Etched in History!
© 2021 Mohammed M Masood
Mount Rushmore in South Dakota has the faces of four US presidents carved on it. Find out about how and why they made it there. Know about their legacy that is etched in American History.
Four iconic Presidents of USA are etched on Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills mountain range which is located in the state of South Dakota which is in Northern Central America. These 4 Presidents are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln (in order of view from left to right).
Img: Mount Rushmore with colossal faces of four US Presidents carved on it. Img Courtesy: Wikipedia
Their face sculptures carved into the mountain are nearly 60 feet and the whole construction work took place over a period of 14 years from 1927 to 1941 and it costed around $1 million. It was the idea of state historian of South Dakota Doane Robinson who took the help of renowned sculptor Gutzon Borglum for this project, the main reason behind this massive colossal construction was to attract tourists to South Dakota in order to boost its economy (1).
However, what I think makes Mount Rushmore stand out is the choice of the US Presidents who are sculpted on it. They were chosen to represent the nation’s birth, growth, development and preservation (2).
George Washington the 1st President of the United States (1789-1797) and a founding father led the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War and gained independence for America from Great Britain in spite of the odds against the revolutionaries and the military might of the British Empire. An indispensable military leader who is hailed as the greatest enemy that Britain ever faced (3). He served as the Nation’s first President and served two terms in office and declined to take up a third term thus setting precedence of a maximum of two terms for all US Presidents to come (4). Being the 1st President of the United States, he was very conscious of his actions and worked very hard as he knew that his conduct in office would determine how the future Presidents would behave and govern the nation.
A unique feature about his Presidency is that he chose a policy of neutrality in international conflicts something which one will find very amusing today. He even made a proclamation of neutrality in 1793 to avoid getting into a war between France and Great Britain (5). He also signed treaty with Spain establishing friendly relations and to firm up the borders between the US and Spanish territories in North America (6). Overall a great military commander, statesman and a great President. The capital of USA is named after him.
Img: Surrender of Lord Cornwallis to George Washington at Yorktown, Oct 1781, Copy of lithograph by James Baillie, circa 1845.
Next to George Washington is Thomas Jefferson the 3rd President of USA who served two terms in office like Washington from March 1801 to March 1809. Thomas Jefferson is also a founding father of the American nation and is the author of the famous Declaration of Independence which basically announced the independence of USA from the British Empire (7). He is also credited with the Virginia statute for religious freedom which basically separated the church from state and granted religious freedom to all men to practice, profess and propagate their religion of choice (8).
His other major accomplishment was that he doubled the size of the United States area wise by purchasing the Louisiana territory from France in 1803 for a sum of $15 million (9). He is also credited with banning the slave trade which was made an act that prohibited importing any newer slaves into the United States (10). However, it is interesting to note that he owned many slaves and unlike Washington who left a will to free his slaves after his wife death made no such will. But this step of banning import of new slaves into United States was undoubtedly a step closer to the abolishment of slavery altogether. Jefferson other notable contributions were founding of university of Virginia and establishment of US military academy which is considered as one of the finest military institutions in the world (11), indeed Jefferson was very instrumental in the growth of US not just in terms of geographical area but in other aspects as well.
Img: United states at the time of its independence in 1776, Img Courtsey: https://mapgeeks.org/
Img: Jefferson purchased Louisiana Territory from the French thus doubling the size of US. Img Courtesy: Encyclopedia Britannica
We have Theodore Roosevelt next in line of order of view however before getting to him lets look at Abraham Lincoln who is on the extreme right of Mount Rushmore and would fall at number three in terms of the chronological order in the list of Presidents at Mount Rushmore. He served as the 16th President o United States from 1861 to 1865 when he was assassinated. His contribution has been immense to the United States, it would not be incorrect to say that the very existence of United States in the present form is because of him otherwise the United States would have broken as a nation and not be the super power it is today. He led the United States into the civil war and ensured the Union was successfully against the Southern Confederate States which had broken away from the Union in 1860-61 because of differences over the institution of slavery (12). The Confederates wanted to establish a new country known as the Confederates States of America breaking away from the United States of America but Lincoln led the Union successfully and defeated the Confederate States and at the end of four years of war (1861-65) in which more than 600,000 American lives were lost, he readmitted the confederate states back into the Union and thus prevented the breakup of the country. (13). During the course of the civil war he also issued the Emancipation Proclamation which was a bold step to abolish slavery nation-wide (14). These actions led to his assassination in April 1865 while still being in office becoming the first US President to be assassinated(15).
Lincoln also had many other achievements to his credit like he signed the Homestead Act which helped poor Americans obtain lands. He also signed the Land-Grant College Act to promote higher education (16).
