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The Newburgh Conspiracy – Part 1

February 18, 2014

More than a year had passed since Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown.  The war was not yet officially ended, but victory was certain.  Meanwhile, the Congress was backtracking on its promise of military pensions.  Perhaps the rumor of a military coup originated in Philadelphia among congressmen who hoped to gain popular support for taxes.  There were some unofficial discussions among the officers at Newburgh, New York.  They were planning to meet on March 11, 1783, but General Washington intervened.  Only he could authorize such a meeting of the officer corps, and he would not be ready for a few more days.

The day of the meeting Washington spoke to an assembly of 500 officers, men who had sacrificed greatly to achieve American independence.  He sympathized with them and reminded them how he had shared their hardships.  Then in no uncertain terms he said: “And let me conjure you, in the name of our Common Country, as you value your own sacred honor, as you respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the Military and National Character of America, to express Your utmost horror and detestation of the Man who wishes, under any specious pretences, to overturn the liberties of our Country, and who wickedly attempts to open the flood Gates of Civil discord, and deluge our rising Empire in Blood.”

Some have said this was a more important speech than any he later gave as President.  But was it enough to stop the Newburgh Conspiracy?

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