Charles Willson Peale (1741—1827)

by Charles Willson Peale (1741—1827)

Oil on canvas; 91.4 x 71.1 x 2.5cm (36 x 28 x 1 in). National Portrait Gallery (Smithsonian), Washington, DC.

by Charles Willson Peale (1741—1827)

Oil on canvas; 49 7/8 x 39 3/4 in. (126.4 x 101 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.

by Charles Willson Peale (1741—1827)

Oil on canvas. Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection, Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent, Philadelphia, PA.

by Charles Willson Peale (1741—1827)

Oil on canvas. Independence National Historical Park, Portrait Collection (Second Bank of the United States), Philadelphia, PA.

by Charles Willson Peale (1741—1827)

Oil on canvas; height: 124.46 cm (49 in), width: 99.06 cm (39 in). Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.

by Charles Willson Peale (1741—1827)

Oil on canvas. The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD.

by Charles Willson Peale (1741—1827)

Oil on canvas; 50 x 40-1/2 in. Private collection.

by Charles Willson Peale (1741—1827)

Oil on canvas; 36 13/16 x 32 1/16 inches (93.5 x 81.4 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA.

by Charles Willson Peale (1741—1827)

Oil on canvas; 86 1/2" x 56 3/4". Maryland State Art Collection, Annapolis, MD.

by Charles Willson Peale (1741—1827)

Oil on canvas. Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA.

For all their artistic and philosophical brilliance, the Greeks were failures at politics; Hamilton, in the Federalist, expressed horror and disgust at the distractions with which they were agitated. The Romans captured the American imagination because they had done what the Americans themselves hoped to do — sustain an extensive republic over a course of centuries. So the society of Revolutionary War officers called themselves Cincinnati; president, congress, and senate were all Roman terms. But the Roman example was also cautionary, for when they lost their virture, they slid into empire. When Franklin said, in response to a question from Eliza Powel, that the constitutional convention had produced a republic, if you can keep it, he and she would have remembered that the Romans had failed to keep theirs.

Richard Brookhiser
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington (1996)