'The First Conspiracy': George Washington's Assassination Plot & The Roots Of Counter-Intelligence

Jan 22, 2019

If there is one period of American history that seems to have been well-explored, it is this country’s founding.  From de Tocqueville to Ron Chernow, from the landing of the Pilgrims to our break from England, the process of going from colony to democracy has been written about extensively. But author Brad Meltzer proves that even a well-traveled route has some undiscovered side streets.

Meltzer is a mystery novelist by trade, and while his latest book is nonfiction, it is every bit the compelling mystery of his novels. The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington presents the strong evidence of a plot to assassinate George Washington, even before the Declaration of Independence was signed. 

When Meltzer first started looking into the story, he only found a hint of these events in a footnote amidst other groundbreaking history happening during the same time. So, he went to the experts such as Pulitzer Prize winning author Joesph Ellis.

"I'll never forget the conversation," says Meltzer. "[Ellis] said, 'Brad, this a story about Washington's spies. You'll be able to find exactly how many slaves George Washington owned — you'll never find all his spies.' "

While this was a truly illusive story, Meltzer knew he had to take a shot.

"If you find it, you'll have a great book. If not, you'll have an adventure," recalls Meltzer.

In writing the book, he and his co-author Josh Mensch also shine a light on how the case shaped the intelligence and counter-intelligence fields today. Meltzer joined Lake Effect's Mitch Teich by phone to explain more about The First Conspiracy: