14 September 2016

Copley’s Portraits of General Thomas Gage and Samuel Adams

By Christopher Bryant

A reconsideration of several key aspects of John Singleton Copley’s 1768 portrait of Major General the Honourable Thomas Gage points toward an intentional collaboration between Copley and Gage in the creation of an explicit and highly politicized pictorial statement, with the intended audience being the rebellious citizenry of the colonies within which General Gage, as the senior representative of the Crown in North America, held military command. The portrait can be seen as reflecting far more than previously assumed of the extraordinary political and social turmoil surrounding both its sitter and artist at the very moment and place in which it was created, and the central role played by General Gage in these circumstances.

Figure 1. John Singleton Copley. Maj. Gen. Hon. Thomas Gage, 1768. Paul Mellon Collection, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (left) and John Singleton Copley. Samuel Adams.  c.1769-1770? Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (right).

Copley and Gage, working presumably in collaboration, arranged the composition to create an overt political statement in response to the imminent state of insurrection in Massachusetts in 1768. An awareness of the historical and political perspectives with which a late 18th century American colonist would likely have viewed the portrait reveals that Gage points emphatically to a graphic warning of the military consequences of further unlawful resistance by the colonists to the rule of the Crown and Parliament. Gen. Gage’s portrait was evidently composed and created with the intention that it should itself play an actual active role in the political process, as perhaps the only means by which Gage could make a semi-public statement of his ability to respond with superior military force if the political rebellion should explode into armed conflict.

That Copley painted such a political statement for General Gage, and, as will be proposed below, a subsequent opposing statement for Samuel Adams, may have generated a degree of conflicting perceptions of Copley among the radical patriot elements in Boston.  Were the talents of the best artist in America simply being employed as a neutral medium for the political declarations of his clients, or were Copley’s paintings an avowal of party and principal on the part of the artist, as messenger? The potential for conflict in these differing perceptions was a circumstance that Copley could presumably ill afford, either in his personal life or his profession.

By 1765 Gen. Gage had been Commander in Chief of the entire British army in North America for five years, and now had the responsibility of formulating and executing the Crown’s military reaction to the burgeoning insurgency.  That year saw extensive riots in New York, Boston and elsewhere in the American colonies in opposition to the Stamp Tax, instituted by Parliament in part to pay for the maintenance of the British troops stationed in America, and under Gage’s command. Although the Stamp Tax was repealed, Parliament maintained its right and ability to find other sources of tax revenue in America to pay for the defense of the colonies. This determination was ultimately manifested in the form of the Townshend Acts of 1767, imposing taxes on importations of lead, paper, glass and tea, as well as an effort to actually enforce the anti-smuggling statutes already long on the books.  These new measures were if anything even more incendiary to the Americans than the last, and in Boston military protection from the violence of the mob was sought by the commissioners who had been appointed by London to enforce the Acts.

Considerable pressure was put on Gage to relocate two British infantry regiments to Boston from the garrisons in Halifax, New York or the Floridas, but Gage was constrained by the fact that legally he could take no military action unless at the behest of the Government in London, or at the direct request of the relevant local civil authority, in the form of the Governor. In August 1768, Governor Francis Bernard of Massachusetts, balancing the security of his own position versus the potential backlash of the mob, finally sent a secret request to Gage in New York for two regiments of foot to be sent to Boston. “In order to prevent a sudden shock and consequent rash action by the townsfolk, Bernard let it be known through private conversation that the regulars were coming to Boston.  But the news aroused a furor of resentment, and hotheads among the Sons of Liberty openly preached armed rebellion.  Since the Massachusetts Assembly was not in session, arrangements were made for a Boston Town Meeting on September 11 to consider the situation.[1]  The radical leaders in Boston (Samuel Adams prominent among them) realized that the moment was not yet right for a general outbreak of rebellion among all the colonies. However, they did call for the formation of a “Committee of Convention” representing the colonies in opposition to Parliamentary authority, and even went so far as to remind townspeople that every man was required by law to keep a musket (for service in the militia).

Gage, furious when he learned of these proceedings, took immediate action. Concerned in case the two regiments embarking from Halifax might meet armed opposition upon their landing in Boston, he ordered two more regiments north from Florida, and ordered the regiments in New York to prepare for active service. Gage described his view of the situation in a letter of September 26 to Lord Hillsborough in London: “They have now delivered their sentiments in a manner not to be misunderstood, and in the stile of a ruling and sovereign nation, who acknowledges no dependence.   Whatever opinion I may form of the firmness of these desperadoes…  I am taking measures to defeat any treasonable designs… Whilst laws are in force, I shall pay the obedience that is due to them, and in my military capacity confine myself solely to the granting such aids to the civil power, as shall be required of me; but if open and declared rebellion makes its appearance, I mean to use all the powers lodged in my hands to make head against it… I know of nothing that can so effectually quell the spirit of sedition, which has so long and so greatly prevailed here, and bring the people back to a sense of their duty, as speedy, vigorous, and unanimous measures taken in England to suppress it.  Whereby the Americans shall plainly perceive, that it is the general and determined sense of the British nation, resolutely to support and maintain their right, and to reduce them to their constitutional dependence, on the Mother Country.”[2]

Gage also wrote that day in a private letter to Lord Barrington, British Secretary at War, “the people there [in Boston] grow worse and worse, and if any thing is rebellion in America, they seem to me in an actual state of rebellion… You have tried forbearance, moderate and conciliating measures, to little purpose, they have encreased the storm, instead of laying it… Notwithstanding the treasonable resolves the people of Boston have taken, to oppose the landing of the two regiments expected there from Halifax, I am very much of the opinion, they will shrink on the day of trial, which I soon expect to hear of.  They are a people, who have ever been very bold in council, but never remarkable for their feats in action.[3]

Recognizing Boston as the principal source of the agitation, Gage decided to travel there in person with most of his headquarters staff.  They set out overland from headquarters in New York and arrived in Boston on October 15, 1768.  Though Gage’s prescient observation noted above proved some seven years premature (and his assessment of the American’s lack of resolve ultimately incorrect), Boston and the surrounding communities were nonetheless in a tinderbox state. In this delicate circumstance Gage was not in a position to make public pronouncements about the use of military force, for until there was an actual outbreak of armed insurrection, he and the army were still ostensibly in Boston purely at the request of the civil authorities, and it was beyond his legal authority to interfere in what were, for the time being, still civil affairs.

