After the victory over the British at Yorktown, many of the Continental soldiers grew disillusioned with the new American government, as they had not been paid in years. The Continental Congress had no power to tax to raise money to pay them.

A disgruntled group of officers in New York met and formed a Newburgh

Conspiracy. They plotted to march into the Capitol and force Congress

to give them back pay and pensions. With some British troops still

remaining on American soil, a show of disunity could have easily

renewed the war. On March 15, 1783, General George Washington

surprised the conspiracy by showing up at their clandestine meeting in New York. Washington gave a short but

impassioned speech, urging them to oppose anyone

“who wickedly attempts to open the floodgates of civil discord and deluge our rising empire in blood.”

Taking a letter from his pocket, Washington fumbled with a pair of reading glasses, which few men had seen him wear, and said:

“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.”

Washington concluded his Newburgh Address, May 15, 1783:

“And let me conjure you, in the name of our common Country, as you value your own sacred honor… to express your utmost horror and detestation of the Man who wishes…to overturn the liberties of our Country, and who wickedly attempts to open the flood Gates of Civil discord, and deluge our rising Empire in Blood.

By thus determining…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 and patient virtue…
You will…afford occasion for Posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to Mankind, ‘had this day been wanting, the World had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.'”

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