History of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati
"The first meeting of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati consisted of those officers of the two New York Regiments of Infantry, who were members of the Cincinnati, and was held in June [9th], 1783 at the Cantonment, on the Hudson [River], near New Windsor [New York], when the following was adopted:
Resolved, That as the officers of the New York line are on the point of separating, and will not have an opportunity of meeting for the election of officers of the State Society of the Cincinnati, Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin Walker be directed to collect the ballots of the members present, and to request the officers of the artillery to send him their ballots as soon as possible, and that when the whole are collected, he do call in the assistance of any two officers who may be present to count the said ballots, and declare the election.
In pursuance of this resolution, on the 5th of July, 1783, Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin Walker, Captain Israel Smith, and Captain Caleb Brewster having met, counted the ballots for officers of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati, and declared and certified the Election to have fallen on
Major-General McDougall, President,
On the 3rd February , a Committee consisting of Colonel Philip Van Cortlandt, Lieutenant-Colonels, Edward Antill, William S. Smith, Benjamin Walker, Majors, Nicholas Fish, Richard Platt, Captain Edward Dunscomb, Lieutenant James Fairlie and Dr. John Cochran, were appointed to prepare a set of By-Laws for the Society, which were submitted and adopted on the 9th of February following.” The XXIst Article of which contemplated the establishment of the New York Society into two districts, northern (upstate) and southern. It was never adopted.
“On the 21st January , at a meeting held at the New York Coffee House, Baron Steuben, Colonel Samuel B. Webb, and Davis Brooks, Assistant Clothier-General, were appointed a Committee to draw up a plan of the proper ceremonials to be observed in the delivery of the Diplomas to the members of the Society.” The plan was presented and adopted on the 21st of June following.
On the 4th July 1788, Commodore Nicholson was invited to attend the Society meeting as a member. In the minutes of that meeting it was expressed, that “officers of the Marine [Navy], of similar rank, are entitled to be members of the [New York] Society.”
On the 1st February 1790 meeting, “it was determined...to celebrate in the future the Anniversary of the birth of [George Washington].”
“At a meeting of the Society, held on the 23rd January , at Corre’s Hotel, it was
Resolved, that the Standing Committee be directed to hold a meeting on the first Monday in every month, for transacting such business as may appear to them proper, and that it be the duty of the Secretary to give notice thereof to the Members.”
At a January 1801 meeting, a Committee
consisting of Major James Fairlie and Secretary, Lieutenant John Stagg,
Jr., were appointed to present a design for a suitable standard for the
Society. At a later meeting presented the following report, which was
approved and the standard ordered:
On July 13th 1804, a special meeting of the Society was called to announce the death of New York Society member and current President-General Alexander Hamilton. A Committee of the Common Council of the City of New York requested the New York Society “take order of the funeral procession, and appoint a Committee for that purpose. The Society subsequently erected a mural tablet in Trinity Church, New York City, honoring Major General Alexander Hamilton.
On 4th July 1806, the Society adopted a form of certificate of membership that was to be endorsed on the back of the original member “diploma in cases where an hereditary member was admitted by right of representation of the original member.”
On 8th April 1829, Major William B. Crosby , Secretary, was appointed a Committee to acquire a new eagle for the Standard of the Society. Made by a Nel West, a mechanic of NYC, an “elegantly gilt upon copper” eagle was acquired. A new and lighter chain to suspend the Banner of the Society to the eagle was also authorized and acquired.
On 4th July 1857, the Society adopted its rules and regulations in regard to the qualifications and admission of members into the New York Society known as the “Rule of 1854,” which was recommended by the General Society at its Anniversary Meeting “Triennial” 17th May 1854 in Baltimore. Our New York State Society of the Cincinnati membership diploma was also introduced and adopted at this meeting.
On 14th December 1883, at a meeting of the Society’s Standing Committee the historical reference of the Society known as “Schuyler I,” compiled by then Secretary John Schuyler, was commissioned and completed in 1886. Since that time, the New York Society commissioned a 2nd printing in 1998.
From their inception, the various state societies of the Cincinnati have been autonomous, each maintaining its own rules of order, requirements for membership and, in most instances, designs of certificates of membership and well as insignia of the society, commonly known as “Eagles”. At a general meeting of the Society in May 1784, Major Pierre L’Enfant presented, for approval, a copper plate for the Diploma of Membership. It was approved and early engravings were produced in 1785. At a meeting of the New York Society on March 1, 1790, it was resolved that “a sufficient number of Certificates” be printed in a form to indicate membership in that constituent society. The present form alludes to those early certificates and may be seen on the title page of this web site.
The Order or insigne of the Society was also designed by Major L’Enfant, himself the product of an artistic French family. The concept of the “Eagle” being an indication of an Order, rather than a medal, was apparently European in origin. In that context, a medal might be awarded to trades people and others, less than the rank of Gentlemen: “A gentleman already invested with any European Order would be unwilling to carry a medal”, stated L’Enfant. The New York Eagle, as used now and pictured on the Books and Insignia page of this web site, was adapted in 1919. Many early “Eagles” have been lost and families deprived of their use, but, an occasional one turns up on the market.
Over the past 150 years, a population shift has, perforce, led to a general dispersal of New York families. As a result of this, members of the Society have often found it difficult to be in attendance. Financial costs, travel, aging, periodic waning of interest in hereditary organizations have all contributed to the necessity of rule changes. Members of The New York State Society now meet, as noted on the Meetings page, at least three times a year. In 1986, the usual Fall meeting (Evacuation Day) in New York was shifted to Anderson House in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to centralize, at least on the East Coast, and facilitate increased participation.
As a result of flexibility in rule changes, the New York State Society has been able, even in the face of the above noted problems in the 19th and 20th centuries, to remain an active and vibrant constituent society since 1783. The rules of order and requirements for membership are now essentially as they were since 1854.
Society of the Cincinnati
General Society of the Cincinnati “Triennial” Celebrations
1851, May 7th-8th Irving House, New York City
Society of the Cincinnati
1800-1805 MAJOR GENERAL ALEXANDER
1799-1800 MAJOR GENERAL ALEXANDER
1971-1977 STEPHEN CALDWELL MILLETT, JR.
Assistant Secretaries General
1896-1905 HONORABLE NICHOLAS FISH
1783-1796 MAJOR GENERAL ALEXANDER
1881 REVEREND MANCUIS HOLMAS HUTTON
Resources/Bibliography for all the above information was from our Schuyler I book publication, the NY Society's 2005 Blue Roster Book, the General Society's Roster Book publications for the New York Society 1887 to date, and the General Scoiety's Roster Book "necrology" publications for the New York Society 1890 to date. Prepared by Philip Robert Livingston, Jr. and Joseph vanBeuren Wittmann, Jr. of the Standing Committee of the New York State Society of the Cincinnati September 20th, 2006