FEATURE — Summer 2004
   

 

 

 

The First President's First Visit

 

In honor of the Sesquicentennial, the University installed the only statue of George Washington on campus.

 

The University's new George Washington statue is a bronze replica of the original marble statue in the rotunda of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond. Sculpted by internationally acclaimed Jean-Antoine Houdon during 1785-88, the original work is the only full-length statue made of Washington while he was living, and it is considered to be the most important statue of him ever created. In the middle of the 19th century, the state of Virginia authorized several plaster casts made of the statue, and the Paul King Foundry, Inc., in Johnson, Rhode Island, still had one that had never been used. Washington University contacted the foundry and arranged to cast a bronze copy.

Excerpts from Washington's First Message to Congress, 1790
"...there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature..."

"Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness."

"...every valuable end of government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people and by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights..."

George Washington's statue depicts the subordination of the military to civil authority: He stands with his head uncovered, with a cane in his right hand and his sword draped to the left. The fasces—representing authority, power, and honor—and ploughshare—representing the peaceful arts—are also by his side.

On the Washington University version, which is situated south of the John M. Olin Library, inscriptions are carved on the base: the front features a brief history of the statue, and the other three sides display quotes by Washington (see sidebar). The statue is a gift in memory of William M. Van Cleve, School of Law Class of 1953 and chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1993 to 1995.