Who We Should Really Thank for American Independence, by Bill Bonner

Two of tonight’s posts contain history of which you may not be aware. Here, Bill Bonner gives long overdue credit to the French for the ultimate outcome of the Revolutionary War. From Bonner at bonnerandpartners.com:

Editor’s Note: Our offices are closed for July Fourth. So today, we’re sharing a recent essay from Bill about a mostly forgotten detail about America’s war for independence.

While we were in France last summer, a friend – Laurence Chatel de Brancion – gave us a copy of her new book, La Fayette: Rêver la gloire.

Laurence is a historian who has been studying the life and times of Gilbert de Lafayette, upon whom her book – coauthored with Patrick Villiers – is focused.

Every schoolboy in the U.S. knows the basic story of the U.S. revolt against Britain. The Boston Tea Party… Paul Revere and the Minutemen… the Declaration of Independence… Valley Forge…

As for how the war ended, speaking for ourselves, we know the war effectively ended with the Battle of Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781. And we give thanks to the French, whom Ben Franklin had courted for years in Paris, for “coming to our aid.”

The French fleet, under Lafayette’s command, arrived at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, cut off the British from their supply lines, and forced them to surrender. That’s why American troops, landing at Le Havre, France, in 1917, announced: “Lafayette, we are here!”

That is the shorthand version. But history is always written by victors. And it is always full of lies.

It is mythmaking… giving people a narrative that helps them feel as though they have something in common, some reason to salute their heroes of the past, and some reason to listen to presidential debates.

When the war against Iraq was launched by George W. Bush, the French refused to participate. Americans branded the French “cowards.” A joke circulated that the French army knew only two words – surrender and collaborate.

“How many French died in World War I?” asked the patriotic Americans. “Not enough,” came the answer.

The Role of the French

Laurence’s book, however, reminds us that without the French, there would be no United States of America. We see that:

  1. The colonists could not win their war against Britain.
  2. The important contest was between the French and the British; the French won.
  3. Americans themselves were divided; some were in favor of the Revolution, others were not.

To continue reading: Who We Should Really Thank for American Independence


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