History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 5

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
THE ASPECT OF CONTINENTAL EUROPE
1775–1781.

THE United States needed an ally in France, but the ministers of that kingdom were unwilling to risk a war with Great Britain except with the certainty of the acquiescence of continental Europe; the history of the next years of the United States cannot be understood without a knowledge of the disposition of the several powers of Europe toward them.

France was sure of the forbearance of Austria, for Austria had chosen the Bourbon powers for its allies.

In Italy, which by being broken into fragments was reft of its strength though not of its beauty, the United States vainly hoped to find support from the ruler of Florence, of whose humane code the world had been full of praise. The king of Naples, as one of the Spanish Bourbons, conformed his policy to that of Spain. But the genius of the Italians has always revered the struggles of patriotism; Alfieri saw in America the prophet of Italian unity; and Filangieri was preparing the work, in which, with the applause of the best minds, he claimed for reason its rights in the government of men. Portugal irritated the United States by closing its ports against their ships; but was scarcely heard of again during the war.

The Turkish empire affected the course of American affairs during the war and at its close. The embroilment of the western maritime kingdoms seemed to leave its border provinces at the mercy of their neighbors; and there were statesmen in England who wished peace, that their country might speak with authority on the Bosphorus and the Euxine.

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