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A Republic of Scoundrels: The Schemers, Intriguers, and Adventurers Who Created a New American Nation (Hardcover)

A Republic of Scoundrels: The Schemers, Intriguers, and Adventurers Who Created a New American Nation By David Head (Editor), Timothy Hemmis (Editor) Cover Image
By David Head (Editor), Timothy Hemmis (Editor)
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The Founding Fathers are often revered as American saints; here are the stories of those Founders who were schemers and scoundrels, vying for their own interests ahead of the nation’s.

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 Author

David Head (editor) is an associate lecturer of history at the University of Central Florida and a distinguished faculty fellow in history at Kentucky Wesleyan College. He is the author of Privateers of the Americas: Spanish American Privateering from the United States in the Early Republic and 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.

Timothy Hemmis (editor) is an assistant professor of history at Texas A&M University-Central Texas. He graduated from The University of Southern Mississippi. Timothy's teaching focuses on Early American History and American Military History. He serves as the Regional Coordinator for the Southwest for the Society for Military History and is the History Book Review editor for The Presidential Studies Quarterly. Hemmis has written opinion pieces for the Washington Post and has delivered speeches at the Army and Navy Club in Washington, DC, the War and Society Working Group at Texas A&M University College Station, and the US Army III Corps Senior Command at Fort Hood.

Praise For…

“A Republic of Scoundrels captures the moral confusion of the era, when the rules of democratic politics were still unwritten and everything seemed up for grabs. The essays show how changeable the line between heroism and opportunism could be.”
The Wall Street Journal

“A fascinating look at the darker side of early American history. Vividly written, well-researched contributions by first-class scholars make the story of the early U.S. more complete, interesting, and revealing. The essays present a necessary reminder that the founding generation was all too human. Some were geniuses of the highest rank whose establishment and advancement of the American republic is an achievement of great magnitude. Yet this thoughtful and valuable book demonstrates that others were self-serving men on the make whose dishonorable traits and practices were sometimes antithetical or treasonous to the American cause—but also as American as the 4th of July.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Head and Hemmis demonstrate in this wide-ranging and entertaining collection how Revolutionary-era America was 'a time of fluid national identity.' Revolutionary War buffs will be engrossed.”
Publishers Weekly

“A host of knowledgeable scholars and historians explore the charlatans, thieves, traitors, and others who helped found the U.S., as they shine light on their misdeeds in a collection of highly readable essays. Editors Head and Hemmis have overseen a strong project with this work."
Library Journal

"In A Republic of Scoundrels, the down and dirty side of the American Revolution and its aftermath is revealed in all of its scandalous glory. Despite the mythos that surrounds the event, this book shows that the seedy underbelly of war played a critical role in shaping 'The Glorious Cause.’ As much as we like to remember pride and patriotism, sometimes murder, unrest, and espionage was lurking just around the corner."
Brady Crytzer, author of The Whiskey Rebellion: A Distilled History of an American Crisis

"This wonderful collection of essays highlights the exploits of the villains who helped shape the Revolutionary Era and the early American Republic. From Benedict Arnold and Charles Lee to William Blount, Matthew Lyon, James Wilkinson, Aaron Burr, and Florida’s notorious Kemper Brothers, the book reveals the radically different paths to becoming a notorious scoundrel. While the creation of the American Republic required the demi-gods we often praise, the stories featured here offer an interesting yet contradictory story of the American founding beyond the efforts of the famed founding fathers."
Gene Allen Smith, author of The Slaves' Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812 and co-author of Filibusters and Expansionists: Jeffersonian Manifest Destiny, 1800-1821

"A Republic of Scoundrels shine a distinctive light on the first decades of American independence.  They illuminate how the same conditions—the fragility of the union, the hostility of the new nation’s neighbors, the uncertainty of the people’s loyalties, and the fluidity of social and cultural expectations—that struck real fear in the hearts of Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison represented alluring opportunities for a different set of men, at no small cost to their reputations at the time and since."
James E. Lewis, Jr., author of The Burr Conspiracy: Uncovering the Story of an Early American Crisis

"A Republic of Scoundrels is a rogues’ gallery of the shadiest, most dishonest, self-serving, and duplicitous characters who traipsed across the stage of the early American republic. In this insightful and enjoyable anthology, Tim Hemmis and David Head have gathered together a collection of talented historians whose chapters illuminate the schemers, intriguers, and adventurers who created the new American nation. Ranging from the distasteful, to the outrageous, to the repulsive, these figures helped shape the contours and texture of the Early Republic and the course of American development for years to come."
Ricardo A. Herrera, author of Feeding Washington's Army: Surviving the Valley Forge Winter of 1778

"It took all kinds to make up the early republic.  Unsurprisingly, not a few of them were better suited to Hell than halos.  Welcome to a fascinating convocation of the misfits, miscreants, and chancers, who sometimes purposely—and often inadvertently—helped to build America. From the darkest days of the Revolution to Americans' early leaps across the Mississippi, these schemers and would-be empire builders impacted their times, some to become legends, and others pariahs.  Taken together, as a fine cast of authors demonstrates, they truly make up A Republic of Scoundrels."
William C. Davis, author of The Greatest Fury: The Battle of New Orleans and the Rebirth of America and The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf

"A Republic of Scoundrels brings together a motley mix of fascinating, sometimes perplexing, and always entertaining individuals to paint a new portrait of the early American republic. While none of those in this book are considered Founders, and in fact, as this book shows, they often tried to undermine the fledgling nation, their failed schemes, duplicitous acts, and otherwise untoward behavior often proved unexpectedly important to shoring up the country’s foundations.”
Partick Spero, Executive Director, George Washington Presidential Library

Product Details
ISBN: 9781639364077
ISBN-10: 1639364072
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication Date: December 5th, 2023
Pages: 368
Language: English