For most U.S. historians, the American Revolution’s significance lies in its development of republican government and ideology. The issue of diplomacy is peripheral, relevant to military strategy and supplies. Seen from the viewpoint of America’s allies, France and Spain, however, the situation is just the opposite. These European powers were uninterested in republican ideology other than to deplore it as anathema. But since they considered the United States both geographically distant and politically insignificant, their attention was almost entirely strategic. Could an alliance with this rebellious state break Britain’s position as the dominant power in Europe and North America?

In this meticulously researched and deftly reasoned study, Light Townsend Cummins examines the Spanish effort to understand the American situation through a network of spies and semiofficial observers. In the process, he provides insight into Spanish diplomatic analysis and operations. Though Spain was no longer as powerful as France or Britain, it could still defend its position and seek imperial gains. The Spanish saw the American Revolution as an opportunity to regain the Floridas and cement their control of Louisiana by helping to weaken Britain’s military and strategic position. Consequently, spies were sent into St. Augustine. A centralized monarchy thereby cooperated in the overthrow of another monarchy. Clearly this would work against Spain within a generation, and Spanish officials were not unaware of this possibility. But in the world of balance-of-power politics, this possibility was still comfortably remote.