Portrait Gallery

Pitilessly Ironical Fate

“How was it possible for Congress or your District Commissioners or any other intelligent authority to perpetrate so gross a blunder as the placing of a statue of Daniel Webster where it must perpetually gaze on the figure of Gen. Winfield Scott?” That question was asked the other day of a friend residing in Washington by a visitor from New England, a gentleman thoroughly informed as to the political history of the republic and a discerning lover of art. The Post propounded a similar inquiry years ago, and we suspect that some such thought has occurred to thousands of residents and strangers who have visited or driven by Scott Circle. If there be any two names in our history that stand for persons who would naturally and inevitably prefer to be far apart, those names are Daniel Webster and Winfield Scott, the former the greatest American statesman, the illustrious expounder of the Constitution who, because of his fidelity in expounding it was cold-shouldered to death by the Whigs of New England and the North. He desired his party‚Äôs nomination for the Presidency in 1852, and no man had ever nobly deserved it or was better fitted for that great office. He lost his hold on the esteem of those who should have honored him the more for his courageous candor. Not content with this degree of humiliation of the county's greatest statesman, the Whig politicians still further grieved and shamed him by nominating Scott for the Presidency. He has won renown in Mexico by marching an army of only 16,000 men form Vera Cruz to the capital and dictating the terms of peace, including payment of $100,000 in lieu of looting. It was an unjust and utterly indefensible war forced on Mexico for a partisan purpose, but Scott the soldier was not responsible that. His duty was obedience to the government, and his success was a sure title to fame. But Scott was child in politics, and his campaign had scarcely begun before his overwhelming defeat became evident. When he sought to consolidate the “foreign elements” by telling how in his Mexican Campaign, he had enjoyed “the rich Irish brogue and sweet German accent” It was seen or at any rate, strongly suspected that his defeat would involve the death of his party. And that is just what it did, although there were few “straight Whigs” and they put up the Bell and Everett ticket in a later campaign. For all practical purposes, however Gen. Scott was the funeral director of the party of Webster, Clay, Greeley and a host of great men. During that campaign Daniel Webster was slowly dying. And when, after the election of Gen. Franklin Pierce to the Presidency, Webster's great career ended. The most widely circulated address on his life and character was a seething and bitter review delivered by Theodor Parker to an audience of 6,000 in Music Hall Boston. It is not strange, in view of the forgoing facts, that men wonder and are sadly amazed at such a blunder as the placing of the bronze effigies of Webster and Scott in the art decorations of the National Capital in close proximity. Fate was pitilessly ironical on that occasion.

Pitilessly Ironical Fate, The Washington Post Sep 21, 1907, pg. 6.