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North American Review, September 1885

Grant's Memorial: What Shall it Be?

THE death of General Grant, the greatest man of our century, is not Americas loss only: it is an international bereavement. The memorial to be erected to his honor, therefore, should be so comprehensive in its conception as to admit of being so international in its execution that it would provide for the reception of art contributions from the governments of every civilized nation. As America is the greatest of modern nations, to be a truly national memorial, it should excel in grandeur any existing monument. To be representative of the man, its design should be like his character it should be distinguished for its simplicity and grandeur.

Grant was a soldier and a conqueror; but he was also the ruler of a united people, and his famous utterance, Let us have peace, was the key-note of his political administration and the inspiration of his civic life. A monument to him, therefore, although, to be truthful , it might represent him as a military victor, should contain no suggestion in its groups or its tableaux or its bas-relief s that he ever gained a battle in which the defeated army was composed of his countrymen in rebellion.

The basis of the conception of the proposed memorial to Grant of course must be his life, his achievements. Shall it be a single figure? That is a portrait only it tells no story, or never more than a single moment of a life. Shall it be an equestrian figure? The tradition of art interprets such a statue to signify a prince or soldier. But it can tell nothing more. Now, Grants life was complex, full of great incidents worthy of enduring remembrance, and his career was crowded with his inspirations of the great acts of other great men. An adequate plan of a monument, therefore, should provide for the enduring commemoration of many events in which other great soldiers and great civilians took part. It should also immortalize the heroism of the common people from whom Grant sprang as best typified by the common soldier.

As no one moment of time, therefore, could tell to the future the story of Grants life, we should erect to his memory the grandest mausoleum or temple of modern times.

Let it be the combined work of our greatest architects, sculptors, and painters. Let architectural grandeur, statuary, bas-reliefs, and frescoes, illustrative of his life, tell the story of his grand career to future generations. Let the memorial be worthy of the man, the nation, and American art, equally and alike.


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