George Washington Gives Newburgh Conspiracy Speech

March 15, 2022

In the early days of 1783, the new nation of America was facing a second revolution, this one against the new American government. On March 15, 1783, George Washington put an end to the budding rebellion by giving a speech.

The problem began with the Continental Congress. It had failed to pay or feed the Continental Army for quite some time, offering a series of broken promises but taking no action. As the army had just won the Revolutionary War and freed the American colonies from British rule, the army felt this showed an intolerable level of disrespect. And, also, they really wanted to eat.

Some started calling for revolt against the Continental Congress. They even went so far as to call together a meeting of army officers at Newburgh to discuss the idea. Then General George Washington got wind of the plot.

He forestalled the plot by making a surprise appearance at Newburgh to address the officers. He asked them not to take any action that would diminish the glory and dignity they had earned in the war. He asked them to trust the new American government. And he asked them to let him read a letter from a member of the Continental Congress.

He hesitated a moment before reading and then pulled out a pair of reading glasses. He apologized to his audience for the delay, but, he told them, he had grown old in the service of his country and was now going blind. And with that, he reminded his officers in a subtle yet powerful way of how much he had sacrificed for the new country and for them. It is said there was not a dry eye in the building. And with that, the Newburgh conspiracy was stopped before it had even started.

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