Join us for an enlightening look at the cartographic revolution that took place during the eighteenth century.  We will also examine how and why maps became vital political, economic, and social tools in the Revolutionary era. 

During this symposium:

  • Hear from Mount Vernon staff and leading historians
  • Tour the Mansion
  • View historic documents and objects


In PersonVirtualVirtual for Students & Educators

The annual George Washington Symposium is supported by a generous endowment established by the Barra Foundation.

Add to Calendar 11/04/2022 11/05/2022 America/New_York Mapping the American Revolution: The 2022 George Washington Symposium

Join us for an enlightening look at the cartographic revolution that took place during the eighteenth century.  We will also examine how and why maps became vital political, economic, and social tools in the Revolutionary era. 

During this symposium:

  • Hear from Mount Vernon staff and leading historians
  • Tour the Mansion
  • View historic documents and objects


In PersonVirtualVirtual for Students & Educators

The annual George Washington Symposium is supported by a generous endowment established by the Barra Foundation.

George Washington Presidential Library George Washington's Mount Vernon MM/DD/YYYY 15

Special Event Showing On


$225 for General Public
$200 for Members and Donors
Includes all Lectures, Meals, and Tours

Virtual: Watch in real-time or through December 5 (30 days after the event)
$25 General Public
$10 Students/Educators

As a young surveyor in the mid-eighteenth century, George Washington participated in a cartographic revolution. Newly accessible across social classes, maps became a critical tool for eighteenth-century North Americans to envision their place in the world and their relationships to each other.

Surveyors like Washington used ink and paper to trace the course of rivers and the boundaries of land grants; French officers like Lafayette’s aide-de-camp and mapmaker Michel Capitaine du Chesnoy depicted major battles of the War for Independence; and cartographers like Thomas Jefferys engraved and published maps that featured prominently in homes and councils of war alike. Maps helped to destroy empires, dispossess Native peoples of their land, and build new nations.

Join us for the 2022 George Washington Symposium as a group of leading historians and scholars of the American Revolution and cartography explore in-depth how and why maps become vital political, economic, and social tools in the Revolutionary era.

Please note that this lineup is subject to change at any time.

Mapping the American Revolution

Friday, November 4


Symposium Registration, Bookout Reception Hall


Welcome and Opening Remarks, David M. Rubenstein Leadership Hall


The Atlantic Neptune (1777-81): Hydrographic and Topographic Imperatives in British Imperial Ambitions for North America

John E. Crowley

The Atlantic Neptune (1777-1781) culminated the official survey of Britain’s North American colonies from Quebec to Florida after the Seven Years’ War. This multi-volume, elephant-folio atlas edited by J. F. W. Des Barres provided a series of navigational charts of Atlantic coastlines based for the first time on direct hydrographic surveys. They had strategic importance for the Royal Navy’s controlling a vast imperial coastline. But the atlas also included over one hundred aquatints and colored engravings of coastal landscapes taken on the spot. What was the relation between these hydrographic and topographic imperatives in Britain’s imperial ambitions? 


War, Empire, Revolution, Slavery: the Comte d'Estaing and the Globalization of the American Revolution

Bertie Mandelblatt

The “Plan of the Siege of Savannah” that accompanies the manuscript Journal du siege de Savannah, septembre et octobre, 1779, composed by the Comte d’Estaing and his military engineer, Antoine François Térence O’Connor, unites in cartographic form the military, imperial and intellectual ambitions of the three great Atlantic Revolutions of the late eighteenth century (American, French and Haitian). The naval campaigns of d’Estaing in the first half of the American Revolution were either defeats or stalemates, contrary to the French successes of the second half that ensured the ultimate victory of the French-American forces at Yorktown in 1781. Nevertheless, d’Estaing’s arrival in the Americas following the 1778 French-American alliance signaled the internationalization of the North American rebellion, as the British met their great antagonist on global theatres of war that ranged from the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean. The maps, perspectives, and portraits connected to d’Estaing’s campaigns such as the “Plan of the Siege of Savannah” constitute a rich visual record of the struggles for economic and political sovereignty that crosscut and connected colonies, nations and empires in the final decades of the eighteenth century.


