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Benedict Arnold, Henry Bryan Hall, 1865. Gift of Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, 1889 [M-1255/PP]

Hear from historians David Head and Timothy C. Hemmis, editors of A Republic of Scoundrels: The Schemers, Intriguers, and Adventurers Who Created a New American Nation. 

The Founding Fathers are often revered as American saints. This new book provides interesting stories of those Founders who were schemers and scoundrels, vying for their own interests ahead of the nation’s.

Attendees will have the opportunity to submit questions and have their books signed.


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About the Book

We now have a clear-eyed understanding of Founding Fathers such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton; even so, they are often considered American saints, revered for their wisdom and self-sacrificing service to the nation. However, within the Founding Generation lurked many unscrupulous figures—men who violated the era’s expectation of public virtue and advanced their own interests at the expense of others.

They were turncoats and traitors, opportunists and con artists, spies, and foreign intriguers. Some of their names are well known: Benedict Arnold and Aaron Burr. Others are less notorious now but were no less threatening. There was Charles Lee, the Continental Army general who offered to tell the British how to defeat the Americans, and James Wilkinson, who served fifteen years as a commanding general in the US Army, despite rumors that he spied for Spain and conspired with traitors.

The early years of the republic were full of self-interested individuals, sometimes succeeding in their plots, sometimes failing, but always shaping the young nation. A Republic of Scoundrels seeks to re-examine the Founding Generation and replace the hagiography of the Founding Fathers with something more realistic: a picture that embraces the many facets of our nation’s origins.

About the Authors

David Head is a historian, author, and lecturer of history at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and distinguished faculty fellow in history at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro. Originally from Western New York, he received his B.A. in history from Niagara University and his Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.

He is the author of A Crisis of Peace: George Washington, the Newburgh Conspiracy, and the Fate of the American Revolution which was a finalist for the 2020 George Washington Prize; and Privateers of the Americas: Spanish American Privateering from the United States in the Early Republic), which won Mystic Seaport Museum's 2016 John Gardner Maritime Research Award. He was a member of the Washington Library’s 2015-16 Class of Research Fellows.



Timothy C. Hemmis is Associate Professor of History at Texas A&M University-Central Texas with a specialization in Early American History. He received his Ph.D. from The University of Southern Mississippi in 2015, serves as the regional coordinator for the Society for Military History and is the history book review editor for The Presidential Studies Quarterly. His research focuses on empire, identity, war and society in Revolutionary America (1750-1815) and he teaches a variety of Early American History courses including Colonial America, Revolutionary America, Early Republic, American Military History, and American Borderlands History.

His current book project, Trading Identities: National Identity, Loyalty, and Backcountry Merchants in Revolutionary America, 1740–1816, explores the identity of frontier merchants and how they navigated a revolutionary new world.  His next project, tentatively titled Mapping the Republic: Early American Geographers and Surveyors and the Creation of the United States, 1775-1815, examines Early American geographers and how their work helped define the America Republic.

Sponsored By Ford Philanthropy

Mount Vernon has enjoyed a very special relationship with the Ford Motor Company dating back more than 90 years. We are grateful for their generous support and we applaud their abiding respect for American heritage.

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