THE FRENCH-AMERICAN ALLIANCE
The Revolutionary War may well be divided into two parts: That antedating 1778, designated the American period; and that subsequent to 1777, which may be called the French-American period. These periods, while entirely distinctive, have one bond to hold them together—Lafayette.
Two of the major events that preceded the actual outbreak of war between England and the thirteen colonies were the "Boston tea party," which occurred on the night of December 16, 1773, and the meeting of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia on the 5th of September, 1774. Then rebellion broke forth when the British soldiers and the Minutemen exchanged shots at Lexington on the 19th of April, 1775. On the 10th of the following month the Second Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia, and on the 17th of June of the same year the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought.
Long before Lexington and Bunker Hill, however, the province of North Carolina had been militantly engaged in opposing the tyrannous conduct of Governor Tryon, through the medium of an association called the "Regulation." The governor was indifferent to the grievances presented to him; he refused to remedy the just causes for complaint, and the spirit of disaffection grew. Its culmination came on the 16th day of May, 1771, when a body of about 2,000 Regulators was defeated in the Battle of the Alamance by a force of regulars and militia, commanded by the governor, but little more than a thousand strong. When the news reached North Carolina that open hostilities had begun at Lexington, the inhabitants of Mecklenberg County promulgated a declaration
THE YORKTOWN MONUMENT
of independence, which antedated by more than a year the declaration made on July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress at Philadelphia.
The second year of the war found the British in possession of New York City, which was occupied following the Battle of Long Island, fought on August 27, 1776. From New York the British moved up the North River and effected a crossing, and then began overrunning the jerseys. By the end of the year they occupied a front with the right resting on the North River and the left at Trenton on the Delaware. In the following year Lord Howe moved the major portion of his army to the head of the Chesapeake and then marched to Philadelphia, the city being occupied by an advance detachment under Cornwallis on the 26th of September, 1777. Later in the year Washington went into winter quarters at Valley Forge.
The year 1777 is notable for the outstanding achievement of American arms at Saratoga, where on the 17th day of October the British Army commanded by Lieut. Gen. John Burgoyne surrendered to Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates. Immediately a copy of the articles of convention was sent to Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee, the American commissioners who had been sent to Paris for the purpose of effecting an alliance between the United States and France. The letter from the Committee of Foreign Affairs, dated the 31st of October, which transmitted the capitulation, said, in part:
We rely on your wisdom and care to make the best and most immediate use of the intelligence, to depress our enemies, and produce essential aid to our cause in Europe * * * we are sensible how essential European aid must be to the final establishment and security of American freedom and Independence.
The news of Burgoyne's surrender reached France by a packet from Boston early in December. It "apparently occasioned as much general joy in France," wrote the commissioners, "as if it had been a victory of their own troops over their own enemies, such is the universal, warm, and sincere good will and attachment to us and our cause in this nation."
The commissioners took this favorable opportunity of pressing the ministry to a conclusion of the proposed treaties, which had so long been under consideration. A meeting was arranged for the 12th of December, at which final accord was reached. As the concurrence of Spain was necessary, a courier was dispatched to Madrid the following day to obtain the agreement of that Government.
On the 6th of February, 1778, three treaties were signed with France. One was a treaty of amity and commerce; another a treaty of alliance, eventual and defensive; and the third an act separate and secret which provided that the other two treaties were to be referred to the King of Spain for approval. In the treaty of alliance it was provided that if war should break out between France and Great Britain, during the continuance of the conflict then existing between the United States and Great Britain, His Majesty and the United States would make—
it a common cause, and aid each other mutually with their good offices, their counsels, and their forces.
The essential and direct purpose of the defensive alliance was—
to maintain effectually the liberty, sovereignty, and independence absolute and unlimited of the said United States, as well in matters of government as of commerce.
The three treaties were unanimously ratified by the Congress of the United States on the 4th day of May, 1778. At the same time it was resolved that the commissioners at the court of France be directed—
to present the grateful acknowledgments of this Congress to his most Christian majesty, for his truly magnanimous conduct respecting these states, in the said generous and disinterested treaties, and to assure his majesty, on the part of this Congress, it is sincerely wished that the friendship so happily commenced between France and these United States may be perpetual.
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