George Washington ordered his overseers to begin the 1767 wheat harvest on June 24, a hot, cloudy Saturday at the end of a dry week. Thus began twenty days of unrelenting exertion for Mount Vernon’s slaves and no little anxiety for their master, who for the first time had given over his holding almost entirely to the cultivation of grain. Much depended on the success of this experiment, which was a crucial element in Washington’s scheme to free himself of the debts he had accumulated over the years of failing to produce tobacco that would sell on London’s finicky market. Rich as he was in land, he feared that, like so many of his fellow planters, he too would become permanently dependent on his English merchant creditors. It was a fate he dreaded above all, for to suffer it meant that he would lose the essence of a gentleman’s character, independence, and with it the capacity to behave in a truly virtuous way.
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.