Page:American History Told by Contemporaries, v2.djvu/654

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218. Foundation of the Society of the Cincinnati (1783)

BY GENERAL WILLIAM HEATH
 
Heath was a Massachusetts officer, brave and distinguished. His memoirs were put into form later in life. — Bibliography of Heath : Winsor, Narrative and Critical History, VI, 127-128. — Bibliography of the Cincinnati: Winsor, Narrative and Critical History, VI, 746.
 

A LITTLE before this time [June, 1783], the officers of the army beginning to realize that the dissolution of the army was drawing nigh, and wishing to perpetuate that friendship which numerous hardships, sufferings, and common dangers had inspired in their breasts, — resolved to form themselves into a Society, by the name of the Cincinnati. Several meetings were had for the purpose, and an Institution was digested and completed ; and although our General presided at one of the meetings, and cheerfully, at the request of his brother officers, transmitted copies of the Institution, covered by a letter, to the officer commanding the southern army, and to the senior officers of the respective State lines, from Pennsylvania to Georgia — yet he had serious objections to the Institution, as it stood, and refused for some time to sign it. He wished, as much as any one in the army, to perpetuate the happy friendship cemented in the breasts of the officers by an eight years common danger and sufferings ; but he thought this would be best done, by simply forming a Society, to meet annually in their respective States, for the purpose of a social hour, and to brighten the chain of friendship, with a fund for the relief of the unfortunate of their brethren ; but he was opposed to any idea of any thing that had any resemblance of an order, or any insignia or badge of distinction, asserting that it would only serve to mark them in an unfavourable light with their fellow-citizens : but the prevailing opinion of the officers was otherwise. Our General was finally induced to sign the Institution, from the following consideration (but not until all the officers were appointed, and he nearly ready to leave the army) conversing with an officer of rank, who was of the same opinion with him, they parted in the resolution not to sign the Institution ; but the next morning, the officer called upon him, and observed, that one consideration, — not before mentioned, had occurred to him, viz. that it might happen in the days of their posterity, in case they did not sign, that the descendant of one who was a member might happen to fall in company with the descendant of one who was not ;