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Washington weighed his words when he wrote that our obligation to France calls for « the most unalterable gratitude, » and Joseph Choate said that he could find no language adequate to express what America owes to France. Though the great actors in the drama of our Revolution sleep in the fields of silence, their deeds remain eloquent, and it is well to recall their words, which are so modest when they tell of their own actions and so generous and appreciative when they describe those of their allies. They make it perfectly clear that France came in our hour of supreme need and exerted the determining influence, when our armies and our credit were all but exhausted by the long struggle.
Early in 1776 Congress sent Silas Deane, a graduate of Yale of the class of 1758, as commissioner to France to propose an offensive and defensive alliance and a treaty of commerce. Vergennes, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, received Deane with cordiality and benevolence and told him to consider himself under the immediate protection of the King of France, and in case of any insult or molestation to complain directly to himself and to depend on receiving the most satisfactory redress; that, though talk of an alliance was premature, his government would show its good will by allowing the Americans to purchase supplies secretly.
There was then no factory in America where muskets or cannon could be made in any quantity, and it was almost impossible to obtain gunpowder. July 20th Deane had another interview by appointment at Versailles with Vergennes and was promised 40,000 muskets. Vergennes also proposed to have the arms of France erased from 200 brass cannon, if it could be done without weakening them, and if not he promised that others should be cast in the King’s foundries. Vergennes sent De Chaumont, a wealthy man, to Deane with priced samples of the uniforms worn in the French army, and De Chaumont voluntarily offered to become security to the amount of 1,000,000 francs for the purchase of clothing for the Americans.
Vergennes’s knowledge of European politics was considered superior to that of any other man of his time, so that the services which he was able to render to America were of inestimable value. When Vergennes died in 1788, Franklin said that it was a great loss to France, to Europe, to America and to mankind.
The decision to aid America was largely due to the efforts of that extraordinary Frenchman, Beaumarchais, well known as the author of the « Barber of Seville » and the « Marriage of Figaro. » Beaumarchais is comparable to Sheridan in wit, stagecraft and in his ability to satirize the follies of his time, and his polemical papers resemble those of Swift. Through his writings he had become a leader of public opinion. In the « Marriage of Figaro » he showed clearly the dangerous condition of France. He first made plain that the balance of power in Europe was to be found in America. As early as September, 1775, Beaumarchais declared that America was lost to the mother country, and early in 1776 he urged the King of France to give secret aid to the Americans, saying, « If your majesty has no more skillful man to employ, I am ready to take the matter in charge and will be responsible for the treaty without compromising any one, persuaded that my zeal will better supplement my lack of dexterity than the dexterity of another could replace my zeal. The Americans are as well placed as possible; army, fleet, provisions, courage, everything is excellent; but without powder and engineers how can they conquer or how even can they defend themselves ? Are we willing to let them perish rather than loan them one or two millions ? Are we afraid of losing the money ? »
With the connivance of Vergennes, Beaumarchais organized the commercial firm of Hortalez & Co. « You will found your house, » he was instructed, « and at your own risk and perils you will provision the Americans with arms and munitions and objects of equipment and whatever is necessary to support the war. You shall not demand money of the Americans, because they have none, but you shall ask returns in commodities of their soil, the sale of which we will facilitate in our country. » American tobacco, rice and wheat were then especially valuable in Europe. Agents of Beaumarchais met the captains of American ships on their arrival in France, aided them to dispose of their cargoes and rendered any other services in their power. For instance, when five vessels arrived from America with fish, a prohibited article, the French officials informed Deane that if the vessels came from Congress they should be permitted to unload and to sell their cargoes.
May 2, 1776, the French Government advanced to Beaumarchais 1,000,000 francs for the purchase of supplies for the Americans, and two months later he received another million from Spain, which was paid through the treasury of France. Within a year Beaumarchais had sent eight shiploads of military stores, drawn largely from royal arsenals and valued at more than 6,000,000 francs. For a long time he was the exclusive agent of France, and through him supplies were sent without which Washington’s forces could not have existed. Beaumarchais obtained over 200 cannon, 25,000 muskets, 200,000 pounds of powder, 20 or 30 brass mortars and clothing and tents for 25,000 men. These he loaded on ships obtained by himself. At one time he fitted out ten merchantmen and equipped a man-of-war to escort them. Silas Deane wrote Congress, « I should have never completed what I have but for the generous, the indefatigable and spirited exertions of Monsieur Beaumarchais, to whom the United States are on every account greatly indebted; more so than to any other person on this side of the water. » When Beaumarchais was himself struggling with financial difficulties, he wrote: « Through all these annoyances the news from America overwhelms me with joy. Brave, brave people, their warlike conduct justifies my esteem and the noble enthusiasm felt for them in France. »
Though Franklin was seventy when Congress unanimously elected him on the first ballot a commissioner to France, there is no exaggeration in saying that his services surpass those of any other American diplomat in any period of our history. Afflicted with the infirmities of age, his mind remained bright, his good nature undiminished and he cheerfully undertook the dangerous voyage in order to serve his country. He came on the Reprisal, which made the trip from land to land in thirty days. It carried indigo for the account of Congress worth £3000. On the way over it captured two British ships worth £4000.
Franklin arrived in Paris in December, 1776. At first he took lodgings in the Rue de TUniversitie, but in a few days he withdrew to Passy, where he lived nine years. Franklin described his residence as « a fine house, situated in a neat village on high ground, half a mile from Paris, with a large garden to walk in. » The house was the property of De Chaumont, who wrote John Adams in September, 1778, « when I consecrated my house to Doctor Franklin and his associates who might live with him, I made it fully understood that I should expect no compensation, because I perceived that you had need of all your means to send to the succor of your country or to relieve the distresses of your countrymen escaping from the chains of their enemies. I pray you, sir, to permit this arrangement to remain, which I made when the fate of your country was doubtful. When she shall enjoy all her splendor such sacrifices on my part will be superfluous or unworthy of her; but at present they may be useful, and I am happy in offering them to you. » He added that it was a good thing « to have immortalized my house by receiving into it Doctor Franklin and his associates. »
That a man of such erudition and distinction as Franklin should come from the colonies was a paradox which delighted French society. The wit of his writing was particularly appreciated; the sayings of « le bonhomme Richard » were quoted all over France, and the clergy advised the people to take them to heart. France was filled with medals, busts and pictures of Franklin, so that he wrote his daughter that the numbers sold were incredible and « have made your father’s face as well known as the moon. » Among the powdered heads of Paris he wore his own gray hair, a fur cap and spectacles, but the old man in his brown suit made more impression than the most glittering ambassador.
Long before their government took up our cause most Frenchmen individually sympathized with us, so that in order to preserve the semblance of neutrality, it was necessary to prohibit the discussion of the war in the cafes of Paris. Republican literature was widely read, and the Declaration of Independence was received with enthusiasm. John Adams wrote of the French in 1778: « There is no people in the world who take so much pains to please, nor any whose endeavors in this way have more success. Their arts and manners, taste and language, are more respected in Europe than those of any other nation. » Buckle states: « More new truths concerning the external world were discovered in France during the latter part of the eighteenth century than during all the previous periods put together. » People crowded to lectures on chemistry and physics as if they were plays. Franklin was a member of the French Academy of Sciences and attended its meetings regularly, and his experiments with the kite were as well known in Paris as in Philadelphia.
Distinguished as a man of science, a man of letters and a man of broad humanity, Franklin was learned above all other men in the philosophy of life, and he had attained a ripe old age without losing faith in mankind. He found his happiness in that of his fellow-men. He was equally at home with common men and with scholars and princes, for he was able to comprehend every one’s point of view. No man understood the present better than he, and few had a more prophetic vision into the future. A keen observer, of wisdom, judgment and sagacity, he did his work so easily that it seemed easy work until some one else tried to do it. He had snatched the lightning from the clouds, and was now doing his utmost to wrest the scepter of the thirteen colonies from the tyrant.
