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The First Conspiracy Summary and Reviews

The First Conspiracy

The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington

by Brad Meltzer & Josh Mensch

The First Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer & Josh Mensch X
The First Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer & Josh Mensch
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About this book

Book Summary

Taking place during the most critical period of our nation's birth, The First Conspiracy tells a remarkable and previously untold piece of American history that not only reveals George Washington's character, but also illuminates the origins of America's counterintelligence movement that led to the modern day CIA.

In 1776, an elite group of soldiers were handpicked to serve as George Washington's bodyguards. Washington trusted them; relied on them. But unbeknownst to Washington, some of them were part of a treasonous plan. In the months leading up to the Revolutionary War, these traitorous soldiers, along with the Governor of New York, William Tryon, and Mayor David Mathews, launched a deadly plot against the most important member of the military: George Washington himself.

This is the story of the secret plot and how it was revealed. It is a story of leaders, liars, counterfeiters, and jailhouse confessors. It also shows just how hard the battle was for George Washington and how close America was to losing the Revolutionary War.

In this historical page-turner, New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer teams up with American history writer and documentary television producer, Josh Mensch to unravel the shocking true story behind what has previously been a footnote in the pages of history. Drawing on extensive research, Meltzer and Mensch capture in riveting detail how George Washington not only defeated the most powerful military force in the world, but also uncovered the secret plot against him in the tumultuous days leading up to July 4, 1776.

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. As the Second Continental Congress met, the authors write that the mood in Philadelphia was "mostly festive" but that the air was also charged with "that unique mix of anticipation and fear that comes with the feeling that the world is about to change." Are you familiar with this type of ambience? During which events in your life have you felt this way?
  2. The authors state that the question was whether people should be ruled by a monarch who claims divine authority, or if people have the right to choose their own government and therefore rule themselves. Today, to those of us in America, the answer seems obvious, but do you think there are situations when being ruled by a monarch would be preferable?
  3. The authors state that "the one ...

You can see the full discussion here. This discussion will contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The First Conspiracy:

Did your opinion of George Washington change as a result of reading this book?
Like many readers, my appreciation of Washington’s integrity increased with reading this book. I now more clearly see how stories illustrating his honesty, such as the cherry tree story, were so popular. - mceacd

Do you believe the conspirators intended to kill or kidnap Washington? What do you think would have happened had they succeeded?
My sense was that the Life Guards were more interested in getting extra pocket money for turning Washington over to the enemy. I do not remember reading any conversations among the Guards as to what they wanted to eventually happen to Washington ... - valeriei

Governor Tryon's proclamation backfired, resulting in a mob that hanged him in effigy. Why do you think he so misjudged the situation? How else could have influenced the population to stay loyal to Britain?
It was a different time in much of the world: the Enlightenment thinkers and writers influencing many to to re-think authority. I think Tryon was traditional and didn’t comprehend individualism, so he had no reason to deviate from the ... - mceacd

Is Tryon correct in believing that most people will follow strength?
This is more complicated than it seems at first. People in many places want a strong ”leader” who will be strong on the issues that are important to them. At the same time, they may despise a leader whose aims do not align with theirs. In... - mceacd

Overall, what do you think of The First Conspiracy?
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was well-written and highly informative. History can be presented in such a boring manner: but this book defied that. - cathyt

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"You will turn the pages because this is a page-turner of a story. The American Revolution is too often told as a glorious pageant of inevitable victories. But early on, the whole thing was so contingent and uncertain — built upon a general with a greater gift for PR than military maneuvering, an army moved to coherence upon hearing the most famous phrases in American English, and a few moments of incandescent good luck, such as when a member of the Secret Committee wondered whether Horbush was maybe just a slight linguistic mishearing of Forbes and they should step up the search for that guy."—Jack Hitt, Washington Post

"It's a fascinating story, and Meltzer and Mensch do an excellent job explaining it. Meltzer is the author of a dozen thrillers, and he brings a propulsive energy to the narrative — it can be difficult to create tension and suspense in a nonfiction book where the reader already knows how the story ends, but the authors do a great job keeping the reader turning the pages. The book is also extremely well-researched. Meltzer and Mensch cite an impressive number of primary sources, including letters from Washington and others, as well as a heroic number of history books. Nothing about the book is phoned in; the amount of research behind it is genuinely remarkable."—Michael Schaub, NPR

"Readers who like their histories full of twists, turns, and cliff-hangers will enjoy this romp through the Revolution."—Booklist

"In brisk, tense chapters, Meltzer [and] Mensch relate a tale of spies and treason, conspiracy and counterintelligence at the start of the colonists' war against Britain.... A lively political thriller."—Kirkus Reviews

"This absolutely fascinating book brings to light an enthralling, deliberately hidden episode in American history, chronicling the machinations leading to war and the remarkable character of Washington himself. This is American history at its finest, a gripping story of spies, killers, counterfeiters, traitors - and a mysterious prostitute who may or may not have even existed. Anyone with an interest in American history will love this book."—Douglas Preston, #1 bestselling author of The Lost City of the Monkey God

"You need to read this book - the patriotic and daring untold story about George Washington and the real-life traitors who secretly tried to take him out. Just wait until you see how General Washington punishes those who cross him. Here's why Brad Meltzer is America's historian. Americans need to hear this incredible story." - Brian Kilmeade, cohost of Fox & Friends and New York Times bestselling author of Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans, George Washington's Secret Six, and Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pilots

