Did you stop and see our Feature Item right inside our front doors? You don’t want to miss it!
Let’s get a closer look.
It’s an original document from 1787 signed by Henry Knox and George Washington.
The diploma reads:
Be it known that William Barret Esquire of the Commonwealth of Virginia is a member of the Society of the Cincinnati; instituted by the Officers of the American Army, at the period of its Dissolution, as well as to commemorate the great Event which gave independence to North America, as for the laudable Purpose of inculcating the Duty of laying down in Peace Arms assumed for public Defence, and of uniting in Acts of brotherly Affection and Bonds of perpetual Friendship – the Members constituting the same. In Testimony whereof of the President of the said Society, have hereunto set my Hand at Mount Vernon in the State of Virginia this First Day of March in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty Seven and in the Eleventh Year of the Independence of the United States.
By order, HKnox (signed) Secretary
G Washington (signed) President
What does that mean? William Barret was a Revolutionary War captain and this diploma commemorates his service and admits him to the Society of the Cincinnati. Much like modern veterans organizations, the Society – founded in Newburgh, New York in 1783 by Continental Army officers and still in existence today – dedicated itself to perpetuating the memory of the war and of the officers who fought in it. Barret (1756-1815), from Louisa County, Virginia, served in the regiment of the 3rd Continental Dragoons under the leadership of Colonel George Baylor.
Henry Knox and George Washington signed this certificate at Mount Vernon in the same year as the drafting of the Constitution and the founding of Owego. Note that Washington signed as the Society’s president, but he was not appointed President of the United States until 1789. Like the signers of the fateful Declaration of Independence adopted eleven years before, the members of the Society “solemnly pledge[d] to each other our Sacred Honor” and affirmed their faith in American democracy.
And make sure to visit us to see this piece of history for yourself!