Cambridge, April 10th, 1894.
Dear Mr. St. Gaudens,-
I have received from Mr. Atkinson, as I doubt not you have, the result of yesterday's meeting of the Committee on the Shaw Monumnet. I see no way to meet the wishes of the Committee. I cannot possibly say that this monument marks the most important step in the war, or the turning point in the war. That does not seem to me to be true. It also seems to me an exageration to say that the Fifty-fourth Regiment "brought to the Union cause the willing service of one hundred and eighty-six thousand colored soldiers." There were at least five regiments of negroes enlisted before the Fifty-fourth. No statement of doubtful historical accuracy should be put on a monument intended to endure.
I am not able to perceive that the first three lines of the inscription are patronizing toward the blacks. It is a simple fact that Shaw himself did not feel sure that black men would stand in line of battle. I have submitted these lines to Colonel T. Wentworth Higginson who is likely to be sensitive to any patronizing airs, but he finds nothing of that sort in them--only a statement of obvious facts.
With regard to the mention of the words "white" and "black" I should say that the interest of the inscription was distinctly increased by having them in; but they can be omitted, because your design declares that Shaw was white and his men black.
I can find nothing patronizing in the words "Served without pay for eighteen months until given that of white troops,"--simply because that is one of the heroic things this particular regiment did, and no white regiment ever did anything like it. I confess that the line is jerky; but it has the merit of making a complicated statement in only twelve words, of which nine are monosyllables. It would be easy to write a smooth sentence stating the same fact; but it would be much longer.
The omission of the word "all" after "possess" in the last section seems to me to be an improvement. I am inclined also to strike out the two words "and resolute" following the word "brave."
I see no way to utilize the small slip enclosed. You are not making a monument to Governor Andrew.
I have taken the liberty of marking some corrections on the rough sketch of the inscription which you send me, and I have drawn a blue line through small o's, v's for u's, and the undesirable forms of m and w.
The objection to using the Latin form of the English letter U is made very clear in the large inscription; for the English V occurs eleven times in this inscription, whereas the Latin language had no letter corresponding to the English V.
Very truly yours,
Charles M. Eliot
Mr. Augustus St. Gaudens.