[Background note: Construction of the Washington Monument began in 1848. Work on the monument ceased in 1854 after the anti-foreign Know-Nothing party seized the monument to protest the contribution of a memorial stone by Pope Pius IX. The Civil War prevented further construction on the monument. Construction did not resume again until 1879. The Monument was finally dedicated in 1885. The interim decades of incompletion were a source of complaint for Mark Twain as well as many others.]
The ungainly old chimney that goes by that name is of no earthly use
to anybody else, and certainly is not in the least ornamental. It is just
the general size and shape, and possesses about the dignity, of a sugar-mill
chimney. It may suit the departed George Washington -- I don't know. He
may think it is pretty. It may be a comfort to him to look at it out of
the clouds. He may enjoy perching on it to look around upon the scene
of his earthly greatness, but it is not likely. It is not likely that
any spirit would be so taken with that lumbering thing as to want to roost
there. It is an eyesore to the people. It ought to be either pulled down
or built up and finished.
The Washington Monument during the years of incompletion.
It has the aspect of a factory chimney with the top broken off. The skeleton
of a decaying scaffolding lingers about its summit, and tradition says that
the spirit of Washington often comes down and sits on those rafters to enjoy
this tribute of respect which the nation has reared as the symbol of its unappeasable
gratitude. The Monument is to be finished, some day, and at that time our Washington
will have risen still higher in the nation's veneration, and will be known as
the Great- Great-Grandfather of his Country. The memorial Chimney stands in
a quiet pastoral locality that is full of reposeful expression. With a glass
you can see the cow-sheds about its base, and the contented sheep nibbling pebbles
in the desert solitudes that surround it, and the tired pigs dozing in the holy
calm of its protecting shadow.
- The Gilded Age
There was the Washington Monument. It was estimated that it would cost $250,000.
It took Edward Everett and a host of hardworking Associations years and years
to raise it. And after all, the legislatures had to contribute all the principle
rocks. The nation mourned for Washington all it knew how with their hearts,
but you couldn't get its pocket to shed a tear -- I mean, a proffered one, a
- "Concerning 'Martyrs' Day' " published in Mark Twain's Fables of Man
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