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assembled together, and on that and several subsequent meetings digested a plan for erecting a National Monument.
It was confidently believed that, after such a grand mausoleum was completed by the contributions of the whole people, no State or individual would object to a removal of the remains.
Whether this should be accomplished or not, it would be a kind of rallying point for patriotism, and a noble emblem of attachment to the Union and its founders.
Among those who first officiated were Daniel Brent, William Brent, Joseph Gales, sr., James Kearney, Joseph Gales, jr., Peter Force, W. W. Seaton, John McLelland, Pishey Thompson, Thomas Carberry, George Watterston, and William Cranch, the present venerable chief justice of the circuit court of the District of Columbia, who was the first vice president. Chief Justice Marshall was chosen as president, and accepted in the following letter:
RICHMOND, November 25th, 1833.
“I received yesterday your letter of the 22nd, informing me that the Washington Monument Society has done me the honor to choose me as its president. You are right in supposing that the most ardent wish of my heart is to see some lasting testimonial of the grateful affection of his country erected to the memory of her first citizen. I have always wished it, and have always thought that the Metropolis of the Union was the fit place for this National Monument. I cannot therefore refuse to take any place which the society may assign to me, and though my advanced age forbids the hope of being useful, I am encouraged by the name of the first vice president to believe that in him ample conversation will be found for any defect in the president.”
After Judge Marshall's death Mr. Madison became the president, and since his death, the successive presidents of the United States have held that position. Many of the most distinguished public men of the country have been and still are connected with it; and it speaks well for the character of the gentlemen who have had the immediate management, that not a whisper has ever been breathed against them of want of good faith, or other than scrupulous and economical application of the funds to the object, while not one of them has ever directly or indirectly received any compensation.
Seldom have the weekly meetings of the board failed for want of a quorum. We mention these facts because such assiduity and fidelity in attending to the duties of a volunteer association are not common, and in order to prevent this society and its collections from being confounded with others for the State monuments, where collections were made at nearly the same time, and where it is alleged that the funds have been wasted. How to raise the funds was of course the first question; and a subscription of not exceeding one dollar from every citizen of the United States was finally proposed, under the belief that no one of moderate means would refuse so small a contribution, while none would be deterred from giving, because not able to put down as much as his neighbor. It was confidently believed that several hundred thousand dollars would be received. But the dollar limitation was found to be an embarrassment, chiefly it is presumed, because collectors found it required more labor and time than the commission would compensate for. And then people distrusted and could not believe that such small sums would ever be accounted for. The fact that the great fire in New York and the revulsion of money affairs occurred about this time, interfered also very materially with the collection. Twenty-eight thousand dollars was the whole amount received. This sum was invested in stock, and the interest regularly re-invested, and, in this way the sum had increased to $40,000, when the monument was commenced in 1848; but active operations in the way of collections ceased for a number of years. At length about the year 1846, a new subscription was opened; but without any restriction as to amount. Great difficulty was and still is experienced in obtaining the right kind of agents, men who were well known, possessed the public confidence, of good education and agreeable address, with some knowledge of human nature. If such can be procured who have real heart for the work they are very apt to be exceedingly sensitive and easily discouraged at rebuffs. It is unpleasant to ask for money and most men prefer to engage in any other pursuits. It has been remarked that in the collections for the National Monument the largest sums have generally been collected in those districts where, from the sparsity of the population and the absence of any great resources for wealth, the least was to have been expected. Thus, an agent in the mountainous districts of Virginia, who had to travel two or three miles from one house to another, sent to Washington more money than the agent at the flourishing city of Richmond. Large collections have been made in the retired parts of Georgia and Florida.*
* A statement, in detail, of the collections is, we understand, to be published hereafter in the papers, and corrected every six months. Up to May, 1854, the collection district which had contributed the largest amount, in proportion to population, was Fayette county, Pennsylvania, where the amount was over $2,200.
In Washington city there had been collected upwards of $12,000, with a number of annual subscribers. This does not include the amounts received at
One reason for this undoubtedly is, that the people of the country are less frequently called upon for all manner of objects than those of cities; but there can be no question that there is more poetry and sentiment in rural districts. They have fewer books and distractions, and consequently read over the history of their country more frequently. In the long winter nights they hear the “old folks” talk about old times, and occasionally they come across a revolutionary pensioner, who fights his battles over again. The whole amount collected up to the 1st May 1854, was $231,000, and the receipts have averaged about $2,000 a month. . The most constant efforts however are required to keep the receipts up to the line of the expenditures. Notwithstanding the number of agents who have been employed, it is doubtful whether one-fifth of the population have been applied to. Masonic and Odd-Fellows Associations have given largely, Washington having been a member of the former fraternity. Two or three cities have contributed by their municipal authorities in money,” and it is confidently expected that every city in the Union will furnish its quota. Every State in the Union, and a large number of cities, towns and associations have contributed blocks with suitable devices. Some of these are very large and costly, with the finest basso relievos upon them. Michigan sends a block of native copper, with letters of native silver, while an immense variety of beautiful marbles and granites are represented in the others; indeed the display here made has suggested the idea, which it is hoped will be carried out, of completing the interior finish of the capitol extension, with specimens of every kind of American material. The Swiss Confederation sent a block from the Alps, and almost every week some new one arrives. All these add greatly to the interest with which the monument is regarded, and we cannot but believe that the work will continue slowly but steadily to progress. It became necessary at an early day to decide upon a plan, lithographic designs of which furnished to contributors, with receipts appended, would, it was thought, aid the collectors in their operations, and, from a large number of designs, which were submitted, that of Robert Mills was finally selected, consisting of an obelisk of great
Monument Place, the Patent Office, and from the city government, which amounts to as much more. New York, Brooklyn, and Albany, a little less than $4,700; St. Louis, about $2,500; Cincinnati, $2,900. California has sent more than any other State in proportion to population. Considerable sums have been received at the polls, and in taking the census. Better collections have been made at the South than at the North.
