August 5 1812: Adams in St Petersburg

On August 5, 1812, John Quincy Adams in St. Petersburg, Russia, makes the following entry in his diary:

5th. I met Don Francisco Colombi and Mr. Zea, who informed me that Count Wittgenstein had totally defeated Marshal Oudinot with great slaughter, and had taken his baggage, artillery, and three thousand prisoners. In Spain, too, he said, all was going on well, and Lord Wellington was at Salamanca.

After dinner I had a visit from Claud Gabriel, the black man in the Emperor's service, who went to America last summer for his wife and children, and who is now come back with them. He complains of having been very ill treated in America, and that he was obliged to lay aside his superb dress and sabre, which he had been ordered to wear, but which occasioned people to insult and even beat him. Count St. Julien, the late Austrian Minister, had a fancy for appearing in public here in the Vienna fashion. So he drove about the streets last winter in a sledge of a different appearance from those here used. It was a sort of phaeton body, hung upon runners, perhaps six feet high, and with clusters of bells at the saddle-place of the two horses. He drove himself, with a footman carrying an enormous muff behind him on the sledge. Although this is perhaps the spot of the globe where varieties of dress and of modes of appearing in public are most common, and where they of course excite the least attention, there was yet something so ludicrously fantastical in this anomaly of Count St. Julien's sledge, that he made himself the laughter of the Court and city by it I was once mentioning to him how dangerous it was to appear in the streets of London in any mode or dress different from those to which the eyes of the people are accustomed. " Then I suppose," said he, "my traineau would make a riot there." I told him I questioned Whether he Would ever have occasion to use it a second time in that city. It was said that he had asked the Emperor Alexander's permission to exhibit this rarity about the town, and that the Emperor Alexander answered him that he had not the slightest objection, but added, " If the children in the streets should throw stones at it, I hope, Monsieur le Comte, you will not be surprised." There was so much sound sense in this remark that I know not how the idea had not occurred to the Emperor when he ordered Claud Gabriel to wear in public his magnificent gala Court dress when he should arrive in America. After wearing them once at Providence and once at Boston, he says, he was obliged to hide them; and he looks as if even that wearing had cost him five or six of his front teeth. He says, however, he told the Emperor that he had been well treated, and that he had worn the dress all the time.

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