A Peculiar Peccadillo?
History witnessed him as the first President of the United States of America in 1789… George Washington’s life, however, could have ended a few years before that. A minor error on the part of one of the conspirators had reportedly ruined the murder plot of Washington and, thus, saved the president! In his The First Conspiracy, author Brad Meltzer has made this revelation…
In June 1776, America was witnessing a strong colonial uprising against their British rulers… and this historical event is popularly known as the American Revolution (1765-83). At that time, General Washington was serving as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army.
Under his leadership, the Continental Army was moving forward to New York (a strong base of the British colonial rulers) after taking control of Boston! According to Meltzer, Tory supporter William Tryon – a British general officer and a colonial official who used to serve as the 39th Governor of New York from 1771 to 1780 – planned to eliminate Washington in an attempt to break the backbone of the revolutionaries! Tryon even had discussed his plan with David Mathews, another Tory supporter and the 43rd (and last) Colonial Mayor of New York (from 1776-83).
As Tryon was staying at a ship anchored in New York port at that time (because of reasons not known), he had met the mayor there (by chance). The governor reportedly explained to Mathews that it would be important to involve some people, who were in charge of security of C-in-C Washington, in the conspiracy. As per the advice of Tryon, Mathews asked some members of the Secret Service to execute the plan. One of the members of the Secret Service and a close aide of Washington, Thomas Hickey had disclosed the plan and of course ended up paying a heavy price for the mistake!
Hickey was a Continental Army soldier in the American War of Revolution. Born in Ireland, he had come to the US as a soldier in the British Army and fought as a personal assistant to Major General William Johnson in the Seven Years’ War. However, he switched allegiance as the Revolution broke out. He became a part of the Life Guard that protected General Washington, his staff and the Continental Army’s payroll. Later, Hickey was jailed for passing counterfeit money. He shared all the pieces of information that he had about the conspiracy to assassinate General Washington with other inmates. Immediately after the prison authorities came to know that Hickey shared the secret plot with other prisoners, the soldier was charged with sedition and conspiracy. To save himself, another conspirator testified in the court that Hickey had got involved in the conspiracy. And, the Irish man was executed for mutiny and sedition in Manhattan on June 28, 1776 in front of 20,000 people.
William Spohn Baker, a late 19th Century Washingtonian, used to believe that the real reason for Hickey’s execution was involvement in a plot to kill or kidnap Washington. Baker wrote: “Thomas Hickey, one of Washington’s Guard, was tried by a court-martial and sentenced to death, being found implicated in a plot to murder the American general officers on the arrival of the British, or at best to capture Washington and deliver him to Sir William Howe.” He also wrote: “The plot had been traced to Governor Tryon, the mayor (David Mathews) having been a principal agent between him and the persons concerned in it.” (William Spohn Baker, Itinerary of General Washington from June 15, 1775 to December 23, 1783′ (Philadelphia: J B Lippincott Company, 1892), p. 41)
Meltzer’s The First Conspiracy deals with the previously untold piece of American history that had taken place during the most critical period of the nation’s birth. The publication not only reveals George Washington’s character, but also tries to trace the US’ counterintelligence movement that had finally led to the formation and activities of modern day CIA.
According to Meltzer, an elite group of soldiers were selected to serve as George Washington’s bodyguards in 1776. General Washington trusted and relied on them… However, he was not aware of the fact that some of his guards were part of a treasonous plan. Just before the beginning of the Revolutionary War, these traitorous soldiers, along with Governor Tryon and Mayor Mathews, launched the deadly plot against the most important person of the American history, George Washington!
This book tells the story of a secret plot and how it had been revealed. It also tells the story of leaders, liars, counterfeiters and jailhouse confessors. The publication helps readers realise how hard the battle was for George Washington and how close the US was to losing the War of Revolution!
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