The Rogue Republic

The Rogue Republic

How Would-Be Patriots Waged the Shortest Revolution in American History

By William C. Davis

Houghton Mifflin, Hardcover, 9780151009251, 400pp.

Publication Date: April 2011


When Britain ceded the territory of West Florida— what is now Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida—to Spain in 1783, America was still too young to confidently fight in one of Europe’s endless territorial contests. So it was left to the settlers, bristling at Spanish misrule, to establish a foothold in the area. Enter the Kemper brothers, whose vigilante justice culminated in a small band of American residents drafting a constitution and establishing a new government. By the time President Madison sent troops to occupy the territory, assert U.S. authority under the Louisiana Purchase, and restore order, West Florida’s settlers had already announced their independence, becoming our country’s shortest-lived rogue “republic.” 

Meticulously researched and populated with the colorful characters that make American history a joy, this is the story of a young country testing its power on the global stage and a lost chapter in how the frontier spirit came to define American character. The first treatment of this little-known historical moment, The Rogue Republic shows how hardscrabble frontiersmen and gentleman farmers planted the seeds of civil war, marked the dawn of Manifest Destiny, and laid the groundwork for the American empire.

About the Author
WILLIAM C. DAVIS is the director of programs at the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies and chief consultant for the A&E television series Civil War Journal. Davis teaches history at Virginia Tech and lives in Virginia.

Praise For The Rogue Republic

"A significant study of an obscure but highly revealing moment in American history . . . Not only does Davis cast a bright light into these murky corners of our national past, he does so with a grace and clarity equal to the best historical writing today." —Kirkus (starred)

"[A] compelling story . . . well written and deeply researched." —Library Journal

"Here [Davis] recounts the brief but interesting chronicle of the events and men who triggered the uprising against Spain, the establishment of a short-lived republic, and rapid annexation by the U.S. This is a well-done recounting of an obscure but ultimately important episode in our history." —Booklist "Davis presents a well-documented account of ‘America's second and smallest rebellion,’ led by a simple storekeeper named Reuben Kemper . . . Davis tells this story with nuance and panache. This book exposes a nearly forgotten piece of America's history and character." —Publishers Weekly "The Rogue Republic is one rollicking, good book. With his customary panache and eye for the telling detail, William Davis has deftly brought to life the too little-known but endlessly absorbing story of the short-lived West Florida Republic. What a treat for history buffs." 
—Jay Winik, author of April 1865 and The Great Upheaval

"During the brief existence of the Republic of West Florida, the United States occupied territory owned by another nation. Finally, after two centuries, a prominent writer provides us with a fascinating account of this important, but little-known rebellion against Spanish rule. William C. Davis, a master of narrative history, presents us in The Rogue Republic with a cast of some of the most colorful, and sometimes shady, characters in the American West—adventurers who promoted Manifest Destiny before expansionism bore that label." 
—John D. W. Guice, editor of and contributor to By His Own Hand?: The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis; and coauthor with Thomas D. Clark of The Old Southwest, 1795–1830: Frontiers in Conflict

"The Rogue Republic is a story of a long-forgotten revolution when America marched westward. Impeccably researched and finely written, Mr. Davis's book is history at its best, replete with intrigue, colorful individuals, governmental machinations, murder, and mayhem. It is storytelling at its finest and a pleasure to read." 
—Jeffry D. Wert, author of General James Longstreet and the forthcoming A Glorious Army "The Rogue Republic skillfully tells the remarkable story of the rogues and dreamers who founded the Republic of West Florida in 1811 and then saw it absorbed by the United States. William C. Davis has salvaged for modern readers the pivotal moment when American expansionism evolved from Jefferson’s passive idealism into something a good deal more muscular, on the way to becoming downright larcenous."
—David O. Stewart, author of The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution 

"The Rogue Republic is an absolutely enthralling story, with a cast of magnificent, unforgettable characters and a dramatic narrative that will keep you reading from first word to last. Based on exhaustive research in primary sources, this brilliant book is a must read for all literate Americans." 
—Stephen B. Oates, author of With Malice Toward None: A Biography of Abraham Lincoln

"Davis continues to turn out books on topics both significant and relatively unknown. All are superbly researched and written. Rogue Republic continues that tradition with a compelling history of how West Florida became a part of the United States. It provides a thorough, accurate, and readable history of a part of America’s past of which few people are aware." 
—Robert M. Utley, author of Lone Star Justice