Calvin Coolidge Address Before the Daughters of the American Revolution, Washington, D.C. – “… As there were Fathers in our Republic so there were Mothers.”

Members of the Daughters of the American Revolution: Coming to address the Thirty-fifth Continental Congress of the National Society of the Daughters American Revolution reminds me that I have had that privilege several times in the past. You represent one of the most distinguished patriotic orders of our Nation in cherishing the memory of the […]

The Treaty of Paris of 1783, Negotiated Between the United States and Great Britain, Ended the Revolutionary War and Recognized American Independence

On 3 September 1783, the Peace of Paris was signed and the American War for Independence officially ended. The following excerpt from John Ferling’s Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence recounts the war’s final moments, when Washington bid farewell to his troops. The war was truly over. It had lasted well […]

George Washington to Officers: “the freedom of Speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter”

George Washington to the General, Field, & other Officers Assembled at the New Building pursuant to the General Order of the 11th Instant March.

Head Quarters Newburgh 15th of March 1783

Gentlemen,

By an anonymous summons, an attempt has been made to convene you together—how inconsistent with the rules of propriety! how unmilitary! and how subversive of all order and discipline—let the good sense of the Army decide.

In the moment of this summons, another anonymous production was sent into circulation; addressed more to the feelings & passions, than to the reason & judgment of the Army. The Author of the piece, is entitled to much credit for the goodness of his Pen: and I could wish he had as much credit for the rectitude of his Heart—for, as Men see thro’ different Optics, and are induced by the reflecting faculties of the Mind, to use different means to attain the same end; the Author of the Address, should have had more charity, than to mark for Suspicion, the Man who should recommend Moderation and longer forbearance—or, in other words, who should not think as he thinks, and act as he advises. But he had another plan in view, in which candor and liberality of Sentiment, regard to justice, and love of Country, have no part; and he was right, to insinuate the darkest suspicion, to effect the blackest designs.

That the Address is drawn with great art, and is designed to answer the most insidious purposes. That it is calculated to impress the Mind, with an idea of premeditated injustice in the Sovereign power of the United States, and rouse all those resentments which must unavoidably flow from such a belief. That the secret Mover of this Scheme (whoever he may be) intended to take advantage of the passions, while they were warmed by the recollection of past distresses, without giving time for cool, deliberative thinking, & that composure of Mind which is so necessary to give dignity & stability to measures, is rendered too obvious, by the mode of conducting the business, to need other proof than a reference to the proceeding.

Thus much, Gentlemen, I have thought it incumbent on me to observe to you, to shew upon what principles I opposed the irregular and hasty meeting which was proposed to have been held on Tuesday last: and not because I wanted a disposition to give you every opportunity, consistent with your own honor, and the dignity of the Army, to make known your grievances. If my conduct heretofore, has not evinced to you, that I have been a faithful friend to the Army; my declaration of it at this time wd be equally unavailing & improper—But as I was among the first who embarked in the cause of our common Country—As I have never left your side one moment, but when called from you, on public duty—As I have been the constant companion & witness of your Distresses, and not among the last to feel, & acknowledge your Merits—As I have ever considered my own Military reputation as inseperably connected with that of the Army—As my Heart has ever expanded wth joy, when I have heard its praises—and my indignation has arisen, when the Mouth of detraction has been opened against it—it can scarcely be supposed, at this late stage of the War, that I am indifferent to its interests.

But—how are they to be promoted? The way is plain, says the anonymous Addresser—If War continues, remove into the unsettled Country—there establish yourselves, and leave an ungrateful Country to defend itself—But who are they to defend? Our Wives, our Children, our Farms and other property which we leave behind us. or—in this state of hostile seperation, are we to take the two first (the latter cannot be removed) to perish in a Wilderness, with hunger cold & nakedness? If Peace takes place, never sheath your Sword says he untill you have obtained full and ample Justice—this dreadful alternative, of either deserting our Country in the extremest hour of her distress, or turning our Army against it, (which is the apparent object, unless Congress can be compelled into an instant compliance) has something so shocking in it, that humanity revolts at the idea. My God! What can this Writer have in view, by recommending such measures? Can he be a friend to the Army? Can he be a friend to this Country? Rather, is he not an insidious Foe? Some Emissary, perhaps, from New York, plotting the ruin of both, by sowing the seeds of discord & seperation between the Civil & Military powers of the Continent? And what a Compliment does he pay to our understandings, when he recommends measures in either alternative, impracticable in their nature?

But here, Gentlemen, I will drop the curtain; because it wd be as imprudent in me to assign my reasons for this opinion, as it would be insulting to your conception, to suppose you stood in need of them. A moments reflection will convince every dispassionate Mind of the physical impossibility of carrying either proposal into execution.

There might, Gentlemen, be an impropriety in my taking notice, in this Address to you, of an anonymous production—but the manner in which that performance has been introduced to the Army—the effect it was intended to have, together with some other circumstances, will amply justify my observations on the tendency of that Writing. With respect to the advice given by the Author—to suspect the Man, who shall recommend moderate measures and longer forbearance—I spurn it—as every Man, who regards that liberty, & reveres that Justice for which we contend, undoubtedly must—for if Men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of Mankind; reason is of no use to us—the freedom of Speech may be taken away—and, dumb & silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.

