Purveyor to the French Revolution
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Purveyor to the French Revolution book
In this situation, fortunes were to be made by Americans trading in Paris and elsewhere under the shield of America’s neutrality.6 Barlow was particularly well placed to build up an extensive business emporium. With the exception of Paine – who was about to be arrested – Barlow was the only American in Europe to hold French citizenship. is gave him virtually unlimited access to the corridors of power in the Jacobin administration. us, when Robespierre set up a three-man purchasing commission late in 1793, Barlow was able to deal directly with the commissioners. In December 1793, the month in which Paine was arrested, Barlow won a contract with Robespierre’s government to import goods into France not a ected by any explicit ban, and to export produce for which there was no market in France. While Barlow was negotiating with the purchasing agents in Paris, his associates were handling incoming and outgoing shipments at Le Havre. Soon Barlow and his partners were working with Elias Backman, a merchant of Finnish extraction who had spent much time in
England and France representing his family’s business interests before setting up his headquarters in Gothenburg in 1794. Backman carried on an extensive international shipping business with England, Spain and France, dealing in such commodities as grain, steel, wood, naval stores and potash – an ingredient used in the production of soap. is trade had become signi cantly more risky following the British naval blockade of French ports, but also considerably more pro table, as long as the Americans managed to get the shipments through. is typically involved chartering a British-registered vessel, or one sailing under neutral colours, ostensibly bound for Spain or Scandinavia and surreptitiously diverting its cargo to a French port. Prominent among Barlow’s associates in his blockade-running activities were Colonel Benjamin Hichborn, Daniel Parker, Mark Leavenworth and Gilbert Imlay.