The Order of the Cincinnati was conceived of by Henry Knox who wished to establish a fraternal organization for all officers who had served in the War for Independence and "any of their eldest male posterity." The Order was founded in early May 1783 at the headquarters of General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben at Verplanck House in Fishkill, New York. The three guiding principles of the organization were: First, "An incessant attention to preserve inviolate those exalted rights and liberties of human nature, for which they have fought and bled. …" Second, "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." Third, "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 concept of using Cincinnatus as an emblem of the Order was particularly resonant with Americans since the life of this mid-fifth century Roman nobleman and farmer closely paralleled that of many who had served, with George Washington in the vanguard. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus was called upon to repel two hostile tribes that threatened Rome. He issued his orders, which were efficiently carried out, and vanquished the enemy. Although elected a dictator for six months and voted a triumph by the Senate, Cincinnatus stepped down just after fifteen days and returned to private life on his farm. Similarly, at the conclusion of hostilities, Washington returned to his plantation at Mount Vernon.
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