Washington Newburgh Conspiracy Speech
English 115, Section 12
March 6, 2006
Washington Newburgh Conspiracy Speech
"His mind was great and powerful, without being of the very first order; his penetration strong . . . Perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighed; refraining if he saw a doubt, but, when once decided, going through with his purpose, whatever obstacles opposed." (Thomas Jefferson, as cited in "George Washington," 2006, para.19) George Washington is one of the most recognized and famous leaders in all history of the United States of America. He contributed greatly to the establishment of this prosperous country, from leading the Revolutionary armies into battle, to running the country as the first president, Washington has set precedence and example for all who have and are yet to follow. He was a noble man who demonstrated characteristics one would expect from a hero figure. He was not power-hungry, but did things and played his role for the good of the country, for patriotic purposes, to help America become the success it is today. In March of 1783, the soldiers of the American military were restless, bored and in a terrible state of doubt and distrust concerning the newly formed congress of the country. When these soldiers joined the army, they were promised a certain amount of money according to their service, but by the war's end, congress was nearly broke and not in a position to pay them all they had earned. The soldiers planned a rebellion against congress for their unjust treatment, and attempted to hold an unauthorized meeting of the officers on the matter. Washington forbade the meeting, but called for one a few days later, in which he gave his speech concerning the Newburgh Conspiracy ("The Rise and Fall," 2006, para.2). General Washington was a highly respected man among his peers, soldiers, and fellow men. His opinions, approval, and presence alone were enough to validate many plans, documents, and meetings throughout his life, so it is no wonder that even simple words or acts performed by General Washington were respected, and more often than not, taken to heart by his audience; perhaps this is why it may seem surprising that one of the most important speeches he ever gave fell on relatively deaf ears, leaving the audience hesitant, confused, seemingly unaffected by his powerful use of diction, and emotional appeal.
Throughout American history, important, credible individuals have given persuasive speeches on various issues to diverse audiences. George Washington was not only credible, admired and trusted throughout his life by those he lead, but is presently regarded as an important symbol of American patriotism and ideals. Within this speech, he spoke highly of himself, but truthfully in saying: "As I have been the constant companion and witness of your distresses, and not among the last to feel and acknowledge your merits. As I have ever considered my own military reputation as inseparably connected with that of the army." (Washington, para.2) The men of the American army were in a severe state of uncertainty, and many were even beginning to question the motives and character of Washington himself at this time. Therefore, he found it necessary to reestablish a state of trust among the men by helping them to recall previous experiences and struggles through which he accompanied them; times in which he exuded the essential characteristics, attitudes and qualities that earned him respect, and distinguished him as a trustworthy, sympathetic leader. He reminds them of his loyalty to them through all their trials, and in doing so, he not only witnessed, but experienced their sufferings as they did, and rather than just sympathize, Washington was able to empathize with them. By suggesting that his reputation is intertwined with that of the army, he evokes a sense of...