The Society of the Cincinnati has over 3,900 members residing in the United States, France, and over twenty-five other countries. The youngest hereditary members are in their twenties. The oldest are over one hundred. A few members—great-great grandsons of their propositi—are only four generations removed from the officers of the Revolutionary War. Some of the youngest members—great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandsons of their propositi—are nine generations removed. Some are direct descendants in an unbroken male line of members reaching back to the founding of the Society. Many more have joined under the Rule of 1854, which allows for the representation of otherwise qualified Continental officers who, for whatever reason, never joined the Society.
Regardless of these differences, the members of the Society of the Cincinnati share a personal connection to the officers in the Continental and French service who secured the independence of the United States. They also share a personal tie to one another as fellow members of the oldest hereditary society in the United States.
Responsibilities of Membership
The original members of the Society of the Cincinnati mutually pledged to perpetuate the memory of the American Revolution and "to render permanent the cordial affection subsisting among the officers." In joining the Society, every member accepts responsibility for fulfilling this pledge.
The exclusive nature of membership imposes a responsibility to participate in the life of our organization. In most cases, only one descendant of a qualified officer can be a hereditary member of the Society. Qualified applicants for membership who would be delighted to participate are regularly turned away because membership in the right of their ancestor is already taken. If you have the honor to represent an officer of the Revolutionary War in the Society of the Cincinnati, you should honor him by participating. Membership should not be taken lightly or regarded as a hereditary entitlement without obligation.
Members are expected to honor their propositus by supporting the Society's aim through participation in the Society's fraternal activities, financial support of the Society's programs, and, to the extent practical, volunteer service to the Society. The fraternal life of the Society is open to all members. Every member, regardless of his means, can support the Society's programs through financial contributions. The General Society does not charge dues, but does expect every member of the Society to make voluntary contributions to the Society's Annual Giving campaigns. Our ancestors were volunteers, and the spirit of voluntary participation is central to our Society's identity. Officers of the Society are always happy to discuss opportunities for volunteer service to advance the mission of our organization.
Outside the Society, members are also called upon to emulate Cincinnatus and the heroes of our Revolutionary War by serving the republic without regard to reward for their service. Although the modern Society is not a military organization, it has its roots in the military service of its founders and honors and respects military service to the republic, particularly by members of the Society. Whatever their role in life, members are called to promote and cherish our national honor and to work "to preserve inviolate those exalted rights and liberties of human nature" for which our ancestors fought.