Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State

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Web Property of the U.S. Department of State


Object Details

Augustus Goodyear Heaton (American, 1844-1931)
United States: District of Columbia: Washington
North American
oil on canvas
Overall: 36 in x 30 in; 91.44 cm x 76.2 cm
This portrait of Abel P. Upshur, which is a copy, was purchased by the Department of State from Mr. Heaton on July 30, 1892.
Signed "A.G. Heaton Wash. 92"
Credit Line
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
Accession Number


Abel Parker Upshur (1791–1844) was born into a planter family in Northampton County, Virginia. He attended Yale College and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), then studied law and began a political career. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates and as a justice in the Virginia General Court before being appointed secretary of the navy by President John Tyler, a longtime friend. As secretary, Upshur worked to modernize and expand the navy, believing it played a vital role in securing the nation’s interests. When Secretary of State Daniel Webster resigned, Tyler asked Upshur to be secretary of state, confident of his interest in westward expansion.

As secretary, Upshur reopened negotiations that led to the annexation of Texas in 1845. He also worked to settle a border dispute with Great Britain over the Oregon Territory, resulting in the Oregon Treaty of 1846 that ended the joint occupation and extended the border at the 49th parallel around Vancouver Island all the way to the Pacific. But Upshur did not live to see these initiatives realized. In February 1844, while aboard the new warship, USS Princeton, on the Potomac River near Washington, D.C., he was killed by an accidental explosion of one of the ship’s guns.