Gage and his staff remained in Boston for only five weeks in 1768, eventually being obliged to return to his headquarters in New York on November 24.  Much of his trip was taken up with negotiating the quartering and subsistence of his three newly arrived regiments, spread between Castle Island, the town and the Common.  Given the press of political and administrative work that Gage must have faced in the brief period he was in Boston and the state of emergency that brought him there in the first place, one might assume that this was not an opportunity for the personal indulgence of an intensely time consuming portrait commission. For her half-length portrait in 1763, for example, Mrs. Daniel Sargent had been obliged to sit to Copley for fifteen or sixteen full six hour sittings.[4] Nevertheless, a portrait was evidently a sufficient priority for Gage that the commission was placed with Copley, and time was found within his busy schedule for at least the most necessary sittings.

As Commander in Chief of His Majesties Forces in North America and thus the ultimate instrument of the Crown’s response to the growing political crisis enveloping the colonies, General Gage found himself in the autumn of 1768 the focus of more public scrutiny than perhaps at any previous point in his career. Within the hierarchical structure of American colonial society, General Gage was arguably Copley’s most important client of his career to date, regardless of the urgency of current events.

Though Copley would naturally have put aside other work for the occasion, it appears highly unlikely that such an important and accomplished portrait could have been finished within the five weeks that Gage was in Boston.  With enormous administrative and political responsibilities to oversee during his brief stay, Gage was likely to have only been able to spare sufficient time to work out the overall composition with Copley, and sit for the face and hands, while the balance of the painting would be finished by Copley in Boston well after Gage’s return to New York.

A parallel example of delayed completion and delivery, perhaps in part as a consequence of the Gage commission, can be found in Copley’s portrait of another visitor from New York at that time, Reverend Myles Cooper[5].  Though Cooper sat for his “bust” size (30” x 25”) portrait in the summer of 1768, it took Copley over a year to deliver the finished painting to Cooper in New York, in August 1769.  In order for Copley to finish Cooper’s portrait in his absence, Cooper sent from New York in August 1768 his Oxford University Doctor of Civil Law “Gown, Hood and Band, by which to finish the Drapery.[6] Cooper’s academic gown is faithfully rendered in the resulting portrait, but to Cooper’s expressed dismay Copley did not return the gown until delivering it with the finished portrait a full year later. Copley’s use of a costume prop in the absence of the actual sitter points to how he likely produced the highly finished and detailed depiction of Gage and his uniform between a necessarily limited number of sittings during Gage’s brief visit to Boston, and the delivery of Gage’s portrait to New York approximately a year later. Gage would have been unlikely to leave his uniform behind in Boston, but with the coat sketched in and comparable cloth to model on his layman, Copley would have only required a few examples of the gold embroidered buttonholes and buttons to model in order to finish the details of the portrait in Gage’s absence.  A clue to this process may be found in Copley’s first letter home[7] to Boston just three days after he arrived in New York on June 13, 1771, having been engaged by thirteen “subscribers” to paint nineteen portraits, mainly from connections provided among General Gage’s staff and administration. In this letter to his half-brother and studio assistant Henry Pelham, Copley describes having already met several of his clients, and that he was to start Mrs. Gage’s portrait the next day, but he also asks Pelham to send some urgently required painting materials. “I want my crayons much and Layman[8] and Drawings.  Do see Mr. Lloyd, and find when Smith will sail, for I shall not be able to do long without them. Cloath [cloth] there is enough here.”  “You will find in one of the draws of the Desk some Gold Buttonholes.  Do send me 3 or 4 of the Best of them when you send the other things, or shall write by private hand.

Pelham replied[9]Dear Brother, By Capn. P. Smith you will I hope receive in good order your Layman, Crayons and Drawings and Major Bayard’s Picture. The Crayons and gold Button holes are packed in the same Box with the Layman, the Drawings and Paper underneath Major Bayards Picture.” By their context within the two letters, these gold buttonholes were evidently considered to be among Copley’s painting props, allowing for the depiction of coats with this specific feature, but without requiring that a sitter leave an expensively embellished coat in Copley’s studio for months at a time.  Separate, ready-made gold embroidered buttonholes were a trimming commercially available in America at this time for men’s coats and waistcoats, and officer’s uniforms in particular.[10] The timing of Copley’s request suggests that upon first meeting some of his pre-arranged New York clients, it became evident that he would require for modeling purposes gold embroidered buttonholes of a pattern and design that he had depicted in a previous painting. Reviewing the portraits resulting from the list of Copley’s 1771 New York subscribers, just such a visible correlation is found between the gold embroidered buttonholes depicted by Copley in 1768 on Gage’s General’s frock, and the gold embroidered buttonholes depicted in 1771 by Copley on the Aide de Camp’s coat worn by Captain Gabriel Maturin, Gage’s Military Secretary.[11] An even more exact match can be found in the buttonholes depicted in Gage’s portrait, and another 1771 New York portrait attributable to Copley of Abraham Mortier, Gage’s Deputy Paymaster General in America.[12] Both Maturin and Mortier were among the original thirteen New York subscribers who had arranged for Copley to come from Boston, and given their key positions on Gage’s staff, would likely have been among the first of Copley’s patrons he might encounter upon his arrival in New York.

It was evidently normal working procedure for Copley to keep a number of portraits in process at any given time. In response to a plea to come to Quebec in 1765, Copley wrote “I have a large Room full of Pictures unfinished, which would engage me these twelve months, if I did not begin any others”.[13] Just a week after his arrival in New York in June 1771 Copley wrote to his half-brother and business manager Henry Pelham “I have begun three portraits already, and shall as soon as time permits fill my Room which is a very large one.[14]

The two aforementioned references to Copley’s “Room” allude to a semi public aspect of his working practice, and indeed that of most established artists in the 18th century, of keeping a room commonly known as a “Painting Room” for viewing of his paintings, presumably doubling as his painting studio.[15]  Copley wrote further in the same June 20, 1771 letter from New York to Henry Pelham back in Boston, “The Gentleman [Mr. Harmonside] who is the bearer of this is desireous of seeing my Room in Boston.  You’l therefore weit on him”.[16]  Henry Pelham wrote (Nov. 28, 1771) to Copley in New York “Lord William Campbell, Governor of Nova Scotia, was at your Room a few days ago.  he says, he wonders, that you bury yourself in this Country and that he thinks you are the greatest Geniou[s] in the World.”  There are also several references in the 1771 correspondence to and from New York regarding the commodious new “Painting Room” in Copley’s house then under construction in Boston that suggest the room was among the more public rather than private spaces. In this 18th century context, where an artist’s studio was accessible to an interested public, General Gage’s portrait would have been readily viewable to an intended audience in Boston while the painting was being finished, prior to its delivery to New York almost a year later.

