Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Meaning of Words

Fatti Maschii Parole Femine

Strong Deeds Gentle Words?

Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1399-1-526

The earliest known public printing of the George Calvert family coat of arms with the family motto was in 1635. It appeared on a map of Maryland that accompanied a pamphlet written to promote the new colony that George Calvert’s son, Cecil Calvert, had begun on the shores of the St. Mary’s River in what is today St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

Engraving of the west range of the stableyard ("aula") of Arundel House by Adam Bierling, 1646, after a drawing by its tenant Wenceslas Hollar. Source:

The motto on the coat of arms, Fatti Maschii: Parole Femine, is not associated with George Calvert until 1622, the year his wife, Anne Mynne Calvert died in childbirth with their 11th child. Anne died in August and George retired disconsolate to Arundel House, the Roman Catholic household of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel.[1] On August 12, 1622, George Calvert wrote William Cecil, the son of his patron, the second Earl of Salisbury:

1622, August 12.

I am much bound to you for the sense you have of my sufferings, and for the wise advice you give me to bear it patiently. I shall strive to do it, but there are so many images of sorrow that represent themselves every moment to me in her loss, who was the dear companion and only comfort of my life, as I doubt I shall not so easily forget it as a wise man should; for which God forgive me if I offend, who for my sins only has laid this heavy cross upon me, and yet far lighter than I deserve, though to my weak heart it be almost insupportable. St. Martin's Lane, 12 August, 1622.

Holograph. 1 p. (130. 59.) [2]

The following December someone annotated his request for official recognition of a coat of arms with the marginal note “Fatti Maschii Parole Femine”.[3] By 1632, the year of his death, he was sealing his documents with wax, embossed with a signet ring that contained the motto.[4]

Anne Mynne Calvert’s tomb, St. Mary’s Huntingfordbury, courtesy of Tom and Jane Coakley

Anne Mynne Calvert was temporarily buried at St. Martin-in- the-Fields, until her elaborate italianate tomb was completed in St. Mary’s church, Hertingfordbury.[5] The plaque beneath her reclining marble figure is a glowing tribute, apparently in Italian, and the Calvert family shield is merged into one with that of the Mynne’s, a combination reflected in Maryland’s flag today.

George Calvert was always a man of words which he attempted to translate into action first as secretary to a powerful politician, Sir Robert Cecil, and then as Secretary of State for King James the First, where he demonstrated a mastery of Italian, French, and Spanish. It was said of him “he is so well instructed in all things, as that he is able to make a large comment upon any text you should propose.”[6]

George Calvert was not always successful at verbal or written persuasion, particularly in attempting to defend the King before parliament, and in negotiating a marriage between James’s son and future King, with a Spanish princess.[7] Worn down by the effort and devastated by the loss of his wife, George Calvert, by then Baron Baltimore, as a reward from a grateful sovereign, returned to the faith of his mother and father, and sought further refuge in establishing a colony in Newfoundland that offered religious freedom, the grant for which he received on December 31, 1622.[8] The “Sad Face of Winter” proved too much for him there, and he successfully convinced the King to grant him land north of Virginia in a more accommodating climate.[9] He did not live to see the new colony, but his shield and family motto were incorporated into the great seal of Maryland which today is used to authenticate the acts of the legislature and official documents.

Since at least 1886, scholars have attempted to puzzle out the most appropriate translation of Fatti Maschii Parole Femine. One scholar suggested ‘courage and courtesy’, while the most widely touted translation in 1886 proved to be “manly deeds womanly words” based on the 17th century common translation of variant forms of an Italian or Tuscan proverb.[10] In 1886, however, they did not have the benefit of the careful research of Thomas M. Coakley, John D. Krugler, Henry Miller, and others into the lives of the Calverts. Their research uncovered new sources, and provided access to documentation that offered a new approach to the meaning of the Calvert motto. Still, as late as 1993, William Safire the noted wordsmith of the New York Times ridiculed the motto as sexist in one of his columns. Even though he generously included two letters that challenged his point of view when he published the best of his columns as a book in 1997 entitled Watching My Language, efforts to change the English interpretation of the motto in the Maryland State Code faltered.[11]

George Calvert by Daniel Mytens

Source: Jackson-Stops, Gervase. 1985. The Treasure houses of Britain: five hundred years of private patronage and art collecting. Washington [D.C.]: National Gallery of Art., p. 137.

