George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Singleton Copley, 12 December 1792

To John Singleton Copley

Philadelphia Decr 12th 1792.


Through the hands of the Vice-President of the United States—Mr Adams—I received a few days ago your acceptable present of the Print, representing the death of the Earl of Chatham. This work, highly valuable in itself, is rendered more estimable in my eye, when I remember that America gave birth to the celebrated artist who produced it.1 For the honor you have done me in this mark of your attention, I pray you to accept my best thanks, and the assurances of my being, Sir, Your most Obedient and obliged Hble Servant

Go: Washington

ALS, Trinity College Library, Cambridge: Lyndhurst Papers; ADf, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW.

1When he left Massachusetts for London in June 1774, Boston native John Singleton Copley (1738–1815) was a well-established portraitist, recognized for his superior talent both at home and in England. From Great Britain he traveled first to Paris and then to Italy where he studied and painted for several months. By the time Copley returned to London in the fall of 1775, his wife and children had left besieged Boston with other Loyalist refugees and had settled in London, where Copley established his studio, remaining in England for the rest of his life.

Copley’s residence in England paralleled a new facet in his artistic career as he devoted more attention to historical events as the subjects of his paintings. Copley finished The Death of the Earl of Chatham in 1781, and ten years later Francesco Bartolozzi completed his engraving of it. On 10 April 1792 Copley sent two prints from the engraving to John Adams, one for Adams and the other for GW, which Adams delivered after his return to Philadelphia in November (see John Adams to Copley, 16 Nov., in MB). The print was in a “large gilt frame” at Mount Vernon at the time of GW’s death (see Prussing, Estate of George Washington, description begins Eugene E. Prussing. The Estate of George Washington, Deceased. Boston, 1927. description ends 412).

Index Entries