The controversy arose around its placement, just south of the Washington Monument. Some Baltimoreans feared it would detract from the latter, going as far as to argue that it would obscure the Washington Monument from view when looking from the south. Henry Walters, whose eponymous art gallery had just opened across the street, called in an artistic crime, and H.L. Mencken, Baltimore's resident wit, said it resembled Washington's spittoon.
The statue, on its massive plinth, was erected anyway and the controversy died down. Today, it is difficult to imagine Mount Vernon place without the Lafayette Monument. An inscription on one side of the plinth (a quote from Woodrow Wilson) succinctly states the eighteenth-century republican virtues that, to many Americans then and since, Lafayette embodied:
LA FAYETTE IMMORTAL BECAUSE A SELF-FORGETFUL SERVANT OF JUSTICE AND HUMANITY BELOVED BY ALL AMERICANS BECAUSE HE ACKNOWLEDGED NO DUTY MORE SACRED THAN TO FIGHT FOR THE FREEDOM OF HIS FELLOW-MEN.