The Society of the Cincinnati has a unique place in American history as the oldest military hereditary society in the United States.
In the early days of the Revolutionary War, Henry Knox, Major General andcommander of Washington’s artillery wanted to institute a fraternal organization for officers of the Continental Army. With the support of George Washington, on May 13, 1783, the Society was officially created.
The Society of the Cincinnati was initiated for several purposes.
1. To honor the sacrificial service given by thousands of Revolutionary War officers.
2. To foster fellowship among these officers by meeting regularly.
3. To preserve the liberties they had fought for and placing authority within in each of the former colonies to form their own chapters.
4. To establish dues to provide for financial support for war widows and orphans.
5. To establish the parameters for membership. There were some restrictions.
The Society was named after a fifth century BC Roman farmer, Lucius Quintus
Cincinnatus who left his fields and served Rome in battle. When he returned in victory he went back to farming. Later, he served as a ruler in Rome, but when his job was completed, he voluntarily stepped down to pursue a civilian life.
|Eleftherios Karkadoulias, sculptor|
Sawyer Point Park Bicentennial Commons
His statue was given to the city of Cincinnati in honor of the volunteer spirit of the citizen-soldier, Cincinnatus, by members of the Friends of Cincinnatus Association.
The motto of the Society is "He gave up everything to serve the republic." It’s no surprise that George Washington was a strong supporter of the Society, as at the end of two terms as President of the United States, he also set personal power aside for the good of our new republic.
George Washington served as the first President General of the Society of the Cincinnati from December 1783, until his death in 1799. There was even a French Society chapter formed in 1784. They played a large role in helping to secure our independence.
The Society of the Cincinnati was not without some controversy. Some wanted to use the Society to try to retrieve wages that had not been paid and some critics feared members would a hereditary aristocracy and curtail the liberties of the people in the new republic.
Major Pierre L'Enfant, a French officer who joined the American Army in 1777 designed the badge, a silk ribbon of pale blue with white edges, attached by a gold loop to badge in the form of an eagle with outstretched wings and a wreath around his head. The front has eagle head facing left, and oval plaque at center of an eagle with enameled image of Cincinnatus receiving a sword. The reverse has eagle head facing right and enameled plaque at center with scene of city and Cincinnatus in the foreground.
L'Enfant was commissioned in 1783 to travel to France to have the first Eagle badges made.
Nearly half the delegates who framed the federal constitution at the Philadelphia convention were members of the Society. The Society of the Cincinnati was and remains a commendable fraternal organization.