Securing American Independence: John Jay and the French Alliance

By Frank W. Brecher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5

From the French-Spanish Alliance of April 1779 versus England to the Militarily Victorious Year of 1781

THE VIEW FROM FRANCE

There was a celebratory mood at the court of Versailles upon news of the signing in Madrid on April 12, 1779, of a secret agreement with Spain committing the latter to joining the war against England. This came after years of France's having to swallow its pride as Charles and his volatile foreign minister, Floridablanca, regularly castigated it for past betrayals and failures to live up to the spirit of the Family Compact of 1761. As we have seen, more than mere castigation, Spain also was until this very moment putting France through a crisis by virtue of its mediation proposals so contrary to France's commitments to the U.S. Fortunately, and as Spain itself recognized by signing this April agreement with France, that mediation effort was in its last gasps, England, much to France's relief, clearly about to reject the Spanish proposals. There now was left only the formality of Spain's breaking off the mediation, rupturing diplomatic relations with England, then issuing its declaration of war (within the framework of a suitable document justifying that act). The fact that Spain signed the agreement with France even prior to the break with England was advantageous to France, according to Montmorin's 13 April dispatch, because it meant Spain was entering the war of its own volition, giving France more leverage over it.

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