George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, 20 January 1779

To the Pennsylvania General Assembly

Head Quarters Philadelphia 20th Jany 1779


The liberal Testimony of approbation which you did me the honor of transmitting by the hands of His Excellency the President, coming from so respectable an Assembly cannot but make the deepest impression on my mind.1

However conscious I am that your generous sensibility attributes infinitely too much to me—my respect for you leads me to acquiesce in your request2 and gratefully to subscribe myself Gentlemen Your much obliged and most humble servt.

Df, in John Laurens’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council, meeting in Philadelphia, had adopted a resolution on 18 Jan., which reads: “Whereas the wisest freest and bravest nations in the most virtuous times have endeavoured to perpetuate the memory of those who have rendered their country distinguished services by preserving their resemblances in statues and paintings This Council deeply sensible how much the liberty, safety and happiness of America in general and of Pennsylvania in particular is owing to His Excellency General Washington and the brave men under his command Do Resolve, That His Excellency Genl Washington be requested to permit this Council to place his portrait in the Council Chamber, not only as a mark of the great respect which they bear to His Excellency, but that the contemplation of it may excite others to tread in the same glorious and distinguished steps which lead to publick happiness and private honour And that the President be desired to wait on his Excellency the General with the above request, and, if granted, to enquire when and where it will be most agreable to him for Mr Peale to attend him” (DLC:GW; see also Pa. Col. Records description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 11:671–72).

2Charles Willson Peale began work on his full-length portrait of GW at Princeton during late January while GW was in Philadelphia, and he apparently completed it after a late February visit to Trenton and Princeton to make battlefield sketches, some of which he undoubtedly used in painting the Princeton battlefield scene in the background of the portrait (see Miller, Peale Papers description begins Lillian B. Miller, ed. The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family. 5 vols. New Haven, 1983–2000. description ends , 1:302–5). The finished portrait was hung in the council chamber at the State House in Philadelphia, where vandals defaced it during the night of 9 Sept. 1781. Peale apparently repaired the damage, and the portrait is now at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Peale’s bill for the portrait, £2,021.5.0 in inflated currency, was included in the accounts that he submitted to the state of Pennsylvania at the end of the war. More profitable to Peale were the numerous copies of the portrait that he produced and sold to a variety of purchasers over a period of years. In later copies Peale updated Washington’s uniform insignia to reflect the changes of 1780, and eventually the Princeton battlefield scene in the background was replaced with a scene of the siege of Yorktown (see Sellers, Portraits and Miniatures by Charles Willson Peale description begins Charles Coleman Sellers. Portraits and Miniatures by Charles Willson Peale. Philadelphia, 1952. description ends , 225–28).

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