"History and mystery combine in this taut true-life thriller. Meltzer and Mensch write a page-turner with rich characters and compelling details that just so happens to be part of the real story about George Washington and a conspiracy against him. A joy to read!"—Jake Tapper, CNN Anchor and bestselling author of The Hellfire Club

"The First Conspiracy is a true mystery story that very few Americans know, written with a voice that beckons to be heard."—Joseph J. Ellis, author of the forthcoming American Dialogue: The Founding Fathers and Us

"Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch have given us a powerful account of a conspiracy to assassinate George Washington on the eve of all-out war - a fascinating tale of spies and intrigue, of near-misses, and what-ifs. Read it!"—Jon Meacham, author The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, and American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House

"This story of skullduggery, bribery, espionage, and treason sheds new light on the beginnings of the American Revolution. It also highlights the importance of intelligence and counterintelligence in waging war, as the Patriots exposed and forestalled the plot and caused Washington to create his own highly successful intelligence service."—James M. McPherson, author of The War That Forged a Nation and Pulitzer Prize-winner Battle Cry of Freedom

"This is American history at its finest, a gripping story of spies, killers, counterfeiters, traitors - and a mysterious prostitute who may or may not have even existed. Anyone with an interest in American history will love this book."—Douglas Preston, #1 bestselling author of The Lost City of the Monkey God

"A wonderful book about leadership - and it shows why George Washington and his moral lessons are just as vital today. What a book. You'll love it."—President George H.W. Bush

"This is an important book: a fascinating largely unknown chapter of our hazardous beginning, a reminder of why counterintelligence matters, and a great read."—President Bill Clinton

This information about The First Conspiracy was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own reviewwrite your own review

Satwinder SIngh

"The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington" is a historical non-fiction book written by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch. The book explores a little-known plot to assassinate George Washington during the early days of the American Revolution.

The authors delve into the details of the conspiracy, which took place in New York City in 1776. They provide a vivid account of the individuals involved in the plot, including British soldiers, loyalists, and disaffected members of the American Continental Army. Meltzer and Mensch bring the characters to life by delving into their motivations, backgrounds, and interactions.

The book not only focuses on the conspiracy itself but also provides valuable context about the events leading up to it. The authors highlight the challenges faced by Washington and his troops during the early stages of the war, painting a picture of the precarious position the American forces were in at the time.

One of the strengths of "The First Conspiracy" is the authors' meticulous research. They draw from a wide range of primary sources, including letters, diaries, and historical records, to reconstruct the events of the plot. This attention to detail helps to create a compelling and authentic narrative.

The pacing of the book is generally good, with the authors effectively building tension as they reveal the unfolding conspiracy. The writing style is engaging and accessible, making it an enjoyable read even for those who are not typically avid readers of historical non-fiction.

However, some readers may find that the book occasionally digresses from the main narrative. The authors provide additional historical background and context, which can be interesting but may also detract from the primary plotline of the conspiracy. Additionally, while the authors attempt to present a balanced perspective, there is a clear focus on the American side of the story, which may leave some readers wanting more insight into the motivations and perspectives of the British conspirators.

Overall, "The First Conspiracy" is a well-researched and engaging exploration of a little-known plot against George Washington. It sheds light on a fascinating moment in American history and offers readers an intriguing glimpse into the challenges faced by the Revolutionary War leaders. If you have an interest in American history, particularly the Revolutionary War era, this book is worth a read.

Karen

Not a history buff
I don’t usually read history books. About as close as I get is historical fiction. So this wasn’t an easy read but I learned a lot and impressed my husband! He loves history books and will be reading this one for sure.

Spacemen

The First Conspiracy
The book was well written and left you hanging at the end of every chapter. However, the book seemed quite repetitive stating a point over and over again. Nevertheless, the book is still an excellent read.

Betty Taylor

An Untold Story about George Washington
An interesting piece of untold history. Get to know George Washington – the man, the leader. Courageous, humble. Elite soldiers were selected to serve as Washington’s bodyguards. But traitors are among them. Working with New York’s Governor and Mayor, they plotted to kill Washington.

This was an easy, quick read with lots of historical facts. Read how the plot came about and how it was busted. It reveals the true character of Washington and his devotion to his country.

Taking place during the most critical period of our nation’s birth, The First Conspiracy tells a remarkable and previously untold piece of American history that not only reveals George Washington’s character, but also illuminates the origins of America’s counterintelligence movement that led to the modern day CIA.

The writing seemed a bit awkward – a nonfiction book being written in the style of a fictional novel. That did not work for me.

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Author Information

Brad Meltzer & Josh Mensch Author Biography

See also Brad Meltzer

Josh Mensch is the coauthor of three critically acclaimed books about American history: the New York Times #2 nonfiction bestseller The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington; the New York Times #6 nonfiction bestseller The Lincoln Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill America's 16th President—and Why it Failed; and The Nazi Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill. All three were cowritten with award-winning author Brad Meltzer.

In addition to writing books, Josh has been a documentary television showrunner, writer, director, and producer. He has created a wide variety of historical, cultural, and journalistic programming for nonfiction networks including the History Channel, PBS, National Geographic, ...

... Full Biography
Link to Brad Meltzer & Josh Mensch's Website

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