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Cincinnati, Society of the

A few weeks before the disbanding of the Continental army (June, 1783) a tie of friendship had been formed among the officers, at the suggestion of General Knox, by the organization, at the headquarters of Baron von Steuben, near Fishkill Landing, N. Y., of an association known as the “Society of the Cincinnati.” Its chief objects were to promote a cordial friendship and indissoluble union among themselves, and to extend benevolent aid to such of its members as might need assistance. Washington was chosen the first president of the society, and remained president-general until his death. Gen. Henry Knox was its first secretary-general. State societies were formed, auxiliary to the general society. To perpetuate the association, it was provided in the constitution of the society that the eldest masculine descendant of an original member should be entitled to wear the order and enjoy the privileges of the society. The order, or badge, of the society consists of a golden eagle, with enamelling, suspended upon a ribbon. On the breast of the eagle is a medallion, with a device representing Cincinnatus at his plough receiving the Roman senators who came to offer him the chief magistracy of Rome. The members' certificate is eighteen and a half inches in breadth and twenty inches in length. The general Society of the Cincinnati is still in existence, and also State societies. The president-general from 1854 till his death in 1893 was Hamilton Fish, son of Col. Nicholas Fish, one of the original members. In 1900 William Wayne, of Pennsylvania, held the office. The order worn by the president-general at the meetings of the society is a beautifully jewelled one. It was presented to Washington by the French officers. The society met with much jealous opposition from the earnest republicans of the day. Among the most

Order of the Cincinnati.

powerful of these opponents was Judge Aedanus Burke, of Charleston, S. C., who, in an able dissertation, undertook to prove that the society created two distinct orders among the Americans—first, a race of hereditary nobles founded on the military, together with the most influen- [158]

Society of the Cincinnati—Member's certificate.

tial families and men in the State; and, second, the people, or plebeians. These suspicions were natural, but were not justified.

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