Skip to main content
Select Source:

Cincinnati, Society of the

CINCINNATI, SOCIETY OF THE

CINCINNATI, SOCIETY OF THE. Organized in May 1783, the Society of the Cincinnati was established by disbanding officers of the American Continental Army. Moved by the bonds of friendship forged during the war years and concerned by the financial plight of many whose pay was in arrears, the officers enthusiastically adopted the suggestion of General Henry Knox for a permanent association. The organization first met at the headquarters of General Friedrich von Steuben at Fishkill, New York, with George Washington as the first president general. The name alluded to Cincinnatus, the Roman general who retired quietly to his farmstead after leading his army to victory. The society established a fund for widows and the indigent and provided for the perpetuation of the organization by making membership hereditary in the eldest male line. There were thirteen state societies and an association in France for the French officers, comprising a union known as the General Society.

The society aroused antagonism, particularly in republican circles, because of its hereditary provisions, its large permanent funds, and its establishment of commit-tees of correspondence for the mutual exchange of information between the member societies. Due to popular suspicion of elitist organizations, the group grew dormant after the French Revolution. About 1900 a revival of interest began that reestablished the dormant societies, enlarged the membership, and procured a headquarters and public museum, Anderson House, in Washington, D.C. In the early 1970s membership numbered about 2,500.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Resch, John Phillips. Suffering Soldiers: Revolutionary War Veterans, Moral Sentiment, and Political Culture in the Early Republic. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999.

Wills, Garry. Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1984.

John D.Kilbourne/h. s.

See alsoRevolution, American: Military History ; Veterans' Organizations .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Cincinnati, Society of the." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Cincinnati, Society of the." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cincinnati-society

"Cincinnati, Society of the." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cincinnati-society

Society of the Cincinnati

Society of the Cincinnati. In 1783, at the end of the Revolutionary War and before the Continental army disbanded, Gen. Henry Knox and other officers founded the Society of the Cincinnati at Newburgh, New York, to continue the ties of comradeship among the officer corps in peacetime and to press their pension claims before the national government. Named after Cincinnatus, venerated statesmen in the ancient Roman Republic, the society excluded enlisted men, and membership could be passed to the eldest male descendant. In the 1780s, Thomas Jefferson and other civilian leaders feared that the nationalistic fraternal organization represented an attempt to establish an aristocratic order posing a potential threat to republican values.

With chapters in all thirteen states, the Cincinnati was one of the young republic's earliest national institutions. Most state chapters met annually on the Fourth of July, holding banquets for members and sponsoring public orations. After the death of the Revolutionary generation by the 1830s, many state chapters lapsed into inactivity. The Centennial of 1876 and renewed public interest in the Revolution led to the revival of several dormant state chapters in the East and the founding of new chapters in the West. The society continued to restrict membership to the eldest male descendants of Continental army officers, contributing to the founding of the Sons of the American Revolution in 1877 by the descendants of enlisted personnel and the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1890 by female descendants of those who served in the War for Independence.
[See also Veterans: Revolutionary War.]

Bibliography

Minor Myers, Jr. , Liberty Without Anarchy: A History of the Society of the Cincinnati, 1983.

G. Kurt Piehler

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Society of the Cincinnati." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Society of the Cincinnati." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/society-cincinnati

"Society of the Cincinnati." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/society-cincinnati

Cincinnati, Society of the

Society of the Cincinnati [Lat. pl. of Cincinnatus], organization formed (1783) by officers of the Continental Army just before their disbanding after the American Revolution. The organization, with a constitution drafted by Gen. Henry Knox, was founded for fraternal, patriotic, and allegedly nonpolitical purposes. George Washington was made president of the national society, and auxiliary state societies were organized. Membership was limited to officers of the Continental Army, certain officers of the French army that assisted the Continentals, and the eldest male descendants of both. The society provoked much opposition among the zealous Republicans of the time, who attacked it as the beginning of an aristocratic military nobility. The Tammany societies of New York, Philadelphia, and other cities were founded partly in opposition to it. Beginning in 1893 a successful revival of many of the defunct state organizations was made, and the society is still active as a patriotic service organization. It has about 3,500 members in one French and 13 U.S. branches (representing the original states).

See W. S. Thomas, The Society of the Cincinnati, 1783–1935 (1935); E. E. Hume, ed., General Washington's Correspondence concerning the Society of the Cincinnati (1941).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Cincinnati, Society of the." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Cincinnati, Society of the." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cincinnati-society

"Cincinnati, Society of the." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cincinnati-society