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

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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by Gary Nash, Graham Russell Gao Hodges
     
 

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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

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.

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.)

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465048144
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
03/24/2008
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Ira Berlin
"At the intersection of three remarkable lives, Gary Nash and Graham Hodges have pieced together an extraordinary tale of heroism and tragedy, trust and betrayal. Friends of Liberty is telling history with deep meaning for anyone interested in the burning question of slavery and race in the early American Republic."--(Ira Berlin, Distinguished University Professor of History, University of Maryland, and author of Many Thousands Gone and Generations of Captivity)
James S. Pula
"Using the lives of people as seemingly disparate as a president of the United States, a Polish hero of revolutions on two continents and a free black man in America to frame their story, Gary Nash and Graham Hodges have fashioned a fast-paced, informative narrative that sheds fresh light on the complicated issues of slavery, serfdom and basic human rights during the first generation of America's national existence. The linchpin in this triumvirate was the Pole Tadeusz Kosciuszko whose enlightened relationship with his black orderly, Agrippa Hull, and close friendship with Thomas Jefferson allows the authors to move skillfully between such varied discussions as explaining the black experience in colonial and Revolutionary America, the slavery issue in the early American republic, serfdom in Poland, and the meaningful relationship between Kosciuszko and Jefferson that has been heretofore neglected by the latter's biographers. In the process, they illuminate the origins and arguments of the early anti-slavery organizations in America, provide a detailed account of the life of Agrippa Hull, and a masterly treatment of the seeming of Jefferson's personal struggle with the slavery issue. Focusing, as they do, on the issues of freedom and liberty, Nash and Hodges provide through they eyes of the three protagonists the varied perspectives so often missing from traditional political histories. Their book should make for excellent reading for scholars and classrooms alike."--(James S. Pula, author of Tadeusz Kosciuszko: The Purest Son of Liberty, and Professor of History at Purdue University)
Zbigniew Brzezinski
"A vivid and moving account of the remarkable interaction between three historically fascinating individuals: Thomas Jefferson, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, and Agrippa Hull. It also provides a surprisingly disappointing perspective on Jefferson's failure to deliver on the pledge to Kosciuszko to free the Virginian's slaves with Kosciuszko's bequest entrusted to his great American friend."--(Zbigniew Brzezinski, author of Second Chance and Counselor and Trustee at the Center for Strategic and International Studies)
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
"Revolutionary fervor, patriotism, and heroism are not limited to one particular race, class, or nation. After reading Nash and Hodges's account of the intersecting lives and ideas of Jefferson, Kosciuszko, and Hull, it is difficult to believe that anyone could have ever thought they were. This is a dazzling account of three colorful figures whose lives are emblematic of all the many-colored threads that run through the American tapestry, and whose lives were devoted to the service of the ideals that founded our nation."--(Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University)
Marcus Rediker
"With the energy, adventure, and rich prose of a picaresque novel, Friends of Liberty explores a deep politics of race that shaped the early American nation. Nash and Hodges have written an honest, painful, and gloriously good book about 'Founding Fathers.'"--(Marcus Rediker, author of The Slave Ship: A Human History)

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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Friends of Liberty: A Tale of Three Patriots, Two Revolutions, and the Betrayal that Divided a Nation: Thomas Jefferson, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, and Agri 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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