation and mine-to live here without becoming for many purposes-morally and intellectu ally, and for practically all purposes ex cept, of course, political purposes-a citi zen of the United States. That does not prevent him, I need hardly say, from re maining a patriotic citizen of his own country. He is exempt from the duty from which, indeed, you are all exempt in the District of Columbia-of casting a vote-and from the other duty of get ting on the platform to give his political views to his fellow-countrymen; but in every other respect his residence here gives him all the advantages which you have, in being able to follow the ins and outs of your politics and to appreciate the surprising changes which the whirli gig of time brings about. Taking so keen an interest as I do in the welfare of the United States, I have often felt it somewhat difficult to refrain from offering advice which was not asked for. I trust that I have always refrained, but in this particular case the observations-I will not call them ad vice-the observations on the city of Washington and what can be done for it have been asked for, and if you find they are only what you knew before, do not Hundred on the Development of Wash Bryce for publication in the National altogether blame me, but lay it to the misjudgment of the too kind friends who have asked me to come upon the plat form. AN IDEAL SITE FOR A CITY It is impossible to live in Washington and not be struck by some peculiar fea tures and some peculiar beauties which your city possesses. In the first place, its site has a great deal that is admirable and charming. There is rising ground inclosing on all sides a level space, and so making a beautiful amphitheater, be tween hills that are rich with woods, which in many places, thanks to the hard ancient rocks of this region, show bold faces and give much more striking effects than we can have in the soft, chalky or sandy hills which surround London. Underneath these hills and running like a silver thread through the middle of the valley is your admirable river. The Potomac has two kinds of beauty the beauty of the upper stream, murmur ing over a rocky bed between bold heights crowned with wood, and the beauty of the wide expanse, spread out like a lake below the city into a vast sheet of silver. Besides all this, you have behind Wash ington a charming country. I am some times surprised that so few of your resi dents explore that country on foot. It is only on foot that you can appreciate its beauties, for some of the most at tractive paths are too narrow and tangled for riding. On the north, east, and west sides of Washington, and to some extent on the south, or Virginia, side also, al though there the difficulties of locomotion are greater on account of the heavy mud in the roads, the country is singularly charming, quite as beautiful as that which adjoins any of the great capital cities of Europe, except, of course, Constantino ple, with its wonderful Bosphorus.