This truly transnational history reveals the important role of Americans abroad in the Age of Revolution, as well as providing an early example of the limits of American influence on other nations. From the beginning of the French Revolution to its end at the hands of Napoleon, American cosmopolitans like Thomas Jefferson, Gouverneur Morris, Thomas Paine, Joel Barlow, and James Monroe drafted constitutions, argued over violent means and noble ends, confronted sudden regime changes, and negotiated diplomatic crises such as the XYZ Affair and the Louisiana Purchase. Eager to report on what they regarded as universal political ideals and practices, Americans again and again confronted the particular circumstances of a foreign nation in turmoil. In turn, what they witnessed in Paris caused these prominent Americans to reflect on the condition and prospects of their own republic. Thus, their individual stories highlight overlooked parallels between the nation-building process in both France and America, and the two countries' common struggle to reconcile the rights of man with their own national identities.

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