Thomas Conway was Washington's traducer to Gates. He was an Irish-French soldier of fortune who unfortunately had been made a brigadier-general in the Continental army. Having made friends of the New England delegates in Congress, it was then proposed by them to advance him to the rank of major-general, which Washington opposed, on the grounds that "his merit and importance exist more in his imagination than in reality." For the moment this was sufficient to prevent Conway's promotion, and even if he had not before been opposed to his commander, he now became his bitter enemy. To more than Gates he said or wrote, "A great & good God has decreed that America shall be free, or Washington and weak counsellors would have ruined her long ago." Upon word of this reaching Washington, so Laurens tells, "The genl immediately copied the contents of the paper, introducing them with 'sir,' and concluding with, 'I am your humble servt,' and sent this copy in the form of a letter to Genl Conway. This drew an answer, in which he first attempts to deny the fact, and then in a most shameless manner, to explain away the matter. The perplexity of his style, and evident insincerity of his compliments, betray his weak sentiments, and expose his guilt."
Yet, though detected, Conway complained to the Continental Congress that Washington was not treating him properly, and in reply to an inquiry from a member the General acknowledged that,—
In spite of Washington's opposition, Conway's friends were numerous enough in the Congress finally to elect him major-general, at the same time appointing him inspector-general. Elated with this evident partiality of the majority of that body for him, he went even further, and Laurens states that he was guilty of a "base insult" to Washington, which "affects the General very sensibly," and he continues,—
Fortunately, Conway did not limit his "insulting letters" to the commander-in-chief alone, and presently he sent one to Congress threatening to resign, which so angered that body that they took him at his word. Moreover, his open abuse of Washington led an old-time friend of the latter to challenge him, and to lodge a ball, with almost poetic justice, in Conway's mouth. Thinking himself on the point of death, he wrote a farewell line to Washington "expressing my sincere grief for having done, written or said anything disagreeable to your Excellency.... You are in my eyes a great and good man." And with this recantation he disappeared from the army. A third officer in this "cabal" was Thomas Mifflin. He was the first man appointed on Washington's staff at the beginning of the war, but did not long remain in that position, being promoted by Washington to be quartermaster-general. In this position the rumor reached the General that Mifflin was "concerned in trade," and Washington took "occasion to hint" the suspicion to him, only to get a denial from the officer. Whether this inquiry was a cause for ill-feeling or not, Mifflin was one of the most outspoken against the commander-in-chief as his opponents gathered force, and Washington informed Henry that he "bore the second part in the cabal." Mifflin resigned from the army and took a position on the board of war, but when the influence of that body broke down with the collapse of the Cabal, he applied for a reappointment,—a course described by Washington in plain English as follows:
Not long after Greene wrote that "I learn that General Mifflin has publicly declared that he looked upon his Excellency as the best friend he ever had in his life, so that is a plain sign that the Junto has given up all ideas of supplanting our excellent general from a confidence of the impracticability of such an attempt."