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Society of the Cincinnati (U.S.)

Last modified: 2015-01-11 by rick wyatt
Keywords: society of the cincinnati | cincinnati |
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Description of the flag

The Society of the Cincinnati is an organization composed of lineal male descendants of French and American officers who fought in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. It was founded by a group of men that included George Washington, Pierre L'Enfant, Henry Knox, and le Marquis de la Fayette. The city of Cincinnati was named after the society. The flag itself was designed by Baron von Steuben in 1786, and closely resembles the 13-star, 13-stripe American flag designed by L'Enfant. The Society of the Cincinnati's flag, however, has 13 light blue stripes, and in the canton, the Cincinnati eagle is within 13 stars. The canton appears to be the same color as the blue stripes. Images of the flag can be viewed on the French Society's website. A detailed image of the Cincinnati eagle can be seen at The motto is "Omnia relinquit servare rembublicam," or "He gave up everything to serve the republic," referring to the Roman leader Cincinnatus, after whom the society is named.
Will Sullivan, 14 August 2001

[Society of the Cincinnati flag] image by Randy Young, 22 September 2004

Source: "Flags to Color, Washington to Lincoln"

The flag of the Society of the Cincinnati, 1786, is found on page 1. The colors listed as "White canton; brown eagle with white head and tail, yellow beak and claws; green leaves; 7 white, 6 light blue stripes."

"Right after the Revolution, American and French veterans of the war founded an organization which still exists today. They named it after Cincinnatus, the Roman soldier who returned to his farm after saving his country as a military leader -- an obvious reference to George Washington. Blue was considered to be the American color; hence the stripes."
Randy Young, 22 September 2004

[Society of the Cincinnati flag] image by Eugene Ipavec, 17 February 2005

The Society of the Cincinnati was founded in 1783. It took its name from the Roman general Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus, who was called from his farm in 458 B.C., and again in 439 B. C. to assume the dictatorship of Rome and the command of its army. After victory was won and the safety of Rome assured, he relinquished power and returned to his plough. This made him a model of the ideal Republican statesman to the early Continental leaders.

Membership in the Society was open to American and French officers of the Continental Army who had served actively for three years or until the end of the Revolutionary War.

The flag adopted had blue and white stripes, representing America and France respectively, and a dark blue canton with a circle of 13 stars surrounding a bald eagle. However, according to, the flag was not standardized until 1905, and "flag makers took liberties with the design" in the interim. I can find no image of this post-1905 standardized flag. It might be the one depicted at the website of the French branch of the Society.

An earlier, nonstandardized version hangs in the burial chapel of Robert E. Lee, a member of the Society. (sorry, I seem to have lost the link). It is much more squarish, the stripes are a lighter blue, the canton darker, and the eagle is smaller and differs in the position of its wings and neck length.

[Society of the Cincinnati flag] image by Eugene Ipavec, 17 February 2005

It turns out that the city of Cincinnati was named after the society, by the way. The flag is apparently still flown there, in a square downtown.

Eugene Ipavec, 17 February 2005


Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus lived in Roma in the 5th century BC. He is one of the main symbols of the ethical values of the Roman republic. Cincinnatus is the model of the Roman citizen, who had a simple life and respected the traditional values, and wass able to sacrifice himself for his homeland.

Cincinnatus was a ruined patrician, because he had to pay a bail for his son who had been accused of the murder of a plebeian. He lived near the river Tibre, where he cultivated a small plot. In 460 BC, a patricians' delegation visited him at his farm to tell him he had been appointed consul. During his consulate, Cincinnatus saved the republic from anarchy by imposing a truce between the patricians and the plebeians. At the end of his mandate, Cincinnatus went back to his farm.

In 458 BC, Cincinnatus was appointed dictator by the consuls. A dictator had full political and military powers and, theoretically, he should stay only for six months. Cincinnatus' duty was to help consul Minucius, who was in big trouble with the whole Roman army. The army was encircled in the moutains of Appenins by the Eques, a local people who resisted the Roman penetration. Cincinnatus enrolled new troops, lifted up the siege of the army and sacked the clueless consul. When back in Rome, he fixed by law the number of tribunes to ten, in order to dilute their power. His son was proved innocent whereas his accuser was banned. After sixteen days spent in Rome, he considered that he had completed his job and went back to his farm.

In 439 BC, aged 80, Cincinnatus was once again appointed dictator by the senate in order to preserve Rome from civil war. The plebeians were led by Spurius Maelius, who incited them to assault the Senate. Upon Cincinnatus' order, Maelius was murdered in the forum and the crisis was solved. And Cincinnatus went back to his farm.

Ivan Sache, 24 September 2004

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