It was 1783. The Revolutionary War had ended 2 years ago, in 1781. It was taking years for Congress to negotiate the terms of the peace treaty with England.
In the meantime, George Washington was keeping his troops in New York. He didn’t want to disband the army in case the treaty fell through. He didn’t trust England and wanted to keep the army together to send a clear message to the British that America was prepared to continue the fight if they didn’t come to terms and sign the treaty.
So his army was there in New York, for 2 long years, with absolutely nothing to do. Every single one of them wanted to go home. Their families wanted them to come home. To make matters worse, they weren’t getting paid because Congress didn’t have the money to pay them.
Imagine being away from home, away from those you love, with nothing to do, and not getting paid for 2 years.
Faith in Congress eroded with each passing day. A mutiny started to brew among the Officers. You can understand how and why. From the Officers’ point of view, Congress had nothing to show for 2 years of negotiations. The Officers’ had had enough, they were ready to overthrow Congress and take matters into their own hands.
As mutinous discussions erupted, the Officers became more and more riled up, passionate, impatient, fed up. Easy to get this way when you’re sitting around with nothing to do and not getting paid.
George heard about it and stepped in with one well-delivered speech that not only stopped any further discussion about the mutiny in its tracks, but had the Officers in tears by the time he finished talking.
It’s called the Newburgh speech because he delivered it in Newburgh, New York, on the Hudson River, 60 miles north of New York City.
One of the best speeches I’ve ever read or heard.
He delivered the speech slowly, with many pauses to allow what he was saying to really sink in. He spoke directly to the Officers, penetrating their emotions, their passions.
He told the Officers he fully believed in their dignity, glory, faith, sacred honor, and character.
He said that is why he believed they would achieve “the last stage of perfection which human nature is capable of attaining.”
They were in tears. No more mutiny. All on board.
I simply adore anyone who understands, lives by and talks about dignity, glory, faith, sacred honor, character and the perfection which human nature is capable of attaining.
Each one of these is a vital concept. Together, they form the core of all that matters.
My belief in your dignity, glory, faith, sacred honor, character, and the perfection which you are capable of attaining is why I write to you. I celebrate that and more on George’s birthday this week.