As readers will know I have a soft spot for statues of American Presidents, and today found one close to home in an unregarded corner of my city.
The picture is of the statue erected to President Abraham Lincoln, and to those who fell in the American Civil War. It is the first full size statue ever erected of Lincoln outside the United States, indeed the first full sized statue of a President in Europe and still the only memorial to the American Civil War outside of the United States. So it’s of some interest.
It was the idea of the then American Consul Wallace Bruce, to have this erected in Edinburgh’s Old Carlton Cemetery in the north east of the city centre and his vision drove it through. George Bissel was the well known American sculptor who made the statue.
It consists of a full size statue of Lincoln on top of the memorial. Below him is the kneeling figure of a grateful freed slave holding out his papers of emancipation. The iconographic drive here being that the focus of the conflict was to free the slaves rather than being primarily about the maintenance of the Union; the freeing of slaves being a collateral benefit. The battle flags are symbolically furled. A quotation of Lincoln’s “To preserve the jewel of liberty in the framework of Freedom” sits at the side.
It must still be visited, as today when I was there a bunch of flowers still rested in the hands of the freed slave, and other flowers were scattered at the foot of the statue.
Oddly, given the size, and financial clout of the subscribers listed below, only six names are mentioned on the memorial, John McEwan, William Duff, Robert Steedman, James Wilkie, Robert Fergusson and Alex Small.
Statues are always pushing a line, they seek to manipulate every bit as much as they commemorate. So who were these fallen? They, those mere six, of course fought for the North. They were nobody. The vast majority of those Scots who had fought in the American Civil War had actually fought for the Confederacy and naturally none are commemorated here.
The statue therefore is erected at the beginning of that period when Lincoln’s legacy was being used by the American state as an archetype of the solidity of American Union, and whose hopes of world power were being encouraged by the writings of the likes of Fiske. Lincoln is becoming an international figure for America; someone fit to be shown to the neighbours, embodying those dual qualities of American democracy, the strong but caring leader, tall, straight, noble. No club footed vulgarian here. The statue is interesting too as it exemplifies these ideas which are thought to only become more apparent after the Spanish American war a few years later.
The subscribers may help clarify the monument. Names we know jump out, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Rockefeller, all interested in the North, all interested in the status quo.
List of Subscribers
Each of the following gentlemen subscribed one hundred dollars to the undertaking.
Levi P. Morton, Wm. Walter Phelps, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Alexander King, Charles Stewart Smith, John S. Kennedy, William Rockefeller, John Sloane, William Clark, J. Pierpont Morgan, E. C. Benedict, James H. Benedict, . Wm. Waldorf Astor, Daniel Appleton, Harper & Bros., J. Kennedy Tod, John B. Dutcher, Solomon Turck, Caledonian Club, Henderson Bros., Merritt & Ronaldson,
David A. Boody, John Arbuckle, Henry B. Heath, Francis H. Wilson, Andrew D. Baird, Andrew R. Baird, Alexander S. Baird, William W. Baird, Joseph Stewart,
Henry L. Young, Andrew Smith, . John Donald, Wallace Bruce,
Robert Clark, Peter M’Ewan, A. M. Wright & Co., Caledonian Club,
Geo. Peabody Wetmore, Newport, R.I.
James Coats, Pawtucket, R.I.
Peter Kinnear, Albany, N.Y.
J. E. Munger, Fishkill, N.Y.
S. D. Coykendall, Rondout, N.Y.
J. Watts de Peyster, Tivoli, N.Y.
Edwin B. Sheldon, Delhi, N.Y.
Geo. E. Lemon, Washington, D.C.
Nathan Bickford, Washington, D.C.
R. B. Leuchars, Boston, Mass
Henry Norwell, Boston, Mass
W. J. Murphy, Phoenix, Arizona
J. B. White, Ft. Wayne, Ind.
Edward White, Ft. Wayne, In.
David C. Bell, Minneapolis, Minn.
Alex. M’Donald, Cincinnati, O.
Lynde Harrison, New Haven, Ct.
John Beattie, Leets Island, Ct.
Thomas Waddell, West Pitston, Pa.
John Young, Jersey City, New Jersey
Geo. W. Childs, Philadelphia, Pa.
Franklin Fairbanks, St. Johnsburg, Vt.
William E. Bartlett, Edinburgh, Scotland
S. M. Burroughs, London, England
A fascinating detour.
Copyright David Macadam 2012