Ten days after Franklin’s arrival he had a secret interview with Vergennes, who was charmed by his tact and courtesy and said that his conduct was as zealous and patriotic as it was wise and circumspect. Franklin’s unswerving loyalty to France in spite of the snares and temptations which were artfully laid for him by our enemies was equaled only by his inflexible devotion to his native land. Before Franklin left for France he had loaned Congress all his available fortune, and during the years of his stay in France the closest scrutiny failed to reveal a single instance of his mis-management of the public funds. Instead of sending money to its diplomats, the United States drew bills on them. Franklin was able not only to meet the drafts on himself, but was also able to help his colleagues, who were accredited to other courts. He knew how to bide his time; it was sometimes months before the American diplomats could hear from home. For instance, Burgoyne surrendered the 17th of October, 1777, but it was not until the 4th of December that the information reached Paris, where it caused as much rejoicing as if it had been a French victory. Beaumarchais drove with such furious speed to carry the news that his carriage upset, his arm was cut, and the bones of his neck nearly crushed, but he wrote : « The charming news from America is balm to my wounds. »
The surrender of Burgoyne, added to the fact that the American army made an excellent showing at Germantown, so soon after the defeat at the Brandywine, decided the French government to espouse our cause openly. December 12th Vergennes said of the battle of Germantown, « Nothing has struck me so much as General Washington attacking and giving battle to General Howe’s army. To bring troops raised within the year to do this promises everything. »
December 17th, as Washington was preparing to go into winter quarters at Valley Forge, though the prospect in America was dark, a bright star of hope arose for us in France, for on that day Gerard, a secretary of Vergennes, who later became the first minister of France to the United States, and to whom our country is indebted for constant and efficient efforts in our behalf, officially informed Franklin and Deane that France had determined not only to acknowledge, but also to support the independence of America. The most important treaties in American history are, that with France, signed February 6, 1778, and those with Great Britain, which ended the war of the Revolution. The treaty with France was the first the United States made with any nation. It stated: « The essential and direct end of the present defensive alliance is to maintain effectually the liberty, sovereignty, and independence absolute and unlimited of the said United States. »
France and the United States mutually engaged not to lay down their arms until this independence should have been assured by the treaty that should terminate the war. Though France could have driven a hard bargain, her only desire was the perpetual friendship of the United States, so that Franklin wrote : « France has taken no advantage of our present difficulties to exact terms which we would not willingly grant when established in prosperity and power. »
The French alliance was celebrated by Washington’s army at Valley Forge, May 5th. The brigades assembled at 9 o’clock, their chaplains made the announcement, offered up a thanksgiving and delivered a suitable discourse. At half-past ten a cannon gave the signal to line up for inspection, thirteen guns were fired, there was a running salute of infantry throughout the whole line and at a given signal, the entire army cheered, « Long live the King of France ! »
An officer wrote : « Last Wednesday was set apart as a day of general rejoicing, when we had a feu de joie conducted with the greatest order and regularity. The army made a most brilliant appearance; after which his Excellency dined in public, attended by a band of music. I never was present where there was such unfeigned and perfect joy as was discovered in every countenance. The entertainment was concluded with a number of patriotic toasts, attended with hurrahs. When the General took his leave there wag a universal clap, with loud hurrahs, which continued till he had proceeded a quarter of a mile, during which time there was a thousand hats tossed in the air. His Excellency turned round with his retinue and hurrahed several times. »
It is interesting to note that there were two opposite causes during the Revolution which made Washington exhibit violent emotion; one was cowardice and the failure of his men to do their duty, the other was the devotion of France.
