Those wacky founding fathers!
Just finished reading the engaging Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright and a Spy Saved the American Revolution, by Joel Richard Paul. It is the story of how Silas Deane, a Connecticut Merchant, worked to bring French support to the American cause, and some of the interesting characters who crossed his path along the way. In this account, Deane is a selfless patriot, devoted to the cause of independence, who sacrifices his fortune, his reputation, even his family and eventually his life in pursuit of his goal. Maligned by his rivals — primarily the devious Lee family of Virginia — betrayed by his former pupil and a man he considered his best friend, Deane nevertheless succeeded in bringing much-needed arms and supplies in time to equip the soldiers squaring off against John Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga. Paul stretches his narrative a little think trying to live up to the subtitle, as the spy in question, the Chevalier d’Eon had less of a role in the drama than many other characters. Still d’Eon is a fascinating gender-bender study.
This tale also once again demonstrates that nothing has changed. Congress was highly factionalized, with members willing to put their own political, social and economic interests above the welfare of their new nation, while racking up an enormous debt they found all sorts of ways to avoid paying.
Deane, however, is revealed to be a saint among these sinners, an intrepid advocate for his country, but a man too trusting of the good faith of others. It’s Paul’s contention that Deane was murdered as he was just beginning his journey back to America after years of exile. If this account is true, few American founding fathers did more for their country than did Deane, and he received nothing but misery for his efforts.