Defusing the Newburgh Conspiracy

The American Revolution was essentially over. British General Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown in October 1781. Yet George Washington still had to keep his army together until a peace treaty was concluded. That didn’t happen until 1783.

Many of his officers were angry with Congress. They hadn’t been paid for a long time and were contemplating open mutiny, even to the point of marching on Congress, guns in hand.

They knew Washington wouldn’t approve their potential plans, so they turned to Gen. Horatio Gates, the supposed hero of Saratoga. He really wasn’t the hero (that honor actually belonged to Benedict Arnold, prior to his turning traitor), but public perception is sometimes everything.

Gates had humiliated himself at the Battle of Camden in South Carolina, not only losing the battle, but being in the forefront of the hasty retreat. Yet there were some who still clung to the false idea that he was a leader, so they looked to him to “lead” in this mutiny.

The army was encamped in Newburgh, New York, in March 1783, and that’s why this episode is called the Newburgh Conspiracy. The mutineers called a meeting to discuss how to proceed with their plans. Gates was in charge.

Then, unexpectedly, Washington appeared at this meeting. He knew what they were plotting, totally disapproved of the movement, and hoped to soothe their anger over how they had been treated.

Washington had not only led the army all those long years of the war, but he had carried on another “war,” so to speak, the entire time—trying to get Congress to follow through on promises made. He was in constant communication with the Congress and came into this meeting to let the officers know about the latest exchange with the political leaders.

Some have called what he did next “political theater,” but to me, it seems genuine enough. One account describes what happened this way:

With a sigh, he removed from his pocket a letter and announced it was from a member of Congress, and that he now wished to read it to them. He produced the letter, gazed upon it, manipulated it without speaking. What was wrong, some of the men wondered. Why did he delay?

Washington now reached into a pocket and brought out a pair of new reading glasses. Only those nearest to him knew he lately required them, and he had never worn them in public. Then he spoke: “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.”

This simple act and statement by their venerated commander, coupled with remembrances of battles and privations shared together with him, and their sense of shame at their present approach to the threshold of treason, was more effective than the most eloquent oratory.

As he read the letter, many were in tears from the recollections and emotions which flooded their memories. As Maj. Samuel Shaw, who was present, put it in his journal, “There was something so natural, so unaffected in this appeal as rendered it superior to the most studied oratory. It forced its way to the heart, and you might see sensibility moisten every eye.”

Finishing, Washington carefully and deliberately folded the letter, took off his glasses, and exited briskly from the hall.

Immediately, Henry Knox and others faithful to Washington offered resolutions affirming their appreciation for their commander in chief, and pledging their patriotism and loyalty to the Congress, deploring and regretting those threats and actions which had been uttered and suggested. What support Gates and his group may have enjoyed at the outset of the meeting now completely disintegrated, and the Newburgh Conspiracy collapsed.

I share this story for two reasons: first, I want to showcase again the character George Washington brought to his public duties; second, I want emphasize that history sometimes turns on the actions of one individual.

Let’s never forget that our actions do have consequences. By being obedient to what we know is right in God’s eyes, we can truly make a difference in this world.

Mutiny on the Democrat Bounty

The purported “most transparent” administration in history is not pleased with the new transparency. In truth, this has been arguably the most obstructive, secretive administration in history, acknowledged even by the journalists that have done their best to place President Obama on an unassailable pedestal. They are becoming more disgruntled with the lack of access; they are, in effect, spurned lovers.

Former administration officials have been writing books about their time with this president. The carefully polished, and largely contrived, image of a man who is cool, competent, and in charge is crumbling at an increasing rate of speed.


To be fair, tell-all books can sometimes be written for purely political purposes, i.e., Hillary Clinton’s inaptly titled tome Hard Choices. She’s doing her best to distance herself from Obama as she attempts to take his place in 2016. But Robert Gates’s Duty has no such motive, and the newest one to appear, Worthy Fights by Leon Panetta, purports to be an honest perspective. One can question Panetta’s motives also, though, because he is largely seen as a Clinton operative.

Et Tu

Regardless of the reason for publishing his book, Panetta has been making some rather disturbing claims about his time in the Obama cabinet. Boil it all down, and what he’s saying is that this president is not up to the task of leading the country. And that comes from a lifelong Democrat who willingly served in two high-level positions under Obama. It’s been difficult for the White House to parry these charges. One might expect a tried-and-true defense to pop up at any time now:

Caused By a Video

Damage-control mode is in full swing, with the Obama faithful doing what they have done over and over with such incidents as Benghazi and the IRS debacle:

Cover-Up Team

Democrats who have backed Obama’s policies from the start and from whose ranks seldom is heard a discouraging word, are now beginning to panic, particularly with the midterm elections only a couple of weeks away. Suddenly, no one running on the Democrat ticket is an Obamaphile. If you think I’m exaggerating, just look at some of the ads they’re running. They keep saying things like “I’m not Obama” and highlighting how they disagree with various of his policies, despite the incontrovertible fact that until his approval ratings tanked, they were on board 100%.

Blame Captain

It would be funnier if it didn’t showcase the sad spectacle of politicians who can’t really think of anything other than protecting their own power base, and whose primary goal in life is their own advancement. They are just as much to blame for the state of this nation as their leader, but don’t expect them to accept responsibility. Honesty on that side of the aisle is virtually nonexistent.

The Gates Book

Robert Gates is a man who has served faithfully on defense issues in administrations from Nixon to the present one. He has worked with both Republican and Democrat presidents and has built a reputation of steadfastness and integrity respected by both sides of the political world. He has now decided to let his thoughts out on what it was like to be secretary of defense for both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

DutyGates’s new book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, has just become available. I haven’t read it yet so can’t comment on the contents entirely; I plan to get it soon. However, tantalizing bits from the book have been released over the past week, and those excerpts have caused quite a stir.

People who know him and his reputation are surprised that he is so open with his views now that he has left office with no expectation of returning to the fray. According to reports, the book paints a picture of President Obama that is not very flattering overall. Gates credits the president with courage for deciding to take out Osama bin Laden, but expresses dismay at the constant intrusion of political considerations into the decisionmaking.

While he contends that political influences weren’t necessarily the final determining factor in military and defense decisions, he was startled by what a powerful role they played, especially when dealing with the security of the nation. He writes of overhearing both Obama and Hillary Clinton admitting to opposing Bush’s surge in Iraq for purely political reasons. He says the only real passion he ever saw Obama exhibit on military matters was the push to overturn “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And he was astonished that Obama didn’t trust any of the leading generals on the ground in Afghanistan and only agreed to some type of surge there halfheartedly. In fact, he says Obama didn’t really expect it to work, but did it anyway with no enthusiasm.

Change Subject

Gates has far kinder words for Bush, considering him a man of integrity who sought to do what was best for the country’s security. But he is quite harsh, apparently, on congressional leaders in both parties who, he believes, are more concerned with preening before television cameras for their own political fortunes rather than being serious about defense policies.

Interestingly, these excerpts show he has considerable disdain for VP Biden; Gates opines that Biden has been wrong about every foreign policy issue during his entire four decades in Washington:

Streak Continues

That’s about all I should say at this point. When I get the chance to read the book for myself, I’ll have a more solid basis for further comment. Yet what we already know is pretty damaging to an administration that has been rather adept at damaging itself in almost every endeavor it has attempted. Except for some specific anecdotes, perhaps the question we should really ask is whether Gates is telling us anything we didn’t know from our own observations. But even if all he has given us is confirmation of the obvious, that’s still a public service.

Race, Sherrod, and Victimhood

Racial issues ought to be receding in America. Yet they have once again intruded onto the national consciousness. It all started [at least the latest round] when the NAACP passed a resolution calling on the Tea Party to excise the racists in their midst. No real evidence was presented that racism was a major problem within the movement, but that apparently was beside the point. I commented on this in my July 14 post, if you want to review it.

Let’s be honest: the NAACP’s only reason for existing is to fight racial discrimination. If it isn’t a big threat, its reason for being is called into question. Consequently, it is necessary to manufacture a racial divide to maintain relevance as an organization. Sad, but true.

Obama was supposed to be the harbinger of racial healing; he was going to usher in a post-racial society. That was before he accused the Cambridge police of acting foolishly [without real evidence] in regard to his friend Louis Gates. That was before his Justice Department decided to drop the case against the New Black Panthers and accusations that the department was not going to enforce any laws for white defendants in racial cases.

So, at this point we have the Obama administration and the NAACP making race an issue.

Then, in response to what the NAACP had done with its resolution, Andrew Breitbart, who is the brainchild for the Big Government site and many others, broadcast a video of a Dept. of Agriculture employee named Shirley Sherrod apparently showing her racism toward whites. Sensitive now to the charge of racial politics, the administration immediately fired her. When the full tape was eventually seen, it showed that she was trying to say she had gotten beyond race as the determining factor in life. Then they fell all over themselves to hire her back.

In either case, no one did much checking. Getting all the facts didn’t seem to be a priority.

Was Breitbart wrong to do what he did? Many are jumping on him for releasing a partial video, yet he says the point was made no matter how the video ended—the audience [an NAACP crowd] liked her comments about not wanting to help a white farmer. He says that reveals the attitude of the organization, which was his main point.

Meanwhile, Sherrod has become somewhat of a celebrity. Yet it is obvious she is not really a heroine. Her Marxist approach to policy is highlighted in the video, and it appears she not really over her focus on race. She is now calling for the Big Government site to be shut down by the government. So there is no longer a First Amendment?

She’s also accusing Fox News of wanting to push blacks back into segregation days. On what basis is she making this accusation? As one commentator has noted,

Despite Glenn Beck being one of the very first people to stand up for Sherrod; despite the Obama administration dismissing Sherrod before Fox ran the footage; despite Bill O’Reilly being the first cable news host to show the FULL video to reveal its context; and despite Fox’s Bret Baier inviting Sherrod to appear on the network a number of times, she has declined and instead given exclusive interviews to the likes of Media Matters and MSNBC–groups who are seizing this opportunity to attack Fox News. 

Media Matters calls the “Sherrod smear” a “wake up call” not to trust Fox.  Sherrod’s so cozy with the far-Left, she granted the propagandists an exclusive interview to play up the “victim” card against Fox and Breitbart, all the while ignoring the people who actually fired her.

Sherrod was not treated properly by the administration, and she should not have lost her job for the reason cited. Yet, as the facts above show, she was not the victim of a Fox agenda to roll back civil rights. No one bothered to get the facts straight when she was fired. Now she doesn’t care to get the facts straight regarding how Fox handled her story.

If this is the path she has chosen to take, she doesn’t deserve anyone’s sympathy.