The alliance between France and the United States was of course a cause of war between France and Great Britain, and April 13, 1778, five weeks after the signing of the treaty of alliance, Admiral D’Estaing left Toulon for America with twelve ships of the line and four frigates. He was delayed by adverse winds and did not reach the Delaware Capes till July 8th. The British, who had spent the winter in Philadelphia, had evacuated the city June 18th, so that D’Estaing found that their fleet had escaped to New York. He followed them, but, though his ships were superior to the British then in New York, they drew too much water to cross the bar. He then proceeded to Newport. When D’Estaing appeared in Narragansett Bay the British burned the following frigates to prevent their capture by the French: Juno 32, Lark 32, Orpheus 32, Cerberus 32, Kingfisher 16; and the Flora 32 and Falcon 18 were sunk. Admiral Howe, having been reinforced, left New York August 6th with eight ships of the line, five 50s, two 44s and a number of smaller vessels. D’Estaing sailed out to battle with him, but a violent storm separated the two fleets. The French were obliged to go to Boston for repairs, and the American troops, deprived of the protection of the French fleet, had to abandon Rhode Island.
During the Revolution Washington had important victories snatched from him by combinations of circumstances which he could not anticipate or control, so that the following sympathetic letter which he wrote D’Estaing September 11, 1778, might have been written after Germantown or Monmouth to the commander-in-chief instead of by him : « If the deepest regret that the best concerted enterprise and bravest exertions should have been rendered fruitless by a disaster which human prudence is incapable of foreseeing or preventing can alleviate disappointment, you may be assured that the whole continent sympathizes with you. It will be a consolation to you to reflect that the thinking part of mankind do not form their judgment from events and that their equity will ever attach equal glory to those actions which deserve success as to those which have been crowned with it. It is in the trying circumstances to which your excellency has been exposed that the virtues of a great mind are displayed in their brightest lustre and that the general’s character is better known than in the moment of victory. It was yours by every title which can give it, and the adverse element which robbed you of your prize can never deprive you of the glory due to you. Though your success has not been equal to your expectations, yet you have the satisfaction of reflecting that you have rendered essential services to the common cause. »
D’Estaing proceeded to the West Indies, where his operations kept busy forces which otherwise would have been employed against the United States, and the British were obliged also to send there 5000 men from New York. Lafayette wrote Washington that the news of the fleet of D’Estaing »occasioned the evacuation of Philadelphia. Its arrival has opened all the harbors, secured all the coasts, obliged the British navy to be together. »
D’Estaing brought with him our friend Gerard, who was the first minister of any foreign power to the United States. France sent him in a manner worthy of a great nation, for he embarked on the Languedoc, D’Estaing’s flagship. Few of those who see in Philadelphia the portrait of Gerard, the first of the long line of distinguished diplomats who have represented France in the United States, know that before he went home Congress requested that his portrait be hung in its halls, so that we might keep reminded of his services to our country. La Luzerne succeeded Gerard in the fall of 1779 and represented France with ability and courtesy for five critical years. With Gerard came Silas Deane, who, though he had made enemies, had served our country so faithfully in France that Franklin wrote the President of Congress : « Having lived intimately with him now fifteen months, the greatest part of the time in the same house, and been a constant witness of his public conduct, I cannot omit giving this testimony, though unasked, in his behalf, that I esteem him a faithful, active and able minister, who, to my knowledge, has done in various ways great and important services to his country. »