Refreshment Break


Keynote Lecture: The Surveyor's Eye: Mapping Empire in the Era of the American Revolution

S. Max Edelson

In the second half of the eighteenth century, British surveyors came to North America and the West Indies in unprecedented numbers. Their images of coastlines, forts, and frontiers helped win the war with France and pictured a triumphant British Atlantic world. The American Revolution shattered this vision of peace, commerce, and settlement. Once tasked to promote an expansive American empire, wartime mapmakers applied their knowledge to make war on American colonists. This lecture describes the importance of survey knowledge in maps from the Richard Brown Revolutionary War Map Collection from empire to independence.


Cocktail Reception, Donald W. Reynolds Museum Lobby

Visit the Exhibit and Mansion Tours


Dinner, Mount Vernon Inn

Saturday, November 5


Continental Breakfast, Washington Library


Opening Remarks, David M. Rubenstein Leadership Hall


North to Nowhere: Canada and the Early Revolutionary Agenda

Jeffers Lennox

Quebec (also known as Canada) was never far from the minds of early Americans. In 1774, Parliament passed the Quebec Act and enlarged the British province, thus making westward expansion more difficult for settlers living in the colonies. Not surprisingly, when war broke out between the Patriots and the British, Congress quickly turned its attention north. This paper will explore the geographic implications of the Quebec Act, the early fascination with capturing Quebec, and how failed campaigns to bring Canada to the Patriot cause shaped the early years of the American Revolution.


Where Is the St. Croix?  Maps and the Partition of Revolutionary North America, circa 1783

Eliga Gould

During negotiations over the Treaty of Paris, John Adams insisted on placing the United States’ eastern border on the St. Croix River, which John Mitchell’s map of North America showed emptying into the eastern end of Passamaquoddy Bay. What no one realized was that the estuary contained three Rivers St. Croix, each with a plausible claim to be the new boundary.  When the treaty reached America, the question pitted Loyalists and Patriots on the Maine coast against each other — as well as against the region’s Native Americans and Acadians, who had their own geographies. Although not the revolution’s only border dispute, the St. Croix was one of the most intractable. In 1796, a joint Anglo-American commission settled the river’s location in Britain’s favor, but the dispute left a legacy of international conflict and cooperation that persists to this day.


Refreshment Break

11:15 am

Copyrighting Independence: Maps and Movement in the American Revolution

Nora Slonimsky

Just as maps of the late eighteenth century interpreted the physical landscapes of the Atlantic world, they also moved around it. Circulating across geographic and jurisdictional borders, maps, like those included in the Richard H. Brown Revolutionary War Map Collection, intersected not only with debates about independence and revolution but also about property and ownership. In certain parts of the British Empire, mapmakers were considered to be authors, with access to copyright, however in colonial North America, that right was far less clear. This talk will look at the relationship between copyright and mapmaking and how that relationship took place amidst the American Revolution.

12:15 pm

Lunch, Founders' Terrace

Historic Document and Object Viewing

1:30 pm

Storied Landscapes: Iroquoia and the American Revolution  

Chad Anderson

The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Six Nations) created one of the most notable homelands in early America.  An ancient but dynamic land full of villages and history, Iroquoia figured prominently in eighteenth-century maps and the imperial struggle to claim a continent.  The War of the American Revolution became a crucial struggle to define the future of settlement in Iroquoia.  This talk will explore the layers of history found throughout Iroquoia and the changes to this landscape, in reality and on maps, in the wake of the Revolution.

2:30 pm

Refreshment Break

2:45 pm

General Thomas Gage and Mapping the Origins of Urban Violence, 1765-1768

Alexandra L. Montgomery and Richard H. Brown

When colonial violence in reaction to the Stamp Act broke out in New York in 1765, General Thomas Gage was woefully unprepared. For the previous decade and more, the British Army had been focused on the rural violence of the Seven Years’ War and Pontiac’s Rebellion. This discussion between Richard Brown and Alexandra Montgomery will use the multi-institutional lens of the ARGO project to trace Gage’s efforts to gain control of New York in the face of unprecedented urban violence through mapping, from John Montresor’s plan of the city to the remarkable cantonment maps showing troop locations as colonial unrest intensified.

