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When the United States Spoke French—The Role of France in the American Revolution and its Aftermath


Welcome Remarks
When the United States Spoke French—The Role of France in the American Revolution and its Aftermath
Thursday, April 20, at 7 p.m.
McGowan Theater, Archives I

Good evening, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us for our look at “Brothers at Arms: When the United States Spoke French—The Role of France in the American Revolution and its Aftermath.” Whether you are here in the McGowan Theater or watching on YouTube, thank you for joining us tonight.

We present this program in partnership with the French American Cultural Foundation and the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati, and we thank them for their support.

After the panel discussion, please stop in the lobby, where our two authors will be signing their books.  Before we get started, I’d like to tell you about two programs coming up soon in this theater.

Tomorrow at noon, we welcome David Nichols, the author of Ike and McCarthy: Dwight Eisenhower’s Secret Campaign against Joseph McCarthy. Using documents that had been previously unavailable or overlooked, Nichols chronicles President Eisenhower’s involvement in the downfall of Senator Senator McCarthy.

And on Tuesday, April 25, also at noon, Elizabeth Cobbs will tell us about women sent to France during World War I to be switchboard operators. Her new book is The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events in print or online at Archives.gov. There are copies in the lobby—along with a sign-up sheet so you can receive it by regular mail or email. You’ll also find brochures about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

Americans advocating separation from Great Britain knew they had to have the backing of a major European power—and not just moral support but material, in the form of money, supplies, and men.

England’s ancient rivals, France and Spain, were the logical places to turn. From the earliest days of the war, Benjamin Franklin and other American envoys lobbied the courts of France and Spain. In the National Archives, we have the Papers of the Continental Congress, which contain the long-running correspondence between Congress and its envoys abroad. The American diplomats’ efforts were rewarded with the 1778 Treaty of Alliance and a Treaty of Amity and Commerce with France and the entry of Spain into the war in 1779.

Arms and supplies from the Spanish governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez, aided the American cause, and at the end the war, the French army and navy made the Yorktown victory possible.

The stories of our nation’s early days cannot be told without reference to the records held here in the National Archives. Diplomatic correspondence, treaties, military commissions, and more document the international side of the American Revolution.

The two authors we have with us tonight will enlighten us about roles France and Spain played in our country’s formative years.   Let’s hear from our panel now.  

To lead the discussion tonight, we are happy to have Rosemarie Zagarri, a professor of history at George Mason University, and the author of Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic.

…Larrie D. Ferreiro, the author of Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It, teaches history and engineering at George Mason University.

….And François Furstenberg, the author of When the United States Spoke French, is professor of history at Johns Hopkins University.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Rosemarie Zagarri, Larrie Ferreiro, and François Furstenberg.