The American Revolution becomes a European War:
The American perspective
, 1776 is a day that lives and will forever be remembered. This is the day that the
Continental Congress of the colonies belonging to Great Britain in North America signed the
Declaration of Independence, thus declaring themselves free from the rule of Great Britain.
However this was not the end of the story for the United States gaining their independence. The
Revolutionary War that followed has been well documented, sometimes even thought of as
iconic, in the centuries following. In the many articles, books and monographs that have been
written it has been well noted that the success of the Americans in this war, especially in closing
the deal towards the end of the war, hinged on the help of the French. The resulting friendship
between the two nations has grown exponentially over the years. However, the alliance did not
start out so strong. This begs the question, how exactly did the Americans feel about the French
and how did the alliance evolve over the course the war?
Initially, the common American did not know much about their new ally. Instead, they
relied on the stereotypes that were formed and subsequently fostered by the Britains during the
repeated imperial wars in which the two European powers struggled for power in the Americas.
What were these stereotypes? Well, “the widely held American stereotype of Frenchmen, at least
before 1775, suggested an incarnation of the Devil…” (Stinchcombe, p. 2) The French also had
their own doubts. The merchants did not want the peacetime prosperity to end. Louis XVI
viewed the revolution with skepticism; even though Britain was France’s foremost enemy, no
European monarch wanted to see another unwanted. Many French were hesitant, also, because
they did not feel that the colonists could succeed in the War. If they were to enter on the
colonists’ side and then lose that would mean even more war against France, and after centuries
of war against Britain, they were tired of it.
One man, however, single handedly helped to change that. Before Benjamin Franklin
arrived there were French advisors that felt like it would be a good idea to enter in on the side of
the colonists. However, that was met with much more pessimism. Benjamin Franklin’s role was
to make it appear to the French – and to a certain extent the Spanish – the option of an alliance