J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Panel on Washington in Roxbury, 24 Oct.

On 3 May 1797, Rufus King, then in London as the U.S. minister to Great Britain, wrote this in his diary:
Mr. [Benjamin] West called on me—we entered into politics after speaking of the Dinner at the Royal Academy and of the annual exhibition; Mr. West said things respecting Amer. had changed very much; that people who cd. not formerly find words of unkindness enough now talked in a different language; that the King had lately spoken in the most explicit manner of the wisdom of the American Gov. and of the abilities and great worth of the characters she produced and employed. He said the King had lately used very handsome expressions respecting Mr. [John] Jay and ——— and that he also spoke in a very pleasing manner of Mr. [Christopher] Gore.

But that in regard to Genl Washington, he told him since his resignation that in his opinion “that act closing and finishing what had gone before and viewed in connection with it, placed him in a light the most distinguished of any man living, and that he thought him the greatest character of the age.”
Two years later, on 28 Dec 1799, the British painter Joseph Farington called on West, and the older man began telling stories about British-American relations. According to Farington’s diary, West described this conversation with George III at some unspecified time toward the end of the war:
The King began to talk abt. America. He asked West what would Washington do were America to be declared independant. West said He believed He would retire to a private situation.—The King said if He did He would be the greatest man in the world.
West might have amalgamated his conversations with the king, but it’s clear that by the late 1790s George III firmly admired Washington for how he stepped away from positions of authority.

On the afternoon of Saturday, 24 October, the Shirley-Eustis House in Roxbury will host a panel discussion about Washington’s recurrent decision to give up power: “George Washington: The Ruler Who Would Not Be King.” The panelists include:
  • Dr. Robert Allison, chair of the History Department at Suffolk University and author of numerous histories of the Revolution.
  • Dory Codington, author of the Edge of Empire series of novels.
  • Stephanie Davis, journalist and founder of Embedded Systems of Boston.
The event begins at 3:00 P.M. Refreshments will be served in the second hour. Admission is $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Register through Eventbrite.

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