3:45 pm

Reflections on John Mitchell’s “A map of the British and French dominions in North America (1755)”

Many historians of early America consider John Mitchell’s 1755 map to be the most important plan of North America published in the eighteenth century. Printed in eight sheets and measuring 4 feet 6 inches by 6 feet 5 inches, the Virginia cartographer produced a highly detailed map that reinforced British claims to the continent over those of France in the early years of the Seven Years’ War. Mitchell also visualized Indigenous geographies like the homelands of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) in western New York to argue that Native peoples were subject to British control. Nearly 30 years later, American and British diplomats used a version of the Mitchell Map to negotiate the borders of the new United States.  This roundtable discussion will feature the symposium’s participants reflecting on the significance of the Mitchell Map in the era of the American Revolution.

4:45 pm

Symposium Concludes


Speaker Biographies

John E. Crowley

John E. Crowley is George Munro Professor of History and Political Economy, Emeritus, at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His studies of imperial visual culture include Imperial Landscapes: Britain’s Global Visual Culture, 1745-1815 and “Sugar Machines: Picturing Industrial Slavery” which was published in The American Historical Review. He has degrees in history from Princeton University, the University of Michigan, and the Johns Hopkins University.

Bertie Mandelblatt

Bertie Mandelblatt is the George S. Parker II '51 Curator of Maps and Prints at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. She is a historical geographer whose curatorial practice, research and publications address a number of intersecting questions related to the early Americas, and to the early modern Caribbean and French overseas expansion in particular: the geographies of plantation slavery; colonial trade and commodities; cartography as an imperial practice; and the spatial history of the first French empire.

S. Max Edelson

S. Max Edelson is Professor of History at the University of Virginia where he leads the UVA Early American Seminar and directs MapScholar, an online platform for historical geospatial visualization. He is the author of Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina and The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America Before Independence, a finalist for the 2017 George Washington Prize.

Jeffers Lennox

Jeffers Lennox is associate professor of History at Wesleyan University where his teaching focuses on Indigenous-settler interactions in early North America. His recent book, North of America: Loyalists, Indigenous Nations, and the Borders of the Long American Revolution explores how Canada influenced American Independence and the character of the Early Republic.

Nora Slonimsky

Nora Slonimsky is the Gardiner Assistant Professor of History at Iona University, where she also serves as the Director of the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies (ITPS), an organization also focused on public and digital history. Nora’s in-progress book, The Engine of Free Expression: Copyrighting the State in Early America won the Society for the History of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) prize for best manuscript. She is also co-editing a volume with Cornell University Press, American Revolutions in the Digital Age. Nora serves as the Social Media Editor for the Journal of the Early Republic and the reviews editor for SHARP News. 

Chad Anderson

Chad Anderson is the author of The Storied Landscape of Iroquoia: History, Conquest, and Memory in the Native Northeast (University of Nebraska Press).  He earned Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis, and is currently an assistant professor of history at Hartwick College.  His writing on early American cartography, "Rediscovering Native North America: Settlements, Maps, and Empires in the Eastern Woodlands" was awarded the John Murrin Prize by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies.

Alexandra L. Montgomery

Alexandra L. Montgomery holds a Ph.D. in early American history from the University of Pennsylvania. Her work focuses on the role of the state and settler colonialism in the eighteenth century, particularly in the far northeast. Currently, she is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Digital History and Cartography of the American Revolutionary War Era at Mount Vernon, where she is assisting in the creation of a new digital maps portal in collaboration with the Leventhal Map and Education Center.

Richard H. Brown

Richard H. Brown has spent the last 30 years collecting, conserving and interpreting maps and views of the American Revolutionary War era.  He is a member of the Mount Vernon Cabinet and a Lifetime Director of the Norman B. Leventhal Map and Education Center at the Boston Public Library. Richard is the co-author of Revolution: Mapping the Road to American Independence 1755-1783 and has lectured at venues throughout the United States, England and France. In 2019, Richard and his wife Mary Jo Otsea donated their entire collection of Revolutionary War maps to the Washington Library at Mount Vernon.

Eliga Gould

Eliga Gould

Eliga Gould is professor of history at the University of New Hampshire. His books include The Persistence of Empire: British Political Culture in the Age of the American Revolution (2000) and Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire (2012), winner of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic’s book prize and a finalist for the George Washington Book Prize. He is currently writing a global history of the least studied of America’s founding documents: the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War.

Contact Information

Stephen A. McLeod
Director, Library Programs


Guests should park in Mount Vernon visitor parking lots, and enter the Library via the pedestrian gate near the four-way traffic intersection (across from the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant).

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