When the fighting was over from the American Revolutionary War, forces were kept at General Washington's main camp at Newburgh, New York until a final peace treaty was signed with the British. The soldiers at Newburgh had gone without pay for a long time and by March 1783, many men and their families were in desperate straits, hungry and poor. The Continental Congress had been promising pay to the soldiers but lacked the immediate funding to pay them. Morale was low and their situation was fairly poor.
On March 10, 1783, an anonymous letter was circulated among the officers at Newburgh. It condemned the Continental Congress for failure to honor promises of pay to the Continental Army and incited the veterans to defy the Continental Congress (who was in charge of the military and her operations at the time) if the accounts were not promptly settled. Two days later, another letter was sent around which implied that Washington supported the efforts of the disgruntled officers. A revolt began to develop which threatened the fledgeling American democracy. Secret meetings on developing a conspiracy were being held by the officers at the Newburgh camp, all without the direct knowledge of General Washinton.
Washington soon uncovered the plot and was completely against the brewing conspiracy to defy the Continental Congress. He became angry and immediately moved to end the officers' plans. Washington dissuaded the officers from their plans with a heartfelt speech. The soldiers eventually got their pay and no army marched against the provisional American government as a result of this. Nonetheless, is a significant part of American history because Americans fear of a standing army, a main antecedent for the Revolution against the British, became quite justified. Our entire system of government was threatened for a time by a military coup d’état from the "elite" officer corps that we had just recently entrusted to protect our nation.