Translating from one language to another is never easy, particularly when the matter of intent and usage is concerned. There is no question that the prevailing translation of the Italian proverb Le parole sono femine e i fatti sono maschi(i)! in Lord Baltimore’s day was “words are women deeds are men.” The great scholar and book collector Thomas Bodley after whom the Bodleian Library at Oxford University is named, used that translation disparagingly in 1605 to mean associates who did not live up to their word[12], while over two centuries later Elizabeth Herzogenberg would flirt with the composer Johannes Brahms in a long letter praising his songs and passing on gossip:

I already know a few Tuscan proverbs, one of which I will quote, because it will both bring grist to your wicked mill and serve to excuse me for sending nothing better than a gossiping epistle by way of thanks for your songs: Le parole sono femine e i fatti sono maschi![13]

George Calvert was a linguist who began his college education as a poor 14 year old Yorkshire lad admitted to Trinity College Oxford in 1593.[14] As his biographers found, his mastery of language and his ability to write, provided him with a path to wealth and employment by the Crown where he served as the King’s chief diplomat, fluent in Italian. His marriage to Anne Mynne joined him to a wealthy family whose resources he would draw upon for his colonial ventures, and provided them with eighteen years of marital happiness.[15]

It is not known if George Calvert knew of John Florio, an Italian Scholar, when he was at Oxford, but it is safe to assume that he knew his publications. He also would have known him through his friend Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, one of Florio’s students, and through his contacts with Queen Anne, wife of James I. Queen Anne proved to be Florio’s most influential patron, having been introduced to him by George Calvert’s patron and first employer, Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury. It was to Queen Anne to whom Florio dedicated his second edition of the Worlde of Words (1611), the first Italian/English dictionary, a work George Calvert would have relied upon in his use of Italian.[16]

Title page to the second edition of Worlde of Wordes, 1611

John Florio did his best to convince the world that Fatti Maschii Parole Femine should be understood gender neutral, without deprecating, sexist overtones that gave weight to deeds as masculine and disparaged words as exclusively feminine.

John Florio, possibly from a painting by Daniel Mytens

who also painted a portrait of George Calvert at about the same time.


In the dedication to the first edition of Worlde of Words published in 1598, Florio wrote:

… as our Italian’s saie, Le parole sono femine, & i fatti sono maschii, Wordes they are women, and deeds they are men. But let such know that Detti and fatti, wordes and deeds with me are all of one gender...[17]

Considerable scholarship over the past several years, especially by Stephen Greenblatt at Harvard, and Clare Asquith, the Countess of Oxford, has demonstrated that in Shakespearean England, words and phrases were coded. Their meanings contained multiple interpretations depending upon the audience. Both Greenblatt and Asquith conclude that Shakespeare’s words sent secret messages to fellow Roman Catholics, interpreted one way by his Protestant audiences, and another by Catholics.[18] The same could be said about portraits. For example take this remarkable portrait of John Florio’s Patron, Queen Anne (Anna) of Denmark in which the brooch containing the monogram symbolic of the Roman Catholic church, IHS, is prominently displayed:[19]

Anne of Denmark, after Paul van Somer, 17th century (circa 1617) - NPG 127 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Anne of Denmark after Paul van Somer

oil on canvas, feigned oval, 17th century (circa 1617)

24 3/4 in. x 21 in. (629 mm x 533 mm)

Purchased, 1861

Primary Collection

National Portrait Gallery, 127

It is time to approach interpreting the Calvert family motto as being a coded message, utilizing a gender neutral meaning that George Calvert intended for family and friends, one that he adopted shortly after Anne Mynne Calvert’s death in the spirit of John Florio’s interpretation.

Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel, 4th Earl of Surrey and 1st Earl of Norfolk, by Daniel Mytens, circa 1618 - NPG 5292 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel, 4th Earl of Surrey and 1st Earl of Norfolk

by Daniel Mytens, oil on canvas, circa 1618

81 1/2 in. x 50 in. (2070 mm x 1270 mm)

Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and allocated to the Gallery, 1980

Primary Collection

National Portrait Gallery, 5292

When his diplomatic career ran into great difficulties and his beloved wife Anne died on August 8, 1622, George Calvert sought refuge in the Roman Catholic household of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, that had learned the gender neutral meaning of Fatti Maschii Parole Femine from John Florio. In December of that year, George Calvert incorporated the Tuscan motto into his coat of arms, while at the same time he sought to found a colony that would provide religious freedom. Indeed by 1625 he no longer needed to use coded language, openly declaring himself to be of the faith of his parents and his wife.[20]