I cannot, in justice to my own belief, & what I have great reason to conceive is the intention of Congress, conclude this Address, without giving it as my decided opinion; that that Honble Body, entertain exalted sentiments of the Services of the Army; and, from a full conviction of its Merits & sufferings, will do it compleat Justice: That their endeavors, to discover & establish funds for this purpose, have been unwearied, and will not cease, till they have succeeded, I have not a doubt. But, like all other large Bodies, where there is a variety of different Interests to reconcile, their deliberations are slow. Why then should we distrust them? and, in consequence of that distrust, adopt measures, which may cast a shade over that glory which, has been so justly acquired; and tarnish the reputation of an Army which is celebrated thro’ all Europe, for its fortitude and Patriotism? and for what is this done? to bring the object we seek for nearer? No! most certainly, in my opinion, it will cast it at a greater distance.

For myself (and I take no merit in giving the assurance, being induced to it from principles of gratitude, veracity & justice)—a grateful sence of the confidence you have ever placed in me—a recollection of the Chearful assistance, & prompt obedience I have experienced from you, under every vicisitude of Fortune, and the sincere affection I feel for an Army, I have so long had the honor to Command, will oblige me to declare, in this public & solemn manner, that, in the attainment of compleat justice for all your toils & dangers, and in the gratification of every wish, so far as may be done consistently with the great duty I owe my Country, and those powers we are bound to respect, you may freely command my services to the utmost of my abilities.

While I give you these assurances, and pledge my self in the most unequivocal manner, to exert whatever ability I am possesed of, in your favor—let me entreat you, Gentlemen, on your part, not to take any measures, which, viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen the dignity, & sully the glory you have hitherto maintained—let me request you to rely on the plighted faith of your Country, and place a full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress; that, previous to your dissolution as an Army they will cause all your Accts to be fairly liquidated, as directed in their resolutions, which were published to you two days ago—and that they will adopt the most effectual measures in their power, to render ample justice to you, for your faithful and meritorious Services. 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, & as you regard the Military & national character of America, to express your utmost horror & detestation of the Man who wishes, under any specious pretences, to overturn the liberties of our Country, & who wickedly attempts to open the flood Gates of Civil discord, & deluge our rising Empire in Blood.

By thus determining–& thus acting, you will pursue the plain & direct Road to the attainment of your wishes. You will defeat the insidious designs of our Enemies, who are compelled to resort from open force to secret Artifice. You will give one more distinguished proof of unexampled patriotism & patient virtue, rising superior to the pressure of the most complicated sufferings; And you will, by the dignity of your Conduct, afford occasion for Posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to man kind, “had this day been wanting, the World had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.”

Go: Washington

Source: https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-10840

The Newburgh Conspiracy and George Washington’s Powerful Speech to Calm It

One of the early threats to the republic came in March 1783, when a group of officers in the Continental Army decided to challenge the authority of the Congress. The incident was caused by the inability of Congress to pay the members of the military.

Under the Articles of Confederation, the Congress could not tax the states to raise revenue. Instead, it relied on voluntary payments from the states, which were made on an irregular basis. In 1780, Congress passed a resolution to provide half-pay for retired soldiers. In late 1782, Congress was still waiting for the money.

With the end of the Revolutionary War in sight, high-ranking members of the Army began to fear that if the Army disbanded the soldiers would never receive their pay. A faction, which included Horatio Gates, developed that accused Congress of trampling on the rights which the soldiers were told — and believed — they were fighting for.   In March 1783, a letter circulated the Army’s encampment at Newburgh, New York. The letter stated their concerns and called for a meeting to be held on March 11.

“After a pursuit of seven long years, the object for which we set out is at length brought within our reach! — Yes, my friends, that suffering courage of yours, was active once — it has conducted the United States of America through a doubtful and a bloody war! It has placed her in the chair of independency, and peace again returns to bless — whom? A country willing to redress your wrongs, cherish your worth, and reward your services; a country courting your return to private life, with tears of gratitude, and smiles of admiration; longing to divide with you that independency which your gallantry has given, and those riches which your wounds have preserved? Is this the case? Or is it rather, a country that tramples upon your rights, disdains your cries, and insults your distresses? Have you not, more than once, suggested your wishes, and made known your wants to Congress? Wants and wishes which gratitude and policy should have anticipated, rather than evaded. And have you not lately, in the meek language of entreating memorial, begged from their justice, what you would no longer expect from their favour? How have you been answered? Let the letter which you are called to consider to-morrow, make reply.”

On March 11, General Washington’s General Orders to the Army for the day read as follows:

“The Commander in Chief having heard that a General meeting of the officers of the Army was proposed to be held this day at the Newbuilding in an anominous paper which was circulated yesterday by some unknown person conceives (altho he is fully persuaded that the good sense of the officers would induce them to pay very little attention to such an irregular invitation) his duty as well as the reputation and true interest of the Army requires his disapprobation of such disorderly proceedings, at the same time he requests the General and Field officers with one officer from each company and a proper representative of the staff of the Army will assemble at 12 o’clock on Saturday next at the Newbuilding to hear the report of the Committee of the Army to Congress.

