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Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a…
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Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the… (original 2009; udgave 2010)

af Joel Richard Paul

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
1713125,750 (3.83)7
Documents the machinations of three individuals in their efforts to win the American Revolution, tracing their applications of espionage to smuggle weapons and supplies while spinning a web of international political intrigue.
Medlem:oughta
Titel:Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution
Forfattere:Joel Richard Paul
Info:Riverhead Trade (2010), Paperback, 416 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:
Nøgleord:Ingen

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Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution af Joel Richard Paul (2009)

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Joel Richard Paul's Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution (Riverhead, 2009) highlights the activities of American diplomat Silas Deane, Pierre-Augustine Caron de Beaumarchais (author of "The Barber of Seville" and "The Marriage of Figaro") and the Chevalier d'Eon (a transvestite soldier-spy). First things first: while Deane and Beaumarchais did work together in arranging the Franco-American alliance, and while d'Eon and Beaumarchais were connected in early 1770s London (when Beaumarchais negotiated on behalf of the French government to recover secret documents d'Eon had in his possession), there is no suggestion that this trio working together "saved the American Revolution." In fact, the sections on d'Eon fit very oddly with the rest of the book, and seem to have been included simply for the fact that d'Eon makes for a curious character.

So, having gotten that out of the way, let's set the subtitle aside and turn to the meat of the story, which covers Deane's involvement with Beaumarchais in order to provide much-needed funding and supplies to the American war effort. As an account of the fascinating diplomatic tangles the American commissioners (Deane, Arthur Lee, and Franklin) worked themselves into as they sought to ally the rebellious American colonies with France while fighting amongst themselves and attempting (entirely unsuccessfully) to avoid British spying, Unlikely Allies works. Paul ably recounts the rivalries between the commissioners (which ultimately led to Deane's recall by Congress) and the British infiltration of their mission (several of the secretaries were spies, including Dr. Edward Bancroft), bringing a good sense of drama to the complicated diplomatic and political wranglings which ultimately resulted in the alliance.

A few minor typographical and other errors mar the text, which otherwise (setting aside the awkward inclusion of the d'Eon sections) is very readable and captivating. The notes are not indicated in the text (and certain statements I wanted citations for didn't have them), but at least the bibliography is extensive.

Generally, an interesting look at an important and convoluted episode of Revolutionary history.

http://philobiblos.blogspot.com/2011/01/book-review-unlikely-allies.html ( )
  JBD1 | Jan 2, 2011 |
"Reading history teaches us to doubt, to question, and, if we're lucky, to discover new heroes."

So writes Joel Richard Paul at the conclusion of this fascinating book that sheds light on a little-known episode in the history of the American Revolution. While several of the best-known of America's founding fathers represented the new United States of America at the court of its first and principal ally, the regime of Louis XVI (Adams, Franklin and Jefferson, to name only a few), the real hero of Paul's narrative is Connecticut merchant Silas Deane who impoverished himself in the service of his country, only to fall victim to political infighting.

The subtitle of the book doesn't really reflect its focus, which is primarily on Deane and his relationship with the playwright Beaumarchais (author of the Marriage of Figaro and the Barber of Seville), who helped him covertly procure and finance arms shipments to the United States in the months leading up to and following the declaration of independence, when the French government was wary of violating its recent peace agreement with Britain by supporting rebellious colonials. Deane, isolated in Paris, worked with Beaumarchais and shipped the goods to the US that led to the turning point of the war, the capture of Burgoyne's army. (The spy of the title is the cross-dressing Chevalier d'Eon, whose life, while intriguing, is peripheral to the main story; (s)he played no direct role in supporting the revolution.

Paul has a real knack for making history spring alive -- I can almost see Deane's traitorous assistant sneaking into a Parisian park to place copies of his correspondence in a bottle where English spies could later retrieve them, or Benjamin Franklin lounging in his bath at the seedy boat/bath on the Seine. He's obviously passionate about restoring Deane to his rightful place among the pantheon of Revolutionary war heroes (and doesn't mind if he puts a dent in the halos of a few others in the process) but he makes a compelling case.

I'm hoping that this is the first of many books by Paul; it's hard to go back over such well-trodden ground and emerge with a story that is so vivid, exciting and fresh. This is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the American Revolution, and it also offers an intriguing look at the machinations of power politics in Europe in the 1760s and 1770s. I'd sign up for any history class offered by Paul, if he didn't teach on the other side of the continent, that is... ( )
1 stem Chatterbox | Mar 3, 2010 |
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Law professor Joel Richard Paul was minding his own business - i.e. researching a tome about the history of US law in international courts, looking for an anecdote that would capture the improvisational quality of American foreign policy at the start of the Republic - when he stumbled across two sentences about a Connecticut merchant named Silas Deane. “He was a shopkeeper who knew nothing about international diplomacy and didn’t speak a word of French but Ben Franklin thought he’d be the perfect person to send to France to persuade the king to support the colonists, because he was so improbable,’’ Paul says. “And I thought that was hysterical.’’ Paul started digging and he turned up a story too good not to tell - involving the celebrated French dramatist Caron de Beaumarchais, a cross-dressing secret agent named the Chevalier d’Eon, and a boatload of duplicity, hypocrisy, and corruption.
 
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Documents the machinations of three individuals in their efforts to win the American Revolution, tracing their applications of espionage to smuggle weapons and supplies while spinning a web of international political intrigue.

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