Monday, December 17, 2012

French Recognition of the United States

French troops (left) watch as the British surrender to the Americans (right), at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781
France formed a military alliance with the United States in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) in 1778, and fought Britain. French money, munitions, soldiers and naval forces proved essential to American victory in the American Revolutionary War, but France gained little except large debts.
Benjamin Franklin, served as the American ambassador to France from 1776 to 1783. He met with many leading diplomats, aristocrats, intellectuals, scientists and financiers. Franklin's image and writings caught the French imagination – there were many images of him sold on the market – and he became the image of the archetypal new American and even a hero for aspirations for a new order inside France. The French goal was to weaken Britain, both to keep it from getting too powerful and to exact revenge for the defeat in the Seven Year War. After the American capture of the British invasion army at Saratoga in 1777, and after the French navy had been built up, France was ready. In 1778 France recognized the United States of America as a sovereign nation, signed a military alliance, went to war with Britain, built coalitions with the Netherlands and Spain that kept Britain without a significant ally of its own, provided the Americans with grants, arms and loans, sent a combat army to serve under George Washington, and sent a navy that prevented the second British army from escaping from Yorktown in 1781. In all, the French spent about 1.3 billion livres (in modern currency, approximately thirteen billion U.S. dollars) to support the Americans directly, not including the money it spent fighting Britain on land and sea outside the U.S.
French aid proved vital in the victory of the Americans seeking independence from Britain. The U.S. gained much territory at the 1783 Treaty of Paris, but France – after losing some naval battles – fared poorly there. It did get its revenge and made a new ally and trading partner. However the high debt France accumulated was a major cause of the French Revolution in 1789.

“I took twelve turkeys to Dowdle & Townsend this morning 160 lbs and got 400# sugar $4.55 and a bbl of oil  5 ½ c.”

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