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Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution Paperback – Bargain Price, November 2, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
In this debut, lawyer and academic Paul examines three critical but forgotten characters of the American Revolution. The merchant is American Silas Deane, a Connecticut man sent to France by Congress to broker an alliance and arms treaty for the Continental Army. The playwright is a Frenchman named Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, author of The Barber of Seville, who saw the Revolution as an opportunity for profit. The spy is the colorful Chevalier d'Eon, who worked for Louis XV, and threatened to provoke war with England after Louis XVI came to power, using old letters that outlined a plan to invade London. Beaumarchais was tasked with retrieving those letters from the Chevalier before Louis XVI would provide funds to arm the Americans. Once secured, Beaumarchais worked with Deane to import arms, and other trade goods, without raising the suspicions of the British. Paul's 18th century is highly detailed, but most striking is how little war profiteering has changed in 200-plus years, complete with Congressional infighting among honest lawmakers and those using the system for personal gain. Examining the Revolutionary War through three disparate figures, Paul reveals just how close the wealthiest colonists came to replacing one oppressive aristocracy with another.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
"[A] keen, intriguing assessment of how personal politics might play out on the international stage." ---Kirkus --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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It is true that much of our (typically taught) American History is framed by the righteousness and virtue of our "founding fathers." I had always been taught that men like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin were superior beings, almost godlike in their perfection. However, Professor Paul's book adds some perspective and depth to those history lessons that were spoon-fed to us so long ago. Professor Paul, while paying much respect to these and other important players in our commonly taught history reveals that these men were, indeed, quite human, and were just as imperfect as we all are. None of us is above reproach, nor were our founding fathers. With the possible exception of Silas Deane, none of us gives unconditionally of our time, resources, and energy. We all want or need something for ourselves in return for our efforts, even our efforts on behalf of our country or on behalf of the "greater good." I am thankful to Professor Paul for introducing me to Silas Dean, to Beaumarchais, and to the Chevalier d'Eon. His well-written account will, I believe, withstand the examinations of time, and continue to delight students of American History in the years to come. Overall, a very good read!
The protagonist is Silas Deane, a Connecticut Yankee who's life we watch go from low to high then back to low. Along the way the story picks up the eccentric Beaumarchet a French playwright, the Chevalier d'Eton an androgynous master spy, the internationally renowned Dr. Benjamin Franklin, the obstreperous, egomaniac Arthur Lee and the hopelessly impotent U.S. Continental Congress. The mix is as fascinating as is the story - all of it TRUE and even so, still full of suspense.
Professor Paul is certainly a talented historian, but as importantly for the reader, he is a skilled writer. His back-and-forth story telling style between characters could be confusing or even tedious in the hands of the less skilled. He, however, weaves the story together so skillfully that anything else would be less.
Mr. Deane has an ambiguous legacy up to now and most historians have seemed content to leave it that way. This book provides the definitive look at the heretofore beleaguered Deane and reveals him as an American patriot who's faith waivers, but never his loyalty. Important history and a great read!
Also see an interesting and well-done paper by the CIA historian on the topic of Beaumarchais' "black" company, "Roderigue Hortalez et Compagnie", Beaumarchais and the American Revolution.
This book is full of detail and is an entertaining and fascinating way to learn about three people who made the regime change possible, with many unanticipated results. The motives of these three, as well as those of the people they interacted with, are explored in detail. A murder still unsolved is examined, complete with motive, opportunity, and a little forensic analysis. Everyone who wishes to understand this segment of history ought to read this book.