Foreign Activities


Abernathy, Thomas P. "The Commercial Activities of Silas Deane in France." American Historical Review 39 (Apr. 1934): 477-485. [Petersen]

Augur, Helen. The Secret War of Independence. New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1955. Boston: Little, Brown, 1955. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1976.

According to Constantinides, scholars regard this work as "thoroughly researched, utilizing the best secondary sources and manuscript collections, as well as reliable and marked by good judgment.... Only the secret war in Europe is treated...; consequently, the title is somewhat misleading."

Bass, Streeter. "Beaumarchais and the American Revolution." Studies in Intelligence 14, no. 1 (Spring 1970): 1-18. []

The author recounts the support from Pierre August Caron de Beaumarchais, confidential agent of France in London, for bringing France in on the side of the Americans during the Revolutionary War. His efforts included establishment -- with loans from the French and Spanish monarchies -- of a cover firm to sell arms and supplies and furnish volunteers to the Americans. That he was not paid for what he sent to the Americans is part of the story.

Bemis, Samuel Flagg. The Diplomacy of the American Revolution. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1957.

Clark, William Bell. Ben Franklin's Privateers. New York: Greenwood, 1956.

Currey, Cecil B.

1. Code Number 72: Benjamin Franklin, Patriot or Spy? Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1972.

Petersen notes that the author "posits the theory that Franklin himself may have been working for the British." In this regard, Constantinides suggests that "the impression created" by the author is "of an effort to interpret facts to fit a theory," and urges readers "to use caution with this work."

2. Road to Revolution: Benjamin Franklin in England, 1765-1775. New York: Anchor, 1969.

Daigler, Kenneth A. "The Penetration of America's First Diplomatic Mission." Intelligencer 18, no. 2 (Winter-Spring 2011): 25-32.

The Continental Congress's American Commission in Paris "was a counterintelligence disaster from the start.... The British coverage of the commission was highly professional, comprehensive, and aggressive.... British government failure to use this information effectively in its policy formation and implementation negated most of its value."

Grendel, Frédéric. Beaumarchais: The Man Who Was Figaro. New York: Crowell, 1977.

O'Toole, George J.A. "Benjamin Franklin: American Spymaster or British Mole." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 3, no. 1 (Spring 1989): 45-53.

Was Benjamin Franklin Richard Deacon's "tool of the British Secret Service" or Allen Dulles' "cunning American spymaster?" The author believes Deacon's charge was "delivered ex cathedra." O'Toole also looks at the "circumstantial" case made by Cecil B. Currey, Code Number 72 (1972): "72" was British code for Franklin, not an agent number. What is the strongest argument against Franklin as British agent? O'Toole notes that "without Franklin's strenuous efforts there would probably have been no Franco-American alliance." Mole? "Absurd." Spymaster? "Perhaps" -- although there is "no evidence."

Poteat, S. Eugene. "Benjamin Franklin: The Spy No One Knew, for Sure." Intelligencer 10, no. 3 (Dec. 1999): 21-24.

This review of the activities of the British spies in the American mission in Paris during the Revolutionary War is drawn primarily from Currey's Code Number 72 (1972).

Potts, James M. French Covert Action in the American Revolution. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2005. (Digital edition available)

Peake, Studies 50.4 (2006) and Intelligencer 15.2 (Fall-Winter 2006-2007), finds that the author has answered questions about how the French clandestine support to the United States during the Revolutionary War "was initiated, when it began, the types of materials involved, and the impact it had on the war effort.... Potts shows that without this help Washington could not have sustained his army in the field until the critical battle of Saratoga, a battle won with materials supplied by France." This is a "very well documented and well-told treatment of the first covert action involving the United States."

Schiff, Stacy. A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America. New York: Henry Holt, 2005.

Isaacson, NYT, 3 Apr. 2005, finds that the author scrupulously researches the details of Franklin's mission and skillfully spices up the tale with the colorful spies, stock manipulators, war profiteers and double-dealers who swarmed around him. Most delightful are the British spy Paul Wentworth ... and the flamboyant playwright and secret agent Beaumarchais." For DKR, AFIO WIN 13-05 (28 Mar. 2005), this is "an elegant account of Franklin's seven years in France."

Srodes, James. Franklin: The Essential Founding Father. Washington DC: Regnery, 2002.

Jonkers, AFIO WIN 24-02 (19 Jun. 2002), suggests that the author provides "insights on our revolutionary past ... in an easily digestible form, while still creating food for contemplative thought." Franklin "was suited for his chosen role, of supporting the American revolution from abroad with skills as a diplomat, spymaster, covert operator and propagandist. He played a key role in bringing the revolution to a successful conclusion, and Srodes tells the story well, with an easy and readable style."

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