Elihu Washburne : The Diary and Letters of America's Minister to France During the Siege and Commune of Paris
The remarkable and inspiring story told largely in his own words of American diplomat Elihu Washburne, who heroically aided his countrymen and other nationals when Paris was devastated by war and revolution in 1870-1871. A former Congressman and friend of Presidents Lincoln and Grant, Elihu Washburne was appointed U.S. Minister to France just before the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war. Alone among major-power foreign diplomats, Washburne remained in Paris throughout a siege by Prussian forces. As Parisians starved and shivered through the winter, Washburne aided Americans and other nationals with food and fuel. When the siege ended, the government fell to radicals who instituted a brutal new regime, the Commune, slaughtering innocent people, among them the Catholic archbishop. Once again Washburne helped wherever he could, earning commendation not only from his own government but from the Prussians and French as well. '''' Washburne's letters and diaries from the time vividly describe the horrors he witnessed. Accompanied by Michael Hill's invaluable commentary, they form the best firsthand account we have of these terrible events.
Hill, a historical researcher and frequent assistant to historian David McCullough, examines one of France's most tumultuous periods through the firsthand account of Elihu Washburne, then American minister to France. In diary entries, letters, and diplomatic dispatches, Washburne-- the only foreign diplomat to remain at his post during the turbulent events of 1870-1871--recounts the Prussians' siege of Paris during the final months of the Franco-Prussian War, which in turn led to the brief, violent uprising known as the Commune. Hill further explores his subject's early life and career both pre- and post-Paris, depicting Washburne as an American patriot, political mover and shaker, and man of accomplishments. Hill implies that Washburne, who felt it his duty to remain in Paris, endured separation from his family, illness, and danger not only to represent the United States but also to assist many other foreign nationals residing or trapped in the city. The combination of eyewitness accounts and Hill's own commentary provides a cohesive, intriguing picture of the desperate, bloody months. However, despite talking about starvation and slaughter, refugees and revolution, the book still feels dispassionate and detached, robbing it of its full impact. (Nov) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Simon & Schuster
November 06, 2012
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