December 3, 1755: Birth of Gilbert Stuart

Gilbert StuartGilbert Stuart was both a great artist and a great procrastinator. His iconic portrait of George Washington is best known for being unfinished.

In 1822, my Great-great-great-great grandfather James Perkins sat to have his portrait painted by the well-known portraitist. The two were good friends and James, being a very prosperous China trader, had a cellar full of excellent Madeira wine which they both enjoyed. Presumably, the portrait was coming along quite well as they spent considerable time together.

Unfortunately for both the artist and the sitter, James contracted pneumonia and died rather suddenly on the first day of August.

Shortly afterwards, James’s brother, “Colonel” Thomas Handasyd Perkins, called at the studio, expecting to see the portrait almost complete. He found only an initial sketch on the easel, and Colonel Perkins was outraged. Stuart did his best to explain the situation, but Tom stormed out, “Very well, Mr. Stuart, you have inflicted an irreplaceable loss by your dilatoriness, and I shall never enter your studio again!” The words had particular effect as Thomas Handasyd Perkins was the richest man in Boston, and the acknowledged leader of the Brahmin caste.

Stuart worked feverishly from memory for the next several weeks.
Meeting Colonel Perkins by chance in the street, he begged him to reconsider and visit his studio.

Tom finally relented; “I entered the studio, and there on the easel I saw the perfect portrait of my dear brother, which (pointing to the picture on the wall) now hangs before you.”

Some years later the Trustees of the Boston Athenaeum commissioned Stuart to paint a portrait of Colonel Perkins to hang alongside the copy of the James Perkins portrait which they had commissioned.

In July of 1828, it was the Trustees who were outraged by Stuart’s dilatory nature when Stuart died, deeply in debt as usual, and the unfinished portrait of Colonel Perkins which they found in the studio was deemed by the executors of the estate to be not the commissioned painting, but another portrait promised for the Colonel’s widow.


December 2, 1823: James Monroe sets forth the “Monroe Doctrine”

The citizens of the United States cherish sentiments the most friendly in favor of the liberty and happiness of their fellow men on that side of the Atlantic. In the wars of the European powers in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy so to do.jamesmonroe

It is only when our rights are invaded or seriously menaced that we resent injuries or make preparation for our defense. With the movements in this hemisphere we are of necessity more immediately connected, and by causes which must be obvious to all enlightened and impartial observers.

The political system of the allied powers is essentially different in this respect from that of America. This difference proceeds from that which exists in their respective Governments; and to the defense of our own, which has been achieved by the loss of so much blood and treasure, and matured by the wisdom of their most enlightened citizens, and under which we have enjoyed unexampled felicity, this whole nation is devoted.

We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.

With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere, but with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.

December 1, 1789: George Washington seeks peace with Muhammed Ibn Abdullah – Sultan of Morocco

Great and Magnanimous Friend,

Your Majesty’s letter of August 17, 1788 …has been delivered to me. I have also received the letters which Your Imperial Majesty has been so kind as to write, in favor of the United States, to the Bashaws of Tunis and Tripoli, and I present to you the sincere acknowledgements and thanks of the United States for this important mark of your friendship for them.Morocco-MuhammadIII_(1)

We greatly regret the hostile disposition of those regencies toward this nation, who have never injured them, is not to be removed, on terms of our power to comply with. Within our territories there are no mines, wither of gold or silver, and this young nation just recovering from the waste and dissolution of a long war, have not, as yet, had time to acquire riches by agriculture and commerce. But our soil is bountiful, and our people industrious, and we have reason to flatter ourselves that we shall gradually become useful to our friends.

The encouragement which Your Majesty has been pleased, generously, to give to our commerce with your dominions, the punctuality with which you have caused the Treaty with us to be observed, and the just and generous measures taken in the case of Captain Proctor, make a deep impression on the United States and confirm their respect for and attachment to Your Imperial Majesty.

It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity of assuring Your Majesty that, while I remain at the head of this nation, I shall not cease to promote every measure that may conduce to the friendship and harmony which so happily subsist between your Empire and them, and shall esteem myself happy in every occasion of convincing Your Majesty of the high sense (which in common with the whole nation) I entertain the magnanimity, wisdom and benevolence of Your Majesty.

May the Almighty bless Your Imperial Majesty, our Great and Magnanimous friend, with His constant guidance and protection.

– George Washington

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