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The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution

Date: 2004
For students of diplomacy this book is, of course, chiefly of interest for the light that it throws on diplomacy in a time of revolution. In this connection the chapters dealing with Jefferson’s Paris mission are interesting by way of prelude but most valuable of all is Chapter 5. Here O’Brien charts with his usual astuteness, forensic skills, and vigorous style, the swathe cut through the United States by Charles-Edmond Genet following his arrival at Charleston in April 1793 as the new minister plenipotentiary of the French Republic. The task of ‘Citizen Genet’ was nothing less than to export the French revolution to America, and his activities make modern-day exponents of ‘public diplomacy‘ look as if they have taken vows of silence. Genet lasted less than a year, even Jefferson concluding in the end that he was an embarrassment. See also the pages dealing with James Monroe’s arrival in Paris in the turbulent days following the fall and execution of Robespierre in 1794 and his decision to present his credentials as the new American minister plenipotentiary to the National Convention rather than to the (non-existent) executive power, pp. 202-10.

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