Img: Abraham Lincoln making the renowned Gettysburg Speech amidst the civil war in 1863 in which he mentions that all men are equal, a reference to the institution of slavery one of the chief causes of the civil war. Img Courtesy: Undated illustration, public license
Lincoln’s personal story is also very inspirational where he faced many failures and losses both personally and professionally, he even suffered a nervous breakdown but never gave up and ultimately became the President of USA (17). Even after becoming the President of USA he had a tough job at hand in maintaining the integrity of the country which none could have executed better but him. Therefore, it is no surprise that Abraham Lincoln usually ranks as the number one President of US year after year in ranking of all US presidents so far (18). A ranking and a place well deserved.
Getting to Theodore Roosevelt who is third in line and between Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, popularly known as Teddy Roosevelt he was the 26th President of US who served two consecutive terms from 1901 to 1909. He was the President who put America on the international stage, he oversaw the construction of Panama Canal which linked both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, in order to achieve this goal, the US backed the rebellion by Panama nationalists and supported their cause for freedom from Colombia who were critical of the American use of Isthmus of Panama fearing loss of sovereignty. The US even sent gunboats to protect the revolutionaries against the Colombian army and quickly recognized the new nation of Panama with whom it signed a treaty to build the canal (19). The control of the canal helped the US ships move quickly from east to west and also provided a base for its forces which made it a dominant military power in Central America.
Img: Theodore Roosevelt was known for his "big stick" foreign policy. Img Courtesy: authentichistory.com
His other achievements were that he strengthened the US navy making it the 3rd largest in the world during his tenure. He was a conservationist who stressed the importance of protecting and preserving natural resources and gave Federal Land for the establishment of National Forests and Parks (20).
He also presided over the peace treaty that ended the war between the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace (21). Indeed, he put US on the world map as a power to reckon with and set the stage for it to become the most powerful country of the world.
As seen, all the four Presidents on Mount Rushmore have etched their place in history and have contributed immensely for the United States and are responsible for what it is today. The colossal sculpture is but indeed an enduring tribute to their legacy.
© 2021 Mohammed M Masood
Notes and References:
CNN Editorial Research, Mount Rushmore National Memorial Fast Facts [https://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/01/us/mount-rushmore-national-memorial-fast-facts/index.html ,last accessed on 07th August 2021]
Editors dailymail.co.uk , To the American's he's a national hero... [https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2130213/To-Americans-hes-national-hero--British-voted-George-Washington-greatest-military-enemy.html, last accessed on 07th August 2021]
Jodey Arringto, George Washington set the standard on term limits [https://www.tribtalk.org/2017/06/20/george-washington-set-the-standard-on-term-limits/ ,last accessed on 07th August 2021]
Gregory J. Dehler, Neutrality Proclamation [https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/neutrality-proclamation/ last accessed on 07th August 2021]
Office of the Historian, Treaty of San Lorenzo/ Pinckney’s Treaty, 1795 [https://history.state.gov/milestones/1784-1800/pickney-treaty,last accessed on 07th August 2021]
Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson [https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/jeffdec.html,last accessed on 07th August 2021]
Virginia Museum of History & Culture, THOMAS JEFFERSON AND THE VIRGINIA STATUTE FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM [https://virginiahistory.org/learn/thomas-jefferson-and-virginia-statute-religious-freedom, last accessed on 07th August 2021]
Editors - Monticello.org, The Louisiana Purchase [https://www.monticello.org/thomas-jefferson/louisiana-lewis-clark/the-louisiana-purchase/,last accessed on 07th August 2021]
Editors - Monticello.org, A Solution? Jefferson Proposes Abolition of the Slave Trade [https://www.monticello.org/slavery-at-monticello/liberty-slavery/solution-jefferson-proposes-abolition-slave-trade,last accessed on 07th August 2021]
Editors - onlinecollege.org, 10 Most Prestigious Military Academies in the World [https://www.onlinecollege.org/10-most-prestigious-military-academies-in-the-world/,last accessed on 07th August 2021]
Editors - History.com, Civil War [https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/american-civil-war-history, last accessed on 07th August 2021]
Editors - History.com, President Lincoln Dies [https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/president-lincoln-dies,last accessed on 07th August 2021]
Anirudh, 10 MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN [https://learnodo-newtonic.com/abraham-lincoln-accomplishments,last accessed on 07th August 2021]
Richard Geib, So you have suffered a setback? You are not the only one to have failed. [https://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/friend/lincoln-failures.html,last accessed on 07th August 2021]
C-span.org, Presidents Survey 2021 [https://www.c-span.org/presidentsurvey2021/?page=overall,last accessed on 07th August 2021]
Editors, History.com, Panama declares independence from Colombia [https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/panama-declares-independence,last accessed on 07th August 2021]
Anirudh, 10 MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT [https://learnodo-newtonic.com/theodore-roosevelt-accomplishments,last accessed on 07th August 2021]