Best-selling author Brad Meltzer found the story behind his latest book, “The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington,” in a footnote. He said he took the surprising information to Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Joseph Ellis.
“I went to him and I said, ‘Did this really happen?’ And it really happened. When it happened, George Washington rounded up those responsible. He took one of the main conspirators and he hung him in front of 20,000 people – the largest public execution at that point in North American history,” Meltzer said Tuesday on “CBS This Morning.” “He brought the hammer down, was like, ‘I’m George Washington. Don’t mess with me. I’m going to be on the money one day.'”
So how did the story of the plot get lost in history?
“Hanging happened on June 28, 1776. Guess what was happening in the world? The Declaration of Independence. The British were literally there and this gets lost to it,” Meltzer said.
The book details an effort to undermine the American Revolution just before the signing of the Declaration of Independence and with British troops about to invade New York City. The plot connects counterfeiters, leading New York politicians and even the future president’s own bodyguards. At the time, Washington had private bodyguards, Meltzer said, who were the “best of the best” from his regiments.
“These were the men who turned on him. They were called the lifeguards because they guarded George Washington’s life. And I don’t care how strong you are — when your inner circle turns on you, it is devastating,” Meltzer said.
Through the book, you come to know more about the birth of the counterintelligence movement in the U.S., Meltzer said. Washington launches a secret intelligence subcommittee to uncover espionage, with John Jay in charge. Jay went on to become the first chief justice of the United States.
SOURCE: CBS NEWS