This paper will discuss the use of classicism in three works of art that are related to George Washington. The first art form is the painting from Charles Wilson Peale of General Washington made after he won the battles of Trenton and Princeton at the time of the revolutionary war. Next, the farewell address written by President Washington in 1796 after he decided to relinquish his presidential role and shared his wisdom to maintain unity and warned them against maintaining alliances with foreign nations. Finally, the letter from General Washington in 1778 to Governor Clinton was written to ask for help from at the time of the revolutionary war.
Knowledge from Documents
He informs about the dreadful situation the army is in and the sad prospects ahead with respect to the futurity. He states “Naked and starving as they are, we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiery, that they have not been ere this excited by their sufferings, to a general mutiny or dispersion”. He tells that the situation is more alarming than it can be conceived and could be understood only by those on the spot. He said that the situation has been nothing short of famine for past few days in the camp, “For some days past, there has been little less, than a famine in camp”.
In early 1796, President Washington decided to not get re-elected for his third term as President and started to draft his farewell address for the people of American. Washington warned specifically from the destructive potential causes or parties that, “now and then answer popular ends” but over time that can “become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government”. In terms of foreign affairs, he warned Americans against any long-term alliances with foreign nations (yale.edu). Washington stated “the invidious wiles of foreign influence,” he urged for the general policy of neutrality, and he counselled against any “permanent alliances”.
The George Washington painting at Princeton by Peale displays classicism through the stance, historic dress and symbols in the landscape. These literary forms help the audience understand the nature of victory that the revolutionary army had after successfully beating the British at Princeton. Washington’s iconic stance shows the critical moment from the revolutionary war that powerfully evokes the American triumph in the face of insurmountable odds. The painting emphasizes Washington’s position as the leader of the Revolutionary Army.
Similarly, as the leader of America, in the Farewell Address Washington begins by announcing his retirement from the American presidency. He displays deep humility with his hope that as President he discharged the trust placed on him by the countrymen by giving his “best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable”. He gave the people of America the recipe for their happiness in ordered liberty and virtue. He ended his passage with the statement of the American exceptionalism, "I shall carry it with meevery nation which is yet a stranger to it" earlyamerica.com.
Finally, the letter to Governor Clinton was his act of leadership as the General of the revolutionary army. In his letter to Governor Clinton, George Washington informs that the new American government lacked enough money for purchasing supplies for their troops. He shows immense care for his troops who are suffering from a situation similar to famine and need help in any form possible. From his hero status he gained as the Continental Army’s Commander-in-Chief to his presidency Washington was the epitome of classical leader.
Comparison and Contrast (Farewell Address & Princeton Painting)
The classicism portrayed with the bearing and stance of George Washington expresses the unshakable confidence he had in the American cause and hailing the greatness in unity in the farewell address that is founded on the prosperity and necessity, and graced further by character of the citizens. This is a display of strong traditionalism that both Peale as the painter and Washington as the writer encounter in their work. Both these works of art share classicism with portrayal of discipline from both Peale and Washington. The painting displays discipline on the part of George Washington portrayed as a winner and leader guiding the nation during the revolutionary war. Similarly, the farewell address depicts discipline with the final instructions of George Washington to the people of America.
In contrast, the painting from Peale displays Washington as confident war hero who has successful won at Princeton and the British flag portrays his victory. Whereas, the Farewell letter is the wisdom of President Washington after he decides to relinquish his Presidency and shows the calmness to guide his country through his selflessness and optimistic beliefs about the future (uncp.edu). In addition, farewell address is the expression of George Washington himself but the painting is a portrayal of Washington from Peale to describe a victorious and confident General in the revolutionary war.
All American: Glossary of Literary Terms. n.d. uncp.edu. Web. 2014
Washington, G. Washington's Farewell Address 1796. Lilian Goldmen Law Library. yale.edu. Web. 2014
Archiving Early America. George Washington's Farewell Address To the People of the United States. Early America. earlyamerica.com. Web. 2014