September 1, 1779, D’Estaing came a second time, arriving on the coast of Georgia with twenty-two ships of the line and eleven frigates. In October an allied force of about 6000, two-thirds of which were French, attacked Savannah with great gallantry. The city was invested and its fortifications were bombarded by the French fleet. October 9th an assault was made, the outworks were carried and the French and American flags placed on the ramparts, but the allies were finally repulsed with the loss of about 1000, among them the gallant Pulaski. D’Estaing was severely wounded twice. Fifteen French officers and 168 men were killed, 43 officers and 411 men wounded. Though D’Estaing had been prevented from doing all that he wished, he had done his best with the utmost bravery, and there was great harmony between the allies. D’Estaing said, « My duty before all else was to prove to the new allies of his majesty that we were ready to sacrifice everything in order to keep a promise that we had once made. »
On his return to France he rendered great service to America by urging his government to increase its efforts in our behalf. Of D’Estaing Lafayette wrote: « He is a man whose genius and talents and great qualities of heart and mind I admire as much as I love his virtues, his patriotism and his amiability. He has suffered every possible reverse and he has not been able to accomplish what he hoped for; but he is, to my mind, a man made to be intrusted with the interests of a nation like ours. »
Rochambeau was a representative soldier of France, that nation of great soldiers. One of the most experienced officers in the French army, his name attracted distinguished men to serve under him. Like Washington, Rochambeau was personally brave to the point of rashness, grave, reticent, a strict disciplinarian, but beloved by his men. Like Washington, Rochambeau had been made a colonel at twenty-two. He had won successive promotions by his brilliant deeds on the field of battle. In 1780 he had seen thirty-eight years of service and had attained the rank of lieutenant general. He was proud of saying that of the 15,000 soldiers who had fallen gloriously under his command he could not reproach himself for the death of any one. Before Rochambeau departed for America the French government had advanced 8,000,000 francs for the expedition. May 2, 1782, Admiral de Ternay sailed with six ships of the line and five frigates, thirty-two transports and a hospital ship. In order to carry more men Rochambeau was even obliged to leave his beloved warhorses. He was able to take with him only 5500 soldiers. Those who’ were left behind were bitterly disappointed. Rochambeau commanded the elite of the French army, composed of the ancient and distinguished regiments, Bourbonnais, Soissonnais, Saintong and Royal Deux-Ponts. The Bourbonnais regiment was the seventh in age in the French infantry, having been organized in 1595. Two regiments came from places notable in the recent world war, the Soissonnais and the Royal Deux-Ponts, the latter having been recruited in Alsace. The Due de Lauzun, an author and one of the most elegant men of France, commanded a Legion of Foreign Volunteers, consisting of 800 infantry and 400 cavalry, part of whom had to be left in France for lack of transports. The French officers were noted for military experience and nearly all were noblemen. To enumerate them and to tell of their deeds and of their descent would be to rewrite the history of France. I can name merely a few. Next to Rochambeau in rank were the brothers Viomenil, both of whom were major generals, as was also Chevalier de Chastellux, whose literary work afterward won him a place in the French Academy. Berthier’s extraordinary ability in arranging and carrying out military details made him later Napoleon’s chief of staff, and Napoleon created him Prince of Wagram ; Dumas became a general under Napoleon; Montesquieu was the grandson of the author of « L’Esprit des Lois » ; Count de Vauban was a grandson of the great military engineer, and Count de Segur wrote memoirs of the American Revolution and of Napoleon. The colonel of the Bourbonnais was the Marquis de Laval-Montmorency, and Rochambeau’s son, the Vicomte de Rochambeau, was lieutenant colonel.
