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Conway Cabal

Conway Cabal, 1777, intrigue in the American Revolution to remove George Washington as commander in chief of the Continental Army. Washington had been defeated at Brandywine and Germantown, and Horatio Gates was flushed with success by his victory in the Saratoga campaign. Some Congressmen and army officers favored Gates as commander in chief. Gen. Thomas Conway, personally irritated with Washington, wrote a letter to Gates severely criticizing Washington. James Wilkinson of Gates's staff quoted to William Alexander (Lord Stirling) a phrase purportedly from this letter, and Alexander repeated it to Washington, who sent the quotation to Gates without comment. Gates wrote an elaborate defensive reply and sent it to Washington through Congress. Public opinion supported Washington, and the plot—if such it was—came to nothing. As it turned out, the much-quoted phrase was not in Conway's letter at all, and his name has been unfairly used to designate the cloudy scheme.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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