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periodical meetings, general and particular, fixed contributions for those who should be in distress, and a badge, by which, not only those who had not had occasion to become personally known, should be able to recognize one another, but which should be worn by their descendants, to perpetuate among them the friendships which had bound their ancestors together.

General Washington was, at that moment, oppressed with the operation of disbanding an army which was not paid, and the difficulty of this operation was increased, by some two or three States' having expressed sentiments, which did not indicate a sufficient attention to their payment. He was sometimes present, when his officers were fashioning in their conversations, their newly proposed society. He saw, the innocence of its origin, and foresaw no effects less innocent. He was, at that time, writing his valedictory letter to the States, which has been so deservedly applauded by the world. Far from thinking it a moment to multiply the causes of irritation, by thwarting a proposition which had absolutely no other basis but that of benevolence and friendship, he was rather satisfied to find himself aided in his difficulties by this new incident, which occupied, and, at the same time, soothed the minds of the officers. He thought, too, that this institution would be one instrument the more for strengthening the federal bond, and for promoting federal ideas. The institution was formed. They incorporated into it the officers of the French army and navy, by whose sides they had fought, and with whose aid they had finally prevailed, extending it to such grades as they were told might be permitted to enter into it. They sent an officer to France, to make the proposition to them, and to procure the badges which they had devised for their order. The moment of disbanding the army having come, before they could have a full meeting to appoint their President, the General was prayed to act in that office till their first general meeting, which was to be held at Philadelphia, in the month of May following.

The laws of the society were published. Men who read them in their closets, unwarmed by those sentiments of friendship which had produced them, inattentive to those pains which an approach

ing separation had excited in the minds of the institutors, politi cians, who see in everything only the dangers with which it threatens civil society, in fine, the laboring people, who, shielded by equal laws, had never seen any difference between man and man, but had read of terrible oppressions, which people of their description experience in other countries, from those who are distinguished by titles and badges, began to be alarmed at this new institution. A remarkable silence, however, was observed. Their solicitudes were long confined within the circles of private conversation. At length, however, a Mr. Burke, Chief Justice of South Carolina, broke that silence. He wrote against the new institution, foreboding its dangers, very imperfectly indeed, because he had nothing but his imagination to aid him. An American could do no more; for to detail the real evils of aristocracy, they must be seen in Europe. Burke's fears were thought exaggerations in America; while in Europe, it is known that even Mirabeau has but faintly sketched the curses of hereditary aristocracy as they are experienced here, and as they would have followed in America, had this institution remained. The epigraph of Burke's pamphlet, was, "Blow ye the trumpet in Zion." Its effect corresponded with its epigraph. This institution became, first, the subject of general conversation. Next, it was made the subject of deliberation in the legislative Assemblies of some of the States. The Governor of South Carolina censured it, in an address to the Assembly of that State. The Assemblies of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania, condemned its principles. No circumstance, indeed, brought the consideration of it expressly before Congress; yet it had sunk deep into their minds. An offer having been made to them, on the part of the Polish order of Divine Providence, to receive some of their distinguished citizens into that order, they made that an occasion to declare, that these distinctions were contrary to the principles of their Confederation.

The uneasiness excited by this institution, had very early caught the notice of General Washington. Still recollecting all the purity of the motives which gave it birth, he became sensible that it might produce political evils, which the warmth of

