Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1783

Washington puts an end to the Newburgh Conspiracy

On the morning of March 15, 1783, General George Washington makes a surprise appearance at an assembly of army officers at Newburgh, New York, to calm the growing frustration and distrust they had been openly expressing towards Congress in the previous few weeks. Angry with Congress for failing to honor its promise to pay them and for its failure to settle accounts for repayment of food and clothing, officers began circulating an anonymous letter condemning Congress and calling for a revolt.

When word of the letter and its call for an unsanctioned meeting of officers reached him, Washington issued a general order forbidding any unsanctioned meetings and called for a general assembly of officers for March 15. At the meeting, Washington began his speech to the officers by saying, “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…”

Washington continued by pledging, “to exert whatever ability I am possessed of, in your favor.” He added, “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, and 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.”

When he finished, Washington removed a letter from his breast pocket that he had received from a member of the Continental Congress. He hesitated for a moment as he looked down at the letter before fumbling to retrieve a pair of spectacles from his pocket. Before reading the letter, Washington, in an almost apologetic tone said, “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown old in the service of my country and now find that I am growing blind.” The eyes of most of his audience filled with tears. The content of the letter became irrelevant as the assembled officers realized that Washington had given as much or more in the service of the new nation as any of them. Within minutes, the officers voted unanimously to express confidence in Congress and their country.

In a letter to the Continental Congress dated March 18, 1783, Washington wrote to assure the body that the unrest of officers was over, writing, “The result of the proceedings of the grand convention of the officers, which I have the honor of enclosing to your Excellency for the inspection of Congress, will, I flatter myself, be considered as the last glorious proof of patriotism which could have been given by men who aspired to the distinction of a Patriot army; and will not only confirm their claim to the justice, but will increase their title to the gratitude of their country.”

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

The Ides of March

Gaius Julius Caesar, dictator of Rome, is stabbed to death in the Roman Senate house by 60 conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus. Caesar, born into the Julii, an ancient but not particularly distinguished Roman aristocratic family, began his ...read more

Maine enters the Union

As part of the Missouri Compromise between the North and the South, Maine is admitted into the Union as the 23rd state. Administered as a province of Massachusetts since 1647, the entrance of Maine as a free state was agreed to by Southern senators in exchange for the entrance of ...read more

Czar Nicholas II abdicates Russian throne

During the February Revolution, Czar Nicholas II, ruler of Russia since 1894, is forced to abdicate the throne by the Petrograd insurgents, and a provincial government is installed in his place. Crowned on May 26, 1894, Nicholas was neither trained nor inclined to rule, which did ...read more

Andrew Jackson is born

Future President Andrew Jackson is born in a backwoods region between North and South Carolina to Irish immigrant parents on this day in 1767. Jackson was essentially an orphan—all but one member of his family were killed during the Revolutionary War–who rose from humble ...read more

Andrew Jackson born

Andrew Jackson is born in the Garden of the Waxhaws, South Carolina. The son of Irish immigrants, Jackson spent much of his early life in the rough-and-tumble frontier regions of South Carolina and Tennessee. His father died from injuries sustained while lifting a heavy log, and ...read more

The ides of March: Julius Caesar is murdered

Julius Caesar, the ”dictator for life” of the Roman Empire, is murdered by his own senators at a meeting in a hall next to Pompey’s Theatre. The conspiracy against Caesar encompassed as many as sixty noblemen, including Caesar’s own protege, Marcus Brutus. Caesar was scheduled to ...read more

Nazis take Czechoslovakia

On this day, Hitler’s forces invade and occupy Czechoslovakia–a nation sacrificed on the altar of the Munich Pact, which was a vain attempt to prevent Germany’s imperial aims. On September 30, 1938, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, French Premier Edouard Daladier, and British ...read more