Inspired by an anthology of little-known stories about the American Revolution he found on a bookstore closeout table, Phillip Goodrich’s compelling narrative details Benjamin Franklin’s behind-the-scenes role in shaping events that led to the Revolution.
While living in England prior to the war, Franklin and four cohorts, his “inner circle,” secretly plotted for the design, funding and inciting of a revolution, as they believed governance by the British King and Parliament had become intolerable. Knowing they lacked the resources of the British Empire, they had to approach sworn enemies, such as the French and Spanish, to obtain funding for weapons and supplies.
Meanwhile, the Somersett v Stewart decision in England advanced their cause. Somersett was an American slave taken to England by his owner. There, Somersett escaped and was recaptured. This development, and other complicating factors, led to a trial in England and a precedent-setting decision that many interpreted as abolishing slavery in England. It exacerbated feelings in America, both pro- and anti-slavery, that a break from England was necessary.
Goodrich blends meticulously researched history with imaginatively rendered scenes and conversations. At one point, for example, the author envisions a conversation at a barn during which Franklin—obviously constructing a metaphor for the guerilla warfare he knew would be necessary to defeat the immense British army—asks General George Washington who would fare better in a conflict between stable flies and horses. Washington concedes that the flies would eventually drive the horses to the water. “And so,” notes Franklin, “the flies end up with the pasture…”
The story, oddly, features six interlude chapters wedged between Chapters 13 and 14 that detail the Somersett episode. While key to the story, they interrupt the narrative flow. (In an Author’s Note, Goodrich suggests possibly reading it first.)
Despite this curious choice, Goodrich has woven a fascinating narrative about lesser-known events that sparked the American Revolution. His book is sure to intrigue anyone with a love of American history.
Also available as an ebook.