LaFayette Goes to America

In the spring of 1777, writes Arnold Whitridge, an ardent young French nobleman set sail from Bordeaux to avenge himself against Britain.

By the time the Declaration of Independence was signed, the Boston Tea Party was a thing of the past, Edmund Burke had pleaded in vain for conciliation, and the embattled farmers had ‘fired the shot heard around the world’.

The shot had been heard with particular pleasure by the French Government, not because Louis XVI and his Ministers were passionately imbued with the ideal of liberty, but because the revolt of the English colonies in America opened up a pleasing prospect for the French nation.

A quarrel within the British family, the more virulent the better, would always be welcome. It could do France nothing but good. The Count de Vergennes, the cautious, far-sighted Foreign Minister, wondered whether the difficulties between the colonists and the mother country, if they could be discreetly encouraged, might not eventually lead to the redressing of the balance of power in Europe.

As a result of her brilliant victories in the ‘Seven Years’ War’, culminating in the conquest of Canada, Britain had become far too powerful in the world. It was essential that that power should be reduced. That was the real issue—not the rights or wrongs of colonists.

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