This is not to suggest that the gender neutral translation that is offered here once again as a substitute for “manly deeds womanly words” in the Maryland Code was meant exclusively for a Roman Catholic audience. It was meant as a tribute to both virtues of strength and gentleness, characteristics of Anne Mynne who, as George Calvert had inscribed on her tomb, was “a woman born to all excellent things, incomparable for honesty, cleanliness of life, wisdom, wit, and knowledge.”[21]

It is only fitting that in reflecting what George Calvert intended as a tribute to his wife, and the followers of John Florio’s Worlde of Wordes, as well as to his own public career of putting words into action on behalf of his sovereign, that the Calvert family motto at last be officially interpreted in English as “Strong Deeds, Gentle Words.”

Edward C. Papenfuse

Maryland State Archivist, Retired


The words on Anne Mynne Calvert’s tomb: Pietate, Pudicitia Prudentia Incomparabilis Feminae as found in Florio’s Italian/English dictionary, 1611 edition:

Lord Baltimore’s Map of Maryland, 1635:

Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 1399-1-526

[1] John D. Krugler, English & Catholic. The Lords Baltimore in the Seventeenth Century, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004, p. 70.

[3]the annotation could be in George Calvert’s own hand, although no one has studied his surviving letters to identify his actual handwriting. King Charles and the Duke of Buckingham permitted him to dictate or have his letters copied into legible script by a secretary. From Newfoundland in 1628 he explained to the Duke of Buckingham: I remember that his Majestie once told me that I write a fairer hand to look upon a farre as any man in England, but that when any man came neare it they were not able to read a word! Whereupon I got a dispensation both from His Majestie and your Grace to use another man's pen when I write to either of you, and I humbly thank you for it, for writing is a great pain to mee nowe. August 25, 1628, Ferryland, to the Duke of Buckingham from George Calvert, transcribed in Michael Francis Howley, Ecclesiastical History of Newfoundland, London: Burns and Oates, 1888, p. 112. By December 9, 1622, Calvert was back at work at the King’s chief diplomat attempting to resolve a problem with the late Polish Ambassador.. See the privately owned letter reproduced at,_First_Lord_Baltimore_%28c._1580-1632%29, which is probably not in Calvert’s hand. By May of the following year he appears to have been using a secretary for the letters he wrote from his home in St. Martin’s lane, See his letter to the Earl of Huntington, 29 May 1623, in the collections of the Huntington Library where the closing in his own hand is virtually illegible, provided for reference only at:,_First_Lord_Baltimore_%28c._1580-1632%29.

[4] Thomas M. Coakley, “George Calvert, First Lord Baltimore: Family Status, Arms”, Maryland Historical Magazine, 79, no. 3, Fall 1984, pp. 255-269.

[5] communication from Henry Miller, 2016/01/18. See 1936 Register of St. Martin-in-the Fields. Translated and edited by J. V. Kitto. Harleian Society Publication, vo. 66, p. 173.

[6] London, June 26, 1619 John Chamberlain, Esq. to Sir Dudley Carlton, in The Court and Times of James the First (1848), edited by Thomas Birch, vol. ii: 175.

[7] Samuel Rawson Gardiner, Prince Charles and The Spanish Marriage, 1617-1623, London: Hurst and Blackett, 1869, Volume II.

[8] 1622, Dec. 31. Grant to Sir Geo. Calvert and his heirs of the whole country of Newfoundland. [Grant Bk., p. 351.],

[9] Great Britain, PRO, Colonial Office, CO 1/5 (27), 75. “...For here, your Majesty may please to understand, that I have found by too dear bought experience, which other men for their private interests always concealed from me, that from the middest of October to the middest of May there is a sad face of winter upon all this land, both sea and land so frozen for the greatest part of the time as they are not penetrable, no plant or vegetable thing appearing out of the earth until it be about the beginning of May, nor fish in the sea, besides the air so intolerable cold as it is hardly to be endured.” See Baltimore, George Calvert, Francis Cottington Cottington, and Lawrence C. Wroth. Tobacco or Codfish, Lord Baltimore Makes His Choice. New York: New York Public Library, 1954.

[10] Maryland Fund-Publication, No. 23. The Great Seal of Maryland, by Clayton C. Hall, (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1886).

[11] William Safire, Watching My Language, Adventures in the Word Trade, (New York: Random House, 1997, pp. 37-38.