Lafayette wrote Washington November 13, 1780: « The Marquis de Laval Montmorency, of one of the most illustrious families in France, is on his way to the camp. The Chevalier de Chastellux, a relation and friend of mine, major general in the French army, is also coming. I every day expect my brother-in- law and his friend, Count de Charlus, only son to the ,Marquis de Castries, who enjoys a great consideration in France and has won the battle of Closter Camp. The Duke of Lauzun has also written to me that he would come soon. These five gentlemen may by their eminence at home be considered as the first people in the French army. » The colonel of the Soissannais was the Count de Saint-Maime, and Lafayette’s brother- in-law, Vicomte de Noailles, was lieutenant colonel. He distinguished himself by walking the entire distance from Newport to Yorktown, 756 miles. Comte de
Custine commanded the Saintonge. The brothers Deux-Ponts commanded the Royal Deux-Ponts. There is nothing in the history of our relations with France more impressive than the fact that Rochambeau’s orders were that the French army should be under the command of Washington, « to whom the honors of a marshal of France will be rendered. » No one in Rochambeau’s army had such a rank. It was also ordered that « in case of an equality of rank and of duration of service, the American officer will take command. »
In spite of the British navy, Admiral Temay brought Rochambeau’s force safely over, and they reached Newport July 10th, after a voyage of seventy days. July 12th Rochambeau wrote Washington: « I am arrived full of submission and zeal and of veneration for yourself and for the talents you have shown in sustaining a war that will be forever memorable » Rochambeau wrote the President of Congress: « We are your brothers and we shall act as such with you. We will fight your enemies by your side as if we were one and the same nation. »
Questions of etiquette and precedence were easily settled by two such unselfish men as Washington and Rochambeau, and the only contest between the French and Americans was as to who should first storm the redoubts at Yorktown. Rochambeau states that during his entire stay in America there was not a blow nor a quarrel between any French and American soldier. The gay French officers submitted with perfect propriety to the simple life of the Americans. The companions of Lauzun are described as being tall, vivacious men with handsome faces and noble air. They were splendidly mounted and equipped. When Governor Trumbull at table, where twenty of them were seated, offered a long prayer, they attended with courtesy, and all joined in with the amen. In 1781, at Newport, the French celebrated Washington’s birthday by a parade, a salute and by a general holiday. This is said to have been the first public recognition of the day. French soldiers rendered themselves agreeable not only because of the politeness which characterizes their nation, but also because of the genuine interest which they felt in the American cause. Trees with apples growing on them overhung tents which the French had occupied for three months. The perfectly equipped army of France was proud to be allied with the ragged forces of Washington. The uniforms of the French army were the handsomest ever seen in America. The Deux-Ponts wore white ; the Saintong white faced with green ; the Soissonnais white with rose facings and grenadier hats with white and rose plumes; the Bourbonnais black and red, and the artillery blue trimmed with red. The more ragged the American soldiers the warmer the sympathy of the French. Baron de Closen wrote: « These brave men were painful to see ; almost naked, nothing but pantaloons and slight jacket of linen or cotton, the greater number without stockings; but — could it be believed? — in the best good humor in the world and all hearty in form and face. I am altogether in admiration of these American troops. It is incredible that troops composed of men of all ages, even lads of 15, of black and white, all half naked, can march so well and stand fire with such firmness. » The Abbe Robin thus describes the Americans: « The American troops have as yet no regular uniform. The officers and artillery corps alone are uniformed. Several regiments have small white fringed casaques, the effect of which is sightly enough; their wide, long, linen pantaloons neither incommode them nor interfere with the play of their limbs on the march, yet with a nourishment much less substantial than our own and a temperament much less vigorous, for this reason alone, perhaps, they support fatigue much better than our troops. « These American garments, altho easily soiled, are nevertheless kept extremely clean. Their neatness is particularly observable among the officers. To see them you would suppose that they had a large amount of baggage, but I was surprised to find in their tents, which accommodate three or four persons, not as much as forty pounds’ weight. Hardly any have attresses, a single covering stretched on the knotty bark of trees serving them for bed. » A French officer wrote : « The Americans gain more on my esteem as they are more known. I have met with the greatest integrity, civility and hospitality among them. Their militia have joined us. They are not clothed in any uniform and are in great want of shoes and even of the most common conveniences, which, if a European army was deficient in, a general desertion would follow. But the American troops are furnished with good arms, possess an incredible store of patience and preserve the most perfect sobriety. There are no more hardy soldiers, and the last four years have given incontestible proof of their valour. » Washington wrote Lafayette: « A decisive naval superiority is to