George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Nathaniel Ramsay, 12 November 1789

From Nathaniel Ramsay

Char[l]es-Town [Md.] Novemr 12th 1789


I have to acknowledge the receipt ⟨of your⟩ letter accompanying a Commission for the office of Marshal for the district of Maryland.1 I have a most grateful ⟨sense of⟩ the honor you have confered on me by the appointment, and fondly hope that my conduct in transacting the important duties of the Office will so far correspond with my determined resolution as to merit your future approbation.

Mr Johnson ⟨illegible⟩ nonacceptance of the office of Judge, has ⟨completely⟩ deranged the Judiciary business,2 particularly that of the Admiralty and has occasioned a considerable failure of Justice to the disadvantage of the revenue and to the emolument of offenders against the laws. I cannot help expressing my fears that the extent of the duties required of the District Judge, encreased by the ⟨illegible⟩ of places at which he must attend to hold his Courts, when comp⟨mutilated⟩ary will be an effectual ⟨mutilated⟩ing accepted by any lawyer of abilities and reputation.

I must crave your Excellencies forgiveness for presuming to hint that perhaps Mr Paca might be an exception to the foregoing supposition.3 He is a man of an un⟨illegible⟩ fortune, and at present engaged in no business either public or private, he has ever shewn a disposition to be amused and pleased with Judical proceedings, and his Integrity and abilities as a Judge is in high estimation.

He has in an eminent degree possessed the confidence of this State, and whatever he may have lately lost of it by his op⟨position⟩ to the present government, he is now fast regaining by his heart⟨mutilated⟩ cheerful acquiescence under it.

I have not conversed with Mr Paca or any of his particular friends on this subject, and therefore have no authority for my opinions, other then my own surmises. Your Excellency will have the goodness to attribute the liberty which I have now taken in submitting to you, these suggestions, to an ardent desire to see the new Government administered with efficiency and reputation.

I have hitherto delayed writing on this subject, from a daily expectation, that the acceptance of the Judge would have put it in my power ⟨mutilated⟩quainted your Excellency; that I not only meant to accept of my Commission, but, also, to inform you, that I had actually taken upon me the execution of the Office. I am with the highest respect your Excellencies most d[e]voted Humble servant

Nat: Ramsey

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

For background to GW’s judiciary appointments, see his letter to the United States Senate submitting nominations for judicial posts, 24 Sept. 1789.

1GW’s letter of appointment to Ramsay has not been found, but it was undoubtedly similar to those sent to other judicial appointees.

3For William Paca’s appointment, see GW to James McHenry, 30 Nov. 1789, especially note 6.

Oil on canvas, 75.1 × 62.2 cm (30 × 25 in.)
Signed “E. Savage Pinx 1790”

Harvard University Portrait Collection

Provenance: Given by the artist to Harvard University in 1790 in whose possession it has remained.

Edward Savage (1761-1817) was born in Princeton, Mass., 26 Nov. 1761. Nothing is known of his artistic training in America where he painted from 1784 until going to London in 1791. After his return to the United States in 1793, he operated a museum first in Philadelphia, then in New York, and finally in Boston. Savage painted this portrait as a gift for Harvard University (Willard to Washington, 7 Nov. 1789). In New York, on 21 Dec. 1789, Washington “Sat from ten to one O’clock for a Mr. Savage to draw my Portrait for the University of Cambridge in the State of Massachusetts at the request of the President and Governors of the said university,” and two days later he wrote President Willard that Savage was “engaged in taking the portrait.” On 28 Dec. he “Set all the forenoon for Mr. Savage,” and on 6 Jan. 1790 he noted in his diary that he “Sat from half after 8 oclock until 10 for the Portrait Painter, Mr. Savage, to finish the Picture of me.” Harvard University thanked Savage on 30 Aug. 1791 for his “polite and generous attention to the University, in painting a portrait of the President of the United States, taken by him from life.”

