The Capitol Dome

Fall 2014

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Page 42 of 59

THE CAPITOL DOME 41 William ornton, original architect of the Capitol, district commissioner, and superintendent of the Patent Office, painted this watercolor image of the conflagration of Washington, D.C. in 1814. e dramatic image captures the fire on the waterfront, probably the Navy Yard, illuminating the evening sky. Ironically, the Navy Yard and U.S. ships under construction were burned by the Americans to prevent the British from seizing valuable military equipment and supplies. L IB R A RY O F C O N GRE S S PRIN T S A ND PH OTO GR A PH S D I V I SI O N Would that be conquering London town? Would that subvert the English throne, Or bring the royal system down? With all their glare of guards and guns, How would they look like simpletons, And not at all the lion's sons! Supposing, then, we take our turn, And make it public law, to burn, Would not old English honour spurn At such a mean, insidious plan, Which only suits some savage clan— And surely not the Englishman! A doctrine has prevail'd too long; A king, they hold, can do no wrong— Merely a pitchfork, without prong: But de'il may trust such doctrines more; One king, that wrong'd us, long before, Has wrongs, by hundreds, yet in store. He wrong'd us forty years ago; He wrongs us yet, we surely know; He'll wrong us till he gets a blow at, with a vengeance, will repay e mischiefs we lament this day, is burning, damn'd, infernal play; Will send one city to the sky, Its buildings low, and buildings high, And buildings—built the Lord knows why; Will give him an eternal check, at breaks his heart, or breaks his neck, And plants our standard on Quebec. Source:; from William McCarty, comp., e American National Song Book (1842). 1. e epigram is a quotation in Latin from Virgil's Aeneid describing the burning of Troy by the Greeks.

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