This section is from the book "The National Capitol. Its Architecture Art And History", by George C. Hazelton, Jr. Also available from Amazon: The National Capitol Its Architecture Art and History.
I beg leave, sir, to submit to the honorable committee the copy of a letter addressed to the Hon. John Quincy Adams, Ex-President of the United States, with its answer ; also, a copy of a letter from Major Lawrence Lewis, the nephew of General Washington, and sole acting executor of his will.
In making these communications, permit me to observe, sir, that I have done no more than filial duty required at my hands. It is left for Government to determine whether the remains of those who were endeared to each other by forty years of happy and eventful life, shall become separate in the lasting repose of the tomb.
* The bill itself, providing "That a mausaleum of American granite and marble, in a pyramidal form, one hundred feet square at the base, and of a proportionate height, shall be erected, in testiirony of the love and gratitude of the citizens of the United States, to George Washington," was considered by the Committee of the Whole in the House on December 5, 1800. Mr. Alston moved that the monument be of marble and erected iri the Capitol. During the debate, Mr. Macon remarked: " We are told that the best mode of perpetuating the memory of Washington is to erect a mausaleum. I have heard of Aristides, I have heard of Hampden, but I have never heard of monuments raised to their memories. Yet their virtues shine as bright now as they did when they lived. I have heard of a place called Westminster Abbey, lull of the monuments of Kings; yet, notwithstanding these grand memorials, I have heard very little of them after they left this world".
The bill was further considered on the ioth, when Mr. Claiborne said that he preferred "a plain hut neat tomb-stone of American marble, and prepared by an American artist" ; and wished to see engraved upon it the addresses of each House to the President, and his reply, when first they received the announcement of the loss of their patriot, sage and hero. On the 19th, Mr. Lee made the following report:
The Committee to whom was committed the bill, directing the erection of a mausoleum to George Washington, together with the resolve of Congress, passed the 7th. of August, 1783, ordering an equestrian statue of bronze to be erected to George Washington ; and also a resolution of Congress, of the 24th. day of December, 1799, directing that a marble monument be erected in the Capitol, in the city of Washington, have had the same under consideration; and while they recognize with entire co-operation the highly gratifying testimonial of the national estimation of their commander-in-chief, cannot but consider it as an incomplete exemplification of the national feeling at this day, it having in view only the celebration of his military services. To connect with this the erection of an appropriate monument in the dome of the Capitol, on a scale commensurate with the virtue and ability of the character thus held up as a model to all future generations, would fulfil the general expectation and complete the professions of Congress. But from the most accurate inquiry they have been able to make, your committee are of opinion, the expense attending the accomplishment of the two resolutions would exceed two hundred thousand dollars.
They cannot, therefore, but recommend an adherence to the plan heretofore adopted by the House, combining as it does every object, and that, too, at an expense not exceeding the sum necessary for an equestrian statue and marble monument, and to be erected by American artists out of American materials.
The bill passed the House on January 1, t8oi ; hut, when it finally came to the Senate, after various amendments, its consideration was postponed, on March 3d, by a vote of 14 to 13.
I have the honor to be,
With perfect respect.
Your obedient humble servant,
George W. P. Custis.
To the Hon. George E. Mitchell, Esq.
Chairman of Committee, <5rv. dfc. c?V.
Arlington House, 25M Feb. 1820.
Dear Sir : I perceive with much pleasure, and truly much surprise, that Government, after the lapse of thirty years, has at last determined to give national rites of sepulture to the venerated remains of Washington, thus enabling his country to declare, in the words of the divine bard,
" Such honors Ilion to her Hero paid !
" And peaceful sleeps the mighty Hector's shade".
In 1799, when Mrs. Washington, yielding to the request of Congress, gave her consent for the removal of the remains of the Chief, a correspondence occurred between Col. Lear, on the part of the bereaved lady, and your venerable parent, the late President Adams, in which the Colonel urged that the consent of Mrs. Washington had only been obtained upon an understanding, that, on the decease of the afflicted relict, her remains should be consigned to the same sepulchre as should be provided by Government for those of her beloved husband. I always understood from Col. Lear, that the letters of President Adams assured Mrs. Washington that a request so just and honored as was hers, to be interred by the side of her illustrious consort, would meet with no objections from Government.
If, sir, in the course of your examinations of the papers of the late President Adams, you shall have met with any documents touching this interesting subject, will you have the kindness to forward copies of the same to the honorable committee charged with reporting on the national interment of the remains of Washington.
With great respect,
I have the honor to be, dear sir,
Your obedient humble servant,
George W. P. Custis.
The Hon. John Quincy Adams.
Washington, February 26, 1830.
G. W. P. Custis, Esq., Arlington House.
Dear Sir : I find among my father's manuscripts a copy of a letter from him to your venerated grandmother, dated 27th December, 1799, purporting to enclose, by William Smith Shaw, a copy of the resolutions of Congress, passed on the 24th of that month, and entreating her assent to the interment of the remains of General Washington under the marble monument to be erected in the Capitol, at the City of Washington, to commemorate the great events of his military and political life.