The essential democracy of this nation was pointed up Monday evening during a so-called "rap session" of leaders of the four nonmilitary federal government historical societies at the National Press Club.
Bernard Meyer, executive director of the White House Historical Association, pointed out that "the White House is the only residence of a chief of state in the world that is open to the public."
And Fred Schwengel, the former Iowa representative who is president of the Capitol Historical Society, said the United States is "the only country of the world that invites chiefs of state of other nations to speak" before its national legislature.
Schwengel, a Republican, told how, despite being "a damn Yankee," he won the hearts of a group of United Daughters of the Confederacy to whom he spoke in Virginia. His fanciful version of Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, much abridged here, was that Gen. U.S. Grant and the Union forces were fatigued in chasing Lee through Virginia. Lee, at Appomattox, thought when the ill-clad Grant arrived that he was a Rebel orderly and he handed Grant his sword to be polished.
Lee eventually realized his error. But Lee "being the southern gentleman that he was, couldn't go back on his word." That's how the Union won.
The other speakers were Richard A. Baker, director of the Senate historical office and president of the Society for History in the Federal Government, and Cornelius B. Kennedy, executive director of the Supreme Court Historical Society.
Baker said that, for the first time, Senate records have been collected and transferred to the National Archives for future use. Until recently the records were kept in scattered locations by the Senate. Kennedy noted that early Supreme Court decisions, delivered verbally by the justices, were taken down and reported by an entrepreneur named Dallas. It was, in those days, a private-enterprise operation, as was the forerunner of the Congressional Record.