“Let Us Raise a Standard to Which the Wise and Honest Can Repair”
Words attributed to George Washington on the Arch are from the 1797 U.S. Constitutional Convention – but some dispute he said them
At the top of the 127 year old Arch at Washington Square Park is, appropriately, a quote from George Washington, for whom the monument is named.
It reads: “Let Us Raise a Standard to Which the Wise and Honest Can Repair. The event is in the hand of God.” – Washington
I believed initially that it references war but I was corrected by a reader a couple years ago.
Officially, the structure is named Washington Arch and it marks 127 years (thereabouts) this year.
Commenter Richard wrote:
The quote is in reference to the U.S. Constitution at the opening of the Constitutional Convention on May 25 1787, but there’s some question as to whether or not Washington actually said it. See the “Disputed” section at this page: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/George_Washington#Disputed
This George Washington Disputed Wikipedia page states:
Americans! let the opinion then delivered by the greatest and best of men, be ever present to your remembrance. He was collected within himself. His countenance had more than usual solemnity; his, eye was fixed, and seemed to look into futurity.
“It is (said he) too probable that no plan we propose will be adopted. Perhaps another dreadful conflict is to be sustained. If to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.“
This was the patriot voice of Washington; and this the constant tenor of his conduct. With this deep sense of duty, he gave to our Constitution his cordial assent; and has added the fame of a legislator to that of a hero. Attributions in an “Oration upon the Death of General Washington, Delivered at the Request of the Corporation of the City of New York On the 31st of December, 1799”, by Gouverneur Morris.
Though these words, supposedly given at the opening of the Constitutional Convention, were not recorded in James Madison‘s summary of the events of 25 May 1787, George Bancroft accepted them as genuine (History of the United States of America, volume VI, Book III, Chapter I). Henry Cabot Lodge however gave cogent reasons for rejecting them (George Washington, Volume II, Chapter I).
The attribution to Washington was so widely accepted that it was engraved above the Fifteenth Street entrance to the Department of Commerce Bldg. in Washington, D.C., on the arch in Washington Square Park in New York City and on a bronze plaque above the Eighteenth Street doorway to Constitution Hall.
* * *
Richard added, “That said, even if he didn’t say the words, they were strongly associated with Washington and not out of place on the Arch.”
What do you think of this?