The French Connexion

During the second half of the eighteenth century, writes Stuart Andrews, there existed close and important ties between American and French thinkers.

In 1790 the Marquis de Lafayette sent the key of the Bastille to George Washington, and today it still hangs in the hall at Mount Vernon. Lafayette entrusted the task of delivering the key to Tom Paine, who wrote in a covering letter to Washington:

‘The key is the symbol of the first ripe fruits of American principles translated into Europe... That the principles of America opened the Bastille is not to be doubted, and therefore the Key comes to its right place.’

That same year Gouverneur Morris1 was in Paris on a commission to buy porcelain for the President. As he wrote to Washington:

I could have sent you a number of pretty trifles for very little prime cost, but the transportation and the freight would have been more, and you must have had an annual supply... Those now sent are of a noble simplicity... I think it of very great importance to fix the taste of our country properly, and I think your example will go very far in that respect.

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