Readings in Modern European History: A Collection of Extracts from the Sources Chosen With the Purpose of Illustrating Some of the Chief Phases of the Development of Europe During the Last Two Hundred Years, Volume 1: The Eighteenth Century: The French Re

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Mémoires du comte de Ségur (ed. Barrière, 1859), I, 68 sqq. World History

112.

How France Became Interested in the American Revolution (From the Mémoires of Ségur)

At this time Liberty, which had been hushed in the civilized world for so many centuries, awoke in another hemisphere and engaged in a glorious struggle against an ancient monarchy which enjoyed the most redoubtable power. England, confident of its strength, had subsidized and dispatched forty thousand men to America to stifle this Liberty in its cradle; but a whole nation which longs for freedom is scarce to be vanquished.

The bravery of these new republicans won esteem in all parts of Europe and enlisted the sympathies of the friends of justice and humanity. The young men especially, who although brought up in the midst of monarchies had by a singular anomaly been nurtured in admiration for the great writers of antiquity and the heroes of Greece and Rome, carried to the point of enthusiasm the interest which the American insurrection inspired in them.

The French government, which desired the weakening of the power of England, was gradually drawn on by this liberal opinion, which showed itself in so energetic a manner. At first it secretly furnished arms, munitions, and money to the Americans, or permitted supplies to reach them by French ships; but it was too weak to venture to declare itself openly in their favor, affecting on the contrary an appearance of strict neutrality and so far blinding itself as to imagine that its secret measures would not be suspected, and that it might ruin its rival without incurring the danger of meeting it in the open field. Such an illusion could not last long, and the English cabinet was too clear-sighted to let us gain the advantages of a war without incurring any of its risks.

The veil became more and more transparent daily. Soon the American envoys, Silas Deane and Arthur Lee, arrived in Paris, and shortly after the famous Benjamin Franklin joined them. It would be difficult to express the enthusiasm and favor with which they were welcomed in France, into the midst of an old monarchy,—these envoys of a people in insurrection against their king. Nothing could be more striking than the contrast between the luxury of our capital, the elegance of our fashions, the magnificence of Versailles, the polished but haughty arrogance of our nobles,—in short all those living signs of the monarchical pride of Louis XIV,—with the almost rustic dress of the envoys, their simple if proud demeanor, their frank, direct speech, their plain, unpowdered hair, and, finally, that flavor of antiquity which seemed to bring suddenly within our walls and into the midst of the soft and servile civilization of the seventeenth century these sage contemporaries of Plato, or republicans of Cato’s or Fabius’s time.

This unexpected sight delighted us the more both because it was novel and because it came at just the period when our literature and philosophy had spread everywhere among us a desire for reform, a leaning toward innovation, and a lively love for liberty. The clash of arms served to excite still more the ardor of war-loving young men, since the deliberate caution of our ministers irritated us, and we were weary of a long peace which had lasted more than ten years. Every one was burning with a desire to repay the affronts of the last war, to fight the English, and to fly to the succor of the Americans. . . .

The young French officers, who breathed nothing but war, hastened to the American envoys, questioned them upon the situation, the resources of Congress, the means of defense, and demanded all the various bits of news which were constantly being received from that great theater where freedom was fighting so valiantly against British tyranny. . . . Silas Deane and Arthur Lee did not disguise the fact that the aid of some well-trained officers would be both agreeable and useful. They even informed us that they were authorized to promise to those who would embrace their cause a rank appropriate to their services.

The American troops already included in their ranks several European volunteers whom the love of glory and independence had attracted. . . . The first three Frenchmen of distinguished rank at court who offered the aid of their service to the Americans were the marquis of Lafayette, the viscount of Noailles, and myself.

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Chicago: "How France Became Interested in the American Revolution (From the Mémoires of Ségur)," Readings in Modern European History: A Collection of Extracts from the Sources Chosen With the Purpose of Illustrating Some of the Chief Phases of the Development of Europe During the Last Two Hundred Years, Volume 1: The Eighteenth Century: The French Re in Readings in Modern European History: A Collection of Extracts from the Sources Chosen With the Purpose of Illustrating Some of the Chief Phases of the Development of Europe During the Last Two Hundred Years, Volume 1: The Eighteenth Century: The French Re, ed. James Harvey Robinson (1863-1936) and Charles A. Beard (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1908), 241–244. Original Sources, accessed July 6, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PZIEVF2PEU6GZLT.

MLA: . "How France Became Interested in the American Revolution (From the Mémoires of Ségur)." Readings in Modern European History: A Collection of Extracts from the Sources Chosen With the Purpose of Illustrating Some of the Chief Phases of the Development of Europe During the Last Two Hundred Years, Volume 1: The Eighteenth Century: The French Re, in Readings in Modern European History: A Collection of Extracts from the Sources Chosen With the Purpose of Illustrating Some of the Chief Phases of the Development of Europe During the Last Two Hundred Years, Volume 1: The Eighteenth Century: The French Re, edited by James Harvey Robinson (1863-1936) and Charles A. Beard, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1908, pp. 241–244. Original Sources. 6 Jul. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PZIEVF2PEU6GZLT.

Harvard: , 'How France Became Interested in the American Revolution (From the Mémoires of Ségur)' in Readings in Modern European History: A Collection of Extracts from the Sources Chosen With the Purpose of Illustrating Some of the Chief Phases of the Development of Europe During the Last Two Hundred Years, Volume 1: The Eighteenth Century: The French Re. cited in 1908, Readings in Modern European History: A Collection of Extracts from the Sources Chosen With the Purpose of Illustrating Some of the Chief Phases of the Development of Europe During the Last Two Hundred Years, Volume 1: The Eighteenth Century: The French Re, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.241–244. Original Sources, retrieved 6 July 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PZIEVF2PEU6GZLT.