Benjamin Butler


“Chiseling the monuments”: Lafcadio Hearn Observes the Statues of Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson in 19th-Century New Orleans

In light of the current spectacle of statues of Confederate leaders being removed from the streets of New Orleans in the dead of night by masked workers, here is journalist Lafcadio Hearn commenting upon two other statues in that city in his article “New Orleans in Wet Weather” published in the Cincinnati Commercial on December 22, 1877.

…shortly after my arrival in the city I paid a visit to the venerable statue of Henry Clay, on Canal street. It stands in the center of the grand thoroughfare, and is inclosed (sic) by a railing. On the eastern face of the quadrangular pedestal I observed following inscription, deeply cut into the stone and blacked. At least two-thirds of the inscription had been well nigh erased by the removal of the black pigment of the letters, but the phrase “deepest stain” was wonderfully distinct, and the word “SLAVERY” as black as the changeless skin of the Ethiopian:

“IF I COULD BE INSTRUMENTAL IN ERADICATING THIS DEEPEST STAIN, SLAVERY, FROM THE CHARACTER OF OUR COUNTRY, I WOULD NOT EXCHANGE THE PROUD SATISFACTION OF WHICH I SHOULD ENJOY FOR THE HONORS OF ALL THE TRIUMPHS EVER DECREED TO THE MOST SUCCESSFUL CONQUERORS.—HENRY CLAY.”

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“Chiseling the monuments”: Lafcadio Hearn Observes the Statues of Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson in 19th-Century New Orleans

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