Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to Robert R. Livingston, 6 March 1792

To Robert R. Livingston

Philadelphia Mar. 6. 1792.

Dear Sir

The bearer hereof Mr. Ciracchi, a very celebrated sculptor from Rome, proposing to go to New York to explain the device of a monument which he proposes to erect for the United states, I take the liberty of recommending him to your advice and good offices. Independantly of his talents as an artist, you will find him a man of very superior worth; and your attentions to him will be acknoleged as obligations on Dear Sir Your most obedient & most humble servt,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “The Honble. Chancellor Livingston.”

On a visit to the United States in 1791–1792, Joseph Ceracchi announced plans to sculpt a monument “perpetuating the Memory of the American Revolution” that would incorporate the “equestrian statue” of George Washington authorized by Congress in 1783. In the fall of 1791, he petitioned Congress to underwrite his expenses for the project, but declined any outright fee and offered to raise private funds for the proposed project. Backed by his election to membership in the American Philosophical Society in January 1792 and letters of introduction from both TJ and Alexander Hamilton, he set out in March for New York to solicit subscriptions for his proposed undertaking (Copy of Memorial to Congress enclosed with Ceracchi to Washington, 31 Oct. 1791, along with description of proposed monument, DLC: Washington Papers; Syrett, Hamilton description begins The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold C. Syrett and others, New York, 1961-1979, 27 vols. description ends , xi, 111–12; New York Journal and Weekly Register, 11 Feb. 1792; Editorial Note on fixing the seat of government, Vol. 20: 66n).

TJ attempted to aid Ceracchi in other ways. The artist sculpted busts of TJ as well as Washington, Hamilton, and other government leaders. Moreover, TJ attempted to persuade the Federal District Commissioners to take on the equestrian statue project, and also drafted a note for Washington, returning to Ceracchi two “very elegant figures” (copies of busts of Bacchus and Ariadne) that the sculptor had given the President. The note stated that “uniformity of conduct in these cases” called for the return of gifts, but that return did not diminish “the high sense he [the President] entertains of his [Ceracchi’s] talents and merits.” (Washington to Ceracchi, 12 Mch. 1792; PrC in DLC; entirely in TJ’s hand, headed: “Sketch of Note to Mr. Ciracchi.”). Washington did not send this letter to Cerrachi until 10 May. See TJ to Commissioners, 9 and 11 Apr. 1792, and Commissioners to TJ 11 and 14 Apr. 1792.

On 7 May the House of Representatives, after initially approving Ceracchi’s memorial, reversed itself and decided against funding the proposed monument (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, Gales & Seaton, 1826- description ends , i, 602). The Congress adjourned the next day.

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