To the Virginia Delegates in Congress Paris, July 12, 1785
-- In consequence of the orders of the Legislative & Executive bodies of Virginia, I have engaged Monsr. Houdon to make the Statue of Genl. Washington. For this purpose it is necessary for him to see the General. He therefore goes with Doctr. Franklin, & will have the honor of delivering you this himself. As his journey is at the expence of the State according to our contract, I will pray you to favor him with your patronage & counsels, and to protect him as much as possible from those impositions to which strangers are but too much exposed. I have advised him to proceed in the stages to the General's. I have also agreed, if he can see General Greene & Gates, whose busts he has a desire to make, that he may make a moderate deviation for this purpose, after he is done with General Washington.
But the most important object with him is to be employed to make General Washington's equestrian statue for Congress. Nothing but the expectation of this could have engaged him to have undertaken this voyage. The pedestrian statue for Virginia will not make it worth the business he loses by absenting himself. I was therefore obliged to assure him of my recommendations for this greater work. Having acted in this for the state, you will I hope think yourselves in some measure bound to patronize & urge his being employed by Congress. I would not have done this myself, nor asked you to do it, did I not see that it would be better for Congress to put this business into his hands, than those of any other person living, for these reasons:
- he is without rivalship the first statuary of this age; as a proof of which he receives orders from every other country for things intended to be capital:
- he will have seen General Washington, have taken his measures in every part, and of course whatever he does of him will have the merit of being original, from which other workmen can only furnish copies.
- He is in possession of the house, the furnaces, & all the apparatus provided for making the statue of Louis XV.