Shannon Stirnweis: Philip Mazzei Portrait
In 1773, when he stepped off the frigate Triumph onto the soil of the New World at Jamestown, Virginia, Philip Mazzei began a 43-year romance with America. Persuaded by Benjamin Franklin, whom he had met in London, to move to Virginia and import wine, cheese, olive oil and other southern European products, Mazzei soon became caught up in the political affairs of the thirteen colonies. In collaboration with his friend and neighbor Thomas Jefferson, Mazzei wrote and published a periodical urging the colonists to prepare themselves for a possible attack from Britain. Fully a year before Thomas Paine published his essays, Mazzei, under the pen name "Furioso," published articles in America and Europe advocating liberty for his adopted country. When Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, he drew his inspiration from a Mazzei article which proclaimed, "All men are by nature equally free and independent." When fighting between colonists and British threatened to break out, Mazzei enlisted. But Patrick Henry, recognizing the potential value of a learned man, sent him instead to Europe to seek aid. Mazzei traveled to Italy, France and Holland in a largely unsuccessful bid for loans and materiel. Still, a grateful America hailed him as a hero, and he continued to promote the American cause. Until his death in Pisa, Italy, in 1816, he never ceased his efforts to clarify the distorted view of his beloved America and its people that many Europeans still held long after the Revolution.
This artwork was originally published on a Fleetwood® First Day Combination Cover of the Joint Issue of the U.S. 40¢ and Italy 3.20 lire stamps for Philip Mazzei.
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