Statuary in DC

One of the delightful features of Washington DC is the plethora of statues that one encounters – not only figures from US history, but also from the history of other countries too, as various subject peoples try to publicize themselves in the imperial capital. From a walkabout Sunday morning:

• Letelier and Moffitt were assassinated by a car bomb in DC in 1976 by DINA, the Chilean secret police under dictator Augusto Pinochet. Orlando Letelier had been a cabinet minister under Salvador Allende and was an outspoken opponent of Pinochet, which earned him the attention of DINA. Documents reveal that Pinochet ordered the assassination himself; whether the US knew and didn’t do anything to stop it is another question, but one fully within the realm of possibility. I do believe that this event helped turn American public opinion against Pinochet.


• Another figure from Chilean history: founder and first supreme dictator of Chile, Bernardo O’Higgins (1778-1842).


• The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-82) merits a statue at M St. and Connecticut Ave.


• Daniel Webster (1782-1852), Dartmouth alumnus (and valiant defender of the “small college”) and secretary of state under three presidents, stands on Massachusetts Ave.


• Dewi Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, rides outside the Indonesian embassy, while three children benefit from her patronage.


• Thomas Masaryk (1850-1937), advocate of Czechoslovak independence and first president of independent Czechoslovakia following World War I, stands on Embassy Row. (The Czechs unveiled this statue in 2002; the Slovaks don’t seem to have contributed. It’s interesting how the Czech Republic is so often figured as the sole successor state to Czechoslovakia.)


• Eleftherios Venizelos (1864-1936), several times Prime Minister of Greece in the early twentieth century, stands outside the Greek Embassy.


• Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of modern Turkey, stands on the original site of the Turkish Embassy.


• Outside the South Korean embassy stands a statue of Philip Jaisohn (1864-1951), journalist and champion of Korean independence.


• A statue of St. Jerome, one of the patron saints of Croatia, may be seen outside the Croatian embassy.


• Irish patriot Robert Emmet (d. 1803) gives his famous speech from the dock.


• The late great Nelson Mandela stands outside the South African embassy.


• The Kahlil Gibran Centennial Foundation sponsored a sculpture of their favorite poet in 1991.


• Winston Churchill strides outside the British Embassy. If I had a cigar I would have stuck it between his fingers. One of his feet stands on embassy soil, the other on American soil, symbolizing the Special Relationship and Churchill’s own dual nature.


• Dr. John Witherspoon (1723-94), a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, stands by the national Presbyterian church.


• Outside the Treasury Department stands Albert Gallatin (1761-1849), the longest-serving Secretary of the Treasury.


• To the north of the White House is Lafayette Square, but its most notable feature is an equestrian statue of US President Andrew Jackson (1829-37). (Statues of Lafayette, and of the other Revolutionary war generals Rochambeau, Kosciuszko, and Steuben, can be found on the four corners of the Square. My pictures of these really didn’t turn out, alas.)


• General Winfield Scott (1786-1866), veteran of several nineteenth-century US wars, Whig Party presidential candidate in the election of 1852, and originator of the Anaconda Plan during the Civil War, rides in Scott Circle, with some avian friends.


• The Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Dupont Memorial Fountain can be found on Dupont Circle. Dupont (1803-1865) captured San Diego during the Mexican-American War, but did not manage to capture Charleston during the American Civil War, to his chagrin.


• The Indian Council for Cultural Relations installed a statue of the great Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) in front of the Indian Embassy in 2000.


• An equestrian statue of Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan (1831-1888) can be found in the middle of Sheridan Circle. This one was done by Gutzon Borglum, the same guy who did Mount Rushmore. Sheridan was a distinguished Civil War general and helped force Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.


• Finally, outside the headquarters of Society of the Cincinnati, a statue of the American Cincinnatus himself, George Washington.