How Did France Enter The American Revolution Essay

Sarah Stegner History 481 Dr. Schloss due: Nov. 10, 2015 Final Paper: Draft 1 The American colonists formally began fighting against the British monarchy in 1775, but the revolution was not be won alone; France’s decision to participate in the American Revolution was invaluable in the colonists’ victory against their mother country.

Influential figures like Count de Vergennes advocated joining the colonists in fighting Great Britain in hopes of simultaneously reestablishing France as Great Britain’s peer; however, out of fear of raising tensions with Great Britain, advocates of the revolution failed to gain the necessary support to enter the war during the first years of the revolution.

As such, for the first three years of the revolution it looked as if Great Britain would defeat the colonists, but to no avail, in 1778, France formally – and publicly – allied themselves with the colonists in the hopes of getting retribution against Great Britain for the Seven Years War, keeping Great Britain from holding too much power in the Western world, and keep France’s own colonies stable in terms of trading.

It is important to keep in mind that France entered into the American Revolution at two different times: the first being when politicians became increasingly curious over what was happening in the colonies and began to intervene in secret, and the second being when France formally and publicly allied themselves with the American colonists. To understand France’s decision to participate in the American Revolution, it is critical to understand who advocated the aiding of the American colonists.

Charles Gravier, Count de Vergennes spearheaded the French campaign to join the American Revolution from the beginning of rising tensions between the American colonists and their mother country. Serving as a ambassador of foreign affairs, Vergennes was responsible for maintaining peace in hopes of keeping the French monarchy secured; peace implied a balance of power between the European leaders. At first few supported Vergennes’ ideals, however Vergennes’ campaigning eventually garnered enough support that the King would take action.

As a diplomat in foreign relations, Vergennes compared the amplitude of the French Empire with that of the English Empire. While equivalent in number of colonies1, trading capabilities, and military and navy strength, France had lost their presence in the Americas as a result of the Seven Years War. Ultimately Vergennes saw the American colonies as an advantage that Great Britain’s empire could leverage over France’s empire, and thus came to the conclusion that Great Britain and France were no longer equals in capacity.

Hoping to reestablish France’s equality with Great Britain, Vergennes hoped to diminish Great Britain’s “monopoly of American trade markets” (Dull 8). Vergennes thereby hoped to take advantage of the American Revolution to lessen Great Britain’s power, and began his campaign to participate in the war. While Vergennes ultimately won the internal fight to aid the colonists, many Frenchmen were opposed to participating in the war out of fear of violating the “just and precise conduct policy” (30). This policy was made to ensure the stability of France and Great Britain’s relations with one another.

The policy explained that France will not provide the colonists aid, raise tensions between Portugal and Spain, and will maintain a level of military and naval forces to protect themselves without growing large enough to threaten other countries. Many Frenchmen – including King Louis – feared breaking the informal agreement and resulting in another war with Great Britain. Still, in 1775 France sent secret representative Achard de Bonvouloir to report on the well being of the American colonists and their eagerness for freedom.

Bonvouloir’s journal entries explained the colonists wanted the help of two French engineers and for France to continue trading with America despite Great Britain’s restrictions. Based on the increasing oppression of the American colonists, the German troops being contracted out to fight against the colonists, and Bonvouloir’s report, enough evidence was available that politicians began to draft documents justifying France’s intervention in the American revolution.

Vergennes’ “Considerations” document argued the prolonging of the revolution – by aid of France – would portray France as having a strong military and navy; this simultaneously would show France to be the better military power when compared with Great Britain. The responses to these documents overwhelmingly supported some participation in the American Revolution; most politicians were blinded by the need for retribution in the face of the Seven Years War: “by depriving Britain of her possession of the American colonies, France could so weaken her as to alter the balance of power” (Dull 37).

Regardless of the growing support, by 1777, France still did not publicly intervene in the revolution, rather they began growing their military and naval capabilities; this resulted in the deterioration of French and English relations as well as a smallscale arms race. Silas Deane, Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee approached Vergennes in hopes of signing a treaty of commerce.

While Vergennes refused the treaty, this marked the beginning of France financially aiding the colonists in their revolution as Vergennes promised 2,000,000 livres (approximately $8,000,000) quarterly. The arms race hastened and it seemed inevitable that France would formally join the revolution. Ultimately the fear of disrupting the peace between Great Britain and France was no longer a possibility. Despite France being generally adverse to aiding the colonists in their revolution during