By Joseph Carroll ‘19
In Brad Meltzer’s book “The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington,” America was in the middle of some of its most turbulent and uncertain times as a young nation. George Washington had just been chosen to lead an unprepared and unprofessional Continental Army against the British, who were the strongest military power the world had ever seen at the time.
While some people consider the Revolutionary War as a unified effort to defeat a common foe, Meltzer shows that was not nearly the case. In fact, the divide was so strong that Washington’s own bodyguards may have secretly been in cahoots to take him out.
Another myth is that America beat down on the mighty British from start to finish. Truth is, the Continental Army looked weak in the early stages of the war, and victory for the patriot colonists was a far-fetched belief. American morale in 1776 was dangerously low, and it gave a chance for Loyalists (American colonists who supported British rule during the Revolutionary War) to take action against the face of the American independence movement.
The plot centers around New York City Mayor David Mathews, New York Governor William Tryon, and some of George Washington’s own Life Guards (bodyguards) who planned to assassinate Washington.
When the war moved to New York, Tryon and Mathews, both avid Loyalists, were determined to put the American dream of freedom to rest. Loyalist support was high in New York, and by garnering the help of Washington’s personal bodyguards, the American Revolution could have gone in an entirely different direction.
However, due to some unfortunate circumstances, the plan was foiled, and Washington even had one of the bodyguard conspirators hanged in front of 20,000 people for his treasonous ways. This assassination plot would lead to new efforts of counterintelligence and information gathering, which would become the CIA.
This book was a great read and offered a unique perspective on America’s infant years. Possibly the most interesting part of the book, however, was Washington’s ability to emotionally handle plotted attempts at his own life from people trusted to protect it at all costs. The character and strength of George Washington was truly put to the ultimate test. Anyone who appreciates history or wants to learn more about a lesser-known story of the American Revolution would enjoy this book.
“The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington” by Brad Meltzer