"Swords in Their Hands: George Washington and the Newburgh Conspiracy," is the first book-length account of a plot that can be described as the closest thing to a coup that the United States has ever experienced. In the autumn of 1782, many Revolutionary War officers in the Hudson Highlands have grown angry and frustrated that they have not been paid in months or even years. With victory over the British within sight, they begin to fear that they will never get their back pay and promised postwar pensions, because the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, meeting under the Articles of Confederation of 1777, has no power to raise funds to pay them. Two political factions are at loggerheads over taxation: nationalists want Congress to have direct taxation authority, while their opponents insist that only individual states should have the power to do so, as is the case under the Articles. As the new year begins and the last months of the war approach, several key army officers, supported by some nationalist members of Congress, set in motion a desperate plot: they will terrify state legislators, and their delegates in Congress, into granting Congress direct taxation authority it needs, under threat of two alternatives. One option is that, after defeating the British, they will turn their armies toward Philadelphia itself to enforce their demands; alternatively, they will lay down their arms before victory is achieved, and let the British quell the colonists' rebellion. In March hundreds of Washington's officers, "ready for revolt," gather in Newburgh, NY to agree on the first steps toward implementing their plan. But to their shock and chagrin, General Washington himself arrives, and in a 15-minute address changes the course of history.
Dave Richards is an author and photographer who has written a number of books on travel and wildlife in Kenya and East Africa. He regularly contributes articles and photographs to a range of local and international magazines and books. Dave leads photographic and ornithological safaris through Kenya and Tanzania, and also to Botswana, Madagascar, Namibia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.