those motives had masked. Add to this, that it was disapproved by the mass of citizens of the Union. This, alone, was reason strong enough, in a country where the will of the majority is the law, and ought to be the law. He saw that the objects of the institution were too light, to be opposed to considerations as serious as these; and that it was become necessary to annihilate it absolutely. On this, therefore, he was decided. The first annual meeting at Philadelphia was now at hand; he went to that, determined to exert all his influence for its suppression. He proposed it to his fellow officers, and urged it with all his powers. It met an opposition which was observed to cloud his face with an anxiety, that the most distressful scenes of the war had scarcely ever produced. It was canvassed for several days, and, at length, it was no more a doubt what would be its ultimate fate. The order was on the point of receiving its annihilation, by the vote of a great majority of its members. In this moment, their envoy arrived from France, charged with letters from the French officers, accepting with cordiality the proposed badges of union, with solicitations from others to be received into the order, and with notice that their respectable Sovereign had been pleased to recognize it, and permit his officers to wear its badges. The prospect now changed. The question assumed a new form. After the offer made by them, and accepted by their friends, in what words could they clothe a proposition to retract it, which would not cover themselves with the reproaches of levity and ingratitude? which would not appear an insult to those whom they loved? Federal principles, popular discontent, were considerations whose weight was known and felt by themselves. But would foreigners know and feel them equally? Would they so far acknowledge their cogency, as to permit without any indignation, the eagle and ribbon to be torn from their breasts, by the very hands which had placed them there? The idea revolted the whole society. They found it necessary, then, to preserve so much of their institution as might continue to support this foreign branch, while they should prune off every other, which would give offence to their fellow citizens: thus sacrificing, on each hand, to their friends and to their country.

The society was to retain its existence, its name, its meetings, and its charitable funds: but these last were to be deposited with their respective legislatures. The order was to be no longer hereditary; a reformation, which had been pressed even from this side the Atlantic; it was to be communicated to no new members; the general meetings, instead of annua., were to be triennial only. The eagle and ribbon, indeed, were retained; because they were worn, and they wished them to be worn by their friends who were in a country where they would not be objects of offence; but themselves never wore them. They laid them up in their bureaus with the medals of American Independence, with those of the trophies they had taken, and the battles they had won. But through all the United States, no officer is seen to offend the public eye, with the display of this badge. These changes have tranquillized the American States. Their citizens feel too much interest in the reputation of their officers, and value too much, whatever may serve to recall to the memory of their allies, the moments wherein they formed but one people, not to do justice to the circumstance which prevented a total annihilation of the order. Though they are obliged by a prudent foresight, to keep out everything from among themselves, which might pretend to divide them into orders, and to degrade one description of men below another, yet they hear with pleasure, that their allies, whom circumstances have already placed under these distinctions, are willing to consider it as one, to have aided them in the establishment of their liberties, and to wear a badge which may recall them to their remembrance; and it would be an extreme affliction to them, if the domestic reformation which has been found necessary, if the censures of individual writers, or if any other circumstance should discourage the wearing their badge or lessen its reputation.

This short but true history of the order of the Cincinnati, taken from the mouths of persons on the spot, who were privy to its origin and progress, and who knew its present state, is the best apology which can be made for an insinuation, which appeared to be, and was really, so heterogeneous to the governments in which it was erected.

It should be further considered, that in America no other distinction between man and man had ever been known, but that of persons in office, exercising powers by authority of the laws, and private individuals. Among these last, the poorest laborer stood on equal ground with the wealthiest millionnaire, and generally on a more favored one, whenever their rights seemed to jar. It has been seen that a shoemaker or other artisan, removed by the voice of his country from his work bench into a chair of office, has instantly commanded all the respect and obedience which the laws ascribe to his office. But of distinction by birth or badge, they had no more idea than they had of the mode of existence in the moon or planets. They had heard only that there were such, and knew that they must be wrong. A due horror of the evils which flow from these distinctions, could be excited in Europe only, where the dignity of man is lost in arbitrary distinctions, where the human species is classed into several stages of degradation, where the many are crushed under the weight of the few, and where the order established, can present to the contemplation of a thinking being, no other picture than that of God Almighty and his angels, trampling under foot the host of the damned. No wonder, then, that the institution of the Cincinnati should be innocently conceived by one order of American citizens, should raise in the other orders, only a slow, temperate, and rational opposition, and should be viewed in Europe as a detestable parricide.


The second and third branches of this subject, no body can better execute than M. de Meusnier. Perhaps it may be curious to him to see how they strike an American mind at present. shall, therefore, have the ideas of one who was an enemy to the institution from the first moment of its conception, but who was always sensible that the officers neither foresaw nor intended the injury they were doing to their country.

As to the question, then, whether any evil can proceed from the institution as it stands at present, I am of opinion their may. 1. From the meetings. These will keep the officers formed into a body; will continue a distinction between the civil and military, which it would be for the good of the whole to obliterate, as soon

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