* Washington, $2,500; Georgetown, D.C., $100; Lafayette, Louisiana, $500; Savannah, Georgia, $100 a year until completed.
height, surrounded by a colonade of doric columns, called a pantheon, to contain revolutionary relics, statues, &c. This is so much a mere matter of taste that it is not easy to say what design would have best suited the public at large, and satisfied, to a reasonable degree, the critics, in architecture. On the one hand, the union of the Egyptian obelisk with the Grecian pantheon is considered by artists a great violation of proprieties. But for the satisfaction of such be it known, that there is no probability that the pantheon will ever be built, the obelisk alone being about as much as the Society can hope to receive the funds for. The cost of the obelisk, which is first to be completed, is estimated at $552,000; and that of the obelisk and pantheon, forming the entire monument, at $1,122,000. Should the whole amount be subscribed, and a structure at the base be added, it can be altered so as to conform more nearly to the obelisk. At least such a change might be made that the base of the obelisk will be visible, so that it may not seem, as now, to stand on columns. On the other hand, the agents say that the design is very generally admired by those who are called upon for subscriptions, except in some of the more critical classes in northern cities. To such an extent are our ideas of beauty formed by education | And do we not sometimes make up our judgment rather by arbitrary rules as to harmony laid down in books than by any real want of harmony between two orders of architecture? For our own part we should have thought that something might have been designed more peculiarly expressive of its object and more American in its details, less of a mere imitation of the ancients, something which would have embodied in it the trees and products peculiar to our country. Nothing attracts more admiration in the Capitol than what is sometimes called the American order of architecture, columns formed of bundles of corn-stalks, with capitals of corn, and the columns of the circle between the rotunda and Senate chamber with capitals of tobacco leaves. But our artists and architects have not heretofore shown much originality or taste in devising monuments on a large scale, whatever may be said of smaller works in cemeteries. Some years ago the committee for erecting a monument at Hamilton Square, in New York, advertised for plans, and some forty or fifty designs were sent in and exhibited at the Art Union. A more grotesque and absurd looking group of light-houses, pyramids, and nondescript looking structures never were got together. Only one, that of Frazee, received the faintest modicum of praise, and that, if we recollect right, was a superb copy of the Parthenon, to cost about five millions of dollars! After this exhibition of what a number of artists could offer, we became reconciled to the design of the National Monument, which, either as a whole or as a simple obelisk, was far superior in every respect to anything here presented. To be sure it would have been desirable to have something a little less like a second edition of Bunker Hill Monument, and which could present internal as well as outward attractions. The stones presented by States and associations are to line the inside walls at each landing of the staircase, and must be viewed by artificial light—a great disadvantage. These were not, however, thought of until after the work had progressed for some time. And it is remarkable that long as the plan was before the public, and when there was yet an opportunity for change, not a word was said by those who are now so ready to find fault. But it is too late now to make any material changes in the obelisk, which, with all the objections to it, presents some decided advantages. First. It is of all monuments the strongest and most enduring, next to that of the pyramid. In 1800, when the question in Congress was between adopting the statue of '83, or a mausoleum, in pyramidal form, it was stated in debate that, without any concert whatever, a remarkable concurrence had taken place between West, Trumbull, and other respectable artists, who gave an unequivocal preference to a mausoleum. A mausoleum would last for ages, and would present the same imperishable appearance two thousand years hence that it would now; whereas a statue would only remain until some civil convulsion or foreign invasion or flagitious conqueror, or lawless mob, should dash it into atoms, or until some invading barbarian should transport it as a trophy of his guilt to a foreign shore. Besides a statue was minute, trivial, perishable. It was a monument erected to all that crowd of estimable but subordinate personages that soar in a region elevated indeed above common characters, but which was infinitely below that of Washington. Secondly. It is like the government and character of Washington, simple and majestic, with no attempt at ornament. It cannot well be spoiled in building, or by bad sculpture. We could not hope to rival the magnificent productions of the Old World in sculpture, however creditable the works of our artists may have been in one or two instances. Thirdly. It will excel all others in one respect, that of height, as will be seen by the following comparison between this and some of the most celebrated monuments and churches: No. Height—feet. 1. St. Antoine's Column, at Rome. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135 2. Capitol, at Washington. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140