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MONUMENT TO THE MEMORY OF WASHINGTON.
[To accompany Joint Resolution No. 58. ]
FEBRUARY 22, 1855.-Ordered, that 100,000 extra copies be printed.
Mr. May, from the Select Committee on the Washington National
Monument, made the following
On the 13th of July, 1854, it was resolved that a select committee of thirteen members be appointed to consider the memorial of the Washington National Monument Society, and the following gentlemen were appointed the members of the committee :
Mr. May, of Maryland; Mr. J. GLANCY JONES, of Pennsylvania; Mr. REESE, of Georgia; Mr. PURYEAR, of North Carolina; Mr. HASTINGS, of New York; Mr. ELIOT, of Massachusetts; Mr. OLIVER, of Missouri; Mr. PRATT, of Connecticut; Mr. ELLISON, of Ohio; Mr. VAIL, of New Jersey; Mr. McMULLEN, of Virginia; Mr. Macy, of Wisconsin; and Mr. DOWDELL, of Alabama. The Select Committee of Thirteen, to whom was referred the memorial of the Board of Managers of the Washington National Monument Society, beg leave to report : That this memorial states, “that in the year 1833, an association of individuals was formed in this city for the purpose of raising funds, by appeals to the patriotism of the people, for the erection of a monument, in the national metropolis, to the memory of the Father of his Country.
"That your memorialists, and their predecessors, elected managers of the association, have gratuitously given their services, at great personal sacrifice, to the promotion of its objects; that they have been enabled to raise the proposed monument to the height of 170 feet; that 347 feet remain yet to be erected; that the funds of the association are entirely exhausted; and all recent efforts on the part of your memorialists to obtain means for completing the work have proved abortive, and that your memorialists are unable to devise any plan more likely to succeed.
“Under these circumstances, they feel it to be their duty to bring to the notice of the representatives of the States and people of the
Union these facts, in order that such action may be had on them as to the assembled wisdom and patriotism of the nation may seem meet.
“ First Vice-President. "ELISHA WHITTLESEY,
"General Agent. "JOHN CARROLL BRENT,
It will be seen that no specific prayer is presented; but upon the facts stated above, the society submits it to the wisdom of Congress to provide such measures as may be appropriate to the subject.
Your committee conceive that the duty is devolved upon them, on the part of the House of Representatives, to recommend such measures; and being deeply impressed with all the associations attending so interesting and hallowed a subject, they have well considered it.
As early as 1783 Congress ordered that an equestrian statue of Washington should be erected, “to testify the love, admiration, and gratitude of his countrymen ;” and again, when the mournful intelligence of his death was communicated, on 24th December, 1799, that a marble monument, with suitable inscriptions, should be erected in the Capitol to the memory of Washington, and that it be " so designed as to commemorate the great events of his military and political life.” It is painful to observe that these resolutions have not yet been executed. Perhaps the claims of kindred, and of his native State, have prevailed against that resolution, which ordered that his remains should be entombed beneath the monument to be erected in the Capitol. We know that his honored widow consented that this should be done; yet, Mount Vernon still holds the sacred remains of him who was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." Your committee could not but feel that these obligations, resolved upon as they were by the great and good men who were witnesses of his sublime life and character, and who were also associates of his fame, yet remain upon Congress.
Aware that a marble statue has been erected within the grounds of the Capitol, and an equestrian statue ordered by the last Congress to be raised, yet your committee think that these testimonials are not adequate to fulfil the obligation so solemnly assumed.
States and cities have raised their grateful tributes, in marble, to Washington. Maryland, near forty years ago, undertook her part in this patriotic duty, and her noble monument, at Baltimore, attests the love and gratitude of her people towards a chief whose steps their fathers so faithfully followed through the trying scenes of the Revolution. And Virginia, with gratitude unsatisfied by a faithful statue, is now raising, at Richmond, a monument, proportioned to the greatness of her son. And North Carolina, too, invoked the highest living art to present, at Raleigh, the image of the Father of his Country, to the admiring eyes of her patriotic children. And memorials of public and private love and gratitude towards him are to be found throughout the land, commemorating a universal veneration. But no national tribute of adequate design has yet been raised-no offering fit to
denote a country's gratitude has been constructed. Yet who shall deny that the fame of Washington deserves the grandest of human monuments, or say that such tributes can be multiplied beyond the measure of his claims?
A voluntary association of patriotic citizens of Washington, as early as 1833, conceived the purpose of erecting a national monument to the memory of Washington at the Metropolis of the republic. This association was organized under the name of “The Washington National Monument Society ;' Chief Justice Marshall was its first president, and after him ex-President Madison. The proposed monument was intended to be raised by the voluntary contributions of the American people. The society was organized on an admirable plan, and its officers undertook the duties assigned to them by its constitution, and have, as your committee are well satisfied, faithfully performed them.
The funds were to be collected in all parts of the United States; and agents, as competent and as faithful as could be found, were appointed, after giving bond for the performance of their duties.
These agents were sent to all parts of the country, and contributions were commenced and continued by the subscription of $1 for each person. This plan was adopted in order that all might have the opportunity to contribute.
In the appointment of these agents a careful scrutiny was exercised by the society, and undoubted recommendations of both character and capacity were in every case required ; and, though an opinion may prevail in some parts of the country to the contrary, your committee are satisfied that these agents generally proved to be worthy of the confidence reposed in them.
Of the large number employed, but two of them failed to account for the money collected, and legal measures, resorted to promptly by the society against their bonds, have, in one of these instances, obtained the full amount of the liability.
It may well be questioned if any society executing a plan for collecting money so extensively has met with equal success in justifying the integrity of its agents; and it is pleasing to state that not one cent of the funds received by this society has at any time been lost by investments or otherwise.
The sum of $28,000 having been raised upon this plan, it was judicibusly invested in safe funds yielding interest; and then the pulpit, the press, and the ballot-box were all invoked to aid the work; and days of sacred and patriotic associations were employed to invite a general contribution.
The restriction as to the amount of subscription being removed in 1845, the whole funds amounted by accumulations of interest, then to $62,450, and the work of building the monument was at length begun in the year 1848.
An appropriate site on the banks of the Potomac was selected out of the public reservation, under a grant from Congress. Its location is most eligible. Here the first light of the morning sun will salute, and the last rays of evening rest upon its lofty head. The coincidence is striking and interesting, that the monument now in progress is on the same site which is marked on Major L'Enfant's map for
the equestrian statue of Washington ordered by Congress in 1783; and that the map, after General Washington had examined and approved it, was presented by him to Congress.
Near this unfinished monument is the Smithsonian Institution. Its edifice is completed, its system in practical operation, and its annual income thirty thousand dollars. So much easier has it been found to give effect to the bounty of a benevolent foreigner, than to the gratitude of a nation to its founder.
The first object to meet the view, and inspire the patriotic feelings of the visiter to the national metropolis, the Washington Monument will stand before the eyes of the resident or sojourner as a perpetual memorial of him whose whole life was so signal an example of public virtue and patriotism,
On the 4th of July, 1848, the corner-stone was laid. A plan had been selected, after careful consideration of many that were proposed, and your committee highly approve of the design.
It is a noble monument, altogether worthy of the sublime character of which it is to be a grateful testimonial.
Its foundations are deeply, broadly, and securely laid, and are sufficient to support the entire superstructure.
The work, so far as it has been performed, has been faithfully done. It appears to be plain, yet beautiful; and your committee are satisfied that it will be enduring.
Each State and two of the Territories of the Union have contributed a block of marble or stone, inscribed with its arms or some suitable device, and a great many others have been offered by various institutions and societies throughout the land ; and several foreign governments have testified their desire to unite in this great work of humanity, intended to commemorate the virtues of its chief ornament and example. The boundaries of Christendom do not limit his fame, which reaches to the remotest parts of the earth, and the most distant and isolated nations have testified their veneration towards his memory. Switzerland, Rome, Bremen, Turkey, Greece, China, and Japan, have piously united to pay their homage to our Washington. Such tributes are our highest trophies. The history of mankind affords no parallel to this.
We feel bound, in this place, especially to commend the zeal and liberality of the Masonic societies, the order of Odd-Fellows, the vakous fire companies, and the touching contributions of the children of the schools of the country—all regularly dedicating their affectionate tributes. And the Cherokee and Chickasaw nations of Indians also deserve to be honored for their very liberal donations of money; commemorating also in this the eloquent sentiment of the great chief, Cornplanter, delivered to Washington in 1791: “The voice of the Seneca nation speaks to you, the great Councillor, in whose heart the wise men of all the thirteen Fires have placed their wisdom."
The shaft of the monument now reaches to the height of 170 feet. It is intended to be raised to the full height of 517 feet; so that, when completed, this monument will be proportionate to the character of its subject-the loftiest in the world.
The sum of $230,000 has been already expended upon the work, and the sum of $322,000 will be needed to complete the shaft; while the cost of the whole work, including shaft and pantheon, or base, is estimated to be $1,122,000. Let the present generation at least complete the shaft, and we may then permit those who come after us to finish the whole work.
Your committee have derived this information from the competent officers of the society, its architect, and its agents, who have charge of the work, and who have attended the sittings of the committee, explained the subject, and produced before it their plans, books, accounts, and other evidences of their transactions.
The duties of this society have demanded the constant attention of its members, and it is very gratifying to the committee to state, that neither the president, vice presidents, treasurer, secretary, nor any of the managers or members, have, from its institution, received or desired any compensation whatever. Their services have been, and will continue to be, wholly gratuitous.
We unanimously approve the plan of this monument, and of the work that has been already done; and we bear cheerful testimony to the energy, integrity, economy, and patriotic love which have animated and governed the transactions of this society, and especially we commend the design of building this monument by the voluntary contributions of the people of the United States.
We do not intend to disturb this happy arrangement, or to withdraw from the exclusive jurisdiction and control of so faithful a society the completion of a work so well begun and prosecuted; we trust, and doubt not, that it will go on, with continued attention on the part of the board of managers, and of the people of the whole country.
But at the same time, your committee think that a subscription to aid the work is due by Congress. By the faith of obligations which we have before recited, by the fact that his commission as Commanderin-Chief was bestowed on Washington by Congress, and all his glorious military services performed under their orders and authority, and by the further consideration that a sum subscribed by Congress will probably be the only mode by which each and all of the people of the United States can be said to add their share to this grateful memorial, your committee recommend that the sum of two hundred thousand dollars should be subscribed by Congress on behalf of the people of the United States, to aid the funds of the society. This was the sum devoted to the monument ordered by the resolutions of 1799, and voted by the House of Representatives on the 1st of January, 1801.
In making this recommendation we expressly disclaim engaging for any further aid by Congress to the work, on the distinct ground, that whilst it is proper Congress should make a liberal subscription towards it, yet it is both the right and duty of the people of the United States to complete it.
We cannot doubt that their disposition will prove more than adequate to this result, and that this holy work should hereafter be exclusively committed to them—to the several States, cities, towns, and other organized communities, of the whole country.