After mature deliberation they will devise what further measures ought to be adopted as most rational and best calculated to attain the just and important object in view. The senior officer in Rank present will be pleased to preside and report the result of the Deliberations to the Commander in Chief.”

These orders pushed the meeting to March 15, buying Washington time to notify Congress of the development. The orders also gave the impression Washington would not attend the meeting. Washington used the time to prepare remarks, which he intended to deliver, in person, to the conspirators.

General Horatio Gates

General Horatio Gates opened the meeting on the morning of March 15. In Washington’s absence, he was the ranking officer, and in charge of the proceedings. Within moments, Washington entered the room, to everyone’s surprise. He asked to speak to the assembly. Gates granted permission, and Washington proceeded to deliver one of  — if not the most — crucial speeches of his career.

He began by scolding the author of the letter (and a follow-up letter), and its supporters, “By an anonymous summons, an attempt has been made to convene you together? How inconsistent with the rules of propriety! — how unmilitary! — and how subversive of all order and discipline, let the good sense of the army decide.”

He made his astonishment at such a proposal clear, saying, “My God! What can this writer have in view, by recommending such measures? ? Can he be a friend to the army? — Can he be a friend to this country? — Rather is he not an insidious foe? — Some emissary, perhaps, from New York, plotting the ruin of both, by sowing the seeds of discord & seperation between the civil & military powers of the continent? — And what compliment does he pay to our understandings, when he recommends measures in either alternative, impracticable in their nature?”

Further, he clarified his own stance, saying “With respect to the advice given by the author to suspect the man, who shall recommend moderate measures and longer forbearance. I spurn it as every man, who regards that liberty, & reveres that justice for which we contend, undoubtedly must.”

He asked the men in the room to trust his judgement, and to trust that Congress would come through for them, saying “While I give you these assurances, and pledge my self in the most unequivocal manner, to exert whatever ability I am possessed of, in your favor let me entreat you, gentlemen, on your part, not to take any measures, which, viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen the dignity, & sully the glory you have hitherto maintained let me request you to rely on the plighted faith of your country, and place a full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress.”

Finally, he called on them to put aside further thoughts of conspiracy and action towards the Congress, asking them to “pursue the plain & direct road to the attainment of your wishes. You will defeat the insidious designs of our enemies, who are compelled to resort from open force to secret artifice. You will give one more distinguished proof of unexampled patriotism & patient virtue, rising superior to the pressure of the most complicated sufferings; — And you will, by the dignity of your conduct, afford occasion for posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to mankind, had this day been wanting, the world has never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.”

Then, he proceeded to read a letter to the room, which he had received from Joseph Jones, a Congressman from Virginia. In order to read the letter, Washington was forced to put on his new reading glasses. He told the men, “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.”

As he read the letter, some men in the room began to openly cry. Major Samuel Shaw remembered the moment in his journal, where he wrote, “There was something so natural, so unaffected in this appeal as rendered it superior to the most studied oratory. It forced its way to the heart, and you might see sensibility moisten every eye.”

When he finished reading the letter, he folded it up, took off his glasses and left the room. General Henry Knox and others who were faithful to Washington offered resolutions confirming their support for the General and the Congress.

The conspiracy to revolt against the Congress was quelled right then and there, as the officers voted against the measures. Instead, they asked Washington to negotiate with Congress on their behalf.

Documents — such as the letters that circulated the camp — were collected by the Army and preserved.

According to later accounts, many of the soldiers who heard the speech were moved to tears. As one veteran of the war recalled, “I have ever considered that the United States are indebted for their republican form of government solely to the firm and determined republicanism of George Washington at this time.”

The Continental Congress in Philadelphia was shocked when they received news of the averted rebellion. Alexander Hamilton immediately sprang into action, proposing a five-year commutation of the soldiers’ pensions that Congress immediately approved. The Newburgh Conspiracy would not be the last crisis over soldiers’ pay that will shake the nation, however. The Continental Congress’ inability to raise revenue and pay soldiers would later prompt the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783 and Shays’ Rebellion of 1786, demonstrating the urgency of the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Still, the Newburgh Address reminded the soldiers and the nation that liberty does not come cheap – it is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is preserved through the patience, sacrifice, and conscience, of those we trust with power.

Resources:

Source: https://www.americanhistorycentral.com/the-newburgh-conspiracy-march-15-1783/

Kate Moore Barry, the “Heroine of the Battle of Cowpens”, Rides Through the Back Trails of South Carolina to Warn of Approaching British Troops

Catherine “Kate” Moore Barry, the “Heroine of the Battle of Cowpens,” rode through the back trails of South Carolina to warn of approaching British troops and round up militia, including her husband, to join General Daniel Morgan for the Battle of Cowpens, Jan. 17, 1781. Catherine Moore Barry served her country with bravery and intelligence […]