[12] Thomas Bodley, Thomas James, and George William Wheeler. 1926. Letters of Sir Thomas Bodley to Thomas James first keeper of the Bodleian library. Oxford: Clarendon press., letter 129, p. 136, “Sir Io. Parker hath promised more then yow have signified: but wordes are women, and deeds are men.”

[13] Brahms, Johannes, Heinrich von Herzogenberg, Elisabet Stockhausen Herzogenberg, Max Kalbeck, and Hannah Bryant. 1909. Johannes Brahms the Herzogenberg correspondents. New York: J. Murray., p 166.

[14]Henry Miller is the authority on George Calvert’s Oxford education. His blog entries from his research trip to England in 2012 are a well written and scholarly journey through the surviving records. He finds George Calvert enrolled in Trinity College in 1593 at the age of 14 and graduating in 1598, the year John Florio’s Worlde of Words was first published. See: and

[15] Thomas Coakley, “George Calvert and Newfoundland: “the Sad Face of Winter,” Maryland Historical Magazine, Volume 100, No. 1, (Spring, 2005), pp. 7-28. “A more probable explanation of Calvert's financial means in undertaking this venture is that he used his personal and family resources and such loans, secured by his real and personal property, as he could make. The sole piece of evidence as yet available to support this hypothesis dates from 1629, when the Avalon venture was in serious trouble. In that year Calvert's brother-in-law, George Mynne, transferred £4,000 of East India Company stock entered in his own name and £2,000 of the same stock in Calvert's name to Philip Burlamachi, the merchant-financier.” Ibid., p.13.

[16] According to John Florio’s biographer, Frances Yates, Florio left Oxford for London in 1583, ten years before George Calvert arrived, Yates does not mention Calvert, but Florio’s patron was Anne of Denmark (d. 1619) in whose household he spent considerable time. Where George Calvert learned Italian is not known for certain, but he would have known Florio in Queen Anne’s household and as the tutor to the Earl of Arundel, a good friend. As John Krugler points out, Anne of Denmark, James the First’s Queen, was committed to Roman Catholicism which the king “considered “as madness” but could only caution “her to be discreet in worship.”” Frances Amelia Yates, and John Florio. 1934. John Florio. Cambridge: Univ. Pr.. John D. Krugler, English & Catholic. The Lords Baltimore in the Seventeenth Century, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004, p. 42.

[17] Michael Wyatt in The Italian Encounter with Tudor England, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 244 ff, discusses Florio’s ‘proto-feminist’ assertion in his preface to the first edition of Worlde of Wordes (1598) that Fatti Maschii Parole Femine is and should be considered gender neutral. “Florio fashions himself quite a different type of “grammarian,” one dedicated to the potential of language for opening up entirely new horizons,” in which women are the equal of men in words and deeds. Wyatt points to the final dialogue in Florio’s Second Frutes (1591) in which Silvesto, who aims to defend the dignity of women, successfully engages in a debate over gender with the misogynist Pandolpho, refuting the sexist interpretation of the proverb fatti maschii parole femine.,

[18] Stephen Greenblatt, Will in the World, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, and Clare Asquith, Shadowplay The Hidden Beliefs and coded Politics of William Shakespeare, New York: Public Affairs, 2005. Richard Fawkes raises the possibility that music carried coded messages in “Protest songs: were there coded messages in Byrd’s sacred works?”, Classical music (23 March 1991), p. 33.

[19] For the most recent scholarly work on Anna of Denmark and her devotion to both the arts and Roman Catholicism see Anna of Denmark and the Arts in Jacobean England by Jemma Aeronny Jane Field, University of Auckland, 2015 at:

[20] Krugler, op. cit., p. 70.

[21] see below for the definitions of the words on Anne Mynne Calvert’s tomb taken from the Worlde of Wordes..

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Remembering December 23, 1783 & January 14, 1784


Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, Maryland State Archivists, retired

It has never been easy being President of the United States. On Tuesday evening, January 12, 2016, in his State of the Union address, President Obama presented his hopes for the future to a Congress that has been far from friendly over the past several years, and has persistently obstructed his proposals with a savagery of language that has been intensified on the campaign trail, as the time for the election of a new president nears.[1]

President Obama may take some solace from the fact that the press attacks on our first President under the Constitution, George Washington (1789-1797), were nearly as severe and have a familiar ring to them.[2] But Washington’s initial response to his critics were not as positive as President Obama’s address. In an early version of his famous 1796 farewell to the nation, Washington wrote:

