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Database: Conway Cabal

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The Conway Cabal was a supposed conspiracy to unseat George Washington as the head of the Continental Army and replace him with General Horatio Gates. The fact that you’re less familiar with the name Horatio Gates perhaps tells you how successful that was.

Thomas Conway was an Irish-born soldier who’d been educated in France. He served as a General under Washington, but corresponded frequently with Gates – mainly about how bad Washington was at his job.

Now, generally, if you want to keep your job, you don’t bitch about your boss to everyone who’ll listen, but apparently nobody ever told Conway that. He wouldn’t last five minutes on any social networking site. So, when Washington got wind of some things Conway had written (none of which were complimentary), it exploded the faces of both Conway and Gates, who had to go before Congress to clear their names. (Which didn’t work out for them.)

There’s some historical debate as to whether “Cabal” is the right word for the whole thing – and really, it sounds more like an internal squabble to me. However, there was some very public criticism of Washington at the time, since he’s just lost the battles at Germantown and Brandywine, while Gates had won a big victory at Saratoga. It’s not surprising that Washington took Conway’s letters as a sign that his subordinates were conspiring behind his back to replace him.

In the end, however, Washington’s supporters rallied around him and the whole thing ended with Gates apologizing and Conway being forced to resign.

And that would have been it, except that despite resigning Conway remained very publicly critical of Washington. That is, until one of Washington’s supporters put a stop to it – by shooting him in the mouth. Simple, effective – though not generally in the employer’s manual.  

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