History News: Unlikely Allies, by Joel R. Paul

3.0 out of 5 stars Mission impossible

Many Americans are familiar with the fact that Benjamin Franklin, that wildly popular old patriot, spent years in France convincing the powers that were to support the Americans in their dispute with King George III. Most, however, are unaware that the role played by Silas Deane was even more important, and those who are, know that Deane was vilified as a embezzler of public funds, a traitor to the American cause, or both. At long last, someone has written the truth about the enormous service performed by Deane, who truly was one of the selfless men that saved the revolution from drowning in disaster.

Unlike some reviewers, I would hardly describe Unlikely Allies as rollicking or wildly entertaining. There are a few humorous elements, mainly in the expose of cross-dresser Chevalier d’Eon, but the author fails to show what d’Eon’s contribution was. There are some obvious lapses in Paul’s research, as when he describes the 1781 Yorktown Conference as taking place in Deane’s Wethersfield, CT house (it happened next door). With respect to Deane and Beaumarchais, however, Paul has done a creditable job, plowing through obscure records that few before him have studied. Deane’s mission to Paris was truly impossible, and, unsupported by his own government, what he achieved was nothing less than amazing. In the process, betrayed by his friends, he lost his family, his fortune, and ultimately his life. Perhaps now Silas Deane will be granted his rightful place among America’s founding fathers.

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