Menace in the West: The Rise of French Anti-Americanism in Modern Times

By David Strauss | Go to book overview

chapter 1
Days of Entente

For most Europeans, America did not exist until 1917; a few would trace her origins back to the Civil War. Almost everyone forgets that for both the New World and the Old the period of the late eighteenth century marks the high point of the critical spirit.

-- Jean Canu, 1934

On November 1, 1918, Emile Boutroux, the philosopher and friend of William James, proclaimed in the prestigious Revue des Deux Mondes, "If there were ever two peoples in this world who feel an instinctive attraction toward each other, they are the French and the American people."1 Just two months later, in the Revue de Paris, the literacy critic, Jean Guehenno, adopted essentially the same view. "There is a spiritual bond which unites France and America. The two countries are in the forefront of the human adventure. They are both motivated by the same divine rage for liberty."2 These two declarations of Franco-American friendship, representative of many such statements on both sides of the Atlantic in this period, reflect, of course, the euphoria of wartime collaboration. They view the entente as the logical extension of an historical agreement on values between citizens of the two countries.

The entente conception of 1917 was not exclusively a product of the collaboration of France and America in World War I. As its advocates frequently asserted, the two countries had been joined on the battlefield on the momentous occasion of America's revolt against England. This collaboration, whose effects reverberated through the nineteenth century and were still felt in the twentieth, arouse out of

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