THE FIRST EXPATRIATES: Americans in Paris During the French Revolution by Yvon Bizardel

THE FIRST EXPATRIATES: Americans in Paris During the French Revolution

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A delightful historical miscellany of the diplomats, adventurers, artists and oddballs who made up the American colony in France during the Revolution. The Francophilia of Jefferson who took the opportunity to lay in a good stock of French wines, paintings and sculptures, a harpsichord and other odds and ends for Monticello is well known. But Jefferson was only the most eminent of the Americans who graced the Parisian scene, enlivened the salons and watched the Revolutionary turbulence with rapt fascination. Less well known was Gilbert Imlay, busy seducing Mary Wollstonecraft and intriguing with Citizen Genet for a takeover of Louisiana; Admiral John Paul Jones, something of a burnt-out case, dying of jaundice in Paris after being expelled from the Court and the navy of Catherine the Great where he had compounded the sin of getting a Russian girl ""in trouble"" with the more serious offense of having a row with Potemkin, the Queen's lover; and Gouverneur Morris who shared a mistress with Talleyrand and acted as America's official Plenipotentiary during the Terror. Tom Paine, an American by adoption whose compassion never faltered, stood eyeball-to-eyeball with Marat in the Convention pleading for the life of Louis XVI; and John Trumbull, the painter, dashed over from England to paint the ""fallen"" Bastille. Perhaps the most likeable of the Americans was Joel Barlow, a lawyer and versifier who set up the Scioto Company in the middle of Paris and commenced trying to peddle real estate in the Ohio Valley to prospective French emigres. The oddest surely was one William Langborn, an 18th century hippie who stopped off in Paris while traipsing on foot to the Orient, via Russia. In the midst of the revolutionary swirl the Americans carried on haggling for ""the price of cod and herring,"" for the lands of the New Word, for the release of whatever unfortunate Yankees had been recently hijacked by those damnable pests, the Barbary pirates. A gossipy, but nonetheless illuminating look at Franco-American relations in a decade when the Rights of Man was turning the older order of Europe upside down.

Pub Date: July 14th, 1975
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston