HM - December 2018 - Anderson House
A Toast to General Washington at Anderson House
‘to Perpetuate the Remembrance of this Vast Event’
By Stacia Smith, Director of Education
The American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati
The American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati cordially invites you to Anderson House, its headquarters on Embassy Row in Washington, D.C., Friday, March 15, 2019, to participate in an exclusive gathering to toast George Washington and to learn more about the Institute’s mission to promote and support effective education on the American Revolution and its legacy. The unique treasures of the Society of the Cincinnati’s collections, including the original Society eagle design by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the president general’s Diamond Eagle insignia badge—first worn by George Washington, an original Charles Willson Peale mezzotint of General George Washington, and letters written by founding members George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Henry Knox will be on private display in honor of the National Council for History Education’s 2019 National Conference. Executive Director Jack D. Warren, Jr. and the Institute’s team of experts will grant backstage access to the Society’s premier research library, museum and historic headquarters, and unveil the Institute’s newest print and digital educational resources. A host bar and hors d’ oeuvres will be featured in the opulent setting of the Anderson House ballroom, ready to treat NCHE guests to a taste of Gilded Age hospitality.
Larz and Isabel Anderson intended their Washington home to represent the culmination of what America's founders, including George Washington, hoped their capital city would become—a grand, modern city to rival European capitals, but with a patriotic identity and a sense of history that would make it distinctly American. Ambassador Larz Anderson—whose great-grandfather was an aide to the marquis de Lafayette and a founding member of the Society—held diplomatic and inaugural receptions, formal dinners and luncheons, concerts, and dramatic performances at Anderson House following its completion in 1905. The Anderson’s guest lists included William H. Taft, Calvin Coolidge, Gen. John J. Pershing, Henry A. du Pont, and members of the Vanderbilt family. Isabel Anderson presented the home to the Society following the ambassador’s death. Since 1939, this National Historic Landmark has been open to the public as a historic house museum where the Society has continued the traditions of collecting, entertaining, and patriotic service that the Andersons began over one hundred years ago.
The Society of the Cincinnati was founded at the Continental Army encampment at Newburgh, New York, in May 1783. Henry Knox suggested the idea of a fraternal organization for officers of the Continental Army in 1775, when the Revolutionary War had barely begun. He returned to the idea in the spring of 1783, when the Continental Army, having prevailed in a war lasting eight years, was preparing to disband. On May 13, 1783, the Society of the Cincinnati was formed to perpetuate the memory of their struggle to achieve the independence of the United States. The Founders of the Society were concerned that if Americans forgot that struggle, the liberties for which they had fought might be lost. Perpetuating the memory of the American Revolution—the “vast event” that secured our national independence, established our republic, created our national identity and articulated ideals of liberty, equality, civic responsibility and natural and civil rights—remains the purpose of the Society of the Cincinnati today. The modern Society fulfills its historic responsibility through its American Revolution Institute, which supports advanced study on the Revolution, presents exhibitions and other public programs, advocates preservation of historic places, and provides resources to teachers and students to enrich understanding of our War for Independence and the principles of the men and women who secured the liberty of the American people. The Society of the Cincinnati is the nation’s oldest patriotic organization and the oldest historical society in the United States.
The Society took its name from the ancient Roman hero Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, a hero of the Roman Republic. In the fifth century BC, the Roman Senate called on Cincinnatus to lead the army of the republic against foreign invaders and granted him dictatorial powers to deal with the crisis facing Rome. After leading the army to victory, he resigned his commission, returned power to the senate, and retired to his farm, refusing rewards for serving the republic. For the classical world, Cincinnatus was the embodiment of civic virtue—characterized by the willingness to sacrifice private interest and private gain for the good of the public.
Cincinnatus and the characteristics he demonstrated—humility, unselfish personal sacrifice, commitment to the public welfare, and the subordination of the military to civilian rule—were admired and emulated by the leaders of the American Revolution. They believe that these characteristics were essential to the survival of republican government. George Washington, who refused to accept a salary for leading the Continental Army and conducted himself with humility and in strict subordination to the will of Congress, was widely celebrated as the American Cincinnatus. The founders of the Society referred to themselves as “Cincinnati”—a plural form of the name Cincinnatus—to indicate their commitment to the virtues of the Roman hero.
George Washington—who served as the first president general of the Society of the Cincinnati—speaking on the momentous influence of the American Revolution in his First Inaugural Address as president of the United States, remarked that “the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republic model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.” Two hundred and thirty-five years after its inception, the members of today’s Society of the Cincinnati endeavor to ensure the success of the American experiment with a series of education initiatives launched through their American Revolution Institute.
Sustaining the American experiment—referred to as “the Miracle” by modern scholars—takes care, upkeep and vigilance. The future of our republic depends on the character of our citizens and their dedication to our highest ideals. Today, the American Revolution Institute seeks to provide a thoughtful, historical framework to prepare young Americans to assess modern issues and become active participants in American society by distilling wisdom through education about the Glorious Cause of American independence.
Learn more about the Society of the Cincinnati, Anderson House and the American Revolution Institute at: www.americanrevolutioninstitute.org.
His Excellency Gen Washington
This 1778 mezzotint engraving by Charles Willson Peale is the first authentic likeness of George Washington to appear in print and is based on Peale’s own painting of Washington from life. The Society of the Cincinnati’s copy of the mezzotint, which is part of the Robert Charles Lawrence Fergusson Collection, is one of only three known to still exist—the other two are at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC and the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain.
Encrusted with 198 diamonds, emeralds, and rubies, the Diamond Eagle of the Society of the Cincinnati was the gift of French naval officers to George Washington in 1784 and has been the official insignia of the Society's president general ever since.
Made by Duval and Francastel,
Gift of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
The Ballroom and Musicians Gallery at Anderson House
The musicians gallery atop the flying staircase at Anderson House features a double portrait by Philip de Laszlo painted at Anderson House in 1926 entitled Ambassador and Mrs. Larz Anderson. The Andersons frequently used the ballroom for musical and theatrical performances.