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.
Benjamin West (1738—1820)
Watercolor on ivory; 6.4 x 4.6 cm (2 1/2 x 1 13/16 in). Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT.
Oil on canvas; 131 x 98 cm (51-1/2 x 38-1/2 in). Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection, Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater K
General Johnson Saving a Wounded French Officer from the Tomahawk of a North American Indian. Oil on canvas. Derby Museum
Art and hand-colored print by Benjamin West; engraving by Pierre Charles Canot (c. 1710—77). Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, OH.
Art and hand-colored print by Benjamin West; engraving by William Smith (1727—1803). Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, OH.
Oil on canvas; 28 1/4 x 23 in. (71.8 x 58.4 cm). New-York Historical Society, New York, NY.
Oil on canvas; 76.2 x 61.6 cm. Private collection.
Oil on canvas; 152.6 x 214.5 cm (60 x 84-1/2 in).
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.
Oil on canvas; h:66.50 w:66.30 cm (h:26 1/8 w:26 1/16 inches). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH.
Oil on canvas; 25 x 24 7/8 inches (63.5 x 63.2 cm). Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT.