The Nation’s Oldest Patriotic Organization and the Museum’s Founder.
In 1783, the Society of the Cincinnati was formed at the recommendation of Henry Knox who called for an institution of friendship among Revolutionary officers. These men swore allegiance to preserve the memory of their struggle and the freedoms for which they fought. The Society sought to perpetuate the friendships created among the officers during the war and offered financial support to officers who had neglected their personal businesses for the sake of the war effort. In total, 14 chapters were founded: 13 for each of the original colonies and one for France. More can be read about on the Society of the Cincinnati website.
According to the Roman historian Livy, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus was a Roman consul and general in 460 BCE. When the Sabines attacked Rome in 458 BCE, the senate unanimously elected Cincinnatus as dictator for six months to eliminate the threat. After Cincinnatus successfully defeated the enemy in just sixteen days, he handed his dictatorial power back to the senate and returned home to his farm.
Many of the Founding Fathers’ convictions about republican government came from the Greco-Roman world. Cincinnatus was the archetypal virtuous republican to both the Romans and American Revolutionaries. Consequently, the parallels between Cincinnatus and George Washington were not lost on his peers. Washington, once the Revolutionary War concluded, relinquished his authority and became a private citizen and returned to his farm. Although he was exceedingly popular, as president he refused to run for a third term and once again returned home. Washington and Cincinnatus also led their respective armies without pay.
The Society of the Cincinnati of the State of New Hampshire
New Hampshire was the last American chapter to join ranks of the Society. The first members met at our Folsom Tavern in 1783. Later, as president, George Washington visited this tavern on his tour of the United States.
In the tavern, the New Hampshire Society elected its first president general of the chapter, Brigadier General John Sullivan. Sullivan served as governor of the state of New Hampshire, as well as New Hampshire’s first federal judge. Although a member since 1783, it was not until 1790 that he received his certificate of membership to the Society of the Cincinnati.
Another original member of the New Hampshire Society was Nicholas Gilman, Jr. As a captain in the Revolutionary War, Gilman served on Washington’s staff. After the war, Gilman participated in the Constitutional Convention in 1787. He was also a New Hampshire congressman, senator, and signee of of the Constitution.
In 1937, the National Society established a non-profit to manage its programs and assets. Since 1938, the Society’s National headquarters has been located in the Anderson House in Washington D.C. Today the Society sponsors a variety of educational programs to promote scholarly and public interest in the history of the American Revolution.