George Washington and the Society of the Cincinnati

By Frank E. Grizzard, Jr.

Let me begin by making a few remarks about the George Washington that I know. He is not either of the ones we are most familiar with—the dignified but silent one engraved on the dollar bill, or the noble and elegant-looking one portrayed on the typical twenty-five-cents piece. The first, a drab, colorless, and ultimately stuffy-looking individual after Gilbert Stuart’s famous painting, who apparently is suffering from sore gums and probably a toothache, is not only past his prime but in his decline. The latter one somewhat more resembles him, perhaps, for he is a leader among men, a military man carrying upon his shoulders the burdens of a cause that he considers more important than his own life, but his apparent leap from stone to metal makes him even more inaccessible than Houdon’s original marble sculpture.

Washington at 45. After a miniature by Charles Willson Peale. Courtesy Mount Vernon Ladies Association.

Rather, he is a man not only still in his prime but with very much to live for. He is a man of boundless energy, indefatigable even though prone to serious illness. With some notable exceptions, he usually is optimistic, and he has a strong temper, which he invariably controls, even when greatly agitated. He can be stern when necessary. He is tenacious, demanding, moral, but humorous—not grave—as can be seen in the famous life portraits of Washington painted by Charles Willson Peale in 1772 and 1776, and in my favorite, the Peale miniature painted for Martha Washington between 1777 and 1779. It is evident in these portraits that Washington still retains the vitality of his youth. The Washington of the latter portrait especially not only grins but seems to immensely enjoy doing so, as though he is on the verge of chuckling out loud at some story that Parson Weems or grandson George Washington Parke Custis would later tell about his childhood, such as the famous ones of his barking the cherry tree, tossing the bar, or skipping rocks across the Rappahanock River at Ferry Farm, his childhood home.

The early surveying career and the French and Indian War service of the George Washington that I am acquainted with is by now a distant dream. The life he had enjoyed since—the comfortable life of the Virginia planter elite, with the myriad duties of plantation management—also has begun to fade from memory. The predictable routines of the civic churchman, the vestryman, the Mason, and the businessman have been left behind on the southern shores of the Potomac River. By all accounts he has had a happy home life with Martha and her children, marred only by the death of his beloved step-daughter Patsy Custis in 1773, and the deaths of other family members and in-laws, an inescapable part of eighteenth-century life. The happy periods with friends George William Fairfax and his wife Sally, who had left for England never to return, as well as the days of foxhunting and cockfighting and evenings of dining and playing cards are all now behind him, replaced with the society of the officers’ mess or the local tavern keeper, and punctuated by an occasional ball thrown for the officers and their wives at army headquarters.

The time to read for pleasure’s sake is over; in fact the time at hand is too short to keep up with the letters flowing in from Congress and from generals and other officers, or for interpreting the reports about British troop movements and minor skirmishes or intelligence from the northern lakes and Canada. In addition, newspapers and propaganda sources also must be scanned, and general orders issued every day. There is little time for contemplating religious or philosophic subjects, even if so inclined, and by the surviving evidence, he is not much inclined to either.

The George Washington that I know is a master administrator, as much involved with moving supplies and equipping the troops as with the study of strategy and tactics. A stickler for details, he must wage war on the vagaries of generalities. As historian Douglas Southall Freeman observed in his magnificent Pulitzer prize-winning biography of Washington: “Burdensome was, in heaviest reality, the word to apply to Washington’s administrative duties around the clock and through every year.” He has a clear vision of what he wants to see accomplished during the Revolution—a unified America—and, as former West Point superintendent Gen. David Palmer has so aptly observed, Washington set his goals with that vision in mind and never ever took his eyes off of them. He never wavered in his aims. He leads by example as well as precept, delegates when possible, demands loyalty and gladly returns it in kind, requests and welcomes success, but also expects and remains undaunted by failure.

Whether or not Washington’s role in the winning of American independence and in the framing and executing of a new government was “indispensable” is a question for those who enjoy the mental gymnastics of contemplating the unresolvable “What might have beens?” of history. Many have said so, and it is certain that the course of the history of the United States would have taken a significantly different turn had not George Washington been a prominent actor in the Revolution. Those who have taken the time to study him carefully have all been struck by the fact that Washington was primarily a man of deeds. He was, but even a cursory reading of his wartime writings reveals that at every turn his actions were constrained by his profound respect for and deference to civil authority. During the war Washington was always extremely careful to operate within the boundaries set by the Continental Congress, even though this deference was all too often to his and to the army’s disadvantage. His insistence, too, on cooperating not only with the individual governments of the states and their chief executives but with local committees of safety and other bodies kept him and his aides-de-camp up late many a night writing and copying an array of letters that eventually numbered in the tens of thousands. In fact, two-thirds of the 135,000 letters and copies of letters that have been cataloged by the Papers of George Washington documentary editing project are from the Revolutionary War years.

While Washington’s subservience to civil authority has been celebrated justly as among the chief of his many virtues, it is important to note that it arose in part from his accurate assessment of what was and was not practical in a society ostensibly governed by freeholders. Washington’s pragmatism in facing the seemingly insurmountable challenges forced upon him by necessity sometimes goes unnoticed, where his respect for civil-military relations does not, but where you find the latter you usually find the other, and together they have led some astute observers to conclude that in Washington we have the consummate politician of American history. Washington was naturally cautious, despite the fact that he sometimes risked his life with reckless abandon on the battlefield. If the vicissitudes of events during the French and Indian War had taught him anything, it was that the fortunes of war are fickle. It was better to contemplate the possible consequences of a deed before it was done than to regret later the lack of proper forethought and planning. The result was that he was slow to make up his mind. Thomas Jefferson confirmed this aspect of his character in his accurate assessment of Washington more than a decade after his death, when he wrote:

His mind was great and powerful, without being of the very first order; his penetration strong, though not so acute as that of a Newton, Bacon, or Locke; and as far as he saw, no judgment was ever sounder. It was slow in operation, being little aided by invention or imagination, but sure in conclusion. Hence the common remark of his officers, of the advantage he derived from councils of war, where hearing all suggestions, he selected whatever was best; and certainly no General ever planned his battles more judiciously.

Historian Freeman also called attention to the same trait when analyzing the military strategy and tactics employed by Washington during the Revolutionary War. The lessons of caution and planning and changing fortune were relearned and reinforced during the Revolutionary War—the advantages won by driving the British army from Boston, for instance, quickly dissipated in the wake of the unexpected series of British successes in New York during 1776, bringing discouragement to the Patriots and driving many fence sitters firmly into the Loyalist camp. The tides of war turned again, almost overnight, with the American victories at Princeton and Trenton, signaling how a sudden victory might strike the British fatally, as it finally did five and one-half years later at Yorktown.

Washington was never so rigid in his thinking that he was unwilling to change his mind, and he did so gradually on two of the most important issues of his day—standing armies and slavery. Even after mature deliberation had convinced him that he was right about a matter, he was willing to reconsider his decisions, sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. Examples of both in the Revolutionary War can be pointed to. The loss of 4,000 men at Fort Washington on the Hudson River in September 1776 could have been averted if he had followed his first inclination to evacuate the fort, but after hearing Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene express his confidence that a British attack could be successfully repelled, Washington changed his mind, with disastrous results. On the other hand, his plan for the campaign of 1781 was to try to recapture New York City, but he ceded to Rochambeau’s counsel that he move his army south to Virginia, a prudent move that resulted in the victory at Yorktown and forced the British into realizing that it was time to think about peace. Furthermore, the pragmatic streak that tempered or motivated many of Washington’s deeds could lead him to make a sudden about-face on an issue, when required. It is hard to imagine a subject that could bring more sharply into focus these observations about Washington than the emergence of the Society of the Cincinnati during the last months of the war. At the same time, the Society’s formation offers a good perspective from which to observe how precarious the outcome of the American Revolution was even at the time when its victory on the battlefield was becoming apparent to its enemy.

It is easy to lose sight of the fact that the Revolutionary War did not end with the Continental army’s victory at Yorktown in October 1781. Cornwallis’s defeat was a major blow to the British army, of course, but the British still retained control of three important Atlantic ports—New York City, Charleston, and Savannah—and the British forces in America, totaling more than 26,000 troops, still outnumbered the Continental army by 5,000 men when the latter peaked in the spring of 1782. Moreover, although historians seldom make the error, it is also tempting to forget that the American Revolution itself was not won finally with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, but with the successful coming to power in 1789 of the federal government agreed upon under the Constitution and first presided over by Washington. The peaceful transition of power away from the weak Confederation government into a new stronger system, setting the precedent for the peaceful transition of power that we have enjoyed every four to eight years for more than two hundred years since—save once in 1861—certainly was not guaranteed, and in fact it hardly could have been on the minds of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay as they negotiated for peace with the British in the last months of the war.

