The treaty of alliance with France in 1778, together with the peace treaty signed in 1783 with England, are the foundation stones of the struggle for independence in the 18th century. In that sense they are milestones in the history of American diplomacy, deserving bicentennial celebrations.
On one occasion Tom Paine remarked that " America is the colony of all Europe," and the rivalry of western Europe on the mainland of America underscores the truth of his assertion. The shot heard 'round the world provided the Europeans with the opportunity to use the new world to redress the old, and this act of redress became the opening chapter in the diplomatic history of the United States. And the founding fathers were alert to the fact that any such act should not be at the expense of the former colonies.
With Paine's admonition in mind that America would never be free of European contention as a makeweight in the scale of British politics, American leadership had to steer a delicate diplomatic course to guarantee that the future United States would also be free from becoming a makeweight in European politics. Mindful of the fact that the European powers "cut and pared states like Dutch cheeses," Franklin arrived in Paris aware of the pitfalls of international alliances. Indeed, America had its own territorial, if not imperial, designs, and the age was not exactly propitious for the birth of a new nation.
If there was a "gathering storm" in Europe it was the rebellion of the colonies which appeared to guarantee a train of events that would ultimately engulf the entire Atlantic community in a war of global dimension for decades to come. Much to the credit of Franklin is the sensitivity he brought to the complexity of European society, and the knowledge that diplomacy, never a gentle craft, as practiced by the chancellories of Europe was embellished by the "unblushing principles of Machiavelli." If France wished to enfeeble England by separating it from its colonies then, surmised Franklin, there was a price even the powerful would pay.
The following selection is taken from a volume correctly subtitled "The International History of the American Revolution." Prof. Van Alstyne has traced the complexities effectively according to the