be considered as a fundamental principle ». For lack of this naval superiority the French army was forced to remain idle at Newport for eleven months. But though inactive, the French were far from useless, for Washington was ready to attack New York in case Clinton made a demonstration against Rochambeau at Newport, and the concentration of the British ships at Gardener’s Bay, in order to watch the French army and navy at Newport, made it easy for the American privateers to take prizes, and gave freedom to American commerce. When it became certain that a powerful French fleet was about to co-operate with the land forces, the French army removed from Newport and joined Washington near New York, and the combined armies spent July and the first half of August a short distance north of the British lines. At Phillipsburg, twelve miles from Kingsbridge, July 6, 1781, Washington’s orderly book states: « The commander- in-chief with pleasure embraces the earliest possible opportunity of expressing his thanks to his Excellency, the Count de Rochambeau, for the unremitting zeal with which he has prosecuted his march, in order to form the long-wished-for junction between the French and American forces, an event which must afford the highest degree of pleasure to every friend of his country, and from which the happiest consequences are to be expected. »
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Paul Jones wrote Silas Deane of the exchange of salutes for the first time between « freedom’s Flag and that of France, » February 14, 1778, at Quibeon Bay, and he added: « The French squadron is officered by a well-bred set of men, all of whom have visited the Ranger and expressed great satisfaction, calling her ‘un parfait Bijou’; when we visited their ships we were received with every mark of respect and gladness and saluted with a ‘feu de joie’. »
The only time Washington had control of the sea was at Yorktown, and he put an end to the war there. If he had controlled the sea at Boston, he could have ended it five years sooner, but we had no French allies at Boston. France was acknowledged to be the most powerful country in the world on land, and in 1781 was able to dispute the control of the sea with Britain. Washington called the French fleet « the most numerous and powerful that ever appeared in these seas. » The French navy was charged not only with carrying on the war by sea with the greatest naval power in the world, but also with the transportation of troops and supplies. The services which France had to render in taking up our cause include not only the naval and military forces sent to our shores, but also the protection of her own ports and colonies against powerful fleets and operations in Europe, Africa and Asia. On the other hand, when France came into the war, England had to protect her possessions, in the West Indies, Africa and India and on the Mediterranean. If it had not been for Warren Hastings she might have lost India.
It is among the proudest achievements of our nation that we have now proved that we are not unworthy of all that France has done for us. I do not know a man in the United States army who would not have gone over to fight for France, if it had been in his power to get there. Perilous seas divided, but thanks to our efficient navy, a thousand leagues of water could not separate us, and American blood has mingled with French blood to liberate and to consecrate the soil of France. New glory has been added to Old Glory. The red, white and blue of the flags of America and of France have been united in battle and are now united in victory. As France came in our hour of supreme need and exerted the determining influence when our armies had been struggling for years in the American revolution, so America has been privileged to provide in France the determining influence in the world war. Lafayette wrote of the American revolution, « Never had so noble a purpose offered itself to the judgment of men ! This was the last struggle of liberty ; its defeat then would have left it without a refuge and without hope. » These words also exactly describe the situation in France when America entered the World War. As Lafayette counted it the greatest honor of his distinguished life to have served under Washington, so Pershing has been proud to serve under Foch. « Lafayette, we’re here, » is with one exception the most practically eloquent speech that I know. It is comparable to the speech that Washington made in Virginia at the beginning of the revolution. « I will raise a thousand men at my own expense and march at their head to the relief of Boston. » I have now told the wonderful story of what France, our ancient ally, did for us at a time when no one else would help us.
Washington wrote Luzerne March 29, 1783 — « The articles of the general treaty do not appear so favorable to France, in point of territorial acquisitions, as they do to other powers. But the magnanimous and disinterested scale of action, which that great nation has exhibited to the world during this war, and at the conclusion of peace, will insure to the king and nation that reputation, which will be of more consequence to them than every other consideration. » Washington’s farsighted vision has proved correct in this, as in so many other instances. Washington wrote D’Estaing: « The welfare of the French nation cannot but be dear to this country, and that its happiness may in the end be established on the most permanent and liberal foundation is the ardent wish of every true American. »
As long as the children of America have a morsel of bread they should share it with the orphans of France. Our army and our navy have done their part nobly to repay our debt to France. What are the people of America going to do?