Peace might be near, but the only way to ensure its coming was for the country to be prepared to wage war. “You know it is an old and true Maxim,” Washington wrote, “that to make a good peace, you ought to be well prepared to carry on the War.” Believing that another military campaign was not out of the question, Washington in 1782 spread his army from South Carolina to New England. But armies must be funded, for campaigns cost money, and that was the rub. The temporary reprieve given to the chronically exhausted state of Congress’s war chest by Robert Morris’s reorganization of the Continental finances abruptly ended in May 1782, and nothing more could be expected until Congress should shore up the public credit and the states fulfil their obligations—both of which involved raising taxes and neither of which might be expected without much wrangling. With the treasury depleted and respect for the public credit at an all-time low, money hardly could be found for the subsistence of the troops, much less for equipping regiments or for paying the soldiers’ back pay. Many within the army already believed that the troops had shouldered an unfair burden during the war and that their sacrifices were not fully appreciated by the citizenry in the states. The rumors of peace on the horizon made the troops afraid that they would be discharged and sent home with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and worthless promises from a bankrupt Confederation government. The officers especially were resentful that Congress had allocated neither the funds for half-pay pensions nor a settlement for past wages, for the officers had sacrificed much personally by casting aside private pursuits. It was a recipe for disaster.

As for Washington, his empathy, as always, was with the army. “In the first place,” he wrote Col. Theodorick Bland on 4 April 1783, “I fix it as an indispensible Measure, that previous to the Disbanding of the Army, all their accounts, should be compleately liquidated and settled—and that every person shall be ascertained of the Ballance due to him; and it is equally essential, in my opinion, that this Settlement should be effected, with the Army in its collected Body, without any dispersion of the different Lines to their respective States.” Even more importantly, warned Washington, partial payment of the balance due the officers must immediately follow the settlement of the accounts, before any of the troops were discharged. As for the issue of half-pay for life for the officers, Washington was even more emphatic. He stressed its significance when drafting his important circular letter to the states on the eve of disbanding the army in June 1783. “That provision,” he wrote of half-pay, “was a part of their hire. I may be allowed to say, it was the price of their blood, and of your independency; it is therefore more than a common debt, it is a debt of honor; it can never be considered as a pension or gratuity, nor be cancelled until it is fairly discharged.”

Despite the sorely deficient state of the Continental treasury, Washington successfully fielded another army in 1782, but the troops’ discontent simmered all summer and showed no signs of cooling off with the coming of fall and winter. Their patience could not be expected to last forever. As Washington put it, “The Army, as usual, are without pay; and a great part of the Soldiery without shirts; and tho’ the patience of them is equally thread bear, the States seem perfectly indifferent to their cries.” As a pressure group a standing army was a double-edged sword, a fact not lost to its senior officers, or to financier Robert Morris, or to the more perceptive delegates in the Continental Congress—it might prove to be as unwieldy as it was powerful. Fortunately for the fledgling republic, discussions among general officers during the winter about how to best exert the army’s influence were tempered by the officers’ determination to safeguard the army’s “immaculate” reputation at any cost. Nevertheless, it all came to a head on 10 March 1783 when an anonymous address called on the officers at Newburgh to “redress their own grievances.”

The moment of crisis was averted only by Washington’s personal and dramatic intervention. He had been warned that the dam was about to burst, that the army must be heard, and that Maj. Gen. Henry Knox might be called upon to assist in placating the officers. In general orders he sternly forbade the officers to meet as proposed by the anonymous address but he promptly and wisely arranged for another meeting two days later at which the officers’ grievances could be voiced. When issuing the order, he did not plan to be present at the meeting, but he changed his mind at the last minute and attended. The story has been told many times, and I cannot do it justice, of course—I wish I could recreate the theater for you—in fact, I doubt that Senator Thompson himself could do the moment justice, so I will just recount it as it has been passed down. After exhorting the officers to maintain their loyalty to Congress, Washington pulled out a letter from a Congressional delegate and began to read, but so haltingly, that he reached into his pocket for his spectacles, commenting while doing so, “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind.” Minutes later he was gone, his departure as unexpected as his arrival had been. The effect on the officers of his simple remark was so powerful that they immediately passed resolutions expressing confidence in Congress and rejecting the Newburgh Addresses “with disdain.” Yet the Newburgh affair so shocked Congress that the next week it promised the officers five years of pay in lieu of the half-pay pensions already approved but not provided for.