Washington is shown wearing his military uniform and the badge of the Order of the Cincinnati.

Oil on canvas, 76.2 × 63.5 cm (30 × 25 in.)
Signed “E. Savage Pinx 1790”

Collection of the Adams National Historic Site

Provenance: Painted for John Quincy Adams, this picture has always hung in the Adams family home in Quincy, Mass., now the property of the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service.

The second life portrait of Washington by Edward Savage was painted at the request of John Adams, then vice president of the United States. Washington’s diary indicates that on 6 April 1790 he again “Sat for Mr. Savage at the request of the Vice-President to have my Portrait drawn for him.” This portrait varies from the first portrait in that the badge of the Order of the Society of the Cincinnati has been omitted. The receipt for the portrait, at the Adams National Historic Site, reads: “Received N.Y., 17th April, 1790, of the Vice President of the U.S., fortysix and 66/100 for a portrait of the Pres. of the U.S. and his lady. Edward Savage.”

Oil on canvas, 73.5 × 51 cm (29¾ × 24 11/16 in.)

Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Provenance: Won in a raffle from the artist by Daniel Sargent, Jr., who presented the picture to Dr. Jeremy Belknap. It was listed in the inventory of Belknap’s estate in 1798 as “Portrait of Geo. Washington (value) $1.50.” Inherited by Jeremy Belknap’s daughter, Elizabeth Belknap, upon whose death in 1865 it was left to Edward Belknap. Upon his death, it was inherited by his daughter Mrs. Arthur Codman. Given by Mrs. Codman to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1921.

(Amandus) Christian Güllager was born in Copenhagen on 1 Mar. 1759. He studied art at the Royal Academy and was awarded the Lille Solvmedaille in 1780. About 1783 he came to the United States where he pursued his career in Boston and Philadelphia and worked briefly in Charleston and New York City. He died in Philadelphia, 12 Nov. 1826. In addition to the painted portrait, Güllager is supposed to have made a sculpted portrait of George Washington, but the present whereabouts of that portrait is not verified. A bronze medal with a profile portrait of George Washington on the obverse has also been attributed to him (Marvin Sadik, Christian Güllager, Portrait Painter to Federal America [Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1976], 35-41).

According to Dr. Jeremy Belknap’s account on 27 Oct. 1789, “while he [Washington] was in the chapel [in Boston], Güllager, the painter stole a likeness of him from a Pew behind the pulpit. N.B. Güllager followed Gen. W. to Portsm where he sat 2½ hours for him to take his portrait wh he took in the chapel—wh however was not a bad one.” The “Chapel” sketch is unlocated, as is another replica (ibid., 74-76).

Watercolor on ivory, grisaille 6.8 × 5.2 cm (2⅝ × 2⅛ in. oval)
Signed “Me La Msse de Bréhan F”

Yale University Art Gallery, The Mabel Brady Garvan Collection

Provenance: Martha Washington to her granddaughter, Martha Custis Peter, to her daughter, Mrs. John Upshur, to her daughter Kate Upshur Moorehead (Mrs. F. F. Moorehead) to her son, Upshur Moorehead, to present owner 1947.

Madame la marquise de Bréhan accompanied comte de Moustier, French minister plenipotentiary to the United States in 1788. An amateur artist, Madame de Bréhan spent four days at Mount Vernon in November 1788 where she first met George Washington. Nearly a year later, Washington sat for her on 3 Oct. 1789 and wrote in his diary: “sat about two Oclock for Madame de Brehan to complete a Miniature profile of me which she had begun from Memory and which she had made exceedingly like the Original.” The miniature, framed back to back with the marquise’s miniature of Nelly Custis, Mrs. Washington’s granddaughter, was taken back to France to be engraved. That the marquise painted several replicas and the picture was engraved is substantiated by a letter to George Washington from the comte de Moustier of 11 May 1790. The letter also indicates that the marquise intended to send the original portrait to Mrs. Washington and make a replica for herself.

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