Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution by Joel Richard Paul, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution

Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution

3.9 16
by Joel Richard Paul
     
 

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Silas Deane, a Connecticut merchant and member of the Continental Congress, went to France to persuade the king to support the colonists in their struggle with Britain. Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais was a playwright who had access to the arms and ammunition that Deane needed. And the Chevalier d'Éon was a diplomat and sometime spy for the French king

Overview

Silas Deane, a Connecticut merchant and member of the Continental Congress, went to France to persuade the king to support the colonists in their struggle with Britain. Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais was a playwright who had access to the arms and ammunition that Deane needed. And the Chevalier d'Éon was a diplomat and sometime spy for the French king who ignited a crisis that persuaded the French to arm the Americans. This is the true story of how three remarkable people lied, cheated, stole, and cross-dressed across Europe to gain France's aid as the War of American Independence hung in the balance.

Editorial Reviews

Carolyn See
Unlikely Allies is a nonfiction account, but it reads like a Monty Python movie.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Arthur Morey steps into the boots of three unwitting heroes of the American Revolution: with his smooth delivery and flawless voice, Morey transforms into Silas Deane, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, and Chevalier d'Eon—respectively the eponymous merchant, playwright, and spy, allowing listeners to lose themselves in this compelling, true story of American's origins. Morey's voice and Paul's words prove to be the ideal combination for an entertaining and informative history. A Riverhead hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 21). (Dec.)
Library Journal
Numerous hagiographies portray the Founding Fathers as selfless, infallible leaders of the colossal struggle between liberty and tyranny, while lesser-known heroes fall between the cracks of time and are lost to history. In this notable reassessment, the critical roles played by Connecticut merchant Silas Deane, French playwright Caron de Beaumarchais (Barber of Seville), and the enigmatic Chevalier d'Eon in the successful outcome of the American Revolution are placed at the forefront. Drawing on a wealth of sources, Paul (Hastings Coll. of Law, Univ. of California) constructs an intriguing and readable account of three "unlikely" but extraordinary characters who in the face of substantial obstacles diligently labored to supply the American revolutionaries with arms at a critical juncture in the war and forged the decisive Franco-American alliance. Through grit, determination, and great personal sacrifice, Deane arduously struggled behind the scenes, emerging as the unsung hero of a tale with a brilliant cast of characters, including the infamous rake John Wilkes and the story's villain, Arthur Lee. VERDICT Paul's fast-paced, engaging narrative fills a gap in the historiography of the American Revolution and is essential reading for students of revolutionary diplomacy as well as general devotees of the age.—Brian Odom, Pelham P.L., Pelham, AL
Kirkus Reviews
A tantalizing reassessment of America's earliest foreign policy. Paul (International and Constitutional Law/Univ. of California, Hastings) explores the network of spies, diplomats and profoundly self-serving aristocrats whose actions helped determine the outcome of the American Revolution. The primary characters are Silas Deane, the Connecticut merchant charged by the Continental Congress to secure financial and military aid from France, and two French counterparts, Beaumarchais, the playwright and inventor, and Chevalier d'Eon, the transgendered officer and secret agent. A web of personal and professional machinations are brought to bear on each of these players as they engineer sometimes duplicitous missions for the French, British and American governments with often unintended but weighty consequences. We learn about the intricacies of Beaumarchais's covert arrangements with Deane and King Louis XVI to smuggle arms to the Americans; a partnership between Deane and his fellow diplomat, Benjamin Franklin, built as much on a shared interest in the dirty politics of a domestic land-grab scheme as a love of liberty; and the intriguing and self-absorbed political ramifications of d'Eon's transgendered identity. Paul handles each of these relationships with diligent care, accounting not only for the grand schemes and boisterous actions of his subjects, but also the nuanced textures of their daily lives in revolutionary-era Europe and America. The author keeps a close eye on the weather, fashion and, most importantly, the sense of time-the unreliable and painfully slow pace of trans-Atlantic communication plays heavily into the narrative. Occasionally, the author's detail work moves fromharmless quotidian chronicling to questionable character assessments, as when he asserts that "it was precisely because d'Eon was so readily swayed by her heart's desire, rather than by rational self-interest, that she found herself in this predicament," as a primary reason that she became alienated from the French king. A few such quibbles are not enough, however, to undermine an otherwise keen, intriguing assessment of how personal politics might play out on the international stage. Agent: Doe Coover/The Doe Coover Agency
From the Publisher
"[A] keen, intriguing assessment of how personal politics might play out on the international stage." —Kirkus

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594484872
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/02/2010
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
346,743
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
17 Years

What People are saying about this

William Taubman
"Ever tire of worshipful accounts of the Founding Fathers' wisdom and fortitude? Then try this wonderful book about how an American businessman and two Frenchmen, a dramatist and a spy, came to their aid. A rollicking romp as well as a serious history, it reminds us of the role of duplicity, hypocrisy and corruption, and of human frailty and chance, in safeguarding the American revolution."--(William Taubman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Khrushchev: The Man and His Era)
Robert A. Gross
"Unlikely Allies is an amazing story compellingly told. I kept turning the pages in eagerness to find out what would happen next. Conspiracies abounded, and hardly anyone was what he or she seemed. If the eighteenth century in Europe was an era of Enlightenment, it was also an Age of Deception. Yet thanks to Joel Paul's sympathetic portrayal, Silas Deane emerges as an unsung hero of the American Revolution."--(Robert A. Gross, Bancroft Prize-winning author of The Minutemen and Their World)
From the Publisher
"[A] keen, intriguing assessment of how personal politics might play out on the international stage." —-Kirkus
Evan Thomas
"Rollicking and surprising, this is history as it really happened - as it was made by all-too-human actors. Unlikely Allies is a lively read and an important counterpoint to Founder hagiography."--(Evan Thomas, bestselling author of John Paul Jones)
Gordon S. Wood
"An engaging and entertaining account of three of the most colorful characters involved in the American Revolution. It is hard to believe that their story is true, but it is."--(Gordon S. Wood, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Radicalism of the American Revolution)

Meet the Author

Joel Richard Paul studied at Amherst College, the London School of Economics, Harvard Law School, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He currently teaches international economic law, foreign relations, and constitutional law at the University of California Hastings Law School, where he is also the Associate Dean.

Previously, he taught at the University of Connecticut, Yale University, Leiden University in the Netherlands, and the American University in Washington. He has also practiced law with an international firm.

Paul writes about international trade, globalization, regulatory competition, private international law, and the president's foreign relations powers. He is currently writing a history of U.S. foreign relations and international law.

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