Newburgh Conspiracy

The Newburgh Conspiracy was what appeared to be a threatened uprising in the Continental Army in March 1783, when the American Revolutionary War was at its end. Possibly instigated by political actors in the Congress of the Confederation, an anonymous letter was circulated in the army camp at Newburgh, New York, on March 10, 1783. The letter suggested that the army, whose soldiers were discontented over pay that was in arrears and a lack of funding for promised pensions, should take unspecified action against Congress to resolve the issue. The letter was written by Major John Armstrong, aide to General Horatio Gates, although the authorship of its text and underlying ideas is a subject of historical debate.

Commander-in-Chief George Washington stopped any serious talk by appealing successfully to his officers to support the supremacy of Congress in an emotional address on March 15. Not long afterward, Congress approved a compromise agreement it had previously rejected: some of the pay arrears were funded, and soldiers were granted five years of full pay instead of a lifetime pension of half pay.

The motivations of numerous actors in these events are the subject of debate. Some historians allege that serious consideration was given within the army to some sort of coup d'├ętat, while others dispute the notion. The exact motivations of congressmen involved in communications with army officers implicated in the events are similarly debated.

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