"As this Address, Fellow citizens will be the last I shall ever make you, and as some of the [newspapers] ... have teemed with all the Invective that disappointment, ignorance of facts, and malicious falsehoods could invent, to misrepresent my politics and affections; to wound my reputation and feelings; and to weaken, if not entirely destroy the confidence you had been pleased to repose in me; it might be expected at the parting scene of my public life that I should take some notice of such virulent abuse. But, as heretofore, I shall pass them over in utter silence..." [3]

Charles Willson Peale, the Maryland Statehouse, Columbian Magazine, 1789


For the most part the words of George Washington’s contemporary critics have been forgotten and what remains is an appreciation of his efforts to mold a motley collection of often bickering states into a nation among nations in the form of another speech he gave earlier in Annapolis. You can learn a great deal about his efforts and Congress by visiting the Statehouse in Annapolis, both in person and virtually on line.

Washington was a frequent visitor to Annapolis. Prior to the war he attended the Annapolis races and dined with the colonial governor, among other prominent residents. His last visit was during his presidency in 1791 which turned out to be an unhappy one in more than one respect. He arrived on a boat from the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the midst of a storm with consequences that he relates in his diary:

Thursday [March] 24th [1791]. Left Chester town about 6 Oclock. Before nine I arrivd at Rock-Hall where we breakfasted and immediately; after which we began to embark… one of my Servants (Paris) & two horses were left [behind].[4]

Paris was Washington’s slave, nattily dressed with a new cap, who rode as post boy when they were on the road, and otherwise attended to the horses. Paris would not catch up to Washington until he reached Georgetown, after the president left Annapolis. Clearly Paris had enjoyed his taste of freedom as one of the 9 slaves that Washington had attending him in Philadelphia, and as one of the privileged slaves that accompanied the President on his visit to the Southern States in 1791.[5] By June, Washington would find Paris to be unsatisfactory, as he explained to his secretary, Tobias Lear:

Paris has become so lazy, self willed & impudent, that John (the Coachman) had no sort of government of him; on the contrary, Jno. say’s it was a maxim with Paris to do nothing he was ordered, and everything he was forbid. This conduct, added to the incapacity of Giles for a Postilion[6], who I believe will never be able to mount a horse again for that purpose, has induced me to find Paris some other employment than in the Stable—of course I shall leave him at home.[7]

Sadly, Paris would die of the ague or some other similar illness at Mount Vernon in 1794, and would not be one of the slaves that Washington set free in his will.[8]

With Paris left behind in Rock Hall in March of 1791, the President proceeded to Annapolis, as he notes in his diary:

Unluckily, embarking on board of a borrowed Boat because She was the largest, I was in imminent danger, from the unskilfulness of the hands, and the dulness of her sailing, added to the darkness and storminess of the night. For two hours after we hoisted Sail the Wind was light and a head. The next hour was a stark calm after which the wind sprung up at So. Et. and encreased until it blew a gale—about which time, and after 8 Oclock P.M. we made the mouth of Severn River (leading up to Annapolis) but the ignorance of the People on board, with respect to the navigation of it run us aground first on Greenbury point from whence with much exertion and difficulty we got off; & then, having no knowledge of the Channel and the night being immensely dark with heavy and variable squals of wind—constant lightning & tremendous thunder—we soon grounded again on what is called Hornes point where, finding all efforts in vain, & not knowing where we were we remained, not knowing what might happen, ’till morning.

Artist’s rendition of Washington’s Coach.

It does not depict Paris riding postilion which meant leading on a mounted horse to the left of the team of four.

It was the seated coachman with the whip who almost drowned on the voyage to Annapolis

Friday [March] 25th [1791]. Having lain all night in my Great Coat & Boots, in a birth not long enough for me by the head, & much cramped; we found ourselves in the morning with in about one mile of Annapolis & still fast aground. Whilst we were preparing our small Boat in order to land in it, a sailing Boat came … to our assistance in wch. with the Baggage I had on board I landed, & requested Mr. Man at whose Inn I intended lodging, to send off a Boat to take off two of my Horses & Chariot which I had left on board and with it my Coachman to see that it was properly done—but by mistake the latter not having notice of this order & attempting to get on board afterwards in a small Sailing Boat was overset and narrowly escaped drowning.

Was informed upon my arrival (when 15 Guns were fired) that all my other horses arrived safe, that embarked at the same time I did, about 8 Oclock last night.

