The unattractive truth was that the arrival of the provisional treaty ending the war in April 1783 made the Continental Army superfluous, and the sooner it disappeared, the better. Congress eventually voted to provide full pay for five years for officers in lieu of half pay for life, but doing so was a purely rhetorical exercise, since there was no money in the federal coffers to pay anyone. Even that meaningless commitment generated widespread criticism, especially in New England, where returning officers were greeted with newspaper editorials describing them as blood-beaked vultures feeding at the public trough. At least in retrospect, the dissolution of the Continental Army in the spring of 1783 was one of the most poignant scenes in American history, as the men who had stayed the course and won the war were ushered off without pay, with paper pensions and only grudging recognition of their service.
Gilbert Stuart (1755—1828)
Oil on canvas; 73 x 60.5 cm (28 3/4 x 23 13/16 in). National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
Athenaeum portrait. Oil on canvas.
Oil on canvas.
Oil on canvas; height: 42.55 cm (16.75 in), width: 32.39 cm (12.75 in) Redwood Library and Athenaeum, Newport, RI.
Oil on canvas; 30 x 25 in. (76.2 x 63.5 cm). Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, MA.
Oil on canvas; 895 x 698 mm. Tate, London, England.
Oil on canvas; 35 1/2 in. x 27 1/2 in. (902 mm x 699 mm). National Portrait Gallery, London, England.
Oil on canvas; 26 1/2 in. x 22 1/4 in. (673 mm x 565 mm). National Portrait Gallery, London, England.
Oil on canvas; 91.6 x 76.4 cm (36 1/16 x 30 1/16 in.) National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
Oil on canvas. National Portrait Gallery (Smithsonian), Washington, DC.