Portraits: George Washington   1 comment

Portrait by Rembrandt Peale

Portrait by Rembrandt Peale, 1795

George Washington (1732 – 1799)

The 1st President of the United States, 1789 – 1797

AKA: The Father Of His Country, The American Fabius, The American Cincinnatus

From: Virginia

College: None; he did receive a surveyor’s certificate from The College Of William & Mary

Married to: Martha Dandridge Custis

Children: None

Party: None

Previous Jobs: County surveyor, General in the Virginia Militia, Planter, Delegate to the First and Second Continental Congress, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Distiller, President of the Constitutional Convention

In His Words:  “Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.”

“But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.”

“Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world that a Freeman, contending for liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.”

“Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.”

The  Athenaeum Portrait was left unfinished by Gilbert Stuart, but it is the image used on the dollar bill.

The Athenaeum Portrait was left unfinished by Gilbert Stuart, but it is the image used on the dollar bill.

“A people… who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages may achieve almost anything.”

“By the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability and expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, altho’ death was levelling my companions on every side.”

“As the first of every thing, in our situation will serve to establish a Precedent, it is devoutly wished on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles.”

To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”

“A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.”

“It is infinitely better to have a few good men than many indifferent ones.”

“The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government.”

“Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.”

Not true: From The Moral Washington:

George Washington’s reputation as a man of moral fortitude reveals more about America’s view of morality than it does about the man himself. Washington was an exceedingly bland heroic leader, embodying an eighteenth-century ideal of republican virtue that emphasized duty, sacrifice and honorable disinterest. Flamboyance and daring were emphatically not required. Washington’s virtue was admirable, but not overly interesting.

Perhaps this is why the most famous example of his fortitude of character is, in fact, just fiction. The story of Washington and the Cherry Tree, a tale which still lingers through probably every grammar school in the U.S., was invented by a parson named Mason Locke Weems in a biography of Washington published directly after his death. Saturated with tales of Washington’s selflessness and honesty, A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits, of General George Washington (1800) and The Life of George Washington, with Curious Anecdotes Laudable to Himself and Exemplary to his Countrymen(1806) supplied the American people with flattering (and often rhyming) renditions of the events that shaped their hero. Weems imagined everything from Washington’s childhood transgression and repentance to his apotheosis when “at the sight of him, even those blessed spirits seem[ed] to feel new raptures” (Weems, 60). According to historian Karal Ann Marling, Weems was struggling to “flesh out a believable and interest ing figure … to humanize Washington” who had been painted as “cold and colorless” in an earlier, poorly selling biography. While it is likely that some readers of the time questioned the authenticity of the tales, Weems’ portraits soared in popularity in the early 1800s.

More than a century later, Weems would be vigorously debunked by a new corps of biographers intent on resurrecting the real truth of Washington’s life. Some favored dismantling the myth wholesale and dismissing it from the record. Others, however, intended to portray the story as apocryphal, but commend its inspirational value anyway. As Marling quotes from a woman who remembered every verse of the story from her days as school, “If the tale isn’t true, it should be. It is too pretty to be classified with the myths” (Marling, 310).

The Washington Family by Edward Savage, painted between 1789 and 1796, shows (from left to right): George Washington Parke Custis, George Washington, Eleanor Parke Custis, Martha Washington, and an enslaved servant: probably William Lee or Christopher Sheels.

The Washington Family by Edward Savage, painted between 1789 and 1796, shows (from left to right): George Washington Parke Custis (Grandson of Martha), George Washington, Eleanor Parke Custis (Granddaughter of Martha), Martha Washington, and an enslaved servant: probably William Lee or Christopher Sheels.

True: George Washington had false teeth that were carved from whale bone, rhinoceros ivory and deer antlers. Sources disagree on whether there were wooden teeth made for him. He still had one tooth when he was elected President.

Only George Washington has received 100 percent of the electoral votes, in both his first election in 1789 and his second in 1792.

The first constitution of the USA was titled “Articles of Confederation” and was in force between 1781 and 1788. It created a single house of Congress and no executive – but for one year during this period (1781-2), John Hanson served as “President of the United States in Congress Assembled.” Hanson was followed by Elias Boudinot (1783), Thomas Mifflin (1784), Richard Henry Lee (1785), Nathan Gorman (1786), Arthur St. Clair (1787), and Cyrus Griffin (1788). George Washington was the first President under the Constitution of June 21, 1788, ratified by 1790.

His first inauguration address was 90 seconds long and consisted of 183 words. The second inaugural address was only 135 words. That was the shortest inaugural address by a president.

George Washington was a passionate reader. He especially liked English books on agriculture. He even read books while riding horseback. His reading speed was not particularly fast, but he was consistent and persistent.

Vermont, Kentucky and Tennessee all joined the Union during his Presidency.

He was the only President to not live in Washington, DC … he lived at Mount Vernon, in Virginia.

Washington served 2 terms, and refused to serve a 3rd term. His willingness to walk away from power — when many wanted to make him a king — was one of his most powerful demonstrations of what a President should be.

At one time he was the largest distiller of whiskey in Virginia.

In his will, Washington freed his 300 slaves.

The Official Portrait: Gilbert Charles Stuart painted George Washington many, many times. One of his paintings is unfinished, called The Athenaeum. It is his most celebrated and famous work: this is the image of Washington used on the $1 bill. Stuart and his daughters are known to have made 100+ copies of the painting, which they sold for $100 each.

The Official White House Portrait of Washington is one of four copies of what is called the Landsdowne portrait. It was completed in 1797, and hangs today in the East Room of the White House. (Another version hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.) Congress allocated $800 in 1800 to purchase the portrait for the White House.

During the War of 1812, British troops burned Washington. This painting was saved through the intervention of First Lady Dolley Madison and Paul Jennings, a slave owned by President James Madison.

George Washington, Official White House Portrait



Big Mo

The Moral Washington

National Portrait Gallery: The Landsdowne Portrait

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: American’s Love George Washington’s Nose

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  1. Pingback: George Washington in the cherry blossoms | Millard Fillmore's Bathtub

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