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George Washington

John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, commissioned this portrait of George Washington as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in order to flatter and reward him for liberating Boston (visible in the background) from the British in March 1776. Hancock wrote to Washington, "I beg, Sir, you will be pleased to accept my heartfelt thanks for the attention you have showed to my property in that town." Washington reluctantly accepted Hancock's invitation to sit for the Philadelphia painter and radical patriot Charles Willson Peale. In a diary entry dated June 1, 1776, Peale recorded work on the portrait along with these terse but resonant words: "This day the Continental Congress declared the United States Colonies Free and Independent States."

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