The eventual reception of General Gage’s portrait in New York was reported to Copley in October 1769 by one of Gage’s Aides de Camp, Captain John Small, who wrote from Gage’s Headquarters, “Your picture of the General is universally acknowledg’d to be a very masterly performance, elegantly finish’d, and a most striking Likeness; in short it has every property that Genius, Judgement and attention can bestow on it.[17] The painting, however, must have soon been forwarded to General Gage’s older brother William, 2nd Viscount Gage, in London, as Capt. Small writes again to Copley on May 15, 1770: “The Generals Picture was received at home [London] with universal applause and Looked on by real good Judges as a Masterly performance.  It is placed in one of the Capital Apartments of Lord Gage’s house in Arlington Street; and as a Test of its merit it hangs between Two of Lord and Lady Gages, done by the Celebrated Reynolds, at present Reckon’d the Painter Laureat of England.[18]

Gage’s letters to Lord Hillsborough and Lord Barrington during this period provide significant insights into his state of mind and perspective on the rapidly evolving situation, and when considered in the context of the constraints on Gage’s ability to make actual public statements about potential military action, point toward the opportunity provided by the availability of Copley’s pictorial talents to provide an alternative means of communicating a warning to the citizens of Boston.  Given his position, Gage’s statements, actions and even his movements were closely observed within the intimate confines of the town, and the unexpected creation of a portrait in the semi-public context of Copley’s painting room would have been a subject of considerable interest, scrutiny and conversation.  Particularly if Gage intended the painting to serve as a message, it would have been perfectly natural for the unfolding composition to become public knowledge.


General Gage is portrayed in an exterior setting, standing by a rocky outcropping, leaning on a wooden baton held in one hand, while pointing emphatically with his other hand toward a mountainous scene in the background.  He half turns toward a depiction of British military troops in the forefront of this background scene, but his head is turned to face and engage the viewer with a direct gaze.

Copley had several pictorial sources to draw upon when he embarked on the portrait of such an important figure as the Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Forces in America.  John Smibert’s 1746 monumental full-length portrait of Lt. Gen. Sir William Pepperell, Bt. would have directly exposed Copley to a prototype for a significant and semi-public portrait of a military commander in America.  Peter Pelham, Copley’s stepfather, had made an engraving from the portrait in 1747, and Copley is likely to have seen the original painting in 1764 while in the process of producing an equally monumental portrait of Pepperell’s son in law, Nathaniel Sparhawk.  Another relevant image presumably of some interest to Copley and available in print form would have been the mezzotint of Benjamin West’s c.1764 portrait of Maj. Gen. the Hon. Robert Monckton at the Capture of Martinique in 1762.[19]  Here West referenced the traditional pictorial trope of the military baton employed in Smibert’s portrait of Pepperell, but avoided the by that date anachronistic prop itself by replacing it with a rolled document (presumably his orders).  The wooden baton, an unofficial though traditional emblem with classical antecedents denoting the command of an army or large force in the field, had throughout the 17th and early 18th centuries been a standard feature of formal portraits of officers who had reached General’s rank.  But such fashions change, and by 1768 the archaic baton had for several decades been absent as a feature in up-to-date contemporary British military portraiture.

A survey of over one hundred 18th and 19th century portraits of British General officers reveals only five other portraits that can be dated after the 1740’s which still exhibited the baton. Two of these, as colonially produced portraits of American commanders of the Provincial forces at Louisburg, might thus be discounted from consideration: Smibert’s c.1746 portrait of Pepperell, and Robert Feke’s c.1750 portrait of Brig. Gen. Samuel Waldo. The third instance is Sir Joshua Reynolds’s c.1766 portrait of Lt. Gen. Sir Jeffrey Amherst, though he is portrayed in a consciously antique costume of early 17th century armor, for which the baton would by that date have been a suitably antique accoutrement.[20] Certainly by the 1760’s no British General officer would have actually carried such a baton in practice, and it is extremely unlikely that Gage would have possessed such an archaic object.  By inference, the inclusion of the antique baton in Gage’s portrait appears likely to have been a matter of Copley’s own choosing, consistent with his tendency to carefully select and even supply the props utilized by his sitters.

Figure 2. John Smibert. Lt. Gen. Sir William Pepperell, Bart. 1746. Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.

Figure 3. James Watson after Joshua Reynolds.  Lt. Gen. Sir Jeffrey Amherst, K.B., Mezzotint, 1766.

Copley would have had access to the image of Reynolds’s portrait of Lt. Gen. Sir Jeffrey Amherst through the mezzotint of the portrait published in 1766, and given Amherst’s recent military exploits in America, surely available as an import to Boston.  Reynolds’s portrait of Amherst also suggests itself as the source for Copley’s composition of Gage’s pose, with the baton supporting the sitter’s left arm crossed in front, which in turn supports the sitter’s right arm.  Copley effectively resolved the rather stiff and unnatural stance that results in Amherst’s portrait by lowering Gage’s right arm down to a more natural horizontal angle, which also served Copley and Gage’s narrative purposes by emphasizing the manner in which Gage points prominently to the scene in the background.

Figure 4. James Watson after Benjamin West. The Hon.ble Robt. Monckton. Mezzotint.

The pictorial convention for 18th century portraits of senior military commanders commonly held that when a military scene was depicted in the background, this was understood to represent a prominent episode from the sitter’s military career, as a visual reference to the source of the sitter’s fame and reputation. Smibert provides a view of Pepperell’s famous siege and capture of Louisburg. Reynolds shows us the flotilla of boats Amherst used to transport troops at the Siege of Montreal. West depicts Monckton’s siege and capture of Martinique. Copley and Gage, however, utilized this conventional format to achieve a very different purpose. The background scene pointed to by Gage depicts a mountainous landscape, with a town distantly visible on a mountainside.  On the plain below the town is a substantial encampment of military tents, but now empty of troops, who appear to have taken to the field. These appear in the middle ground of the scene in the form of a mounted troop of British heavy dragoons with swords drawn preceding three regiments of British infantry marching forward in line of battle, with regimental colors flying.

Figure 5.  Detail. Maj. Gen. Hon. Thomas Gage. 

