YANKEES AT THE COURT: The First Americans in Paris by Susan Mary Alsop

YANKEES AT THE COURT: The First Americans in Paris

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Anecdotal history with some personal curlicues. Alsop is a descendant of John Jay, one of those other ""remarkably able"" men--besides the ubiquitous Ben Franklin--who first established an American diplomatic presence in Europe. She is also cozily acquainted with Paris, where the emissaries established themselves, and Other key European locales. But the two-fold story--of the Americans' social success and their diplomatic difficulties--is told with no particular charm, in the first instance, or distinction in the second. (See instead David Schoenbrun's Triumph in Paris and Richard Morris' The Peacemakers.) Alsop has an idea that the ill-famed Silas Deane, first sent to France to press the American need for arms, was not the traitor he's been thought; and she carries on a long running argument (in absentia, with scholar Julian Boyd) to that effect. She has indeed rather a taste for intrigue--which serves her quite well in recounting the negotiations that led up to the 1778 Franco-American alliance (and less well when she solicits a retrospective judgment from Richard Helms). Thereafter, however, the waters grow muddier and the pace slows as we proceed, via the Jays' long, unhappy sojourn in Spain, toward the 1783 Peace of Paris. ""Besides the letters from home, Mrs. Jay's chief comforts were thirteen-year-old Peter Munro's society and the devotion of her black maid Abby,"" begins a 22-line paragraph on this ""beautiful young woman's failure to make even one friend in over two years."" All in all, harmless fluff infused with old-fashioned patriotism.

Pub Date: April 9th, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday