James Madison Papers
Documents filtered by: Recipient="Madison, James"
sorted by: date (descending)

Thomas McCleland to James Madison, 23 January 1836

Baltimore January 23rd—1836

Sir as the society for the purpose of raising a Monument (called the National Monument society and of which you are President) to the father of our country have set forth their views upon that subject and is their wish it should be commenced within a few months and finished in the course of eight or ten years and that their desire is it should be like him who it is meant it should commemorate unparralelled in the World both for stupendiousness and beauty and to be an object of pride to the American people and of admiration to all who see it I take the liberty to address you a few lines giving an explanation of my ideas upon the subject. I will begin by saying Washington in his last farewell address advises us to consider the Union as the Palladium of our Liberty. This sir is my text and my idea is to raise a Monument emblematic of the Union of these states. By the way of so doing I propose erecting a Collosal Equestrian statue to the father of our Country the Immortal Washington. The base of the Pedestal to be a Triumphal Arch as not only the most appropriate base for a statue of Washington but as being significant of the Triumph of the Union over all sectional considerations. The Arch to consist of one main and two smaller ones to be of the Gothic order and by the way of representing the Union is to be supported by four octagon towers each representing one of the four sections of the Union the East West North and South.

The towers being octagonal will afford an opportunity for niches at the base of each to contain statues representing the states belonging to that particular section of the Union. At the base of the statues to have the Armorial bearings of each sculptured in Bassorelievo. The fibres of which the columns will consist that will support the Architrave to represent the stalks of Indian corn clasped at the base of each by statues representing Aboregenes which in all will amount to about twenty. The Frieze to contain niches for all the statues of the Signers of the Declaration of Indipendence and the Frameers of the Constitution of the United States which will make an appropriate base for the main group to consist of besides the statue of Washington Pallas who is in the act of directing Liberty to hand a sword to Washington whose attention is attracted by the Genius of America who holds the emblems of Peace and points upward. The Gothic Order I think is preferable to any other in this case for the simple reason that it comports exactly with the towers which seem to be necessary on this occasion and which makes the whole beautifully harmonise besides it is richer in its embellishments than any other the whole Vegetable Kingdom furnishing materials to used at the discretion of the Architect. You are aware the Gothic Arch originated from the manner in which the Goths and other Northern nations built or rather formed their Wigwams by sticking poles in the ground and tying them at top. As the perfection of Art consists in the imitation of Nature my object is to mould my architectural structure as strictly in conformity with her as possible that every part of my Monument may have a National and an appropriate bearing both as a whole and throughout all its details or in other words to make it appear as a plant of the Nation by adapting the Materials our Nation furnish[es] me with and moulding them into an architectural structure as I have endeavoured to do in this case. The Indians standing by their huts represented by the Arch clasping the stalks of corn that compose the columns will have a very hapy and appropriate agricultural bearing as it is the soil and our agricultural productions that form the base of our prosperity as a Nation and in viewing the object in this light will form a very appropriate base for the statues of the Frieze, and they again for the main group or rather figure to whom the whole will be consecrated. Thus it will not only be a National Monument to one man but to all of those men whom the Nation delights to honor making the Grate Washington the principle and main. The name Palladium I think will be proper not only because the statue of Pallas will be among the rest but because it will contain the statues of all of those whom the Nation in her wisdom entrusted with her destinies and whose wisdom and foresight has been proved both by our past and present experience.

The Architrave Cornice and Parapet to be ornamented according to the most approved Gothic taste to make them harmonize with the rest of the structure The upper part of the towers to be ornamented in like manner and likewise embelished with statues (the choice of which might be left to Congress) which would contribute very much to the beauty of the whole. I think it would be judicious to leave niches for the purpose of erecting statues occasionally inside the main and secondary arches to such of our illustrious men as Congress in its wisdom should see fit to confer such honors and marks of distinction upon as well as entablateurs for the representation of engagements both by Land and Sea in Bassorelievo. The statues composeing the main group to be of Bronze. The main body of the structure with the towers and their statues both at the top and the base with the statues of the Freize to be of White Marble. This sir is the general outline of the plan I propose and if after you have given it a careful perusal it should meet your approbation I shall take it as a very grate kindness if you will take the trouble to drop me a line giveing me your ideas relative to its propriety and fitness for which in return I will furnish you with a drawing giving a general idea of the whole as it will appear when complete. I am Sir with grate respect Your most obedient and very Humble Serv,t

Thomas McCleland

RC (DNA: Washington National Monument Society, Correspondence re Plans); draft (NN).

Index Entries