John Eager Howard by Thomas Sully, 1834

Collection of the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property

MSA SC 1545-1134

Was waited upon by the Governor [John Eager Howard] (who came off in a Boat as soon as he heard I was on my passage from Rock hall to meet us, but turned back when it grew dark and squally) as soon as I arrived at Mans tavern, & was engaged by him to dine with the Citizens of Annapolis this day at Manns tavern and at his House tomorrow—the first I accordingly did.

Governor’s Mansion, Annapolis, private collection

Before dinner I walked with him, and several other Gentlemen to the State house, (which seems to be much out of repair)—the College of St. John at which there are about 80 Students of every description—and then by the way of the Governors (to see Mrs. Howard) home [to the Governor’s House].[9]

I suspect that most of you knew or have heard of one of Governor Howard’s direct descendants, Dr. William H. B. Howard, who died recently.[10]

Dr. William W. B. Howard co-founded the sports medicine center at Union Memorial Hospital.

(Sam Friedman / Patuxent Publishing)

I have fond memories of Dr. Howard from one of my many stays at Union Memorial when at my earnest request he personally removed a much disliked NG tube, with the observation that he doubted it was doing much good. He had come to talk about Maryland History, a passion of his, and we reflected on Governor Howard’s long association with Washington as well the important role Governor Howard played in the development of Baltimore. It was on Governor Howard’s Baltimore estate that the Robert Mills monument to George Washington was erected through public subscription, and which today dominates Mount Vernon Square.

One of Dr. Howard’s favorite paintings of Washington is one that has hung in the Maryland State House since the artist, Charles Willson Peale, delivered it in December 1784, shortly after the U. S. Congress had adjourned to Trenton, New Jersey. It is a remarkable full length portrait representing Washington and his aides, Lafayette and Tench Tilghman at Yorktown, the concluding battle of the American Revolution, and is accompanied on exhibit by the original sword worn by Tilghman.[11]

Washington, Lafayette & Tilghman at Yorktown

Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) 1784

Oil on canvas Signed lower left: "C.W.Peale pinxt 1782" MSA SC 1545-1120

One of the details of this remarkable painting is Washington’s standard, or flag, that he apparently carried at Yorktown and possibly before which bore what became one of the country’s most treasured symbols, an Eagle.

detail from Washington, Lafayette & Tilghman at Yorktown

Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) 1784 Oil on canvas Signed lower left: "C.W.Peale pinxt 1782" MSA SC 1545-1120

In 1776 Congress gave

Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams the job of designing an official seal for the new nation. However, the three Founding Fathers failed to come up with a design that won Congress’ approval, as did two later committees that were given the task. In mid-June 1782, the work of all three committees was handed over to Charles Thomson, the secretary of Congress. Thomson chose what he thought were the best elements of the various designs and made the eagle—which had been introduced by artistically inclined Pennsylvania lawyer William Barton in a design submitted by the third committee—more prominent. (Since ancient times, the eagle has been considered a sign of strength; Roman legions used the animal as their standard, or symbol.)

J. Harold Cobb's George Washington Inaugural Button Collection


By then Washington had adopted it for his flag (as early as 1781) and would continue that design for the buttons worn at his Inauguration as president in 1789. Washington was always a stickler for ceremony and detail down to the buttons on his uniform, and a the cap that Paris wore, an obsession for his appearance that in later years would plague his Secretary of War, James McHenry (after whom Fort McHenry was named) as can seen in McHenry’s correspondence now in the collections of the Maryland State Archives.

James McHenry, courtesy of Independence National Historical Park

McHenry was important to Washington’s Annapolis story in a number of ways, not the least of which was his part as a member of the protocol committee that scripted the Congressional ceremony in which Washington resigned his commission as commander in chief on December 23, 1783 in the Old Senate Chamber of the Maryland State House.


In October of 2015, for $15 in support of Baltimore Heritage, you could have journeyed to Annapolis to tour the restored old Senate Chamber in the Maryland State House which an Annapolis staymaker and entrepreneur builder, Charles Wallace, first opened to public use in 1779. Today you are encouraged to do it yourself for free.

