James Madison Papers

William Drayton and Others to James Madison, 11 April 1833

CHARLESTON, S. C. April 11th, 1833.

At the period of the Revolution of the Acordada, which compelled the Congress of Mexico to reverse the election of Pedraza and place Guerrero in the Presidential Chair, the City was taken by assault, and the army of Guerrero attacked and plundered the houses of the European Spaniards, who are peculiarly odious to the native Mexicans. Many of these persons had taken refuge in the house of the American Ambassador, and it was pointed out to the exasperated soldiery as the asylum of their enemies. They rushed to attack it, and in a few minutes would have massacred all within its walls. At this moment, when hundreds of muskets were levelled at the windows, Mr. Poinsett, with his Secretary of Legation, Mr. John Mason, Jr. threw themselves into an open balcony which overlooked the crowd, and unfurling the STAR-SPANGLED BANNER, demanded that all persons in his house should be protected while the flag of his country waved over them. The scene changed as by enchantment; and the very men who were about to make the attack, cheered the Standard of our Union, and placed sentinels to guard it from outrage. The history of the world presents no parallel to such a scene: and its moral beauty and grandeur should be equally preserved on the page of the historian and the canvass of the painter. It is therefore proposed to raise by subscription a sufficient sum to have this illustrious triumph of our National Flag represented on canvass and afterwards engraved. The painting will be presented to some public institution of the State or United States.

The minute particulars attending the unfurling of the United States Flag at Mexico, furnish materials for a splendid National Painting. The sectional excitements, at present existing among the States, are obliterating national feelings. These must be revived; the arts are powerful in their operation, and lasting in their influence. We must have National Paintings, National Songs, National Celebrations, to excite and perpetuate National enthusiasm. Though it is difficult for the mind to calculate the value of the Union, yet the hand of a master may successfully exhibit to a single glance, that National protection, which, like the pressure of the atmosphere, though omnipresent and powerful, is neither seen nor felt. The Flag of every country is its emblem. It should command respect abroad--adoration at home. The man who loves and reveres not his Country’s Flag, is prepared to violate her laws and destroy her institutions. To pourtray then the Star Spangled Banner overawing in a foreign land, an enfuriated and lawless soldiery, and protecting from revolutionary violence the objects of political hatred--is to spread before the eyes of our countrymen, and particularly of the rising generation, the unseen, but high moral protection afforded by a great, because a United People. The chief object however, is to have this scene engraved, that the Flag of our Country may wave in every house, in every cottage, even in every log-house beyond the Mountains; that our children may learn, before they can read, to love and reverence the emblem of their country’s power, and may realize that it is their guardian and protector, not only on their native soil, but in a land of strangers.

The amount of your subscription you will please transmit to the joint address of

William Drayton,

Daniel E. Huger,

Benj. F. Pepoon.


Printed circular (DLC). Enclosed in Benjamin F. Pepoon to JM, 13 Apr. 1833.

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