With all of the preceding lurking in the background—Washington’s ever-present concern for civil-military relations, the daily expectation of an announcement of peace with Great Britain, Congress’s reluctance to settle the longstanding debts owed to the army, the discontent among the officers and troops and their uncertain future, and Washington’s successful squashing of the Newburgh conspiracy—Henry Knox introduced his proposal to form the Society of the Cincinnati, a military society whose membership would be open to the whole officer corps, including the officers of foreign allies serving in America. Other officers in the New York area, including one of the Newburgh conspirators, Capt. Christopher Richmond of Maryland, reputedly were planning similar organizations at the same time that Knox made his plan known. The idea was not new to Knox, at least not in all its elements, for as early as September 1776 he had expressed a desire that he might have “some ribbon to wear in his hat, or in his button hole, to be transmitted to his descendants as a badge and a proof that he had fought in defence of their liberties.” Interestingly, the subject had arisen at a New York tavern during a discussion between Knox and John Adams about the ancient history of the Romans and the American war with Great Britain, and we know of it only because Adams later recounted the conversation to Jefferson, who noted it in his diary. For his chief collaborators in planning the Society, Knox relied on two men from New England, his own aide-de-camp, Capt. Samuel Shaw of Massachusetts, and Brig. Gen. Jedediah Huntington of Connecticut, as well as the major general Baron von Steuben. Other prominent early supporters at Washington’s encampment included Engineer Rufus Putnam, also of Massachusetts, and Alexander McDougall and Philip Van Cortlandt of New York.

The name of the Society could not have been better chosen. Like the noble Cincinnatus, who left his plow to lead the Roman war against the Aequi in 458 B.C., many of the officers serving in the Continental army had suspended their own agricultural pursuits in order to go off to war. Washington himself epitomized the disinterested and selfless sacrifice that the officers had made, for like the Roman general Washington not only had abandoned his farms but had been entrusted with dictatorial powers by his government, and he would very soon willingly resign his commission and return to private life. Washington was named president of the Society by its organizers.

Eagle owned by Colonel David Forman of New Jersey, d. 1797. Made by Jeremiah Andrews of Philadelphia. Private collection.

There were several good reasons for forming such an organization. First, it would be a benevolent society. Many officers were unprepared to return to civilian life after being in the service of their country for so long, and they faced an uncertain if not a bleak future. It was likely that substantial help would be necessary to support needy officers, widows, and orphans, and in Knox’s words, the Society would “erect some lone shelter for the unfortunate, against the storms and tempests of poverty.” The Society would attempt to fill the void left by Congress’s failure to settle the army’s accounts. This mutual concern for the future welfare of the officers and their families was the result of the intimacy that had developed over the years between men who shared a common sacrifice of suffering and fighting while in the army. Their bond was not something that could be shared with those who had not experienced it, and they were loathe to abandon it. As Surgeon William Eustis later recalled, the Society “grew naturally out of the affections of the officers from a desire to perpetuate their friendships.” The Society, with branches in each state, would provide a means for the officers to keep up “frequent communications” with one another. Also, likely as not, many other officers shared Knox’s wish to transmit to descendants some proof of wartime service. Congress had awarded medals and swords to a few officers of special distinction and Washington had established chevrons and purple ribbons for deserving noncommissioned officers and men, but as yet nothing had been proposed to recognize the “regular officer of long meritorious service.” The eagle-shaped badge and the medal designed by Pierre L’Enfant and adopted by the Society was appropriate for an organization borrowing motifs from the Roman empire.

At the same time, it is certain that the founders of the Society of the Cincinnati hoped that a national organization of former officers would be able to exert leverage in favor of their own interests on a recalcitrant Congress. If Congress had neglected the army during the war, what incentive would it have to settle its accounts with the troops once the fighting had ended and the men had returned home? Once back in their respective states, members of the Cincinnati could pressure both their delegates to Congress and their state lawmakers to seek a meaningful final settlement. What other influence the founders expected to bring to bear on the national political scene is unknown, although the officers who formed the nucleus of the Cincinnati tended to be men whose war experiences had given them, like Washington, a national vision; most in fact would be avid supporters of the Constitution, and many later gravitated toward the Federalist party.

