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A Crisis of Peace: George Washington, the Newburgh Conspiracy, and the Fate of the American Revolution (David Head)

After the British surrender at Yorktown, the American Revolution blazed on—and as peace was negotiated in Europe, grave problems surfaced at home. The government was broke and paid its debts with loans from France. Political rivalry among the states paralyzed Congress. The army’s officers, encamped near Newburgh, New York, and restless without an enemy to fight, brooded over a civilian population indifferent to their sacrifices.

The result was the so-called Newburgh Conspiracy, a mysterious event in which Continental Army officers, disgruntled by a lack of pay and pensions, may have collaborated with nationalist-minded politicians such as Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and Robert Morris to pressure Congress and the states to approve new taxes and strengthen the central government.

A Crisis of Peace tells the story of a pivotal episode of George Washington’s leadership and reveals how the American Revolution really ended: with fiscal turmoil, out-of-control conspiracy thinking, and suspicions between soldiers and civilians so strong that peace almost failed to bring true independence.

David Head is associate lecturer of history at the University of Central Florida. David received his B.A. from Niagara University and his Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo. He was a Library Company/Historical Society of Pennsylvania Fellow while researching his dissertation in 2006. His most recent book, A Crisis of Peace: George Washington, the Newburgh Conspiracy, and the Fate of the American Revolution, received honorable mention for the Journal of the American Revolution’s 2020 Best Book Award. It was also a finalist for the 2020 George Washington Book Prize. In addition to his academic work, David has written for venues such as USA Today and the Orlando Sentinel on topics ranging from George Washington’s shopping habits to the musical Hamilton.

This chat originally aired at 7:00 p.m. Thursday, February 11, 2021.

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