The idea to erect a monument to Burns was first proposed in 1812 by Mr John Forbes Mitchell in Bombay. A committee was formed to organize this in 1819 at the Free Mason's Tavern in London.
In 1824 sculptor John Flaxman R.A., one of the finest sculptors of the day, was commissioned to produce a life-size statue in marble.
He used the portrait of Burns by Alexander Nasmyth as a model. The poet is shown holding a bunch of daisies and reciting his poem ‘To a mountain daisy’, a bonnet and thistle lie at his feet beside a plough-share.
The pedestal states: ROBERT BURNS, BORN NEAR AYR, 25th January, 1759 DIED AT DUMFRIES, 21st July, 1796; with below a bas-relief representing 'The Poetic Muse crowning Burns with a laurel wreath'.
The statue used only half the funds raised and it was decided to build a monument to house it. Architect Thomas Hamilton was appointed as he had already designed the Burns Monument at Alloway in 1820 and Royal High School opposite.
He did not charge for the design which was based on the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, at a time when the Greek revival was in full swing.
Work was completed in 1831, and in 1839 the monument was handed over to the city council, when the statue was moved due to smoke from the gasworks below affecting the marble.
The statue is now in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street.