Woman's corset c. 1730–1740. Silkplain weave with supplementary weft-float patterning,

stiffened with baleen from Baleen whale. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.63.24.5.[1]

Charles Wallace, with his stay making business (corsets) , had a number of influential female clients who lent him money for his mercantile and building ventures in Annapolis, and assisted him in obtaining government contracts, the most spectacular of which was to build the Maryland State House, begun in 1772. Wallace had his problems as a government contractor and builder. The first roof of copper blew off in a storm and it was replaced with cedar shingles capped by a dome that always leaked, leading to its replacement in 1785-88 by the massive dome you see today. In the face of a British invasion of the bay, his workmen and most of the residents fled the town. Still, he managed to finish his contract before the war ended. His Senate Chamber with its balcony for the ladies and visitors, including the daughter, Molly Ridout, of one of his early backers and creditors, was a sight to behold. One contemporary writer called it “the prettyest room in America.” That a staymaker (with the help of his sister and her coffee house) could do so well was the essence and the practice of the American Dream.

In the fall of 1783,Wallace’s Senate Chamber became the home of the United States Congress, and Annapolis became the Capital of the United States for the next year. Ever since unpaid soldiers threatened them in Philadelphia, Congress had been on the move to smaller towns perceived of as less susceptible to mob influence. From Annapolis they would move on to Trenton, but then with a change of heart, landed in the bustling city of New York at Federal Hall, which would continue as the nation’s first capitol under the constitution, the place where George Washington would be inaugurated as the Nation’s first president.

Over the years since it was first opened, the Old Senate Chamber in the Maryland State House in Annapolis has undergone a number of renovations. Little of the fabric of the original room remained intact. Intensive research by the staff of the Maryland State Archives and some conjecture by a distinguished panel of architectural advisors, with funding by the State, led to the reopening of the restored room in pristine splendor for personal self guided, and privately led tours.

With a priceless document in George Washington’s hand on display outside its doors, Maryland’s Old Senate Chamber is one of the most important places to visit to experience the history of the creation of the United States. Here the principle of civilian authority over the military was established, and the treaty launching the United States as a nation on the world stage was ratified. As the announcement of the October 2015 Baltimore Heritage tour explained:

Tour the Restored Old Senate Chambers


Two hundred and thirty-one years ago, George Washington stood in the Senate Chamber of the Maryland State House in Annapolis and resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. With this simple act, he affirmed that the new United States of America would have civilian control of the military. After seven years of research, construction and conservation, the room has been restored back to its appearance between 1783 and 1784, when Congress held session in Annapolis, ratified the Treaty of Paris to end the Revolutionary War, and received Washington’s resignation. Ever wondered why George Washington is facing south on top of Baltimore’s own Washington Monument? Washington is pointed towards Annapolis and the State House Senate Chambers.[12]


George Washington atop Baltimore’s Washington Monument

The speech in the hand pointing south to Annapolis that Washington gave on December 23, 1783, was brief and to the point. He asked that Congress take good care of his officers and men and made it clear that the civil authority in the new nation should remain superior to the military. Like Cincinnatus, the Roman general, he meant to retire to his farm. The official copy of his remarks were recorded in the Congressional Record. What the public did not see for another two hundred and twenty-five years was his original draft which on the conclusion of the ceremony he gave to James McHenry, his former aide and future Secretary of War.

Archivist holding the original Washington speech, now on display in the Maryland State House

In 2007 I had the privilege of purchasing for the State, Washington’s original speech and McHenry’s eloquent letter describing the event written to his bride to be in Philadelphia.[13]

In what remains one of the best eyewitness accounts, McHenry described a “solemn and affecting spectacle,” and observed Washington’s hands shaking, forcing the Revolutionary War hero to hold his speech with both hands. “So many circumstances crowded into view and gave rise to so many affecting emotions,” McHenry wrote, “The events of the revolution just accomplished -- the new situation into which it had thrown the affairs of the world -- the great man who had borne so conspicuous a figure in it, in the act of relinquishing all public employments to return to private life -- the past -- the present -- the future -- the manner -- the occasion -- all conspired to render it a spectacle inexpressibly solemn and affecting.”[14]

courtesy of the Maryland State Archives

Restored Old Senate Chamber with bronze figures of

George Washington and Molly Ridout,

An Annapolitan, Mary Ridout was also present at the ceremony, witnessing it from the balcony. Molly, as he was known, had probably dined with Washington when he visited the Ridout household in 1771 and may have accompanied him to the theater.[15] Now in January 1784 she wrote her mother, then resident in London, her impressions of his speech:

Annapolis 16th January 1784

I wrote to you my Dear Mamma some weeks ago by a frigate that went from this place to Brest this you will certainly receive as it goes by a Gentleman that carrys a Copy of the definitive Treaty ratified by Congress who are in this Town at present, but I fear they will not make it their permanent residence it would make property here of value if they did. I went with several others to see Gen. Washington resign his Commission the Congress were assembled in the State House both Houses of Assembly were present as Spectators the Gallery full of Ladies, the General seemed so much affected himself that everybody felt for him, he addressed Congress in a short Speech but very affecting many tears were shed, he has retired from all public business & designs to spend the rest of his Days at his own Seat. I think the World never produced a greater man & very few so good – ....

