John Trumbull, General George Washington Resigning His Commission, 1822-24

In 1781 the Continental Army defeated the British at the Siege of Yorktown. In 1783, after stamping out the military coup within his own army, General Washington voluntarily gave up his position as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army at the Maryland State House, where Congress was convening. In this monumental painting that now hangs in the rotunda of the US Capitol building, Washington is shown handing in his commission, after which he returned home to Mt Vernon to lead the life of a private citizen.

The move shocked many worldwide, as relinquishing one’s power was/is virtually unheard of. Trumbull was in London at the time and felt that the resignation “excites the astonishment and admiration of this part of the world. ‘Tis a Conduct so novel, so inconceivable to People, who, far from giving up powers they possess, are willing to convulse the Empire to acquire more.”

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