Institution of the Society of the Cincinnati

The Institution of the
Society of the Cincinnati

Cantonment of the American Army,
on Hudson's River, 10th May, 1783

Proposals for establishing a Society, upon principles therein mentioned, whose Members shall be officers of the American Army, having been communicated to the several regiments of the respective lines, they appointed an officer from each, who, in conjunction with the general officer, should take the same into consideration at their meeting this day, at which the Honorable MAJOR GENERAL BARON DE STEUBEN, the senior officer present, was pleased to preside.

The proposals being read, fully considered, paragraph by paragraph, and the amendments agreed to, MAJOR GENERAL KNOX, BRIGADIER GENERAL HAND, BRIGADIER GENERAL  HUNTINGTON and CAPTAIN SHAW, were chosen to revise the same, and prepare a copy to be laid before this assembly at their next meeting, to be holden at MAJOR GENERAL BARON DE STEUBEN'S quarters, on Tuesday, the 13th instant.

                                                             Tuesday, 13th May, 1783

The representatives of the American Army being assembled agreeably to adjournment, the plan for establishing a Society, whereof the officers of the American Army are to be Members, is accepted, and is as follows, viz.:

It having pleased the Supreme Governor of the Universe, in the disposition of human affairs, to cause the separation of the Colonies of North America from the domination of Great Britain, and after a bloody conflict of eight years, to establish them Free, Independent, and Sovereign States, connected by alliances, founded on reciprocal advantages, with some of the greatest princes and powers of the earth.

 To perpetuate, therefore, as well the remembrance of this vast event, as the mutual friendships which have been formed, under the pressure of common danger, and in many instances cemented by the blood of the parties, the officers of the American army do hereby in the most solemn manner, associate, constitute and combine themselves into one SOCIETY OF FRIENDS, to endure so long as they shall endure, or any of their eldest male posterity, and in failure thereof, the collateral branches, who may be judged worthy of becoming its supporters and Members.

The officers of the American army having generally been taken from the citizens of America, possess high veneration for the character of that illustrious Roman, LUCIUS QUINTIUS CINCINNATUS; and being resolved to follow his example, by returning to their citizenship, they think they may with propriety denominate themselves ---


The following principles shall be immutable, and form the basis of the Society of the Cincinnati.

An incessant attention to preserve inviolate those exalted rights and liberties of human nature, for which they have fought and bled, and without which the high rank of a rational being is a curse instead of a blessing.

An unalterable determination to promote and cherish, between the respective states, that union and national honor, so essentially necessary to their happiness, and the future dignity of the American empire.

To render permanent the cordial affection subsisting among the officers, this spirit will dictate brotherly kindness in all things, and particularly extend to the most substantial acts of beneficence, according to the ability of the society, towards those officers and their families, who unfortunately may be under the necessity of receiving it.

The General Society will, for the sake of frequent communications, be divided into State Societies, and these again into such districts as shall be directed by the State Society.

The Societies of the districts to meet as often as shall be agreed upon by the State Society, those of the State on the fourth day of July, or oftener, if they shall find it expedient, and the General on the first Monday in May, annually, so long as they shall necessary, and afterwards, at least once in every three years.

At each meeting, the principles of the institution will be fully considered, and the best measures to promote them adopted.

The State Societies to have a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Assistant Treasurer, to be chosen annually by a majority of votes, at the State meeting.

Each State meeting shall write annually, or oftener, if necessary, a circular letter, to the State Societies, noting whatever they may think worthy of observation, respecting the good of the Society, or the general union of the States, and giving information of the officers chosen for the current year; copies of these letters shall be regularly transmitted to the Secretary-General of the Society, who will record them in a book to be assigned for that purpose.

The State Society will regulate everything respecting itself and the Societies of its districts consistent with the general maxims of the Cincinnati, judge of the qualifications of the members who may be proposed, and expel any member who, by a conduct inconsistent with a gentleman and a man of honor, or by an opposition to the interests of the community in general, or the Society in particular, may render himself unworthy to continue a member.

In order to form funds which may be respectable, and assist the unfortunate, each officer shall deliver to the treasurer of the state society, one month's pay, which shall remain forever, to the use of the state society; the interest only of which, if necessary, to be appropriated to the relief of the unfortunate.

Donations my be made by persons not of the Society, and by members of the Society, for the express purpose of forming permanent  funds for the use of the State Society, and the interests of these donations appropriated in the same manner as that of the month's pay.

Moneys, at the pleasure of each member, may be subscribed in the Societies of the districts, or the State Societies, for the relief of the unfortunate members, or their widows and orphans, to be appropriated by the State Society only.

The meeting of the General Society shall consist of its officers and a representation from each State Society, in number not exceeding five, whose expenses shall be borne by their respective State Societies.

In the general meeting, the President, Vice-President, Secretary, Assistant Secretary, Treasurer, and Assistant Treasurer-Generals, shall be chosen, to serve until the next meeting.

The circular letters which have been written by the respective State Societies to each other, and their particular laws, shall be read and considered, and all measures concerted which may conduce to the general intendment of the Society.

It is probable that some persons may make donations to the General Society, for the purpose of establishing funds for the further comfort of the unfortunate, in which case, such donations must be placed in the hands of the Treasurer-General, the interests only of which to be disposed of, if necessary, by the general meeting.

All the officers of the American army, as well as those who have resigned with honor, after three years' service in the capacity of officers, or who have been deranged by the resolution of Congress upon the several reforms of the army, as those who shall have continued to the end of the war, have the right to become parties to this institution; provided that they subscribe one month's pay, and sign their names to the general rules, in their respective State Societies, those who are present with the Army immediately; and others within six months after the Army shall be disbanded, extraordinary cases excepted; the rank, time of service, resolution of Congress by which any have been deranged, and place of residence must be added to each name-and as a testimony of affection to the memory and the off-spring of such officers as have died in the service, their eldest male branches shall have the same right of becoming members, as the children of the actual members of the Society.

Those officers who are foreigners, not resident in any of the States, will have their names enrolled by the Secretary-General, and are to be considered as members in the Societies of any of the States in which they may happen to be.

And as there are, and will at all times be, men in the respective States eminent for their abilities and patriotism, whose views may be directed to the same laudable objects with those of the Cincinnati, it shall be a rule to admit such characters, as Honorary Members of the Society, for their own lives only: Provided always, That the number of Honorary Members, in each State, does not exceed a ratio of one to four of the officers or their descendants.

Each State Society shall obtain a list of its members, and at the first annual meeting, the State Secretary shall have engrossed, on parchment, two copies of the Institution of the Society, which every member present shall sign, and the Secretary shall endeavor to procure the signature of every absent member; one of those lists to be transmitted to the Secretary-General, to be kept in the archives of the Society, and the other to remain in the hands of the State Secretary. From the State lists, the Secretary-General must make out, at the first general meeting, a complete list of the whole Society, with a copy of which he will furnish each State Society.

The society shall have an order, by which its members shall be known and distinguished, which shall be a medal of gold, of a proper size to receive the emblems, and be suspended by a deep blue ribbon, two inches wide, edged with white, descriptive of the union of France and America.

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