Franco-American Alliance (1778)


~ by James Still ~

Following the American victory at Saratoga, negotiations between French and U.S. Diplomats culminated in the signing of two treaties. The Treaty of Amity and Commerce encouraged trade between France and America. The Treaty of Alliance provided a military alliance against Great Britain. Ratified by Congress on May 4, 1778, these became the first treaties entered into by the U.S. government. The Convention of 1800 dissolved the Franco-American Alliance. Upon learning of the alliance, General Washington ordered a celebration.

“It having pleased the Almighty ruler of the Universe propitiously to defend the Cause of the United American-States and finally by raising us up a powerful Friend among the Princes of the Earth to establish our liberty and Independence upon lasting foundations, it becomes us to set apart a day for gratefully acknowledging the divine Goodness & celebrating the important Event which we owe to his benign Interposition.

The several Brigades are to be assembled for this Purpose at nine o’clock tomorrow morning… At half after ten o’clock a Cannon will be fired, which is to be a signal for the men to be under Arms… At half after eleven a second Cannon [will] be fired as a signal for the march… A third signal will be given upon which there will be discharge of thirteen Cannon; When the thirteen have fired, a running fire of the Infantry will begin on the right of [Gen.] Woodford’s [Brigade] and continue throughout the whole front line…

Upon a signal given, the whole Army will Huzza! “Long Live the King of France” —The Artillery then begins again and fires thirteen rounds, this will be succeeded by a second general discharge of the Musketry in a running fire —Huzza!—“And long live the friendly European Powers”— Then the last discharge of thirteen Pieces of Artillery will be given, followed by a General running fire and Huzza! “To the American States.” George Washington, General Orders, May 5, 1778

James Still (Sep 2018),

“I have mentioned the matter [Franco-American Alliance] to such Officers as I have seen, and I believe no event was ever received with a more heartfelt joy.” George Washington, Letter to Henry Laurens (Congress), May 1, 1778

“His Excellency desires that you will towards Evening send out patrols under vigilant officers… all Night and until 10 O’clock tomorrow. The Reason of this is that the Enemy may think to take Advantage of the celebration of this day. The troops must [may] have more than the common quantity of liquor and perhaps there will be some little drunkenness among them.” Tench Tilghman, Letter to Colonel Daniel Morgan, May 6, 1778

“… should we wander from [the Founding Principles]… let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.” Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801