Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Rediscovering George Washington
Washington: Father of His Country The Washington Collection
Washington in the Classroom About the Program
Timeline: George Washington's Life Milestones
Multimedia Room Search the Site
Gilder Lehrman Collection Documents
Gilder Lehrman Collection Images
Other Documents
Gilder Lehrman Collection Documents
  Letter to Henry Knox, March 12, 1783
TRANSCRIPT GLC 390
George Washington. Autograph letter signed: Newburgh, to Major General Henry Knox, 1783 March 12. 1 p. + address leaf.

Newburgh Mar 12 1783

Dear Sir,

The appearance of the Ice yesterday [strikeout] [inserted: left] me no hope of seeing you & the prospect this morning, is nearly as unpromissing, [sic] but if the River will admit a passage tomorrow, I should be glad to see you & General Huntington at Dinner but be here earlier.

The General Orders of yesterday will shew you upon what footing the meeting stands; & when I see you I will assign the reasons for it.

With great truth & affection
I am Dr Sir
Yr. Obedt Servt
Go: Washington
[address leaf:]
Private
Majr. Genl Knox

Notes: Apparently unpublished. In this oblique letter, Washington calls for a confidential meeting with Generals Henry Knox and Jedediah Huntington to formulate a response to the Newburgh conspiracy, a plot by a group of officers to force the army’s will upon Congress. The “General orders of yesterday” refers to Washington’s orders telling his officers not to attend and unauthorized meeting but to wait for another. An anonymous circular dated March 10, written by Colonel Walter Stuart, in which it was proposed that the officers refuse to disband when the war ended if the Congress did not meet their demands. At the authorized meeting on March 15, Washington made a dramatic appeal to his officers and warned them how close the plot came to creating a military dictatorship. He appealed to their honor and their sacrifices. (See GLC 2624 for a contemporary transcript of the documents in the episode.) After he left the room, the officers voted upon resolutions, proposed by Major Generals Henry Knox and Israel Putnam, to express their confidence in the justice of Congress and to repudiate the “infamous propositions… in the late anonymous address.” Carried without dissent, they pledged themselves to follow civil authority. The Newburgh conspiracy was America’s closest brief encounter with military rule.