Kay’s Holiday Story
of George Washington
Kay Smith Artist Laureate of IL Mount Vernon Alexandria Virginia (download .pdf)
Artist Laureate of Illinois
In my holiday tribute I have included my painting of Mt. Vernon, Virginia, Plantation of George and Martha Washington. Washington’s ancestral family had lived there since 1674.
George Washington's resignation as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army was the end of his military service in the American Revolutionary War and the beginning of his return to civilian life at Mount Vernon. He arrived in Annapolis on December 19, 1783. He immediately wrote to Congress to ask how they wanted him to resign—to an audience or in writing. The answer was “audience.” George Washington was a big man, well over 6 feet tall, with heavy shoulders ,large hips and legs. He moved in perfect coordination.
On December 22nd, a public ball was held for Washington by Maryland Governor William Paca. Six hundred guests attended. Washington astonished his audience with his skill and grace at the minuet. He danced every set, so that the ladies might have the pleasure of saying that they danced with him, the President.
He knew the importance of installing a memory. At noon, on Tuesday, December 23, the secretary of the Continental Congress led the great man into the Senate Chamber of the Maryland State House. Here George Washington delivered his remarks to the assembly:
“Happy in the confirmation of our Independence and Sovereignty , and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable Nation, I resign with satisfaction the Appointment I accepted with diffidence. I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my Official life, by commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping.
“Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted. I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.”
When he walked into the Senate Chamber of the Maryland State House he was the most powerful man in the world. When he walked out he was a private citizen-free to return to his beloved Mount Vernon. It was December 24th as he briskly walked the few rods to join his man servant Billy Lee and an aide waiting with fresh horses to begin their fifty mile ride to Mount Vernon.
Washington had his promise to keep with Martha that he would would be with her on Christmas Eve before candle light. The three horsemen left at full gallop. Apparently they rode hard all day and into the night. On Christmas Eve they came riding up the graceful curving drive of Mount Vernon. Martha and the children were waiting. It was a joyous evening. The General had found time for shopping. In his saddle bags for Martha he brought a locket and a dress cap. For his three little step-granddaughters, little pocket books, thimbles, sashes, and children’s books. For his step grandson, his namesake, age two and a half, he brought a whirligig, a small fiddle, and a toy gun. Washington was now nine years older. He and Martha would enjoy 16 years of domestic happiness, although only half of this period would be spent at Mount Vernon.
In 1789 Washington was unanimously elected as our first president. The sequestered life that the citizen-soldier had envisioned would prove to have been a mirage. A kind of “destiny’’ drew him once again to assume the leading role on the stage of public life.
George and Martha were married for forty years and exchanged as many as a thousand letters. Historians of today are finding proof of some of this correspondence. Nathanial Green described them in a letter to his wife, “Mrs Washington is excessively fond of the General and he with her.”
When George Washington died, Martha, his trusted companion, said she had shared him with the American people all her married life and she would not share or show their personal letters to the public, so she burnt all of them one by one into ashes. Only three escaped the flame.
These images are a unique resource. They preserve history, encourage art appreciation, and facilitate commercial applications. The organization or individual that acquires the Collection or its core paintings will be a steward of American history.
Kay Smith has lived and painted in Chicago for over 70 years. An esteemed teacher, historian and lecturer, as well as painter, Kay is our Artist Laureate of Illinois, a lifetime appointment. She was also awarded the national George Washington Honor Medal.
Kay’s artwork has enjoyed major exhibits at the Harry S Truman Presidential Library and Museum, the Yorktown Victory Center and the Illinois Governor’s Mansion, among dozens of other venues. Most recently, the Pritzker Military Museum & Library commissioned her “Red Tails Escorting the B-17s” watercolor, honoring the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, which now hangs in its oral history room.
To view the entire Collection and discuss possibilities for its display, preservation or purchase please contact Kay Smith by text at 773.709.2690 email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at kaysmithartist.com Printable Version