A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America

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Macmillan, Apr 2, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 489 pages
In this dazzling work of history, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author follows Benjamin Franklin to France for the crowning achievement of his career

In December of 1776 a small boat delivered an old man to France." So begins an enthralling narrative account of how Benjamin Franklin-seventy years old, without any diplomatic training, and possessed of the most rudimentary French-convinced France, an absolute monarchy, to underwrite America's experiment in democracy.

When Franklin stepped onto French soil, he well understood he was embarking on the greatest gamble of his career. By virtue of fame, charisma, and ingenuity, Franklin outmaneuvered British spies, French informers, and hostile colleagues; engineered the Franco-American alliance of l778; and helped to negotiate the peace of l783. The eight-year French mission stands not only as Franklin's most vital service to his country but as the most revealing of the man.

In A Great Improvisation, Stacy Schiff draws from new and little-known sources to illuminate the least-explored part of Franklin's life. Here is an unfamiliar, unforgettable chapter of the Revolution, a rousing tale of American infighting, and the treacherous backroom dealings at Versailles that would propel George Washington from near decimation at Valley Forge to victory at Yorktown. From these pages emerge a particularly human and yet fiercely determined Founding Father, as well as a profound sense of how fragile, improvisational, and international was our country's bid for independence.

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A GREAT IMPROVISATION: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America

User Review  - Kirkus

Here's breaking news for the Francophobic freedom-fries set: without France, there would have been no United States."The majority of the guns fired on the British at Saratoga were French," writes ace ... Read full review

Review: A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America

User Review  - Chrystel Nelson - Goodreads

Very interesting to read after the John Adams book. Interesting to see how the 2 viewed each other and how the authors heavily favored their own subjects. Read full review


Introduction I
The First Mistake in Public Business Is the Going into It 1776
Half the Truth Is Often a Great Lie 17761777
Three Can Keep a Secret If Two of Them Are Dead 1777
The Cat in Gloves Catches No Mice 17771778
There Is No Such Thing as a Little Enemy 1778
Admiration Is the Daughter of Ignorance 1778
Success Has Ruined Many a Man 1779
The Sting of a Reproach Is the Truth of It 17801781
Those Who in Quarrels Interpose May Get Bloody Nose 1782
The Absent Are Never Without Fault 1783
Creditors Have Better Memories Than Debtors 17841785

Everyone Has Wisdom Enough to Manage the Affairs of His Neighbors 1780

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About the author (2005)

Stacy Schiff is the author of Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), which won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2000, and Saint-Exupery, which was a finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize. Schiff's work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, and The Times Literary Supplement. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. She lives in New York City.

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