Posts Tagged ‘Benjamin Franklin’

Unlikely Allies by Joel Richard Paul is everything they didn’t teach you in school about the days leading up to the American Revolution. The year is 1776. Silas Deane, a Connecticut merchant who can’t speak a word of French, is in Versailles trying to convince Louis XVI to sell arms and ammunition to the Americans. Chosen by Benjamin Franklin to be the representative of the Continental Congress, Deane arrives in France months before Franklin and must survive by his wits alone, as the place is crawling with spies and incognito French police officers– and they’ve all got a stake in the political shenanigans that are about to take place. What help can the insolvent but determined Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beumarchais, a French playwright and one-time aristocrat offer Deane? And in any case, can Deane trust him?

These are just two of the colorful characters in Paul’s account of the long struggle to persuade Louis XVI to back the new country with much-needed supplies and then to actually get them delivered to Washington’s desperate army. It is a tale of espionage and counter-espionage, of cat-and-mouse diplomacy among men of all ranks who double-crossed each other as frequently as the wind changed. It is also the story of one of history’s most enigmatic characters, the notorious Chevalier d’Eon, a cross-dressing French soldier turned diplomat turned blackmailer, without whom the outcome of the Revolution might have been very different.

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