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The First Conspiracy

The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington

By Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch
12-minute read
Audio available
The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

The First Conspiracy (2019) explores the shocking 1776 plot to kidnap, and possibly assassinate, George Washington. Washington was not yet president of the United States, but general of the colonies’ army. Using fascinating anecdotes and insights from this period of history, these blinks examine the suspicions, uncertainty and betrayals in the period leading up to the Revolutionary War.

  • History buffs looking for fresh insights into America’s revolutionary era
  • True crime enthusiasts
  • Anyone interested in George Washington’s life and times

Brad Meltzer is an American writer and bestselling author of The Escape Artist (2018). He has been named by the Hollywood Reporter as one of "Hollywood's Most Powerful Authors," and every one of his thriller novels has featured on the New York Times Bestseller list. Josh Mensch is an author and documentary maker whose work deals with the culture and history of the United States. He has written, directed, and produced acclaimed television series for PBS, The History Channel and National Geographic.

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The First Conspiracy

The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington

By Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch
Synopsis

The First Conspiracy (2019) explores the shocking 1776 plot to kidnap, and possibly assassinate, George Washington. Washington was not yet president of the United States, but general of the colonies’ army. Using fascinating anecdotes and insights from this period of history, these blinks examine the suspicions, uncertainty and betrayals in the period leading up to the Revolutionary War.

Key idea 1 of 7

In 1775, colonial leaders from across America gathered to discuss their relationship with Britain.

May 10th, 1775, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The United States of America did not yet exist. What would eventually become states were, at that point, known as colonies. And who was the colonial overlord ruling these colonies? Great Britain.

But America’s colonial subjects were not content with this state of affairs. And this is why our story begins in Philadelphia. The Second Continental Congress met here but was nothing like the Congress we know from politics today. In 1775, this institution had no legitimacy in the eyes of the British, and its members simply coming together constituted a revolutionary statement in itself.

This Congress was made up of delegates from all 13 colonies, and they were there to debate one thing: the prospect of going to war with Britain.

Over the previous year, the British Crown, then embodied by George III, had had a strained relationship with its colonial subjects. There had been bitter disputes over the taxes, trade and tariffs imposed on the colonies. The Crown’s oppressive fiscal policies had been met with ever growing protests and rallies. England’s response? The Crown answered with the might of its military – sending in its armies to put down protests and reassert its total control.

Just one year before, a war with Britain would have been unthinkable. However, earlier in 1775, a tipping point was reached.

In the northeastern colonies of New England, local men had been forming rebel militias and preparing to oppose British authorities. In response, on April 19, 1775, British troops marched on Concord and Lexington, two towns near Boston, Massachusetts, and attempted to arrest militia leaders. In the ensuing skirmish with armed locals, both sides took heavy casualties,and at least eight townspeople were killed.

Now, one month after this incident, the Second Continental Congress was asking itself whether the time was ripe for every colony to organize and bear arms against the Crown.

There was also another reason why the colonists had insurrection on their minds. Over the previous few years, a new idea from Europe, put forward by American Enlightenment philosopher Thomas Paine, had started to take root in American hearts and minds: the inherent right of a people to select its own government and engage in self-rule.

Today, many of us take this right of self-rule for granted, but in 1775, the concept of liberty was radical and dangerous. Nonetheless, on May 10th in Philadelphia, it was on many delegates’ lips.

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