If one reviews Gage’s military career to see what all of this might be a reference to, the conspicuous presence of the heavy dragoons rules out any previous historical event in North America, as no British cavalry regiments served here until the 17th Light Dragoons sailed to Boston in May of 1775.  Aside from Gage’s service in the North American campaigns of the Seven Years’ War he was also active during that war in Europe, but there his service was confined to Flanders and the Low Countries, which is ruled out as a possible subject of the background scene on a purely topographical basis by the prominently shown mountainous landscape.  The only remaining active service in Gage’s military record was during the brutal suppression of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion in the Highlands of Scotland, by the British army under the direct command of King George II’s younger son, the Duke of Cumberland.  Gage served on the Duke’s staff at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, where the largely civilian insurgent Jacobite forces were utterly destroyed by Cumberland’s army, followed by a notoriously harsh “pacification” campaign directed by the British army against the civilian population of the Scottish highlands.

Figure 6.  Luke Sullivan, after Augustin Heckel, The Battle of Culloden April 16, 1746.  Published by Carver and Bowles, London, 1746.

The Battle of Culloden is the only episode of Gage’s previous career that provides a plausible match both topographically and historically to the pictorial reference of the background scene being pointed out by Gage.  Confirmation of this scene as being an explicit and (at that date) recognizable reference to Culloden can be found in a recognition of the image as having been derived directly from the most widely disseminated 18th century print of the battle, an engraving by Luke Sullivan, after Augustin Heckel, published in 1746 in London.  There are a number of common features discernible between Copley’s background scene and Sullivan’s print, including a walled village or settlement on the flanks of the hill, and most prominently, a line of three regiments of British infantry arranged diagonally left to right, with their regimental colors waving behind.  Copley evidently derived his unusual frontal view of a mounted troop of British dragoons, here directly facing the viewer, from the similar frontal view of a mounted troop of British dragoons in the center foreground of the print, awaiting instructions to advance from the Duke of Cumberland.  As a further distinctive detail, the relatively miniature cavalry standard carried to the rear of Copley’s dragoons appears to have been lifted from the vignette on the left of the print, of the troop of dragoons charging through a breached wall. The Sullivan / Heckel engraving of Culloden, as the most popular among the relatively few printed images of the Jacobite Rebellion, would likely have been a readily recognizable visual reference among Copley and Gage’s American audience.

Figure 7. Detail. The Battle of Culloden. (fig.6)

At first glance, Copley (and presumably Gage) appear to adhere to the conventional tropes of formal portraiture of prominent military commanders by referring to an event from Gage’s previous military service.  However, by conspicuously referencing an image both highly charged with political meaning and well established in the public consciousness through a popular print, Copley and Gage have clearly departed from the norm into very different territory, and with a purpose. Gage, adamantly pointing to a scene which to his intended audience would have been virtually synonymous with a recent brutal British military suppression of a civilian insurgency within the British empire, consciously redeploys this traditional feature of the genre to convey a profoundly political message which he would have been officially proscribed from making directly in either print or speech.

Having established a visual dialogue with the viewer, Copley and Gage take the process even further into unprecedented territory by playing against viewers’ expectations and assumptions. Pictorial convention would lead the viewer to expect a battle scene, here referenced by the recognizable imagery as the Battle of Culloden.  Where Copley and Gage specifically break from this convention is in what is conspicuous by its absence – there is no battle, nor even a single enemy to be seen.  The three British regiments in Gage’s portrait, having virtually wiped out the Scottish Jacobites from the Scottish landscape, are now ominously marching directly toward the viewer, and by inference, Massachusetts.

The tented military encampment prominently featured in the highland scene is to be read as representing the comprehensive British military invasion and occupation of the Highlands to suppress the civilian Jacobite rebellion of 1745 – 46, in which notoriously no quarter was given by the British army, and the Commander in Chief became infamously known as “Butcher” Cumberland.  The encampment is empty, however, because the British troops in the foreground are visibly marching away from the scene of their recent conquest of the Highlanders, and toward the viewer (i.e. the American colonists).  The dragoons in the foreground would have been a particularly potent visual reference to the potential for brutality in counterinsurgency, as British dragoons had been notoriously effective at subjugating the Jacobite civilian population by whatever means necessary.  Untold numbers of Jacobites, both combatants and civilians, were driven from their homes, hunted down and often hung by summary military justice.

While ostensibly remaining safely within the confines of traditional formal portraiture by referring to a familiar past event, Copley and Gage’s background scene not only departed from this pictorial convention but turned it on its head by simultaneously signaling the viewer’s possible future.

In 1768 the British Government’s brutal and comprehensive military suppression of the 1745 uprising in Scotland would still have been fresh in the minds of most people in America, and the political implications projected in this painting would have been abundantly clear to the intended viewing audience, the rebellious population of Boston, which Gage had come to Boston to pacify with a substantial force of three British infantry regiments.  The pictorial reference in the portrait to these three regiments is clear – only three regiments of the eleven depicted in the Culloden print are included in the portrait’s background scene. Gage is pointing so emphatically to the Highlands in the background as a clear warning that this same fate will come to America if the rebellious colonists are not brought to heel.  The baton that he holds firmly in his left hand, as a recognizable symbol of active field command, reinforces the message of the painting, clearly indicating that Gage has the Crown’s authority to follow through on the threat of military force explicitly indicated through the gesture of his right hand.  Even Gage’s expression in the painting can be read as one of stern admonition.  Gage took very seriously his appointed task of enforcing the Crown’s and Parliament’s rule over the colony within which he had military command. His operative leverage lay in his ability to bring the full weight of Crown forces to bear on the American civilian population in case of an insurrection, just as he had helped to achieve just 23 years before in the British army’s suppression of Scotland’s civilian insurgency.

 The purposes of the painting can be considered within the context of when and where it was painted, as well as Gage’s position as the Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Forces in North America. As such he was responsible for restoring order and the rule of law among the rebellious colonial population, which he considered to be on the verge of armed revolution. Gage and Copley presumably collaborated in devising the composition of this painting as an effective piece of political theatre by pictorial means, being one of the few relatively public forms of media by which Gage could convey a political message in a situation where, in his role as a military commander at the behest of the civilian government, other more literal means were not available to him. Through a conscious and perhaps unprecedented inversion of the conventions of formal portraiture, Copley effectively served Gage’s political purposes by pictorially signaling Gage’s warning to his American audience in almost every aspect of the portrait. For an American viewer of the painting at the time, there would have been no mistaking Gage’s implicit threat.

By referencing the British repression of the Jacobites, Gage may also have intended the painting to be a nuanced statement of political impartiality. Gage’s political attitude and policy (at least at this stage) were based on adherence to the principals and stipulations of the rule of law. The American Whigs, on the other hand, saw themselves as aligned by historical extension with the English Whig opposition to the absolutist principles of the ’45 Jacobite rebellion. By couching his pictorial admonition in terms that referenced the British government’s 1745 subjugation of the Jacobite rebellion, Gage would have signaled that his policy and potential actions were without party interest, Whig or Tory, and purely in defense of law and order.


