Saturday, July 4, 2015

America's Independence: The Friendship that Made it Happen

My newest historical romance, To Tame the Wind, is set in 1782, the last year of the American Revolution, however, it does not take place in America. Rather, it takes place in Paris and London and the waters of the English Channel. As such, it brings to the fore a part of the war not often focused on: the incredible contribution of a relationship between two men who gave America victory.

At the beginning of the American War of Independence in 1776, America needed money, ships and arms. The young country looked to France that was still smarting from its defeat to the British in the Seven Years’ War that took place between 1754 and 1763. When Benjamin Franklin came to Paris to call on the French Foreign Minister, Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, a friendship was born that led to France’s aid and support.

Benjamin Franklin

Vergennes was eager to thwart Britain’s imperial ambitions and, in arguing America’s case to King Louis XIV, he drew upon the widespread sympathy in France for America’s desire for liberty and self-determination. The American Revolution was perceived as the incarnation of the Enlightenment against “English tyranny.” After all, it would not be long before France would have its own revolution.

All this contributed to the fast friendship that formed between Vergennes and Franklin, a friendship that endured many trials through the war.

Living in Passy, just outside of Paris, Franklin learned the language and displayed an uncanny knack at politics and persuasion, which led scholar Leo Lemay to call Franklin "the most essential and successful American diplomat of all time." He and Vergennes met frequently and shared a mutual respect.

Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes
The alliance between France and America, negotiated by Franklin, was signed on February 6, 1778, following the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga. It was titled the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce. By its terms, France openly supported America’s claim of independence. Vergennes had three goals in mind: to help the Americans win their independence; to expel the British from the West Indies where France held many profitable, sugar-producing islands; and to compel the British to concentrate the majority of their naval strength in the English Channel. (The latter fact comes into play in To Tame the Wind.)

The result of the alliance was that in March of 1778, Britain declared war on France.
Vergennes persuaded King Louis to give the America money, soldiers (most notably Lafayette, who became an aide to Washington and a combat general), sailors, ships and supplies. At first, France’s support was covert. French agents sent America military aid, predominantly gunpowder, through the legitimate French company Rodrigue Hortalez et Compagnie, beginning in 1776. But by 1777, over five million livres of aid had been sent to the Americans.

French Navy ships of the line in the Battle of the Chesapeake
 During the American Revolutionary War the French Navy played a decisive role in supporting the Americans. 
In all, France contributed about 1.3 billion livres (in modern currency, approximately thirteen billion U.S. dollars) to support the Americans, and this didn’t include what France spent fighting Britain on land and sea outside America.

While there were other American commissioners in Paris, it was Franklin and his friendship with Vergennes that were responsible for obtaining France's financial and military aid. Without that aid, America might not have won.

That all of France admired and loved Franklin is clear. When the news of his death reached Paris in 1790, the French admiration for the American statesman was such that in the middle of the French Revolution, the National Assembly decided to adjourn for the day.

As you celebrate today, remember the men and women who gave so much for our freedom… And remember the friendship of two men who worked together to make it happen.

For a love story that will sweep you away to that time... consider To Tame the Wind. Both Franklin and Vergennes are characters! It's a great summer read!


All Claire Donet knew was the world inside the convent walls in Saint-Denis. She had no idea her beloved papa was a pirate. But when he seized Simon Powell's schooner, the English privateer decided to take the one thing his enemy held most dear... her.


The waters between France and England roil with the clashes of Claire's father and her captor as the last year of the American Revolution rages on the sea, spies lurk in Paris and Claire’s passion for the English captain rises. 

Order on Amazon.

No comments:

Post a Comment