I just finished reading Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It, by Larrie D. Ferreiro.
I’d love to know what is taught in our current high school history classes. All of this was new to me and I found it fascinating.
I’m primarily a reader of fiction, plus this book is three inches thick so I was surprised when I reserved it at the library last month. I believe it was on the NY Times best seller list, but I can’t recall with certainty. It isn’t an easy read, but the historical research and the details of each and every aspect of the war from Versailles to Madrid makes it worth the effort.
Here are a few quotes near the end of what was a fascinating and enlightening read:
(after the war), “Narratives were infused with the notion that the progress toward a democratic republic was a uniquely American undertaking, derived from its exceptional nature. Americans believed they were an exceptional nation because of their distinctive ideologies of republicanism and liberalism, or as it was more often expressed, liberty and equality.”
“Americans’ views of the revolution and the war of American independence were most powerfully shaped by George Bancroft’s’ magisterial ten-volume History of the United States from the Discovery of the Continent, published from 1834 to 1874 —.
“In Bancroft’s’ account and countless others that followed, Lafayette became the main character who represented French interests in the prosecution of the war, until Rochambeau and de Grasse arrived at the end to defeat Cornwallis at Yorktown. Otherwise, the Americans fought the rest of the war themselves.”
“The creation myth that America bootstrapped itself from colony to nation, that it fought the war and gained independence all by itself, was never correct and was never a good fit.”
“France and Spain had supported the War of American Independence before it had started, even before the Americans themselves knew that their revolution would lead to war.”
“John Adams wrote to Jefferson, ‘What do we mean by the revolution? The war? It was only an effect and consequence of it.’ Adams explained that the Revolution began with Britain’s mishandling of America after the Seven Years’ War (in Europe), and the War of American Independence was its inevitable outgrowth. Yet France and Spain understood this long beforehand”
“— France and Spain were present at every step, even before the Declaration of Independence invited them to do so.”
“Ultimately, 90 percent of the arms used by the Americans came from overseas, while close to $30 billion in direct monetary aid came from France and Spain (and) kept the —war from unravelling —their role went far beyond money and weapons. ”
“— these brothers at arms who saved American independence did so in the interest of their own nations, but along the way they made the American cause their own.”
“Instead of the myth of heroic self-sufficiency, the real story is that the American nation was born as the centerpiece of an international coalition, which together worked to defeat a common adversary.”
Even if you just skim this book, I think you’ll find it a fascinating, surprising and most truthful story of how America really began. I’m so glad I broadened my reading this year.