Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Harrison, 20 July 1784

From Benjamin Harrison

Virga. in Council July 20. 1784


The Assembly of this State have voted a Statue of our late worthy commander in Chief General Washington, and have directed their intentions to be carried into execution by the Executive. For particulars I refer you to the enclosed resolution. You will observe they have only provided for one side of the pedestal, and that the others with the Dress &c. are left for the Exercise of the genius of the Executive. This Would be a very pleasing imployment for us if we had ever turned our thoughts that way or were adepts in the Science of devices, Emblems &c. But as we are not we have unanimously fixed on you and my friend Doctor Franklin who we all know are fully competent to the task and therefore most earnestly request the favor of you to undertake it. The history of the war and the share he has had in it are so well known to you both that nothing on that subject is necessary from me. You are therefore left entirely at large and have the whole direction of the business committed to you. I shall write to the Doctor in full confidence that it will give him pleasure to assist you. To enable the Artist to furnish his work in the most perfect manner I have ordered Mr. Peale to send to your address a full length picture of the general as soon as possible. The intention of the assembly is that the Statue should be the work of the most masterly hand. I shall therefore leave it to you to find out the best in any of the European States. To defray the expense certain funds are appropriated that will undoubtedly produce the money and it shall be remitted you long before the work can be completed. I can form no judgement what sum it will take but by the cost of Lord Bote– tourts Statue, which I think was about nine hundred and fifty pounds sterling to the Artist, and for shipping charges, there was a further Sum to the person who came over to set it up, but that in the present case will be the consideration of a future day, there being no place as yet fixed on to place it in. You will be so obliging as soon as you have fixed on the devices and agreed for the Statue to favor me with the particulars of the former and a Copy of your agreement that there may be no deficiency in the remittances either in point of time or quantity. I shall make no apology for the trouble the execution of this trust will bring on you, from a thorough conviction that the love and attachment you have for the worthy person whose memory the Statue is to perpetuate will render it rather a pleasing than disagreeable employment. I am &c,


FC (Vi). Noted in SJL as received 29 Nov. 1784. Enclosure: Resolution of the House of Delegates, 22 June 1784, approved by the Senate 26 June: “That the Executive, be requested to take measures for procuring a statue of General Washington, to be of the finest marble and best workmanship, with the following inscription, viz: ‘The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, have caused this statue to be erected as a monument of affection and gratitude to George Washington, who, uniting to the endowments of the hero, the virtues of the patriot, and exerting both in establishing the liberties of his country, has rendered his name dear to his fellow-citizens, and given to the world an immortal example of true glory; done in the year of Christ and in the year of the Commonwealth’” (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , May 1784, 1828 edn., p. 73 –4, 81). Harrison laid this resolution before the Council on 1 July 1784 when the board advised “that Mr. Peale of Philadelphia be employed to take a Copy of the Picture of the late Commander in Chief, and to transmit it to the address of Thomas Jefferson Esqr. in Europe. It is farther advised that the Governor write to Doctor Franklin and Mr. Jefferson requesting them to have a statue finished agreeable thereto, to commit the workmanship to be executed by one of the best artists in Europe—to ornament it with proper and fit Devices & Emblems—and to do in all other things respecting the same what shall appear to them necessary” (MS minutes Va. Council Jour., 1 July 1784, vi). See Harrison to TJ, 12 Nov. 1784.

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