MARYLAND'S STATE HOUSE
George Washington, Articles of Confederation,
& the Treaty of Paris
by John T. Marck
Maryland's State House, located in Annapolis, is the oldest State House still in continuous legislative use. It was designed by the prominent colonial architect Joseph Horatio Anderson. Construction on the State House began in 1772, but was delayed by the American Revolutionary War, being finally completed in 1779. The structures first cupola has been replaced to the existing dome, that was designed by another colonial architect Joseph Clark. It was completed in 1774 and is the oldest and largest wooden dome of its kind in the United States. Additionally, the Maryland State House was the first peacetime capitol of the United States, as well as the only state house to have served as the nation's capitol from November 26, 1783 to August 13, 1784, whereby in the Old Senate Chamber the Continental Congress met. On December 23, 1783 General George Washington resigned his commission as Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Army here, as well as the Treaty of Paris was ratified here on January 14, 1784, officially ending the Revolutionary War. Additionally, on May 7, 1784, Thomas Jefferson was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary. Also from here, on September 14, 1786, the Annapolis Convention issued the call to the States that led to the Constitutional Convention.
There are two sections to the State House; the original or old and the new. The original section's interior of the State House was constructed of wood and plaster. Between 1902 and 1906, a newer section was added made from Italian marble. This newer section was designed by Francis Baldwin and Josiah Pennington. A black line painted on the lobby floor marks the line between the two sections. In 1968, the Maryland State House was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior.
To enter the Old State House, one passes through a door that faces the Annapolis harbor. This entrance door opens onto the Rotunda. Located directly under the dome is an exact replica of the ship, the Maryland Federalist. The original was built in 1788, and completed on April 28, by the citizens of Baltimore to celebrate Maryland's ratification of the United States Constitution. The full size fifteen-foot replica was completed in 1987 for Maryland's celebration of the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. Three days following the ratification, a large parade was held, with the Federalist being the main attraction. The ship was rigged with seven sails, in honor of Maryland being the seventh state to ratify.
It was the naval hero Captain Joshua Barney who conceived the idea of celebrating the ratification with a tiny ship. About a month following the parade and celebration, Captain Barney set sail in the Federalist from Baltimore, en route for Mt. Vernon, Virginia. His trip took him down the Chesapeake Bay and up the Potomac River, arriving at Mt. Vernon nine days later. Once here, Captain Barney presented the tiny ship to George Washington, as a gift in gratitude from the citizens of Baltimore. Woefully, a hurricane struck the shores Mt. Vernon, sinking the Federalist.
The second Federalist has the seven sails like the original, as well as other Maryland symbols. She is painted red, white, black and gold, the colors of the Maryland flag; and her trail boards are the leaves of the Wye Oak, and on her bow, a Black-eyed Susan; and flies the Calvert banner, which has been incorporated into the Maryland flag. On July 1, 1988, the Federalist was turned over to the Maryland State Archives, by the Maryland Federalist Foundation, who raised the funds to build her. The Rotunda in the State House is the permanent home of the Federalist, except for random displays at Baltimore-Washington Airport.
As one continues in the Old State House, located to the right of the front door, in the Old Senate Chamber. It is here that the Continental Congress met, and where George Washington resigned his commission. This room has been restored to its original appearance complete with a mannequin of George Washington, dressed as he appeared when he resigned. The head of the mannequin of Washington is a replica of the one sculptured by French artist Jean-Antoine Houdon in 1785. The uniform is an exact replica of that worn by Washington, The original uniform depicted here is housed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Above the fireplace in the Old Senate Chamber is a painting by Charles Willson Peale, titled, Washington, Lafayette and Tilghman at Yorktown. It depicts General Washington with his aide-de-camp and secretary, Colonel Tench Tilghman, and the Marquis de Lafayette. Colonel Tilghman, from Talbot County, was the courier who carried the news of the British surrender at Yorktown to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. On display here are two of Tench Tilghman's original swords. They were acquired by the State of Maryland in 1988. These swords were bequeathed to the State by the great great granddaughter of Tilghman, a Judith Goldsborough Oates, who died in Baltimore at the age of 98. Other paintings located here are also by Charles Willson Peale of five of Maryland's governors; William Paca, John Eager Howard, William Smallwood, John Hoskins Stone, and George Plater. At both sides of the entrance are two rows of Windsor chairs used by spectators and commissioners. Above the entrance way is the Ladies Balcony. Featured on the border around the balcony is a hand carved tobacco leaf motif, lending to the importance of tobacco during this time, as Maryland's chief cash crop, and currency.
Washington Resigns at Old Senate Chamber
Eight years earlier, George Washington, dressed in his blue uniform of a colonel in the Virginia militia, stood before Congress and accepted their commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. At the time, Washington said, "I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with."
Now, on a cold December morning, two days before Christmas, he was before Congress again. Any doubts of that earlier day had all been laid to rest. As he stood to address Congress, his eyes were dimmed, his hands shaking, and his voice choked with emotion. At the age of forty-four, George Washington wanted now only to return to his beloved Mount Vernon to spend the remainder of his years. Several weeks earlier, On December 4, General Washington had bade farewell to his officers at Frances' Tavern in New York. It was a very emotional time for Washington, embracing some of the men, and shaking hands with others. Von Steuben was there, along with his trusted friends Henry Knox and Benjamin Tallmadge. As the day ended, Washington turned to take one last salute from the assemblage. He then set out for his journey to Annapolis, where Congress was in session.
His journey to Annapolis had been a pleasurable one, taking a barge across New Jersey, stopping briefly in Trenton, then on to Philadelphia and finally Annapolis. Along his route, he had received an outpouring of gratitude and affection from his fellow countrymen. On December 22, an elaborate dinner and reception was held in his honor. Among the two hundred guests were the aristocracy of Annapolis as well as members of Congress. Thirteen toasts were given, followed by the firing of thirteen cannons and a ball at the State House.
On December 23, 1783, General Washington entered the Senate Chamber of the State House in Annapolis. Crowded in the chamber were Congressmen, Maryland dignitaries, and a few army officers, all wishing to hear Washington speak. In a voice that was barely audible, despite the hushed silence, General Washington began by praising his officers and congratulating Congress. Then after a short pause, he hurried to the business at hand: "Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theater of action; and bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take leave of all the employments of public life."
The speech lasted three minutes. When it was over, Washington took his commission from his pocket and handed it to Thomas Mufflin, the President of Congress, and quickly left the chamber. After bidding farewell to close friends, Washington rode to Mount Vernon in time to celebrate Christmas at home for the first time in many, many years. On April 30, 1789, George Washington was elected President of the United States. He served two terms, ending on March 4, 1797. Following the Presidency, he retired to Mount Vernon, where on December 14, 1799, he died of pneumonia at the age of 67. George Washington is buried at his beloved Mount Vernon, in Virginia.
The Articles of Confederation are Ratified
Continuing failure to put together the confederation could have undermined the Revolution. Quarreling among the states was hindering the war effort and threatened to break the already fragile nation. Additionally, France, Spain, and Holland were reluctant to grant loans to a nation that did not officially exist. In spite of this, Maryland continued to hold out. New York's cession of its western lands in 1780 was not enough. Unless Connecticut, which had minimal claims, and Virginia, which had a lot to lose, followed New York's lead, the Maryland Assembly would not support the Articles.
James Madison and Joseph Jones, Virginia delegates, led the Congressional attempt to break the deadlock. On September 6, 1780, Congress adopted a resolution urging the states to agree to "a liberal surrender of a portion of their territorial claims, since they cannot be preserved entire without endangering the stability of a general confederacy..." In further strength of the argument, Congress announced on October 10, that all ceded lands would be disposed of for the common benefit of the United States. In the future, they would become separate states, but for now it was up to the disputing parties to act.
At the same time that Jones returned to Virginia to personally promote adoption of the Congressional measure, Connecticut agreed to give up its controversial claims. Additionally, on November 22, the Maryland Assembly, meeting in Annapolis, agreed to consider ratification. A joint committee of the Maryland Assembly's two houses was appointed to consider the question and draft instructions to the state's Congressional delegates. Originally, opinions were divided and debate continued for over two months, but two events finally broke the stalemate.
On January 2, Virginia passed an act ceding to the United States the territory northwest of the Ohio River. At this same time, France's minister to the colonies, Chevalier de La Luzerne, refused to grant a loan request by Maryland, on the grounds of non-ratification. This information tipped the scales. As January closed, and during the first days of February, the Maryland Assembly came to its decision. It authorized the state's delegation in Congress to subscribe to the Articles of Confederation. On February 12, Daniel Carroll, a newly elected Congressional delegate, became the first Maryland signer. The second required signature was affixed by John Hanson. Congress set March 1, at twelve midnight, as the time for the public announcement that the Confederation of the United States was officially born.
Upon the announcement, an enormous celebration ensued. A cannon on land in Philadelphia fired thirteen volleys, one for each of the thirteen states. A similar "fire of joy," began from John Paul Jones' frigate, the Ariel. Celebrations were held all over the United States, as fireworks lit up the nighttime sky. Local newspapers paid tribute to "A Union, begun by necessity, cemented by opposition and common danger, and now finally consolidated into a perpetual confederacy of these new and rising states."
On March 1, 1781, the Articles of Confederation were ratified at the State House in Annapolis, with Maryland being the last to sign, under which the thirteen original colonies establish a government of states.
The Treaty of Paris
Following the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781, most of the fighting ended. But the war was not formally over until the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. In the Treaty of Paris, Great Britain formally recognized the independence of the United States. On January 14, 1784, the Congress of the Confederation met at the State House in Annapolis, Maryland, and ratified the Treaty.
Today, visitors may visit the Old Senate Chamber at the State House in Annapolis. On the floor in the chamber is a plaque marking the spot where George Washington resigned his commission, as well as a statue figure likeness of the general. Admission to the State House and the Old Senate Chamber is free.
The Calvert Room, located to the left of the front door, features portraits of George Calvert, First Lord Baltimore; Cecil Calvert, Second Lord Baltimore; Frederick Calvert, Sixth Lord Baltimore; and Leonard Calvert, first Proprietary Governor of Maryland, as well as a portrait of Margaret Brent. Also located here is a portrait of Senator Verda Welcome, Maryland's first African-American women elected to the Maryland Senate.
Next to the Calvert Room is the Maryland Silver Room. This room contains exhibits and documents relating to Maryland and the U.S. Constitution, titled, In the Course of Human Events: Maryland the Seventh State, and the U.S.S. Maryland Silver Service. Also here are two paintings; The Planting of the Colony, a fictional representation of the landing of colonists from the Ark and the Dove on St. Clements Island, March 25, 1634; and The Burning of the Peggy Stewart, purchased by the State in 1898. The last display is the John Shaw Flag, a replica of one of two such flags. One of the two original flags flew over the State House for the President of the Continental Congress when it convened at Annapolis, and the second flew over the president's house, at what is now the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy. Both of the original flags no longer exist. The design for the replica was achieved from receipts for materials found at the Maryland State Archives, 200 years later. Both the Calvert and Maryland Silver Room were the original location used by the House of Delegates. The last room in the Old State House is that used for the Visitors' Center. Outside the Visitors' Center is a plaque commemorating the space shuttle Challenger. On this patch is a crew patch, and an American and Maryland flag. It was presented to the people of Maryland by Mrs. Michael Smith, wife of the Challenger commander, a 1967 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, who lost his life in the disaster.
Located in the New State House is the New Senate and House of Delegates Chambers. Both of these rooms were build as part of the new annex in 1905 and 1906. The new Senate Chamber is decorated in red and white, the Crossland colors, and the new House of Delegates Chamber is black and gold, the four colors of the Maryland Flag. Woven into the carpet in the Senate is the Great Seal of 1648. On the walls in the Senate Chamber are portraits of Maryland's four signers of the Declaration of Independence, as well as Edwin Warfield and John Walter Smith, both former governors and presidents of the Senate On the desk at the front of the chamber are two statues of John Hanson and Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Larger versions of these statues are on display in the U.S. Capitol.
The House of Delegates Chamber was restored in 1992, as well as the Tiffany Skylight. Around the walls of the House Chamber are portraits of the former Speakers of the House. Those depicted are: Clayton Mitchell, Benjamin Cardin, John Hanson Briscoe, Emmanuel Gorfine, Thomas Hunter Lowe, Perry O. Wilkinson, Marvin Mandel, A. Gordon Boone, John Christopher Luber, and Millard E. Tydings.
Photographs of the Maryland State House © by John T. Marck. Unauthorized duplication in any form is prohibited.
Copyright © 1993-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.