A Republic of Scoundrels

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A Republic of Scoundrels
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.

Publication Date: 
December 5, 2023