Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOSEPH CERACCHI. 1 - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIII (1794-1798)
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TO JOSEPH CERACCHI. 1 - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XIII (1794-1798) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XIII (1794-1798).
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TO JOSEPH CERACCHI.1
Philadelphia, 9 March, 1795.
I am directed by the President of the United States to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 7th inst., and that of the present date;—and to express to you his regret at your despair of bringing your plan of a national monument to a fortunate issue.
Whether there are sufficient grounds for despair, or whether more time may not be necessary to give the subscription papers a fair trial, and to ascertain the result with more precision; you can decide with more accuracy than he, who has not taken and cannot take, any active part in this business. He has formed no Opinion thereon, much less is he enabled to offer you any advice on this subject.
But as you hold out strong indications of deception, and complain of ill treatment without pointing to the instances, he thinks it necessary that an explanation should be had between you and himself; that no charges hereafter may lie at his door.—To do this it requires nothing more than to draw your attention to circumstances which cannot have escaped your recollection.
Of your intention of coming to this Country originally, the President could have had no knowledge—and you had been in the City some time before he was informed of it.1 Whilst here your name was frequently mentioned to him in very advantageous terms.—He was told of a design you had projected for the erection of a National Monument;—that you were preparing the Busts of particular characters in this City; and that you had expressed an earnest desire to take his. This request being reiterated he, with the reluctance which he has always felt on these occasions, yielded his assent; and accordingly sat for you; without having any other motive than to accommodate your views, or without perceiving any other object on your part, than a desire to take copies from it, if, thereafter, any advantages were likely to result therefrom.
What more (if any thing) might have passed between you and others, on this occasion he knows not;—and with respect to the public edifice, he does not now recollect whether a memorial, which you had prepared for congress, was ever presented; or if presented, what the reception of it was;—much less does he know of any specific encouragement that could have induced you to return to this country in expectation of prosecuting the plan.
As a public character he had no power to offer any, because the means of accomplishment were to flow from legislative authority; and as a private man he never could, or would have committed himself in this affair further than as a Subscriber.—Thus much relates to the first part of this transaction.—With respect to the subsequent part, that is, your return to this Country, and what has happened since; the President desires me to remark, that these are events which were adopted without any consultation with him or his knowledge, and he heard thro’ a variety of channels of the model of the proposed monument, the likenesses of the Busts, &c., &c.—before the pressure of business in which he was engaged, would permit him to see them;—or to comply with a second request that he would set for some alteration in the Bust which was intended for himself, and with which he complied, on the same principle which had produced the first sitting;—always conceiving it was for purposes of your own it was wanted, untill hints were given that it was designed to be presented to Mrs. Washington. Then for the first time he knew, [he] declared, that he could not, and would not accept it as a present.
The preceeding facts are necessary to acquit the President of having had any agency in your deception (if you have been deceived,) or of involving you in a situation which seems to have become irksome and inconvenient. What follows will shew the ground on which he declines to discharge the account which is inclosed in your letter of the 7th before mentioned.
You cannot have forgot, Sir, that when you sent the busts of Bacchus and Ariadne to the President in 1792, and requested his acceptance of them, that they were refused, and returned to you.—Upon which with earnestness (being on the point of your departure and not knowing what to do with them) you requested that they might be permitted to remain in his house.—To this he assented.—And supposing the object was that they might be exhibited as specimens of your abilities, as a sculptor, he had temporary pedestals made for them to stand on;—and always announced them as your workmanship and your property.
On Monday next they will be sent to you;—this would have been done to-day, but company will occupy the servants and prevent their being taken down.—The Bust intended for the P.— is also at your disposal.—Or if you incline to receive for it the highest value that the best artist, or the most skilful connoiseurs in the city will say is the intrinsic worth, he will, notwithstanding this true recital of the case, pay the amount: although it is just to observe, and it may well be supposed he would have been desirous of knowing the cost, and consulting his own inclination and convenience, before it was undertaken, if he had not conceived that it was intended for your own use, and not for his.—
He desires me to add, that it is with real concern he finds the abilities of our infant republic, will not afford employment for a person of your talents. The cause probably is that the United States are just emerging from the difficulties and expenses of a long and bloody war—and cannot spare money for those gratifications and ornamental figures,—as in the wealthy countries of Europe.—He is sorry also that you should quit them under any embarrassments or with discontent.—For myself, I am, &c.,
[1 ]Although signed by his secretary, this letter was one of Washington’s, and the draft is entirely in his writing. Joseph Ceracchi was a sculptor of some pretensions, who, in 1795, sought the aid of Congress in the erection of a monument to the American Revolution. Failing to secure the recognition of that body, he was advised to attempt a popular subscription, and in June, 1796, prepared an elaborate circular descriptive of the intended work, with a letter of recommendation signed by the President, the members of the Cabinet, and many leading members of both houses of Congress.—Historical Magazine, 1859, 234. “Just as the circular address was about to be despatched, it was put into his head that the scheme was merely to get rid of his importunities, and being of the genus irritabile, he suddenly went off in anger and disgust, leaving behind him heavy drafts on General Washington, Mr. Jefferson, &c., &c., for the busts, &c., he had presented to them. His drafts were not the effect of avarice, but of his wants, all his resources having been exhausted in the tedious pursuit of his object. He was an enthusiastic worshipper of Liberty and Fame; and his whole soul was bent on securing the latter by rearing a monument to the former, which he considered as personified in the American Republic. Attempts were made to engage him for a statue of General W., but he would not stoop to that.”—Madison to St. George Tucker, 30 April, 1830. Ceracchi was guillotined for a supposed connection with an attempt on Bonaparte’s life.
[1 ]Ceracchi came to Philadelphia in 1791.