Friday, July 4, 2014

Louis XVI and American Independence


It is fairly well-known that without the military and financial aid given by Louis XVI to the American colonists in their struggle for independence from Great Britain, our nation may never have arisen. The King of France was reluctant to go to war, recoiling from both the expense and the shedding of blood; he did so only when convinced that it would benefit France in the long run. Marie-Antoinette was initially against assisting the Americans; she thought it set a dangerous precedent to help the colonists rebel against their king. Nevertheless, once war was declared, she did not hesitate to embrace the joint cause of France and America. According to Lafayette she once greeted him by saying: "Give me news of our good Americans, of our dear Republicans!"

Lafayette may have colored her words with his own enthusiasm for the cause. However, the general repartee in the French court over the American revolt is rather humorous, or at least it would be, had the consequences for France not been so tragic. When Marie-Antoinette's brother, Emperor Joseph II, was visiting Versailles, some pro-American French lady kept badgering him about the colonists' revolt. Finally, the Holy Roman Emperor curtly replied: "Madame, I am a royalist by profession." When Lafayette joined the followers of Mesmer, Louis XVI asked him, ironically: "What will Washington think when he hears that you have become the first apothecary of Mesmer?"

The King and Queen graciously received Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and other Americans at Versailles. Louis XVI was depicted in art with Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. Sadly, the bankruptcy France incurred by the war caused the political crisis in France to escalate, leading to a bloody revolution and to the deaths of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. But Louis XVI did indeed show foresight in his decision to help the colonies. Twice the new nation would come to the aid of France when France was in dire need. I always have thought that in addition to saying "Lafayette, we are here," General Pershing should have said "Louis XVI, we are here" since without the King's help America may never have become a nation.

(Quotations from Nesta Webster's Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette before the Revolution)

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7 comments:

lara77 said...

Thank You for remebering His Majesty King Louis XVI.Americans always think of France as the French Republic; yet it was the forces of His Most Christian Majesty that helped give birth to the United States of America. Vive les Etats Unis d'Amerique! Vive le Roi Louis XVI!

Julygirl said...

If the course of history had gone differently in the 1600's and early 1700's we would have been revolting against France, then again maybe not. They may not have been as despotic as the English.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

They were not to the Indians.

Speaking of which I just found a blog by "une québécouèse", ironically enough.

Julygirl said...

Yes, and all we have is what was passed down to us, which is not always the full and complete story. As an historian, EMV, you know one must dig and then dig more in order to get to the truth, and even that is based only on what was preserved from the past in writing. Then, one must take it in an historical context to what was going on in other arenas.

Leslie Carroll said...

'According to Lafayette she once greeted him by saying: "Give me news of our good Americans, of our dear Republicans!"

Somehow I doubt these were her exact words since she did not espouse the cause, although a number of her cercle of friends had gone to the colonies as commanders or adjutants (Fersen among them) and she was always eager for news of THEM and was exceptionally concerned for their safety and welfare and rather liked the idea f them as war heroes. Additionally, the word "Republicans" was not used in France at the time, so you are right, Elena, that this could be a later embellishment on Lafayette's (who switched sides a few times) part.

elena maria vidal said...

I don't trust Lafayette where Marie-Antoinette is concerned.

Kaitlyn said...

Thank you for the post! Many people forget how indebted we are to France and Louis for helping America achieve independence, at great financial loss. Such a shame we never paid them back as we should have!