On the other hand, the American public still retained its old fears of a standing army, and the legitimacy of the Cincinnati’s claims for existence was not adequate in the public’s eye to make it feel comfortable about an organized national society of former army officers, many of whom were disgruntled at their treatment by the government. There was more than one aspect of the Cincinnati that caused some consternation among the public when its existence became known in the months after the end of the war. Clauses in the Society’s Institution (its constitution) permitting frequent meetings, the raising of large sums of money, and the enrolling of foreign and honorary members could be construed as means to disguise more sinister intentions. A hereditary clause allowing members of the Cincinnati to pass on their membership to their eldest son was particularly troublesome. To many Americans a hereditary military society smacked of European aristocracy, which was opposed by the principles of the republican ideology of the Revolution. Ironically, several European monarchs opposed the Society because they were afraid of its republican principles.

Washington himself was skeptical about the Society, although he very much wanted to support his former army officers. He would not let the friendship of his old comrades-in-arms lead him into a public dispute, for he was not one to risk his reputation needlessly. So, characteristically, he took his time in making up his mind about whether to lend his name permanently to the organization. The first national assembly of the Cincinnati was planned for May 1784, and as the time drew near Washington sought opinions from trusted friends and advisors. The Cincinnati had supporters as well as detractors, and Washington heard from both. Some supporters reasoned that if the members had sinister motives they would not have allowed the troops under their command to peacefully surrender their weapons when the army disbanded. Others were convinced the Society would be instrumental in settling Congress’s debts to the army. Opponents attacked the badge of the Cincinnati as an ostentatious mark of distinction, but others questioned how it differed from the emblems worn by Freemasons.

In April 1784, still undecided about what course to pursue, Washington asked Jefferson, among others, to give him his opinion on the Institution of the Society. After studying the document Jefferson replied that he thought it originated from the officers’ natural desire to foster the friendships that had developed during the war. That was the only positive thing he had to say about the Institution or the Society. He went on to attack the hereditary clause on the ground that it was not aligned with the natural rights of the people but with the branches of “privilege & prerogative.” The acceptance of foreign members was unfortunate, Jefferson said, for the hereditary principle was part of the patronage system of modern governments, and hence the foreign members would side with the Society if it ever attempted to “procure an ingraftment into the government” of the U.S., which might happen if the time came when men joined the Society simply because it was popular. More serious, said Jefferson, the Institution of the Society tended to blur the proper relationship between the civil and military, giving rise to the risk that when assembled it might exercise its power in a way antithetical to the welfare of the nation. The latter assertion alone would have been enough to persuade Washington without Jefferson’s additional observation that “the moderation & virtue of a single character has probably prevented this revolution from being closed as most others have been by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish: that he is not immortal, & his successor or some one of his successors at the head of this institution may adopt a more mistaken road to glory.” No doubt these last statements clinched the argument, for Washington knew first hand that some Americans still harbored a desire for a king. In the final analysis, Jefferson thought that a modification rendering the Institution unobjectionable “would amount almost to annihilation; for such would it be to part with it’s inheritability, it’s organisation & it’s assemblies.”

The extent to which Washington accepted Jefferson’s criticism of the Institution can be seen in his Observations on the Institution of the Society, drafted around 4 May 1784:

“Strike out every word, sentence, and clause which has a political tendency.

Discontinue the hereditary part in all its connexions, absolutely, without any substitution which can be construed into concealment, or a change of ground only; for this would, in my opinion, encrease, rather than allay suspicions.

Admit no more honorary Members into the Society.

Reject subscriptions, or donations from every person who is not a Citizen of the United States.

Place the funds upon such a footing as to remove the jealousies which are entertained on that score.

. . . Abolish the General meetings altogether, as unnecessary . . . District meetings might also be discontinued as of very little use . . .

No alterations short of what is here enumerated will, in my opinion, reconcile the Society to the Community—whether these will do it, is questionable. Without being possessed of the reasons which induce many Gentlemen to retain the order or badges of the Society, it will be conceived by the public that this order . . . is a feather we cannot consent to pluck from ourselves, tho’ we have taken it from our descendants—if we assign the reasons, we might I presume as well discontinue the order.”