In Copley’s portrait, Gage wears an identifiable pattern of General’s “frock” uniform worn typically by British generals and staff officers in America as a foreign or colonial service dress. An earlier assessment[21] of Gage’s uniform in this painting did not recognize Copley’s rare depiction of this early pattern of General’s undress frock uniform, but instead assumed that Gage’s correct uniform “should” have been a different and often portrayed pattern of embroidered dress uniform coat commonly worn by British Generals on home service in Britain (which in fact was not adopted until c.1770). The disparity between the mistaken assumption of what Gage’s uniform should have looked like and how it appears in the painting resulted in a misperception that Copley provided an incorrect and only approximate depiction of what Gage actually wore, due perhaps to a lack of sittings or access. Copley, however, was far too careful an observer to misportray such a literal expression of his sitter’s rank as his uniform. Recognition of Copley’s depiction of Gage’s uniform as both accurate and closely observed reveals that he and Gage actually took considerable time and care over the production of this portrait, and that both sitter and artist were very cognizant of Gage’s presentation.

The great majority of other known portraits of British senior military commanders from the period of c.1740 – 1770 feature the magnificent and elaborately laced full dress “State” coat worn by officers of General’s rank. The uniform coat worn by General Gage in Copley’s portrait, however, was a form of undress, or “frock” uniform worn as a regular service dress by British Generals, particularly in America, prior to the c.1770 adoption of a new embroidered uniform coat for Generals.[22] Copley faithfully and admirably reproduces Gage’s pre c.1770 frock uniform coat in considerable detail, down to the correct pattern of button for this uniform.  This was of a specific design with a scolloped edge known as the “Staff” button, precisely as depicted in detail by Copley in Gage’s portrait.[23]  This attention to detail is revealing of Copley’s characteristically careful observation of the minutiae of dress, particularly when reflective of his sitter’s role or status.

Although this pattern of General’s “frock” uniform had evidently already been in use for some time, its details were clarified in a General Order from army headquarters in London dated April 1767 (W.O. 3/1): “The frock for Lieutenant Generals Scarlet lined with Buff.  Buff Waistcoats & Breeches. The Waistcoat plain.  Slash Sleeve & Pocket.  Blue Lappell to the Waist. Embroidered Button Holes – Set on 3 & 3.  The Major Generals to have the same, except having the Button Holes sett on 2 & 2, instead of 3 & 3.” [24]

It is notable that in almost every instance where this pattern of General’s undress frock appears in a formal 18th century portrait, the sitter was a General who had a North American command.[25]  With minor variations in the cut of the collar and cuffs reflecting evolving sartorial fashions, the uniform frock depicted in these portraits are essentially all of the same pattern, with blue facings and simple straight, narrow gold embroidered buttonholes.  The preponderance of portraits of “American” Generals (even when painted in London) wearing this otherwise scarcely recorded undress frock uniform suggests that it was regularly worn in America by Generals and staff as a form of colonial service dress, more suitable for a field command than the far more elaborately laced (after c.1770, embroidered) dress coat typically worn at home in Britain. In the particular context of this portrait, it may also have reinforced the implicit message that Gage was ready to take the field for active service, against enemies foreign or domestic. That domestic threat had come to be most effectively represented by Samuel Adams.

Figure 8. Joshua Reynolds. Lt. Gen. Sir Jeffrey Amherst. c.1766 – 1768. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.  Image by courtesy of René Chartrand.


It has long been assumed that Copley’s portrait of Samuel Adams depicts the moment on March 6 1770, the day after the Boston Massacre, when he admonished Lt. Governor Hutchinson to remove from Boston the two British infantry battalions that had been such an irritant to the radical elements in the town.[26] At the March 6, 1770 confrontation between Hutchinson and Adams in the Council Chamber of the old State House, the Lt. Governor declared that Lt. Colonel Dalrymple, in command of the British troops in Boston, had offered to remove one of the two regiments to Castle Island. Nearly fifty years after the event, in 1817, Samuel’s cousin John Adams may have inadvertently planted the seed of the long held identification of Copley’s composition when he sketched the ensuing scene in prose: “Samuel Adams arose, with an air of dignity and majesty of which he was sometimes capable, stretched forth his arm, though even then quivering with palsy, and with an harmonious voice and decisive tone said: “If the Lieutenant Governor, or col. Dalrymple, or both together, have the power to remove one regiment, they have the power to remove two. Nothing short of the total evacuation of the town by all the regular troops will satisfy the public mind, or preserve the peace of the province.”[27]

Figure 9. John Singleton Copley. Samuel Adams.  c.1769-1770? Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The actual context within which John Adams composed this description of an event nearly five decades earlier suggests that his recollection of his cousin’s speech to Lt. Governor Hutchinson may have been augmented by an awareness of Copley’s portrait, rather than vice-versa. It appeared in a letter written by John Adams in 1817 (at the age of 81) to a friend, proposing the composition of an imaginary historical painting, purely as an exercise of pictorial fancy: “Your questions revive my sluggish memory. Since our national legislature have established a national painter [John Trumbull] – a wise measure, for which I thank them, my imagination has already painted, I know not how many, historical pictures. I have sent you one, give me leave to send another. The bloody rencountre between the citizens and the soldiers, on the 5th of March, 1770, produced a tremendous sensation throughout the town and country. The people assembled first at Faneuil Hall, and adjourned to the old South Church, to the number, as was conjectured, of ten or twelve thousand men”.  “A remonstrance to the governor, or the governor and council, was ordained, and a demand that the regular troops should be removed from the town. A committee was appointed to present this remonstrance, of which Samuel Adams was the Chairman.  Now for the picture – The theatre and the scenery are the same with those at the discussion of writs of assistance. The same glorious portraits of king Charles II, and king James II, to which might be added, and should be added, little miserable likenesses of gov. Winthrop, gov. Broadstreet, gov. Endicott and gov. Belcher, hung up in obscure corners of the room. Lieut. gov. Hutchinson, commander in chief in the absence of the governor, must be placed at the head of the council table. Lieut. col. Dalrymple, commander in chief of his majesty’s military forces [in Boston], taking rank of all his majesty’s counsellors, must be seated by the side of the lieutenant-governor and commander in chief of the province. Eight and-twenty counsellors must be painted, all seated at the council board. Let me see – what costume? what was the fashion of that day? in the month of March? Large white wigs, English scarlet cloth cloaks, some of them with gold laced hats, not on their heads, indeed, in so august a presence, but on the table before them, or under the table beneath them. Before these illustrious personages appeared SAMUEL ADAMS, a member of the house of representatives and their clerk, now at the head of the committee of the great assembly at the old South Church.” Eventually setting the final scene of Samuel Adams’ confrontation with Hutchinson as related earlier, Adams concluded, “The painter should seize upon the critical moment when Samuel Adams stretched out his arm and made his last speech. It will be as difficult to do justice as so paint an Apollo-and the transaction deserves to be painted as much as the surrender of Burgoyne-Whether any artist will even attempt it I know not.


