From a historical perspective, it can be argued that Benjamin Franklin’s posting to France and, for that matter, the greater conceptual framework of the Franco-American alliance of 1778 might well be viewed as a continuance of the struggle for world leadership in which France and Britain had been engaged for ages. From the French point of view two principal reasons explain the alliance. First, in the eyes of the French military and many of her statesmen, there was the lingering matter of France’s animosity against an old and recent enemy, Great Britain, who, in 1759, had bested the French on Quebec’s Plains of Abraham, the decisive battle in the North American theatre of the Seven Years’ War, and ultimately driven the French from North America. By the autumn of 1760, French America had become British, a fact codified by the 1763 Treaty of Paris which ultimately ended the war.
To be sure, the lessons of defeat were not lost on the French and under the guidance of Etienne François Duc de Choiseul, who served as secretary of state, minister of war, and minister of the navy from1758 to 1770, France pursued an aggressive anti-British foreign policy, instituted major military reforms, and expanded naval construction—efforts that would prove essential to the French success in the upcoming American war. Against this background, the rebellion of the colonies was viewed as a most welcomed turn of events in certain French military and political circles, if for no other reason than the fact the rebellion was directed against England. To exploit the situation through its alliance with the American colonists, France hoped to drive a wedge between the different parts of Britain’s American empire, thereby strengthening France in relative terms and restoring its traditional role in the European balance of power. French merchants saw in the Franco-American alliance the possibility of expanding their share of trans-Atlantic trade.1 But there was also a second, more subtle factor at