A novel that details the life of American revolutionary Robert Morris, from his humble beginnings to his triumphant rise and eventual ruin.
As the story opens, Morris, a wealthy merchant and a recently elected member of the Continental Congress, spends a cold winter’s night at the City Tavern in 1776 Philadelphia, discussing politics with the barmaid, Betsey. The tavern is a gathering place for the “prominent” and the “ordinary” alike to share opinions, emotions, and ideas. Morris is no stranger to so-called ordinary life, growing up uneducated in Liverpool, England, without a mother. He shares his revolutionary ideologies with Betsey just as passionately as he does with Maj. Wilhelm von Lowenstein, a doctor in the Hessian Mercenary Army, sent to the Colonies to study the “unseen battle scars” inflicted on the minds of soldiers. As the narrative progresses, Foyt (Time to Retire, 2013, etc.) explores and develops Morris’ character through these conversations, embellishing on his grand economic plans to expand his sea-merchant trading business and his hopes of freedom from the English crown. Unfortunately, as Morris’ arrogance and hunger for wealth and power grow, his impending demise becomes apparent. Foyt has written this thoroughly researched novel with great attention to detail, bringing dusty history to life with down-to-earth tales of the everyday experiences of the American Revolution, and he offers plenty of settings that will be familiar to aficionados of the era. Rather than telling a war story with tired tropes of battlefield heroism and gore, the author instead examines the inner workings of Morris’ psyche through imagined but historically rich dialogue, and he effectively shows how passion, power, and an obsession with the idea of revolution drive the Founding Father to a point of irreversible greed. As a result, watching his downfall becomes just as engrossing as his impressive rise to success—if not more so.
An ambitious interpretation of an intriguing figure that should appeal to historical-fiction enthusiasts.