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.
Mather Brown (1761—1831)
Oil on canvas; 30 1/4 x 25 1/4 (76.80 x 64.14). American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA.
The artist at age 50.
Oil on canvas; 91.4 x 71.1 x (36 x 28 1/16 in).
Adams National Historical Park, Quincy, MA.
Nabby (1765—1813), daughter of John and Abigail Adams.
Oil on canvas; 34 ½ x 27 ¼ in. (90.2 x 71.3 cm). Boston Athenæum, Boston, MA.
Portrait by unknown artist after a 1785 painting by Brown.
Oil on canvas; H. 30 in. (76.2 cm), W. 25 in. (63.5 cm). Private collection.
Oil on canvas; 249.9 x 181.6 cm. Royal Collection Trust, London, England.
Oil on canvas.
Oil on canvas; 8 3/16 x 64 3/8 in. (249.4 x 163.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.
Oil on canvas. New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT.