George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Lee, 3 July 1792

To Henry Lee

Philadelphia July 3d 1792.

Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 20th Ulto was presented to me yesterday by Mr Williams—who as a professional man—may, or may not be for ought I know,1 a luminary of the first magnitude. But to be frank, and I hope you will not be displeased with me for being so—I am so heartily tired of the attendance which from one cause or another has been given ⟨to⟩ these kind of people, that it is now more than two years since I have resolved to sit no more for any of them and have adhered to it, except in instances where it has been requested by2 public bodies, or for a particular purpose (not of the Painters) and could not, without offence be refused.3

I have been led to make this resolution for another reason besides the irksomeness of sitting, and the time I loose by it—which is, that these productions have in my estimation, been made use of as a sort of tax on individuals by being engraved (and that badly) and hawked about or advertised for Sale. With very great esteem & regard I am Dear Sir Yr most Obt & Affe Servt


ADfS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW; copy, ViHi. The ALS, which was sold in New York City on 21–22 Jan. 1926 at an auction conducted by the American Art Association, has not been found (American Book-Prices Current, description begins American Book-Prices Current. New York, 1895—. description ends 32 [1926], 854). The mutilated text is supplied in angle brackets from the letter-book copy.

1At this place on the draft manuscript, GW first wrote and then struck out the phrase: “be in his profession.”

2At this place on the draft manuscript, GW first wrote “the public” before striking out “the” and writing “public bodies.”

3Although declining to sit for William J. Williams on this occasion, GW allowed the artist to take his portrait two years later after receiving a request from Masonic Lodge No. 22 of Alexandria, Virginia. The resulting work, an unflattering piece showing an aged and unhappy GW wearing the costume, emblems, and insignia of the Masonic order, was completed in September 1794 (see Eisen, Portraits of Washington, description begins Gustavus A. Eisen. Portraits of Washington. 3 vols. New York, 1932. description ends 2:505–6). For an engraving of the portrait, see Charles H. Callahan, Washington: The Man and the Mason (Washington, D.C., 1913), frontispiece.

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