George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Francis Hopkinson, 19 April 1785

From Francis Hopkinson

Philad[elphi]a 19th April 1785

Dear sir

Encouraged by the friendly Notice with which you have upon every Occasion been pleased to honour me, I take the Liberty of recommending to your kind Attention my Friend Mr Pine, an Artist of acknowledged Eminence, & who has given the World many pleasing & forcible Specimens of Genius. Zeal for the American Cause has brought him over from England, to secure, whilst it is yet possible, faithful Representations of some of the most interesting Events of the late War—not ideal Pictures, but real Portraits of the Persons and Places concerned—You will easily discover the Tendency of this Letter & of Mr Pine’s Visit. Scenes, wherein you bore so conspicuous a Part, cannot be faithfully represented if you are omitted. I know you have already suffer’d much Persecution under the Painter’s Pencil—& verily believe that you would rather fight a Battle, on a just Occasion, than sit for a Picture. because there is Life and Vigour in Fortitude, & Patience is but a dull Virtue. I would not insinuate that you have not much Patience, but am very sure that you have a great deal of Good-Nature—& on this we depend on the present Occasion.

It would be no Compliment to Mr Pine to say he is the most eminent Artist, in his Way, we have ever had in this Country. But his own Pencil will display his Abilities in much better Terms than my Pen, & I have no Doubt but you will find him worthy of your Notice in every Respect.1

Mrs Hopkinson joins me in most respectful Regards to your good Lady. With sincerest Wishes for your Health & Prosperity, I am, Dear sir, Your ever affectionate friend & faithful humble servant

Fras Hopkinson

ALS, NN: Emmet Papers.

1Before the artist Robert Edge Pine arrived at Mount Vernon on 28 April with letters from Hopkinson and other prominent Philadelphians, GW heard from England about him and his intended visit to America (see George William Fairfax to GW, 10 June and 23 Aug. 1784). The letters of introduction varied only slightly in content. In his letter of 14 April, John Dickinson wrote: “Mr Pine has been engaged for several Months in painting one of the most distinguished scenes in the late Revolution. . . . His attachment [to] the American Cause, his Merit in his Profession, and his good Behaviour here, have acquired him ... a general Esteem in this Place” (PCarlD). Robert Morris, writing on 15 April, called Pine “an Eminent Historical & Portrait Painter, who has come over from England for the purpose of perpetuating in his way some of the most Striking Scenes of the late Revolution.” Morris assured GW that his own “Portrait will be the Capital Figure in most of these pieces” and informed him that “Mr Pine is also ambitious of taking the likeness of Mrs Washington” (DLC:GW). Charles Thomson wrote of Pine on 22 April: “Early in our late contest he gave a display of his genius as well as of his attachment to our cause by a piece which he designed, executed & published under the title of ‘An Appeal to Heaven.’ Animated with a desire to give further proofs of his abilities he determined to select, for his subjects, some interesting scenes in our late revolution, & with this view is come to America that he may gain a personal knowledge of the principal actors” (DLC:GW). Thomas McKean wrote on 23 April that Pine “is by profession a History and Portrait Painter,” whose “visit to Mount Vernon is with the sole view of . . . taking an original likeness, which he intends to copy into some of his pieces, particularly one, which he calls the Resignation” (MA). And Thomas Mifflin, in a perfunctory letter dated 24 April, indicated that Pine was going to Mount Vernon “to obtain the best Information respecting the most important Occurrences of the War” (DLC:GW). The complete texts of all these letters appear in CD-ROM:GW. During his visit to Mount Vernon from 28 April to 19 May, Pine painted not only GW’s and Martha’s portraits but also portraits of the four Custis grandchildren as well as one of Martha’s niece Fanny Bassett (see GW to Hopkinson, 16 May).

Index Entries