Friends of Liberty: A Tale of Three Patriots, Two Revolutions, and the Betrayal that Divided a Nation: Thomas Jefferson, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, and Agrippa Hull

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Friends of Liberty tells the remarkable story of three men whose lives were braided together by issues of liberty and race that fueled revolutions across two continents. Thomas Jefferson wrote the founding documents of the United States. Thaddeus Kosciuszko was a hero of the American Revolution and later led a spectacular but failed uprising in Poland, his homeland. Agrippa Hull, a freeborn black New Englander, volunteered at eighteen to join the Continental Army. During the Revolution, Hull served Kosciuszko as ...

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Friends of Liberty: Thomas Jefferson, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, and Agrippa Hull

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Overview

Friends of Liberty tells the remarkable story of three men whose lives were braided together by issues of liberty and race that fueled revolutions across two continents. Thomas Jefferson wrote the founding documents of the United States. Thaddeus Kosciuszko was a hero of the American Revolution and later led a spectacular but failed uprising in Poland, his homeland. Agrippa Hull, a freeborn black New Englander, volunteered at eighteen to join the Continental Army. During the Revolution, Hull served Kosciuszko as an orderly, and the two became fast friends. Kosciuszko’s abhorrence of bondage shaped histhinking about the oppression in his own land. When Kosciuszko returned to America in the 1790s, bearing the wounds of his own failed revolution, he and Jefferson forged an intense friendship based on their shared dreams for the global expansion of human freedom. They sealed their bond with a blood compact whereby Jefferson would liberate his slaves upon Kosciuszko’s death. But Jefferson died without fulfilling the promise he had made to Kosciuszko-and to a fledgling nation founded on the principle of liberty and justice for all.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Thomas Jefferson's betrayal of a loyal friend, the great Polish patriot Tadeusz Kosciuszko, is at the center of this book by Nash (The Unknown American Revolution) and Hodges (Anna May Wong). Jefferson had promised to use Kosciuszko's American estate to free some of his slaves. He reneged on that pledge, torn as always between his principles, his benefits from slavery and his debts. Kosciuszko, a skilled engineer who greatly contributed to the American military in the Revolution and was more deeply opposed to slavery than most Americans (it was a free African-American from Massachusetts who proved to the Pole the worth and humanity of black people) could not move his friend to free his slaves. Agrippa Hull-the third man in this fascinating story-was an army orderly who served Kosciuszko and the nation of his birth. Hull seems somewhat peripheral to the main story line, but the authors' telling of his life puts yet another man previously lost to history onto the historical record. All in all, this is a wonderful book, an outstanding example of how a scholarly monograph can be readable, moving and sobering all at once. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
The entwined lives of two Revolutionary Era giants and another man who made a less well-known contribution to liberty. Tadeusz Kosciuszko's engineering skills proved invaluable to the Continental Army, and he later became internationally famous for his efforts to liberate his native Poland. African-American Agrippa Hull, Kosciuszko's orderly for seven years, lived a life far less grand than Jefferson and less adventure-packed than Kosciuszko, but he earned an honorable place in his small Berkshire society, becoming known as a model citizen and a kind of village sage, always ready to tell tales of his wartime service. Nash (The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America, 2005, etc.) and Hodges (Taxi!: A Social History of the New York City Cabdriver, 2007, etc.) concede at the outset that the thin historical record makes recovering Grippy's life "unusually challenging," and it's a difficulty they never satisfactorily overcome. The authors are too often forced into hazy constructions-"likely," "must have," "may have," "surely," "perhaps"-that unbalance the narrative and make Hull's inclusion feel forced, except insofar as he serves to demonstrate Kosciuszko's utter lack of racial bias. The authors' more rounded, better-grounded discussion of the Jefferson/Kosciuszko friendship centers on a remarkable footnote to American history: As the executor of the freedom fighter's will, Jefferson was directed to purchase and educate "from among his own or any others" as many slaves as the monies would allow. How and why the aged Jefferson, author of some of history's most stirring words about liberty, declined to seize this relatively pain-free chanceto free his own slaves-some, we now know, his own children-retreated from the Enlightenment goals of his youth and failed, finally, to honor his friend's wishes, makes for fascinating, if depressing, reading. A provocative discussion of an opportunity missed, where inspired moral leadership by one of the greatest of Americans could have made a difference.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465048144
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 3/24/2008
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary B. Nash is Professor of History at University of California, Los Angeles, and author of over a dozen books, including The Unknown American Revolution. Graham Russell Gao Hodges is Professor of History at Colgate University and the author of numerous books and articles, including Taxi! A Social History of the New York City Cabdriver.

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Table of Contents

Introduction     1
Starting a Revolution     11
Fighting for Freedom     49
Peace and War     79
Struggles for Liberty     141
Long Endings     207
Epilogue     251
Acknowledgments     269
Notes     273
Index     305
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