Saturday, November 14, 2015

Our debt to France

Eiffel Tower
Paris, France

In this time of tragedy and terror it is worthwhile to look back towards history to try to comprehend our nation's very long term debt to France.  In the 20th century we fought two World wars and the Cold War together as brothers in arms.  In the 19th century the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor, a beacon of hope to freedom-loving people around the world, was given to America by the people of France.  In America Invades we wrote this...

George Washington & Count de Grasse
Yorktown, VA 
France is our oldest ally and the site of the most famous American invasion of all time. More American military cemeteries (eleven) are located in France than in any other foreign country in the world.
Musee de L'Armee, Paris, France
When the American Revolution broke out, Louis XVI saw aid to the thirteen colonies as a means of avenging England’s defeat of France in the Seven Years War, but he was reluctant to commit to the American cause until gentleman Johnny Burgoyne surrendered his force after the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777. The Marquis de Lafayette arrived in American that same year serving as a major-general in the Continental Army where he grew very close to General George Washington, who thought of him as a son. The great inventor, author, and statesman Benjamin Franklin helped to negotiate a treaty of alliance with France in 1778. The direct intervention of the French began with Rochambeau landing a force of about six thousand French soldiers in Providence, Rhode Island. These forces and, critically, the French Navy led by the Comte de Grasse helped secure the surrender of Lord Cornwallis’s army at Yorktown.
John Paul Jones
USNA, Annapolis, MD
John Paul Jones led his 1778 raid on Whitehaven from the French port of Brest. His frigate that defeated the British Serapis in 1779, the Bonhomme Richard (during which he uttered his famous “I have not yet begun to fight”) was a converted French merchant ship, the Duc de Duras.

AI van and Yorktown Victory Monument
My recent visit to the Yorktown battlefield in Virginia was a fresh reminder of our debt to France.  At Yorktown nearly half of all the troops on the Allied side were French.  In 1781 the Grand French battery helped to pound the hapless British for 8 days with about 15,000 cannonballs falling on the forces of Lord Cornwallis.  The French navy was indispensable at Yorktown when it cut off the traditional line of British retreat by sea.

Mount Vernon, VA
In George Washington's home at Mount Vernon visitors can see an object which seems to crystallize the significance of America's relationship with France.  Washington proudly displayed a gift that had been given to him by the Marquis de Lafayette -- the key to the Bastille prison.
Musee de L'Armee, Paris, France
Years later Napoleon, Emperor of the French, would sell the Louisiana territory to the United States which added about one quarter of our nation's current size.

In the 21st century French soldiers have served alongside their American allies in Afghanistan.

While some would argue that our debt to France was repaid by America intervention and support in two World Wars it is impossible to underestimate the debt that we owe to France that originated at our nation's founding.

In this time of crisis and suffering it is critical for Americans to stand again with the French people.

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