Our nation’s most revered cultural icons in the US Capitol went unnoticed by the horrific rioters and news commentators during the past month. The US Capitol houses an extensive, thoughtfully curated art collection. Anchoring the holdings are statues of notable citizens in the semi-circular Statutory Hall and other Capitol locations. Each state is authorized to furnish two sculptures.Revolutionary War politicians and generals dominate the original thirteen states’ honorees. Representing one-half of the original thirteen states’ selections, the Revolutionary leaders include five generals, five signers of the Declaration of Independence, and eight Continental Congress delegates. New York, Maryland, and Connecticut devote both of their statutes to Revolutionary Era leaders. The three most southern original states do not honor revolutionary leaders.
Only two states outside of the original thirteen dedicate their statues to Revolutionary leaders. Tennesee commemorates the militia services of John Servier and Andrew Jackson. Lastly, Vermont honors Ethan Allen, the conqueror of Fort Ticonderoga, at the start of the American War of Independence.
Most striking, the sixteen Revolutionary War honorees have permanently remained in place since their enshrinement. Increasingly, states are replacing honorees from other eras. States have rotated out eight statues within the Capitol complex, with another nine substitutions in process. Additionally, two other states are considering replacements. With only nine women, one African American, one Hispanic and ten Confederate leaders, the changing pace is likely to continue. Amidst this transformation, the Revolutionary Era icons’ staying power is remarkable. However, it would be wonderful if one of the switches would be to add an inspirational female Revolutionary era leader such as Phyllis Wheatley or Abigail Adams.
The relative permanence of the Revolutionary Era statues in the Capitol demonstrates that the spirit of 1776 lives on in America’s hearts and minds. As a nation, we continually strive to advance its sometimes hollow but at all times noble ideals.