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Friday, June 26, 2015

The French Role In the War of Independence - Guest Post from ReganWalker

France’s Contribution to America’s Victory in its War of Independence

My newest historical romance, To Tame the Wind, is set in 1782, the last year of the American Revolution, however, it does not take place in America. Rather, it takes place in Paris and London and the waters of the English Channel. As such, it brings to the fore a part of the war not often focused on: the incredible contribution of France to American’s victory.

Comte de Vergennes
At the beginning of the American War of Independence in 1776, France was still smarting from its defeat in the Seven Years’ War that took place between 1754 and 1763. When Benjamin Franklin came to Paris to call on the French Foreign Minister, Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, soliciting France’s aid and support, he met with success. The French were eager to thwart Britain’s imperial ambitions and to restore French pride. There was also widespread sympathy in France for America’s desire for liberty and self-determination. The American Revolution was perceived as the incarnation of the Enlightenment against “English tyranny.” After all, it would not be long before France would have its own revolution.
Benjamin Franklin

All this contributed to the fast friendship that formed between Vergennes and Franklin.

Living in Passy, just outside of Paris, Franklin learned the language and displayed an uncanny knack at politics and persuasion, which led scholar Leo Lemay to call Franklin "the most essential and successful American diplomat of all time." He served as America’s ambassador to France until 1783.

The alliance between France and America, negotiated by Franklin, was signed on February 6, 1778 after the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga. It was titled the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce. By its terms, France openly supported America’s claim of independence. The French had three goals in mind: to help the Americans win their independence; to expel the British from the West Indies where France held many profitable, sugar-producing islands; and to compel the British to concentrate the majority of their naval strength in the English Channel. Not surprisingly, Britain soon declared war on France, in March of 1778.

Vergennes persuaded King Louis XVI to give the Americans money, soldiers (most notably Lafayette, who became an aide to Washington and a combat general), sailors, ships and supplies. At first, France’s support was covert. French agents sent America military aid, predominantly gunpowder, through the legitimate French company Rodrigue Hortalez et Compagnie, beginning in 1776. But by 1777, over five million livres of aid had been sent to the Americans.

During the American Revolutionary War the French Navy played a decisive role in supporting the Americans. In 1781, the French, fighting under Admiral François-Joseph de Grasse, managed to defeat the British fleet at the Battle of the Chesapeake, thus ensuring that the Franco-American ground forces would win the ongoing Battle of Yorktown. After the Americans won the Battle of Yorktown, the House of Commons voted to end the war in the spring of 1782, a fact my English privateer hero is quick to take note of.

French ships of the line in the battle of Chesapeake
In all, France contributed about 1.3 billion livres (in modern currency, approximately thirteen billion U.S. dollars) to support the Americans, and this didn’t include what France spent fighting Britain on land and sea outside America. According to Benjamin Franklin, our wily commissioner in Paris, at one point while France was having difficulty meeting its own expenses, “it has advanced six millions to save the credit of ours.” That France was deeply in debt at the war’s end cannot be disputed.

While there were other American commissioners in Paris, there is no doubt that America would not have won the Revolutionary War without France's financial and military aid and that Franklin was almost entirely responsible for obtaining that aid. That all of France admired and loved him is clear. (When the news of his death reached Paris in 1790, the French admiration for the American statesman was such that in the middle of the French Revolution, the National Assembly decided to adjourn for the day.)

To Tame the Wind (Agents of the Crown Book 0)

Paris 1782… AN INNOCENT IS TAKEN. All Claire Donet knew was the world inside the convent walls in Saint-Denis. She had no idea her beloved papa was a pirate. But when he seized Simon Powell's schooner, the English privateer decided to take the one thing his enemy held most dear... her.
A BATTLE IS JOINED The waters between France and England roil with the clashes of Claire's father and her captor as the last year of the American Revolution rages on the sea, spies lurk in Paris and Claire’s passion for the English captain rises.


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