Clio Logo
This statue of the Marquis de Lafayette was created by Lorann Jacbos. In 1778, Lafayette attended a dinner by General Horatio Gates, who rented the stone house behind the statue. During this time, several military leaders and politicians were part of an informal plot known as the Conway Cabal. These men intended to replace the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, George Washington, with General Horatio Gates. The Marquis writes in his journals that his toast to General Washington embarrassed those involved in the Conway Cabal and helps end this plot.

A closer view of the Marquis de Lafayette Statue.

A closer view of the Marquis de Lafayette Statue.

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:

" Sir,

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."

Today, these rumblings of dissension regarding Washington's leadership are referred to as the Conway Cabal even though they were not a formal plot to remove Washington.

After this letter, tensions between Conway and Washington continued. Rather than leveling accusations, Washington sent copies of two letters from Conway, along with his response, to Continental Congress. He allowed them to draw their own conclusions. The fallout included the resignation of Conway and an apology from Gates. Gates’ reputation declined as the war continued. On the other hand, Washington’s leadership was solidified and his reputation grew.

In the journals of the Marquis de Lafayette, he relates an incident that took place at the General Gates House in 1778, where he believed Washington was intentionally left out of a round of toasts. Lafayette draws attention to the oversight and gives a toast to “our” general. He writes that they had to raise their glasses, though they were “reddening with shame.”