What we have here is a crystallization of Washington’s misgivings about the Institution of the Society of Cincinnati on the eve of the Society’s first national assembly, at which Washington himself was to preside. It is impossible to know whether Jefferson’s opinion on the Institution convinced Washington to oppose the Society as so conceived, or whether he had already come to that conclusion on his own and conveniently relied on Jefferson’s arguments when drawing up his Observations. Either way, Washington was persuaded that enough of the public was so firmly against the Society as a hereditary and military organization that its Institution must be so altered as to make the existence of the Society fundamentally unnecessary. When the Society’s delegates finally assembled at City Tavern in Philadelphia, Washington threatened to withdraw from the organization altogether if the Institution was not revised according to his demands. And accordingly, it was, but as the state organizations each individually had to approve the revision, and not all did, discussions continued.

Diamond Eagle, given to GW in the name of the French navy.

Washington was unsure that the Society could be saved because of the negative public reaction to it, but at the very moment he was presenting to the delegates his argument that they consider its disbandment, sudden and unexpected news arrived from France that forced him to make an about-face. At this critical point L’Enfant arrived from France with the badges and with the news that the French officers, among them d’Estaing and Rochambeau, had eagerly formed a French Society, with the approbation of the French king himself. Moreover, L’Enfant brought with him from France a gift for Washington, a golden eagle studded with diamonds, given in the name of the French navy. He also brought news that the French members had pledged substantial sums to the American society. It was now impossible to abolish the Society without insulting the Americans’ allies in victory. Aware that his reputation was involved in the controversy, Washington could no longer use the threat of withdrawing his membership as a bargaining chip to gain the passage of the amendments that he wanted. And he certainly could no longer suggest that the Society consider abolishing itself. In the end, he was forced to compromise, but the amendments to the Institution that were adopted included some of his proposals. The hereditary aspect was removed but honorary memberships were allowed within state societies. General meetings would still be held every three years, but only for regulating the distribution of surplus funds. And finally, the badges were retained because of the allies’ esteem for them, “not as ostentatious marks of discrimination, but as pledges of our friendship, and emblems, whose appearance will never permit us to deviate from the paths of virtue.” Taken together, the amendments buttressed the benevolent purposes of the organization. The amended Institution was accepted immediately by eight of the state branches, but it was unclear how many state societies had to approve the amendments before the revised Institution became effective. Before the year was out, some of the state societies were considering rescinding their adoption of the amended Institution and proposing to reintroduce the hereditary principle on new grounds. That unsettled state of affairs continued until after Washington’s death.

Washington later wrote, in August 1785, of the members’ willingness to compromise on the Institution at their first national assembly: “I am perfectly convinced that if the first institution of this Society had not been parted with, ‘ere this we should have had the country in an uproar, and a line of separation drawn between this society and their fellow citizens. The alterations which took place at the last general Meeting have quieted the clamours which in many States were rising to a great height.” Around that time Washington also noted that the officers could not be refused the right of “associating for the purpose of establishing a fund for the support of the poor and distressed of their fraternity . . . that charity is all that remains of the original Institution, none who will be at the trouble of reading it can deny.”

In the final analysis, Washington’s initial skepticism about the Society and his sudden reversal from advocating its abolition to supporting it to the extent of lending his name to it is completely in keeping with his character. It was after all a necessary and pragmatic political move aimed at pacifying the officers, and not alienating the French, although he risked offending part of the American public. But I like to think that Washington was thinking more than of just the political expediency of the moment. Perhaps he also had in mind his vision for the future of the United States, enabling him to see the positive aspects of a national organization, and he seized the opportunity to help define it. Peace had come, but completing the Revolution would require, he later wrote James Madison, that “prejudices, unreasonable jealousies, and local interest yield to reason and liberality. Let us look to our National character and to things beyond the present period.”



W. W. Abbot, ed., The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series, vol. 1 (Charlottesville, Va., 1992).

John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, vols. 26, 28 (Washington, D.C., 1938).

Edgar Erskine Hume, General Washington’s Correspondence concerning the Society of the Cincinnati (Baltimore, 1941).

David B. Mattern, Benjamin Lincoln and the American Revolution (Columbia, S.C., 1995).

Minor Myers, Jr., Liberty without Anarchy: A History of the Society of the Cincinnati (Charlottesville, Va., 1983).


Editorial Note

An abbreviated version of the following remarks was presented to the Tennessee Society, Sons of the Revolution, at its annual banquet in Knoxville on 26 February 2000. The author would like to thank Phil Chase, Ellen Clark, Robert Haggard, David Hoth, David Mattern, Christine Patrick, and Tanya Stanciu for reading the draft and making suggestions.

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