Sankovitch applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Lowells of Massachusetts: An American Family, and reported the following:
From page 99:Visit Nina Sankovitch's website.He was simply having too good a time to write home to his parents and siblings back in America. The lack of news made them worry. The initial wave of public approval for the French Revolution was receding. The onset of the Reign of Terror had turned American support into fear: what terrible violence had been unleashed in France? The French Revolution had seemed like a good idea – and a flattering imitation of America’s bid for independence –but now it had become something quite different. Revolution was supposed to lead to an evolution for the greater good but in France, the revolution was dissolving now into anarchy. The aristocracy was being massacred, churches desecrated, clergy decimated. The governmental institutions for law and order were breaking down. When the great French hero of the American Revolution, the Marquis de Lafayette, was called a traitor by Robespierre and then jailed by Danton, Minister of Justice, Americans cried out in protest. The French were no longer to be trusted.This excerpt from page 99 of my biography of the Lowell family over three hundred years does a good job of placing one member of that family, Francis Cabot Lowell, well within the context of his times, while offering a perhaps surprising view of those times. Throughout my book, I offer not only portraits of individual members of the Lowell family but also of the important historical events of their eras. The story of the Lowells is interesting on its own merits, with its heroes and even a few villains, and its plot twists and resolutions and revolutions, but the book also brings to vivid life the history of the United States from the 1600s through the 1900s.
But Frank never felt himself to be in any danger. He had numerous cousins living in France, safely and happily, and he himself was traveling with a special passport issued by the French Committee of Public Safety. Enjoying his cloak of official protection, he found French life interesting and satisfying more than demoralizing or terrifying. After witnessing mass executions of five hundred men while visiting Paris, the only mention of it he made to his father when he finally wrote a letter was about how very quiet the whole event had been: “One of our training days [at Harvard] made a great deal more noise...”
Little time was spent by Frank considering the moral or political implications of the French Revolution; instead, what fascinated him were the opportunities he saw everywhere he went…
We tend to think of the French Revolution as all terror, all the time – and the paragraphs from page 99 invoke those horrors – but for a young American, fresh out of Harvard and trying to make his way in the world, France during the Revolution was a fascinating place offering so many opportunities. The Lowell family motto was Occasionem Cognosce (recognize opportunity, seize opportunity), and Frank took advantage of his time in France, learning not only the language and the customs but also the material needs of the French. The French were cut off from British goods and Frank realized that American suppliers could fill the void. He returned to Boston and began an import/export company, leading first Boston and then the nation to becoming world leaders in trade and manufacturing.
Every generation of Lowells, from the 68-year old patriarch who came to the New World in 1639 to start a new life, through to Francis Cabot Lowell and his siblings, and on through the Lowells of the twentieth century, had an uncanny ability to change course, to recognize new opportunities and seize upon them. This facility at reinvention, along with their ingrained ideal of working hard on behalf of the larger community, led them to be movers and shakers in all the eras in which they lived.
My Book, The Movie: The Lowells of Massachusetts.