Marquis de Lafayette Statue
Backstory and Context
The statue depicts the Marquis de Lafayette raising a toasting glass. This sculpture illustrates an entry from Lafayette's journals where he toasts General Washington in the Gates House behind the statue, as a show of support to Washington against some who felt Gates should replace Washington. In his journal, Lafayette describes the others nearby as "reddening with shame" as they raise their glasses to follow the toast.
The Conway Cabal was an informal plot to replace the Commander in Chief, George Washington, with General Horatio Gates. At this time, some military leaders and members of Continental Congress were critical of Washington's performance as Commander in Chief at the Continental Army. In Continental Congress, dissenters included John Adams, Sam Adams, and Richard Henry Lee. In the military, Horatio Gates, Charles Lee, Thomas Mifflin, and Thomas Conway all expressed doubt in Washington’s leadership. Gates had supporters who thought he would be a good replacement for Washington. In what could be considered a political maneuver by those who wanted to replace Washington, Gates was appointed president of the Board of War. As the president of the Board of War, Gates, who was technically still a subordinate to Washington, would be issuing orders to his Commander in Chief.
One of the most vocal dissenters was General Thomas Conway. In one letter to General Gates, Conway was critical of Washington’s leadership. James Wilkinson was tasked with carrying this letter from Conway to Gates, but he also communicated the contents of the letter to an aide to Washington, Lord Stirling, who passed the information to the Commander in Chief.
After learning of Conway's letter, Washington sent this brief note to Gates:
a Letter which I receivd last Night, containd the following, paragraph.
In a Letter from Genl Conway to Genl Gates he says—'Heaven has been determind to save your Country; or a weak General and bad Councellors would have ruind it.' I am Sir Yr Hble Servt."