Defying Empire by Thomas M. Truxes is a fascinating book about the trade between New York merchants and the French during the French and Indian War. Prior to reading this book, I did not even know that there was such trade between the two during the war.
The book is a straight narrative account of the New York merchants who traded with the French before and during the French and Indian War – they did this despite the prohibitions put forth by the British government to stop the trade. Truxes traces the trade between the New York merchants and the Dutch in the Caribbean (the Dutch were used as middlemen early in the war) to the trade on Hispaniola between the merchants and the Spanish as middlemen to the outright trade with the French via flag-trucers (trading when exchanging prisoners of war).
Interposed throughout the narrative is the story of George Spencer – a bankrupt New York merchant who told the British authorities about his fellow New York merchants’ illicit trade with the French – and his main nemeses George Harison and Waddell Cunningham. Truxes skillfully interweaves Spencer’s woeful tale of trying to prove the treasonous behavior of the merchants with the development and explosion of the trade between New York (and the other colonies as well) and the French.
Truxes puts forth a compelling argument that the treatment of the American merchants by the British government during and after the French and Indian War was a major impetus for the events that led to the American Revolution. The bitterness felt by the merchants toward the British government led to the spiraling upward of the tensions between the British and the Americans.
Truxes writing style is engaging. His descriptions of the various characters provide you with a fuller understanding of them and how they influenced the events in history. Truxes also includes an abundant number of maps to help you visualize where and how the trade was conducted. The book is a very easy read at 209 pages.