George Washington Papers

Circular on a Monument to the American Revolution, 14 February 1795

Circular on a Monument to the American Revolution

Philadelphia, February 14th. 1795.


Herewith you will receive the description of a monument proposed to be erected to the American Revolution, and the plan by which the means for the undertaking are to be provided.1

Those who truly admire the great event which established the liberty of this country, and who wish to see the blessing cherished by all who may be heirs to it, will need no exhortation to contribute their reasonable aid to a work, which is so well calculated to blend with the glory of the present, a lesson to future, generations. Among the means employed by the wisest and most virtuous people, for nourishing and perpetuating the spirit of freedom and patriotism, monumental representations are known to be among the most ancient, and, perhaps, not the least influential. And as it is the happiness of this country to enjoy an occasion, more glorious and more auspicious to it, than has been the lot of any other; there ought to be felt a pride, as well as satisfaction, in commemorating it, by a spectacle as unrivalled as the occasion itself. Should the plan, now offered, be successful, this object will be fully attained: for it may, without hazard, be affirmed, that no similar work of equal magnitude and merit, can be boasted by the nations most distinguished for their munificent zeal in rendering the fine arts auxiliaries to the cause of Liberty.

Although it was deemed proper to provide for an eventual assumption of the monument and the expense, by the government of the United States; yet it was necessary, both as an immediate and a certain resource, to appeal to the patriotic liberality of individuals. In one view it may be particularly desirable, that the monument should be founded on voluntary and diffusive contributions. The event to which it is dedicated, the emblems of which it is composed, and the effect which it is meant to produce, have all an intimate relation to the rights and happiness of the people. Let it be commenced then, not through the organ of the government, as a political act; but in a mode which will best testify the sentiments which spontaneously glow in the breasts of republican citizens.

The Artist, contemplated for the work, is Mr. Cerrachi, of Rome; who, influenced by admiration for the revolution, and by a desire of distinguishing himself as the instrument of erecting a monument worthy of so great a subject, came to the city of Philadelphia in 1791, with a design to prosecute the undertaking, if sufficient means could be found. Since that period, he has prepared the model, of which the description is annexed. The model of itself, evinces the capacity, genius and taste of the author; and concurs with other proofs of his distinguished qualifications, to inspire a wish that he could be enabled to execute his plan. The material of the monument, is to be statuary marble; its height one hundred feet; its circumference three hundred feet; the height of the principal figure fifteen feet, and the others of various proportional dimensions. It is computed that ten years will be required to complete it.

A hope is entertained, that the public spirit of the citizens of the United States, seconded by a taste for the fine arts, will induce them not to suffer to escape so fair an opportunity of raising a lasting monument to the glory of their country; and that a sufficient number will be found ready to furnish, by subscriptions, the necessary sums. The confidence which is placed in your personal disposition, to forward the commendable design, has pointed you out, among a few others, for soliciting and receiving the subscriptions, and is the apology for imposing the task upon you. With great consideration we are, SIR, Your very obedient servants,

Go: Washington.
[also signed by 60 others]

D (printed document addressed to Alexander Hamilton), DLC: Alexander Hamilton Papers; D (addressed to Edmund Randolph), DLC:GW; D (addressed to Hamilton), PWacD: Sol Feinstone Collection, on deposit at PPAmP. The sixty signatories include both Hamilton and Randolph. Below the signatures, the document states that “The original of this, with the names of the subscribers signed by themselves, is deposited at Philadelphia, in the hands of the Managers, viz. the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary at War, the Attorney General, and the Treasurer of the United States.” This letter, without the first sentence and the last sentence before the closing, was printed in the Gazette of the United States and Daily Evening Advertiser (Philadelphia) of 18 March and other newspapers.

1In addition to the description that follows, “Articles of Subscription towards Erecting a Monument to the American Revolution” were enclosed. A subscription for one year was thirty dollars, and the subscriber could subscribe for up to ten years, the money to be deposited in the Bank of the United States. The work would not begin until $30,000 was “subscribed and paid,” and if that sum was not reached in one year the money would be refunded. At any time up to six months after the monument was completed, the United States could “become proprietors thereof … by making effectual provision for reimbursing the subscribers … the sums which shall have been advanced by them.” The monument would be placed “at the permanent seat of the government of the United States.”

The articles of subscription in DLC:GW include GW’s signed subscription to “Four shares—or 120 Dollars. The full term of ten years if it shall be found necessary.”

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