Spy History: Adam Goodheart on Washington College and the Mid-Shore


Every year in February, the United States goes out of its way to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. And every year, Washington College uses this opportunity to remind the country that the first real monument to America’s founding father was the establishment of a liberal arts college in Chestertown in 1782.

It is a story worth telling. With Washington’s specific approval, accompanied by a significant donation, William Smith, the college’s first president, set out to create an entirely new curriculum dedicated to training its students to prepare for leadership and citizenship in a very new country. So new, in fact, that it had only completed its formal separation from Britain just months before Washington College opened its doors.

But what gets lost all to0 often in the narrative of the founding of Washington College is the fact that its genesis was much more the result of some of the country’s best and brightest living in Maryland making an extraordinary investment in what they considered to be an essential resource for the Eastern Shore.

With landowner names like Goldsborough, Lloyd, Paca, and Tilghman, many of whom served as Maryland governors, representatives to the Continental Congress, or signers of the Declaration of Independence, these families generously donated for the new college’s founding despite the considerable distance Chestertown was by land or water from their homes.

That is one of the many rich takeaways from the Spy’s recent conversation with historian and author Adam Goodheart, Washington College’s long-serving director of the Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. In addition, Adam talks about the remarkable backgrounds of these Talbot and Queen Anne’s sponsors (who donated almost two-thirds of the funds needed to launch the college), their vision for the Shore, as well as frank discussion on their slaveholder past.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length. For more information on Washington College Starr Center please go here

About Dave Wheelan

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