Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Monumental Question

When you live in Washington, D.C., you get used to monuments. Most are well-known and easily justified, but a few make me scratch my head in wonder. Until the formation of the National Capital Planning Commission in 1901, most architectural features of the city were erected in a pretty haphazard fashion. Many of these "headscratcher monuments" (my term) were built by groups of people who admired a particular person. So they raised a bunch of money, commissioned a sculptor, purchased a plot of land somewhere in the city, and then built their tribute (usually a white male on a horse). This site provides a very handy index of most of the monuments in D.C., organized by quadrant, sculptor, and subject.

IMHO, a few of these headscratcher monuments do not deserve to exist. Why do I say that? Well, I look at it this way: to earn a monument erected to you in the Nation's Capital, you should have done something positive for the nation. At the very least, you should probably refrain from any of the following actions (especially if you are a general fighting a war):

  • Complain to your Commander-in-Chief that "a lack of resources was making it impossible to defeat the Confederate forces" when you had access to more men and material than your enemy could ever hope to muster.
  • State that you were "unwilling to employ tactics that would result in heavy casualties." And you should not follow that statement with this quote: "ever poor fellow that is killed or wounded almost haunts me!" Perhaps you should get out of the whole general business.
  • During the campaign McClellan declared the war a "failure" and urged "immediate efforts for a cessation of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate convention of the states, or other peaceable means, to the end that peace may be restored on the basis of the federal Union of the States". However, McClellan added that this could happen when "our adversaries are willing to negotiate upon the basis of reunion." McClellan made it clear that he disliked slavery because it weakened the country but he opposed "forcible abolition as an object of the war or a necessary condition of peace and reunion."

-- tidbits courtesy of this page

So, can anybody explain to me why there is a statue to General George McClellan in the Nation's Capital?

All of this background is a lead-in to the question that TRP posed to me after I gave him my anti-McClellan spiel: "If forced to make a decision, which of the following would you make a monument for? General McClellan? Or Pauly Shore? You MUST choose. The monument would be near the Washington Monument and face towards the Capitol building." So what is my answer? Following the benchmark I set out a few paragraphs ago, I would be forced to choose Mr. Shore. It's just too bad that such an ugly mug would be permanently facing the Capitol Building.


Joe said...

You leave out my favorite story about the positioning of the McClellan Monument. The folklore goes that he's situated in Dupont Circle facing down one road, let's say Connecticut Ave. That way he can advance down one path... but has 3 options available in case he wants to retreat.

At least Lincoln could replace McClellan. It's going to take more than executive power to get rid of Pauly Shore.

tommyspoon said...

Ha-ha! I think you told me that story once. Thanks for bringing it up.

Alison said...

Oops - I totally forgot to answer this question over on TRP's blog. Anyhow, my answer is McClellan, because he is dead. Only the dead get monuments.

If someone will please kill Pauly Shore for me, we can talk alternatives.

lemming said...

Alison's idea intrigues me...

Oops, nope, swore to think only happy thoughts this afternoon.