I am my Madam your dutiful Affectionate daughter M Ridout


Perhaps as important as what Washington said on December 1783, was what he crossed out in the original draft which is now on display in the State House rotunda. With those deletions he made it clear that he did not consider it his ‘final’ farewell and that this was not his ‘ultimate’ “leave of all the employments of public life.” If called he would return, which he did three and a half years later, first serving as the chairman of the convention that wrote a new Constitution, and then as its first President.

Washington left for Mount Vernon on completing his speech, arriving in time for Christmas dinner.

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens and William Temple Franklin

in Benjamin West’s 1783-1784 painting. The British commissioners refused to pose, and the painting was never finished.


Congress remained in Annapolis for several more months attending to business, the most important of which was ratifying the Treaty of Paris that had been negotiated by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Jay, and Henry Laurens. That task was undertaken by Thomas Jefferson who had also served on the protocol committee for the resignation ceremony.


Thomas Jefferson, the son of land surveyor and mapmaker whose words were immortalized in the Declaration of Independence at the commencement of the war, was none too happy with the lack of speed with which Congress acted on the Treaty that was to end it.

Cover of The Treaty of Paris, 1783: Its Origin and Significance, by Jonathan R. Dull, 1983

with the final page of the original treaty, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

Not until January 14, 1784 could Jefferson muster a quorum of states for its ratification.[16] In those days Congress voted by State delegation, one vote for each State. The treaty was despatched at once for London. Jefferson was relieved. He looked forward with pleasure to his next assignment which was to be Congress’s diplomatic envoy to the French court of Louis XVI, a post that he would fill for four years, bearing witness to the beginnings of another revolution that toppled the French monarchy, profoundly affecting his thinking, and the future course of American Democracy. He would become the principal motivator of the two-party system that has dominated American Politics ever since, and a successful advocate of expanding the voting franchise to all adult white males removing property restrictions. Indeed in the months before he left Annapolis, while his slave was being trained in Baltimore to be his hair stylist in Paris (ultimately the slave, a Hemings, refused to go), Jefferson would complete his Notes on Virginia and author a plan for the undeveloped lands north of the Ohio River in what was known as the Northwest Territory, a plan that called for neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any State created out of the territory. Although this aspect of his plan was initially defeated, much to his dismay, it was ultimately adopted in 1787 while he was in Paris.

In all I hope you will find time to visit the Maryland State House, although I would avoid going there during the 90 day session (January through the first week in April) of the General Assembly as parking is scarce and the State House is filled with politicians and lobbyists cheek by jowl with school groups and protesting constituents.

And don’t forget that December 23 and January 14 are memorable days in the history of the United States when General George Washington bowed to Congress, and the United States formally became a recognized nation on the world stage, with all of its attendant perils and tribulations.

[1] G.O.P. vs. Obama: Disrespect or Just Politics?

[2] see:, "Belisarius" cast harsh aspersions upon Washington's high-handed manner, which he saw as emblematic of the entire administration: "a brief but trite review of your six years administration, mark the progressive steps which have led the way to the present public evils that afflict your country. . .the unerring voice of posterity will not fail to render the just sentence of condemnation on the man who has entailed upon his country deep and incurable public evils."4

[3] source: For more on the earlier draft of the Farewell Address, see Washington on Washington, ed. Paul M. Zall (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2003), 129.

[5] for Paris in Philadelphia and with Washington in 1791 see the Washington diaries, ibid., and

[6] A postilion (or postillion, occasionally Anglicised to "post-boy") rider was the driver of a horse-drawn coach or post chaise, mounted on one of the drawing horses. By contrast, a coachman would be mounted on the vehicle along with the passengers. Postilion riders normally rode the left (or "near") horse of a pair because horses usually were trained only to be mounted from the left. With a double team, either there would be two postilions, one for each pair, or one postilion would ride on the left rear horse in order to control all four horses. Source:

[15] See: Washington probably saw the Maid of the Mill with the Old Maid, a comic opera performed by the American Company at the new theater on West Street.