Lecture Series Lets Audience “Meet the Founders”
CHESTERTOWN, MD—We often think of America’s Founders as a committee of like-minded sages who sat down together and methodically crafted the new nation. Richard Beeman, one of America’s leading historians of the Revolutionary era, will shatter that familiar notion in “Meet the Founders,” a series of three public talks debuting at Washington College on Wednesday, October 24.
It is hard to imagine personalities more different than the voluble – indeed, nearly manic-depressive – John Adams; the angry, pugnacious recent English immigrant Tom Paine; and the quiet, but deeply intellectual Thomas Jefferson. In his October 24 talk, Beeman will delve into the lives and characters of each of these men as they came together in common cause during the months leading up to the colonies’ independence. Later talks will focus on James Madison and Patrick Henry (November 7) and George Washington (November 14).
All three events will take place at 5:30 p.m. in Decker Theatre, Gibson Center for the Arts, and will be followed by book signings. They are hosted by Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, where Beeman is a senior fellow.
Beeman, the John Welsh Centennial Professor of American History Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, has been a member of that university’s faculty for 44 years and has served as Chair of the Department of History and as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He was the winner of the 2010 George Washington Book Prize, one of the largest literary prizes in the nation, for Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution (Random House). The New York Times called the book a “scholarly yet lively account” of the “passion-filled crucible” that was the 1787 Constitutional Convention.
“There will be two general themes at work in these lectures,” Beeman said. “The first is that the founding of an independent, united, American nation was not only not inevitable, but improbable – indeed, in some senses, audacious. The second is that the individuals instrumental in the American founding were a diverse bunch, different in cultural backgrounds, personalities, and political ideologies.”
Beeman is the author of seven books on Revolutionary-era America, including The Penguin Guide to the American Constitution (Penguin, 2010) and Patrick Henry: A Biography (McGraw-Hill, 1974), which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Other honors have included fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and the Huntington Library. He has served as a Fulbright Professor in the United Kingdom and as Harmsworth Distinguished Professor of American History at Oxford University. He has written articles and book reviews for many publications and has appeared with Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.”
“Meet the Founders” serves as a sequel to “Inventing a Nation,” a series of four talks that Beeman offered at Washington College in the fall of 2011. That series was cosponsored by the College’s Institute for Religion, Politics, and Culture, where Beeman is also a senior fellow. “Dr. Beeman’s series last year was a smash hit, and we’re thrilled to have him return,” said Adam Goodheart, the Starr Center’s Hodson Trust-Griswold Director. “There are few historians as gifted as he is at bringing to life the vivid personalities who played starring roles in the Revolutionary drama.”