James Thomson Callender earned an infamous reputation as one of the first muckraking journalists in America, resulting largely from his character assassinations of George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson. As the journalist who broke the story of Jefferson's suppossed affair with his slave Sally Hemings, Callender has become a fixture in Jeffferson studies. Yet Callender always considered himself a champion of liberty. Until now, no historian has fully examined the life of this man whose impact remains a source of controversy.
Through uncovered correspondence, public records, and published writings by and about Callender, Durey traces Callender's early years in Scotland, showing the strong influence of his early Calvinist education and his admiration for Swift. He demonstrates how these experiences affected his career as a journalist in the United States. His research places Callender in a new perspective as one of the leaders, with Bache, Duane, Beckley, and Dr. Reynolds, of a team of hired pens who helped stem the Federalist tide in Philadelphia in the 1790s.