France and US: The French Helped Us Win Our Revolution. A Few Years Later We Were at War with Napoleon's Navy. the Two Countries Have Been Falling in and out of Love Ever since. Why?

By Brookhiser, Richard | American Heritage, August-September 2003 | Go to article overview

France and US: The French Helped Us Win Our Revolution. A Few Years Later We Were at War with Napoleon's Navy. the Two Countries Have Been Falling in and out of Love Ever since. Why?


Brookhiser, Richard, American Heritage


CONGRESS SERVES FREEDOM FRIES, AMERICAN MILITARY wives talk of freedom kisses, vandals in Bordeaux burn and deface a model of the Statue of Liberty. It's a good time to remember that American-French relations have had many ups and downs. The ups include the Franco-American joint operation that was the Yorktown campaign; the tough-minded love letter to the United States that Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America; fighting on the same side in two world wars; and cineastes taking inspiration from John Ford. The downs include the Naval War of 1798, when French and American ships battled on the high seas; Napoleon III's efforts to put a puppet on the throne of Mexico; Gaullist ambition and American impatience; and the current unpleasantness. The two countries hate each other as often as they love each other; the bouts of hatred are inflamed by the intervening bouts of love. If La Rochefoucauld didn't write a maxim to describe the situation, he should have.

No other nation except Britain has been so deeply entwined in our history and our psyche. The Anglo-American relation is simpler to understand and to describe. Britain and America passed from a familial bond to rebellion and rivalry, to friendship. Language and institutions hold us together, even if there are enough differences to keep us distinct. The Franco-American tie is altogether more volatile, subject to gusts of passion. Each nation deceives the other, and each nation deceives itself about the other. The moment America or France creates a transatlantic idol, it finds feet of clay. Why is the tie so strong? Why are the forces that assail it no less strong?

The most obvious fact about Franco-American relations is how far back they go. We were ancient neighbors, for France colonized the St. Lawrence River valley long before Jamestown and Plymouth were settled. The French established friendly relations with powerful Indian tribes and explored the lakes and rivers of the interior, thereby gaining a grip on the first moneymaking product of North America: beaver pelts. For years the hardscrabble Puritans and gentleman planters of British North America scrambled to catch up.

The French were military as well as economic rivals. From 1689 to 1763 Louis X1V and Louis XV fought a series of wars against a shifting coalition of European powers--always led, however, by England. Each of these wars had its analogue in North America. The first three were known to England's colonists by the names of their royal rulers: King William's War, Queen Anne's War, and King George's War (for George II). The final decisive struggle, known in Europe as the Seven Years' War, was simply named by the colonists after their immediate enemies: the French and Indian War. During these true world wars settlers clustered along the Atlantic coast feared the descent of French navies, while pioneers huddling in the woods feared the raids of French-backed Indians. The strife left a deep imprint on the American mind. Benjamin Franklin's first political triumph was to organize the defense of Pennsylvania against French and Indian attacks; George Washington and Daniel Boone fought their first battles on the Pennsylvania frontier. Decades after these colonial wars ended, James Fenimore Cooper mined them for his best-selling novel The Last of the Mohicans.

General Wolfe's glorious victory and death on the Plains of Abraham in 1759 ended France as a threat to the people of the Thirteen Colonies. But less than 20 years later France was back in their lives as a friend. England's imperial victory allowed the latent tensions in its empire to emerge; when the newly secure colonies sought independence, they looked for allies. France, eager for revenge, was happy to oblige.

The United States sent some of its best minds to Paris during the early years of its independence. Franklin, assisted by John Adams, represented the new nation during the Revolutionary War; after the peace they were succeeded by Thomas Jefferson.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

France and US: The French Helped Us Win Our Revolution. A Few Years Later We Were at War with Napoleon's Navy. the Two Countries Have Been Falling in and out of Love Ever since. Why?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.