In composing this imagined historical tableau John Adams appears to reference the pose adopted by his cousin in Copley’s portrait (of which he was surely aware) but by stating clearly that the proposed scene had not yet been painted he also confirms that Copley’s subject was not the Hutchinson – Adams confrontation.

Fortunately, the key to identifying the actual topic of the painting was explicitly inscribed by Copley on the rolled document in Adams’ right hand[28], legible in the painting as “Instructions of”  “Town of Boston”.  By Copley’s inscription, literally in black and white, the rolled document would have been clearly recognizable to 18th c. Bostonians as the celebrated “Instructions of the Town of Boston to its Representatives in the General Court”, drafted by Samuel Adams and passed by the elected representatives of the Boston Town Meeting in 1764, directing their representatives in the Massachusetts House to declare their popular opposition to that year’s proposed new taxes as imposed by Parliament in the Sugar Act. The Sugar Act of 1764 was the first of a series of attempts by Parliament to oblige the American colonies to contribute to the costs of their defense, which in turn became the flashpoints of American resistance that lead to the outbreak of the Revolution. “When the Boston Town Meeting approved the Adams Instructions [the rolled document depicted in the portrait] on May 24, 1764,” wrote the historian John K. Alexander, “it became the first political body in America to go on record stating Parliament could not constitutionally tax the colonists. The directives also contained the first official recommendation that the colonies present a unified defense of their rights.[29]  Adams himself wrote in the Instructions: “But what still heightens our apprehensions is, that these unexpected Proceedings may be preparatory to new Taxations upon us: For if our Trade may be taxed why not our Lands? Why not the Produce of our Lands & every thing we possess or make use of? This we apprehend annihilates our Charter Right to govern & tax ourselves–It strikes at our Brittish Privileges, which as we have never forfeited them, we hold in common with our Fellow Subjects who are Natives of Brittain: If Taxes are laid upon us in any shape without our having a legal Representation where they are laid, are we not reduced from the Character of free Subjects to the miserable State of tributary Slaves?

Figure 10. Detail. Samuel Adams. (fig. 9) The rolled document in Adams’ right hand is inscribed “Instructions of”– “Town of Boston”. Author’s photograph.

The “Charter Rights” specified by Adams in the passage above of his “Instructions” refer to the Royal Charter granted in 1691 by King William III to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, delineating the rights of citizenship held by its inhabitants and their form of self government. Samuel Adams and his fellow Whigs held as an inviolable principle that the 1691 Royal Charter was a direct contract between Massachusetts and the Crown, thereby obviating Parliament’s authority to govern and impose taxes in the colony. In Copley’s composition, Adams presents his case to the viewer by explicitly pointing out with his left hand the actual 1691 Massachusetts Bay Charter document, graphically validated by its substantial Royal Seal, as the legal basis for his arguments articulated in the Instructions held in his right hand, directing the representatives of the elected town assembly to resist taxation by Parliament in London.  The enormous twin pillars looming behind Adams presumably refer to these two pillars of his case.

Copley’s portrait of General Gage presaged his portrait of Samuel Adams as an equally explicit political statement. The many compositional similarities suggest that John Hancock’s commission of the Adams portrait may have been intended by Hancock and Adams as a pictorial riposte to Copley’s portrait of Gage, and as a comparably public exercise in political theatre. Both portraits are of the same size (50” x 40”), both sitters directly address and engage the viewer through an arresting, resolute gaze, and both point emphatically to a visually identifiable cue to the political message they mean to convey. Gage holds a baton as a symbol of the authority of his commission as conferred by Parliament and the Crown, and points to a warning of his ability to inflict a military response to disobedience of the laws established by Parliament. Adams, in his reply as a lawyer and a politician, holds a virtual baton that is in effect his commission, identified as the instructions passed by the Boston Town Meeting to their representatives in the Massachusetts House, and points to the 1691 Massachusetts Charter, both documents serving as the legal authorities conferring upon him the right and imperative to resist the laws of Parliament.

Samuel Adams’ portrait remained in the Beacon Street house of John Hancock, Copley’s neighbor who had commissioned the portrait, until 1863, when Hancock’s house was razed and the painting deposited with the City of Boston for public display in Faneuil Hall. Just two years later, in 1865, William Vincent Wells published an adulatory biography[30] of his great grandfather Samuel Adams, within which can be traced the likely origin of the long held assumption that Copley’s portrait depicted the March 6, 1770 confrontation with Lt. Gov. Hutchinson in the Council Chamber of the old State House over the removal of the two British infantry battalions from Boston. Whether or not Wells was inadvertently prompted by John Adams’ 1817 composition for a purely theoretical history painting depicting the scene is not known, but like most historians since, Wells explicitly identified Copley’s portrait as such: “The painting of Adams has been called Copley’s master-piece. The patriot is represented in the celebrated scene with Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson, at the meeting of the Council and the officers of the British army and navy, the day after the Boston Massacre. The artist was not un-mindful of surrounding effects. The background is dark and shadowy, revealing only the outline of two columns, dimly seen by the faint light of a winter’s evening, struggling into the curtained apartment. The figure, which is of life size, is near a table, on which are law books and the Colonial charter partly unrolled. Adams, clad in his usual plain costume of dark red, stands erect in an attitude of commanding dignity. His left arm is outstretched, and the rigid forefinger points down upon the charter, formidable with its great seal and engrossed lettering, while the other hand holds the written message from the exasperated  thousands now awaiting his return with the issue of peace or carnage. The iron will of the man is revealed in the appearance of the document, doubling up within his tightened grasp, the effort bringing out every muscle of the sinewy, finely-formed hand. Courage, determination, and an indescribable majesty are stamped upon the face. The lips, clean cut, and slightly compressed with the momentous nature of the occasion; the gray hair thrown back from the temples in flowing locks; the forehead massive and white, the deep blue eye fixed with resolute intentness upon the royal Governor, – present a type of intellectual manhood, corroborating all accounts, written and verbal, of the personal appearance of Samuel Adams.

The source of Wells’ assumption may have stemmed from John Adams’ vivid tableau, despite Copley’s painted inscription on the document held in Adams’ right hand explicitly identifying it as Adams’ own “Instructions of the Town of Boston to its Representatives in the General Court”. Wells instead identifies the rolled document as a written message from the townspeople assembled in the Old South demanding the removal of the regular troops from the town. The visible elements of the painting, however, do not support Wells’ attribution. In the painting, Adams is mute, but gives voice to his message by adamantly referencing the documents, which by their presence and visible identification demonstrably refer to the issue of taxation without representation, rather than the military occupation of Boston in 1770. In the painting Adams directly addresses the viewer, which in terms of the Hutchinson – Adams confrontation, would place the viewer inexplicably in Hutchinson’s position, vis-à-vis Adams. The rolled document held in the painting by Adams consists of numerous pages, while Adams apparently delivered his message from the committee in the Old South verbally. Further, there are no examples in Copley’s American oeuvre where he attempted to represent a historical or contemporary event. Even when Copley later helped pioneer the art of contemporary history painting in London, his productions in this realm subjugated strictly literal historical record to the pictorial requirements of allegory.

Rather than commemorating Samuel Adams’ statement at the 1770 meeting about the removal of the British regiments, the internal pictorial evidence within the portrait suggests that it refers essentially to the very same issue forming the subject of Gage’s portrait: whether or not Parliament had the right to impose taxes and laws on the American colonists. While the commonalities of props, pose and historical context relate the Adams and Gage portraits to each other, their specific inherent political and military messages, recognizable to the intended Boston audience, suggest that Adams’ was composed as a direct reply and counterpoint to the warning and challenge explicit in Gage’s portrait. Gage, through the visual medium of his portrait, had thrown down a virtual gauntlet to the people of Boston, only to have it picked up by Samuel Adams (and perhaps John Hancock), creating a pictorial political debate in which history was to prove that the Bostonian had the last word.

Without the circumstance of the Hutchinson meeting to relate the date of the Samuel Adams portrait to c.1770 –1772, a probable date can be found in closer proximity to the portrait that it appears to be a response to – Gage’s portrait, painted between November 1768 and October 1769. Another clue to the date of the Samuel Adams portrait may be perceivable in a rare instance of Copley’s own testimony. In a letter to Benjamin West dated November 24, 1770, Copley expressed an extreme reluctance to be even remotely associated with the radical member of Parliament John Wilkes, an association which might potentially have been construed from the public exhibition in London of a portrait by Copley of a four year old namesake of Wilkes: “The party spirit is so high, that what ever compliments the Leaders of either party is lookd on as a tassit disapprobation of those of the other; and tho I ought to be considered in this work as an Artist imployd in the way of my profession, yet I am not sure I should be, and as I am desireous of avoideing every imputation of party spir[it], Political contests being neighther pleasing to an artist or advantageous to the Art itself, I would not have it at the Exhibition on any account what ever if there is the Least room to suppose it would give offence to any persons of eighther party, but at all events I should be happy in possessing your observations on it with cander and freedom.”[31]

It would be difficult to reconcile Copley’s avowed abhorrence of political partisanship with his highly politicized performance of his portrait of Samuel Adams, unless it was painted prior to his expression of these sentiments in November 1770, in his letter to West. One cannot help but wonder if perhaps Copley’s extreme sensitivity to this issue as revealed in the letter was a consequence of whatever reactions he incurred in Boston as a result of being associated with first the Gage portrait and then the Adams portrait, and even whether he may have been obliged to paint the Adams portrait to palliate the radical townspeople’s response to that of Gage. Copley was already politically implicated by his marriage into a family identified as being at the heart of Tory commercial, and by extension political, interests. By the time of his November 1770 letter to West, he had clearly become extremely averse to political controversy, at the very least as being inimical to the interests of his career. One has to wonder what challenges Copley may have faced personally and professionally in consequence of having created these two portraits, obliged to literally represent such diametrically opposed factions of the growing conflict which as a consequence he found himself in the middle of.  In a remarkably prophetic letter written by Copley in July 1775 to his wife Susanna upon hearing of the outbreak of the Revolution, he may allude to this earlier conflict: “Whoever think the Americans can be easily subdued is greatly mistaken; they will keep their enthusiasm alive till they are victorious, if I am not extremely mistaken.  You know, years ago, I was right in my opinion that this would be the result of the attempt to tax the colony; it is now my settled conviction that all the power of Great Britain will not reduce them to obedience.  Unhappy and miserable people, once the happiest, now the most wretched!  How warmly I expostulated with some of the violent “Sons of Liberty” against their proceedings they must remember; and with how little judgment, in their opinion, did I then seem to speak!  But all that is past; the day of tribulation is come, and years of sorrow will not dry the orphanstears nor stop the widowslamentations; the ground will be deluged with the blood of its inhabitants before peace will again assume its dominion in that country.[32]


[1] Alden, John Richard. General Gage in America. New York, 1948. P.160.
[2] Gage, letter to Lord Hillsborough (Secretary of State for the Colonies) September 26, 1768, in Clarence Edwin Carter’s “The Correspondence of General Thomas Gage”, Vol. 1, 196 – 197. Yale University Press, 1931.
[3] Gage, letter to Lord Barrington, September 26, 1768. Carter, Vol. 1.
4 William Dunlap, History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States. New York, 1834. Vol. 1, p. 126.
5 Collection of Columbia University, New York, New York.
6 Myles Cooper, letter to Copley, Aug. 21, 1769. Letters & Papers of John Singleton Copley and Henry Pelham 1739 – 1776. Massachusetts Historical Society,  1914. p. 71.  The
7 Copley, letter to Henry Pelham, June 16, 1771. Letters & Papers of John Singleton Copley and Henry Pelham 1739 – 1776. Massachusetts Historical Society, 1914.  p. 118.
8 A layman was a pose-able wood figure on which an artist could arrange cloth or linen to model clothing (“drapery”) for sketching or painting.
9 Henry Pelham, letter to Copley, July 11, 1771. Letters & Papers of John Singleton Copley and Henry Pelham 1739 – 1776. Massachusetts Historical Society, 1914.  p. 126.
10 See advertisements by Ennis Graham, New York Journal, Oct.24, 1771; Thomas Nixon, New York Journal, Nov.5, 1789. A later (c.1790) version of Gage’s General’s “frock” is illustrated in the manuscript pattern book of the London tailoring firm Welch & Stalker, with the notation “Embroidered [button]holes”.
11 The lapels, cuffs and “cape” (collar) of Captain Maturin’s coat reflect the narrower dimensions generally adopted under the sweeping military clothing reforms of the Royal Warrant of 1768.  Gage’s coat is of an earlier, pre-1768 form, with slash cuffs, and wider lapels, collar and cuffs, and thus longer buttonholes.
12 Collection of the author. While the name “Mrs. Mortier” appears in the transcription of Copley’s 1771 New York sitter’s list published by the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1914, an examination of the actual original document surviving in the National Archives (Kew, Richmond, Surrey) reveals that the name as written is in fact “Mr. Mortier”. In the portrait, Abraham Mortier wears the uniform coat specific to his appointment as Deputy Paymaster General. A number of pre-1783 portraits of British staff officers serving in North America suggest that an undress “frock” alternative to the more elaborately embroidered staff uniforms worn in Britain was normally worn here. A feature common to all the“American” undress General’s and staff uniforms was the straight embroidered gold or silver buttonhole, just as seen in the Copley portraits here discussed. In his portrait, Abraham Mortier’s Deputy Paymaster’s coat is also of this American undress frock form.
13 Copley, letter to Thomas Ainslie, February 25, 1765. Letters & Papers of John Singleton Copley and Henry Pelham 1739 – 1776. Massachusetts Historical Society,  1914. p. 33
14 Copley, letter to Henry Pelham, June 20, 1771. Letters & Papers of John Singleton Copley and Henry Pelham 1739 – 1776. Massachusetts Historical Society, 1914.  p. 120.
15 Charles Willson Peale’s painting rooms in Annapolis and later Philadelphia are well recorded. Benjamin West, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough all followed the long established practice of maintaining painting rooms that doubled as semi-public galleries, where works both finished and in progress could be viewed by prospective clients and the admitted public.
16 In a letter of January 25, 1765 to London, Copley gave his address as “John Singleton Copley portrait Painter in Cambridge street Boston”.  Letters & Papers of John Singleton Copley and Henry Pelham 1739 – 1776. p. 32. Massachusetts Historical Society, 1914. p. 32.
17 Captain John Small, letter to Copley, October 29, 1769. Letters & Papers of John Singleton Copley and Henry Pelham 1739 – 1776. Massachusetts Historical Society, 1914. p.77.
18 Captain John Small, letter to Copley, May 15, 1770. Letters & Papers of John Singleton Copley and Henry Pelham 1739 – 1776. Massachusetts Historical Society, 1914. p. 94.
19 Monckton served in North America from 1753 to 1763, gaining fame for his role in the French and Indian War.  He also resided in Boston during the winter of 1754-55, and served as Governor of New York, 1762-3.
20 The fourth is Angelica Kauffman’s portrait of Lt. Gen. the Marquess of Townshend, c.1775. Interestingly, Copley himself provided the last known depiction of the “antique” wooden baton, in his c.1813 portrait of the Duke of Wellington, at a time when the artist’s powers and mind were evidently failing.
21 Letter from Sylvia Hopkins, Keeper of Uniforms, National Army Museum, London, to Carrie Rebora, Feb. 1, 1985. Curatorial file, Yale Center for British Art; cited in Rebora, Carrie. John Singleton Copley in America. Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1995. p. 287.
22 The new pattern of General’s embroidered coat adopted c.1770 was distinguished by a distinctively elaborate pattern of embroidery for the buttonholes, consisting of overlapping “S” figures in gold, and was thereafter featured in the vast majority of General officer’s portraits until the pattern ceased to be regulation in 1828. Gage wears this new regulation pattern of General’s uniform coat in his portrait signed and dated by David Martin, 1775 (Firle Estate Settlement Trust, East Sussex, England)
23 The “Staff” pattern button continued to be regulation for British staff officers through the late 19th century.
24 While this order introduced a system of displaying the gradations in General officer’s rank by the spacing of the buttonholes, Gage’s coat likely predated the order. All other known pre c.1770 portraits depicting this uniform show single spaced buttonholes, regardless of the rank of General being depicted. The order specifies the “slash” cuff (i.e. a buttoned vertical flap opening), which was not a feature of the post c.1770 General’s uniform coat.
25 Aside from Copley’s portrait of Maj. Gen. Thomas Gage, the other “American” portraits known to feature the early frock uniform include the portrait by Reynolds of Maj. Gen. William Keppel at the storming the Morro Castle, Havana 1762 (painted c.1763-4); another portrait by Reynolds of Lt. Gen. Sir Jeffrey Amherst, (c.1765-8), Benjamin West’s portrait of Maj. Gen. Hon. Robert Monckton at the Capture of Martinique, 1762 (painted c.1764); a portrait known only from an engraving of Brigadier Guy Carleton, c.1766-8; a mezzotint of Maj. Gen. Sir William Howe (but perhaps originally drawn of Amherst) by and after Richard Purcell, published by John Morris 1777 and another portrait of Lt. Gen. Thomas Gage, painted in England c.1773-4, attributed to Hugh Barron. The only observed exceptions to the North American rule are two portraits painted by Sir William Beechey in 1798 and 1799 of King George III wearing this frock uniform, presumably to indicate his readiness to take to the field in response to the threatened invasion by France.
26 Carol Troyen, entry for Samuel Adams in Rebora, Carrie. John Singleton Copley in America. Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1995. p. 275. The March 6 1770 Hutchinson confrontation as the setting and 1772 as a proposed year for Copley having painted the work are further discussed in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts online catalogue entry (as of summer of 2016).
27 John Adams, Letter to William Tudor, April 15, 1817. Published in Niles’ Weekly Register, Boston, May 9, 1818, p.179.
28 Copley’s use of this device may have been derived from West’s portrait of Gen. Monckton (see fig. 4), where Monckton’s orders from the King are rolled in imitation of a baton of command. Thus Copley’s image of Adams would echo the inherent imperative of command from a higher authority.
29 Alexander, John K.  Samuel Adams: America’s Revolutionary Politician. Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Md. 2004. p. 21
30 William Vincent Wells, The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams. Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 1865. p.476.
31 Copley, letter to Benjamin West, November 24, 1770. Letters & Papers of John Singleton Copley and Henry Pelham 1739 – 1776. Massachusetts Historical Society, 1914. p. 98
[32] Copley, letter to Susanna Copley, July 22, 1775. Amory, Martha Babcock. The Domestic and Artistic Life of John Singleton Copley, R.A., with Notices of his Works and Reminiscences of His Son, Lord Lyndhurst, High Chancellor of Great Britain. Boston, 1882. p. 62.