George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Charles Willson Peale, 27 June 1790

From Charles Willson Peale

Philad[elphi]a—June 27 [17]90

Dr Sir

I wish to be settled near Congress, and my Museum under their Patronage, having just heard that the office of Post master General is Vacant, if my abilities may be thought sufficient to do justice to such an appointment, I would use my best endeavours to be a faithful servant.1

Excuse me if I have made an improper tender of my service to fill such an office. I would not in the smallest matter be troublesome to you, and I wish also to be grateful for past favors. I will only add that my business in the Portrait line in this City, is not sufficient support for my family. I am obliged now to make journeys into Maryland to seek employment, and the thought of an office which would enable me to ⟨i⟩ncrease the Museum to a National Magnitude, by the many opportunities of obtaining articles of Cur[i]osity from every quarter, without the least expence to Congress would I flatter myself be a public benefit.

The fear of trespassing on your time makes me forbear to say many things that croud on my mind on this subject. My Duty to my family sugested this hasty Petition, but whatever is your pleasure shall be agreable to obliged friend

C.W. Peale

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, PPAmP: Charles Willson Peale Papers. The enclosure was a printed letter from Peale, 1 Feb. 1790, regarding his museum (DLC:GW).

Charles Willson Peale (1741–1827), one of the most prominent portrait painters of the Revolutionary era, was born in Maryland and apprenticed to a saddler. He studied painting under Benjamin West in London in 1767–69 and later established himself as the leading portrait painter in Annapolis and Philadelphia. During the Revolution Peale served as an officer in the Trenton and Princeton campaigns and in the defense of Philadelphia. During his military service Peale painted many of the military portraits for which he is known. After the war he established a portrait gallery and natural history museum in Philadelphia.

1Samuel Osgood did not resign as postmaster general until 11 July 1791, citing “the Inconveniences that would result to me by a Removal to Philadelphia” (see Samuel Osgood to GW, 11 July 1791, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters), but he had apparently determined as early as the summer of 1790 not to move with the government to Philadelphia. Timothy Pickering, Osgood’s ultimate successor, applied for the post in September 1790, noting that “I am informed that Mr. Osgood is determined to resign” (see Pickering to GW, 3 Sept. 1790). Peale may also have had prior knowledge of Osgood’s intentions and probably was prompted to apply for the office by expectations that Congress would soon make Philadelphia the seat of government. On 11 June the House of Representatives passed the Parker Resolution, calling for the next session of Congress to convene in Philadelphia (see DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 6:1772, 1780). Peale did not receive an appointment from GW.

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