George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Giuseppe Ceracchi, 23 April 1795

From Giuseppe Ceracchi

Philadelphia April 23—1795


As soon I received your valuable Suscription for the National Monument I send it to those Gentilmen appointed to promote the plan,1 I imagined that under such Reputable Auspice might be forword it with success. but I was disappointed with astonishement when it was told me, that various causes actuating towgater2 produced invincible difficulties ageinst it, and your example in having suscribed could not remove.3

A general meeting however was heald at the City tavern which been attended but by few it was resolved that I should abbandon any hope of success.

My feeling was certenlay hurted by this indicent behaviour, and gelous to not compromise Your Respectable Name any Longher, I thought my duty to withdrow your Suscription and consigned to the care of Mr Randolph again, as I did.4

I am the Innocent Victim of this intrigue, Time, Labour, and a considerable somme of money employed for this honourable object, are not all the evils which I soffers.

My reputation Sir it is highly concerned in it, never will be belived in Europe that such a magnificent and honourable Project as been refused in America for want of feeling and generosity among the individuals, but it will arisen some disadvontagious reflaction on my Caracter, therfore permitte me Sir to lay before your prudent judgement some reflactions.

This unhappy experiment shows that Individuals will never support public objects with there one5 money Ancient and Moderne Nations have always left to Goverment the power to decide upon public Magnificiences. The intended Monument rappresenting the hi[s]tory of this Nation—it is certenlay a National Monument, therfor the Governement of the Unt. states ought to adopt it as an act competent with its dignity.

By some [h]as been thought that it would be as well if a lottery was decreed by for that object.

But in consideration of this unexpected disappointment it would be imprudent for me to make any longher Stay in this Country. My Familys interests have soffered ammesenly since this five year,6 and the example of ingratitude of those who have not ⟨scrupl⟩ed to play with my Candor in live to my charge allon the considerables losses, renders it indispensable for me to live this country without dalay.

Before to effect this indispensible resolution I am indebted to reserve my self to Your advice principaly for a duty of respect on Your Eminent Caracter, and Station, as for any resurse which might arrise from your sound Judgment and Power in delucideting this businiss.

That kindness Sir with which you was pleised to express your self in favour of my project and in the wellfare of my family it is an exitement which fires my sensibility for that Veneration with which all the world is electrickfid at the resound of your Name.

I should be happy with the opportunity to show the effect of this sentiment. I am respectfully Sir You Most Obt and Most Humbl. Serv.

Jos. Ceracchi

ALS, DLC:GW. Ceracchi originally addressed the letter to GW “at Mount Vernon” but corrected the location to “George Town Virginia.”

On 31 March, GW had invited Ceracchi and his wife to dine “in family” with him and Martha (Giuseppe Ignazio Montanari, Della Vita e Delle Opere di Giuseppe Ceracchi, Scultore Romano, Elogio Storico [Rimini, Italy, 1841], 38).

1For GW’s subscription for the national monument and a description of the proposed project, see Circular on a Monument to the American Revolution, 14 Feb., and n.1, as well as the accompanying enclosure, “A Description of the Monument Consecrated to Liberty.” For an explanation of Ceracchi’s original plan, see his letter to Congress of 31 Oct. 1791 (enclosed with his letter to GW of that date), and notes 1 and 2. Ceracchi referred to the five managers of the project: the four cabinet officers and the treasurer of the United States.

2Ceracchi meant “together.”

3The artist complained to Thomas Jefferson on 11 May: “Some of the Manegers have been indifferent and other openly against it. Mr Wollcot told me that I had been scandalousely decceived by every one that show to take part in this business. This testimony … show that concerted immorality is practised by the Gentilmen in high station” (Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 28:348).

4On Monday morning, 20 April, Ceracchi had sent a note to Edmund Randolph in which he returned GW’s subscription and expressed “his gratfull thanks” to the President. Since “every prospect of success in the su[b]scription with wich Mr Cerrachi was flattered been [v]anished,” the sculptor intended “to sail as quick as possible for Europe” (DLC:GW).

5Ceracchi meant “own.”

6Ceracchi had wed Thérèse Schlishan. In 1795 the couple had four children.

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