Essay, Research Paper
French Impact on the American Revolution Jeremy Black writes in War For America that the Franco-American alliance completely altered the war for Great Britain in the American Revolution. Just as it is written in many historical accounts of the American Revolution, Black points to French intervention as a key factor in the rebels’ victory. American children are taught in grade school that with the victory at Saratoga came an alliance with France that aided substantially in the American war effort. Although this theory has been widely accepted by many historians, others may argue that American victory was inevitable and that France contributed little to the rebels’ cause. Such dissenting views are augmented by difficulty in Franco-American cooperation between generals and the absence of any significant victory until the latter stages of the war. The French did play a significant role in the revolution though. French intervention significantly altered British strategy while giving the American colonies a renewed sense of purpose and confidence in their struggle against Britain. This paper will discuss both sides of the debate and attempt to explain how French intervention allowed the thirteen colonies to break away from England. A number of circumstances existed in the revolutionary struggle that gave the American rebels a distinct advantage over the British. These advantages lead some historians to believe that the American colonies would have successfully broken away from England without the aid of France. During the period between 1775 and 1778, the situation in the American colonies mirrored the United States situation in Vietnam thirty years ago. In both cases, an established world power looked to take control of a developing nation that wanted its independence. For the American colonies in the eighteenth century, the objective of military victory and independence was clear. Victory for the colonists would mean that the colonists could then govern themselves. For England the objective was not as clear though. A colonial surrender could leave England with a disillusioned colony that already had a prior record of subverting English law. The element of fear also played an important role throughout the revolution. The fear of defeat was much greater for the American rebels. If the Americans lost the war, their nation’s future would have been erased. Americans’ property was sure to be affected by the outcome of the war. On the other hand, with the exception of the Bourbons invasion in 1779, the island of England was not threatened throughout the war. Parliament and the English people prayed for victory in order to maintain the economic advantages of trade with the thirteen colonies. The Americans had a tangible sense of urgency and purpose to fight for victory while England fought essentially for the continued economic advantages of trade with America.The need for political achievement exacerbated the problem for England. Any military victory would have to be followed by a political settlement with the rebellious colonies. Without such an agreement, the revolutionary fervor of the colonists would not have subsided easily. England needed both a military victory on foreign turf and a hard fought political agreement while the colonists had only to fight for an English withdrawal.These advantages that the American colonies enjoyed made the task of gaining independence easier. The rebels had a clear-cut objective and were fighting for their homes as well as self-government. England had the more difficult task of maintaining a dominant yet friendly relationship with the colonies. This muddy objective did not allow for widespread support at home in England and interfered with military strategy in the colonies. These advantages did not directly affect the war though. While they gave the colonists the will to fight while their English counterparts questioned what their goals were, they alone did not directly weaken English forces. It was not until February of 1778 that a direct shot was taken at English military strength in the American colonies.
In order to seek revenge for the Seven Years War and to weaken England’s international position of power, France allied with the Americans in their war for independence. France’s decision to form the alliance was due in large part to the Americans’ victory at Saratoga. Despite some early problems between French and American generals, the Franco-American alliance weighed heavily on the war. Not only did it supply the rebels with a much needed confidence boost, but also it weakened England’s position in the colonies.France’s recognition of America as a nation should not be overlooked when trying to decipher France’s impact on the war. Although this act may be viewed as a mere formality of the alliance, it allowed the colonists to believe in themselves. The conflict had reached the international theatre which gave the Americans increased motivation to prove themselves. In addition, England pushed for peace immediately following the Franco-American alliance. They offered radical concessions but refused outright independence. This show of weakness only served to buttress the already expanding colonial confidence.An increased American confidence was not all that the alliance caused though. French entry into the war caused for the possibility of hostilities between France and England in the Caribbean. Without substantial troops, England could have lost a significant portion of it’s colonies to their rivals the French. This situation alone may have been the largest factor in the shift in power to the American colonies. George III actually pondered totally abandoning the colonies and beginning an offensive in the Caribbean and then refocusing on the colonies. Although this idea was not used, it was indicative of England’s changing priorities.This shift in priorities caused for a major restructuring of English strategy in the colonies. Five thousand troops were ordered sent to St. Lucia, the French West Indian Island. This detachment severely weakened the English General Clinton’s forces in the north. Additionally, England chose to focus its fighting on the southern colonies of Georgia and South Carolina rather than New England so that English troops would be closer to the Caribbean should they be needed. This English emphasis on the Caribbean and the south also caused for an English withdrawal out of Philadelphia. The withdrawal showed English weakness and decreased the chances of English military success anywhere in the northern colonies. The English General Clinton became quite disillusioned with British chances of success in the colonies claiming that the detachments to the south severely weakened his army.The entry of France into the Revolutionary War significantly changed England’s military priorities. England shifted importance from ending the American rebellion to maintaining its international power over France. Although some historians claim that the situation was such that English victory was nearly impossible, it was the French intervention that sealed England’s fate. By forcing England to shift troops to the south and the Caribbean, America was able to gain confidence and victories against a weakened English military. Although the English faced a difficult task in the colonies, success still remained possible if all of English might could have been unleashed on America. French intervention did not allow this and thus significantly aided in our independence.