In the spring of 1778, General George Washington wrote to his friend Landon Carter about a rumored “disposition in the Northern Officers to see me superceded in my Command.” This was as candid a statement as the general ever made about the so-called Conway Cabal of patriot officers and politicians critical of his leadership. Most early historians of the Revolution took the threat to Washington seriously, but by the mid-twentieth century interpretations had reversed, with the plot—if one existed—posing no real danger to the commander-in-chief. Yet, as historian Mark Edward Lender reveals in his compelling Cabal! The Plot Against General Washington, clues found in original new research provide a more comprehensive understanding of the personalities and political maneuverings of those involved in the Cabal, and the real nature of the challenge to Washington.
Join us on Monday, September 30th as we welcome Mark Edward Lender who will be speaking about his book Cabal!
The Plot Against General Washington . Our meeting place is at Scoogi’s Italian Resturant at 738 Bethlehem Pike in Flourtown. Feel free to arrive early and eat in the back room where our meetings are held. A short business meeting will start around 7:15pm. The presentation will start at 7:30pm. We encourage you to join our membership for the very small and reasonable tax deductible amount of $30. Don’t forget to our book raffle too. Each meeting we raffle off a number of American Revolutionary themed books. You can purchase tickets for the book raffle, $1 per ticket, or $5 for 6 tickets. They money raises goes to pay the room fee and speaker expenses.
Rather than the “classic Cabal” of Generals Horatio Gates, Thomas Mifflin, and Thomas Conway in a plot to remove Washington quickly, the threat to Washington’s command was a gradual administrative attempt by the Board of War and political allies to take over the war effort. Reorganized in late 1777 under the leadership of Mifflin, with Gates assuming the board presidency in January 1778, the Board of War sought authority to determine military policy and strategic goals, all training, organizational, personnel, and logistical functions, and even the assignment of theater commanders. Had they succeeded, Washington’s title of commander-in-chief would have been utterly hollow. The Cabal tested Washington as few other things did during the war and perhaps tempered him into the man we remember today. Washington adroitly navigated the chal¬lenges to his leadership, meeting and defeating every attempt to curtail his authority. His response revealed a leadership style that saw him safely through the war, and gave him overwhelming support from his fellow citizens to become their first president.
Mark Edward Lender holds a Ph.D. in American History from Rutgers University. He has written extensively on early American social and military history and is a recognized authority on the War for Independence. Lender’s scholarship has won awards from the Society for Military History and the U.S. Army Historical Foundation and a fellowship from the Smith National Library at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. In 2017 he was a finalist for the prestigious George Washington Literary Prize. Cabal! is his eleventh book.