George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Betty Washington Lewis, 21 September 1779

From Betty Washington Lewis

Mount Vernon Septembr 21st 1779

My Dr Brother

Yours of the 27th of June I receiv’d with the Inclos’d from Mr Peale, also the miniature Picture—for which I am much Indetted,1 there was no mention in your Letter or Mr Peales what the expence of Drawing amounted to. I Shall Send the Mony by any Person he shall direct to receive it.2

we Mr Lewis Betty3 and my self is Just from the Berkly Springs, to See my Sister Washington4 in our way Home and am Happy to find her So hearty, and look so well and Could I of found you there it would of Compleat’d My Happiness, O when will that Day Come that we Shall meet again—I trust in the Lord soon, till when you have the sincere Prayr’s and Good wishes for your helth and happiness of your Loving and sincerely Affect: Sister

Betty Lewis

Mr Lewis George5 and Betty Join me in thear Love and Good wishes.


1GW’s letter to Lewis has not been found, but GW presumably wrote to his sister about this miniature. On 16 Aug., Charles Willson Peale wrote in his diary: “gave the Coppy of Genl. Washington in miniature with the Genls. letter for his Sister in Fredericksburg to Mr. Sheaf who was then setting out for that place” (Miller, Peale Papers, description begins Lillian B. Miller, ed. The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family. 4 vols. New Haven, 1983–96. description ends 1:326). As Peale makes no mention of sending a letter of his own to Lewis, GW probably had enclosed a letter from Peale to GW, dated “Phi[ladelphi]a 17 [May-June] 1779,” reading: “The Miniature which you wrote for some time past I have now finished it is Coppyed from the Portrait which you did me the honor to sit for when last here, and I hope the likeness will be Striking to the Lady your Sister, for I have taken much pains to have it a just Resemblance.

“I did intend to have sent it by Mr Brice, but on a second thought I will wait your farther orders and directions, perhaps you would chuse to have it sett—at present I shall put it [in] a Box of my Own making” (LB, PPAmP: Charles Willson Peale Papers). Part of the closing and Peale’s signature were cut from the letter book. No letter from GW to Peale requesting the miniature has been found. Edmund Brice was a former student of Peale’s.

Before writing to his sister on 27 June, GW appears to have answered Peale’s letter and asked Peale to forward his letter to Betty, so Peale’s letter to GW must be dated before 27 June. Peale copied the miniature from the portrait of GW that the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania had commissioned him to paint in January. GW sat for the portrait while meeting with the Continental Congress Committee of Conference that month. Peale apparently completed the portrait sometime in March; see GW to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, 20 Jan., the notes to that document, and Joseph Reed to GW, 2-c.5 April. GW replied to the latter letter on 8-9 April, and he must have written to Peale for the miniature sometime after that date. Peale therefore probably wrote to GW about completion of the miniature in May or June.

2On 15 Oct., GW wrote to Peale from West Point: “My Sister informs me that She has received the Miniature picture you drew for her. I thank you for doing it & shall be glad to know the cost that I may pay it to you or your order” (ALS [retained copy], DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

3Betty Lewis (1765-1830) was the daughter of Betty Washington Lewis and Fielding Lewis. In 1781 she married Charles Carter, the son of Edward and Sarah Champe Carter of Blenheim, in Albemarle County, Virginia.

4Lewis is referring to Martha Washington.

5George Lewis, son of Betty Washington Lewis and Fielding Lewis, served in GW’s guard in 1776 and later became a captain in the 2d Continental Dragoons before leaving the army in February 1779 (see GW to George Lewis, 13 Feb., and Lewis to GW, 23 Feb.).

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