Anson Dickinson (1779—1852)

by Anson Dickinson (1779—1852)

Watercolor on ivory; 2 1/2 x 3 in. ( 6.4 x 7.6 cm ). New-York Historical Society, New York, NY.

by Anson Dickinson (1779—1852)

Watercolor on ivory; after the 1772 portrait by Charles Willson Peale; 5-1/4 x 3-7/8 in (13.3 x 9.8 cm). Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati,

As in the case of his career as commander-in-chief, Washington’s most important act as president was his giving up the office. The significance of his retirement from the presidency is easily overlooked today, but his contemporaries knew what it meant. Most people assumed that Washington might be president as long as he lived, that he would be a kind of elected monarch like the king of Poland. Hence his retirement from the presidency enhanced his moral authority and set a precedent for future presidents.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)