George Logan (1753-1821)

Page 5 of 11

George Logan

by Gilbert Stuart (c. 1804)

George Logan: Early American portrait making him look a bit like George Washington

Courtesy, Atwater Kent Museum, Philadelphia

Oil on canvas, 28 ½ x 23 ½ in.

The master of Stenton was a persistent pursuer of peace and lifelong observant Quaker, though expelled from meeting in 1791 because of his captaincy in a militia cavalry unit. He opposed the condemnation of the resisters of the whiskey tax and had resigned from from the militia when called upon by Washington to put down the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion.1 He was the grandson of James Logan, who had been William Penn's secretary and one of the most politically powerful and scholarly people in the proprietary colony. Stenton was built by James Logan, and it was there that he gathered his famous library that included his own publications in science.

In 1802 George Logan had finished his first year as a United States Senator and had figured in the history of the Expedition by his membership on the three-man committee that approved Jefferson's request for funds. He was then famous—or infamous—for an unofficial peace-mission to France that attached his name to a Congressional Act prohibiting such action (now codified as 18 U.S.C. 1953).2 The Federalist furor over his journey had stilled; he had been honored implicitly by being named chairman of the committee examining final ratification of a convention ending hostility with France. Still to come was his disappointment with Jefferson's foreign policy. It culminated in a second mission—this time to England—in search of peace during the Madison administration. The attempt was made in the face of contrary general opinion and in technical violation of the Logan Act, but it was shielded by President Madison's implicit consent.


1. Thomas McKean, one of Lewis's earliest hosts in Philadelphia, had also been unenthusiastic about Washington's plan. He was Chief Justice of Pennsylvania at the time of the rebellion.

2. The "Logan Act" made unlawful the personal diplomacy Logan had presumed to attempt. The Act reads in part: "Any citizen of the United States . . . who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measure or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."

Funded in part by a grant from the National Park Service, Challenge Cost Share Program