Curmudgeonalia
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July 12, 2008

Adopted Son

Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship that Saved the Revolution
David A. Clary – ISBN – 9780553383454

In reading this book I came to fully realize the difference between history written for historians and that read for the generally interested public—never mind the casually inclined. This is a thoroughgoing explication of a truly fascinating relationship which I had never undertaken to study. While engaging, it includes extravagant discussions of minutiae which are not necessarily unimportant, but are much more pointedly directed at the thoroughgoing academic. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it, though I admit that I skimmed a lot of the middle of the book; even skipped pages from time to time. Too much detail for me.

Even so, the information supplied by Clary explores the enormous importance of Lafayette to Washington, and thus to all of us who benefited from his/their endeavor. As well it points up how very much Lafayette actually did for the Revolutionary War; things I had never realized, which further enhance the value of reading such a tome. He was truly a remarkable man and extremely important to our freedom.

Being one of the richest and most important French aristocrats, his very participation and influence were crucial to his country’s critical support of the Revolution. Further, Lafayette bankrupted himself paying his army’s expenses, and loaning our government money which he was never repaid. While the debt was eventually settled decades later thru land grants in the U.S., he went home almost pauperized.

The book deals with many of the battles and the details involved therein, and is especially clear on how important Lafayette—in command of his own army—was to final victory at Yorktown. It is, nonetheless, primarily about the relationship, communications, and deep emotional attachment which cemented the two principals throughout the war and subsequent presidency, and continued up until Washington’s death. Lafayette strove to pattern his life around Washington’s, which was critical to his impact on the French Revolution.

The book ends as the author explores how Lafayette shaped the French Revolution. He was imprisoned, and nearly executed by the Jacobins, which was likewise newsworthy to this reviewer. It makes the sad adventure of the French Revolution a more easily understood event, and sheds a little light on the current conundrum in the middle-east.

I recommend the book with those caveats. I believe my time to have been well spent, but cannot recommend it to the “casually interested.”

Posted by respeto at July 12, 2008 2:17 PM