This book deals with American history, but it is also a guide book for those who like to walk through the streets of Paris and feel that it is exciting to open the same doors, climb the same steps, and touch the same walls that the Founding Fathers did.|
The map in the back of the book indicates the twentythree places described in each of the chapters. There is no obligation to visit the places in a specific order although they have been listed almost chronologically, The two most important sites are the Hotel de Coislin (chapter two) and the Hotel d'York (chapter nine). They justify the title of the book: Paris: Birthplace of the U.S.A. It was at the Hotel de Coislin that France, first of all nations, recognized the independence of the United States in 1778. It was at the Hotel d'York that England recognized the independence of her former colonies in 1783. All the other places will tell you about the people and the events related to this important moment in history.
Obviously, this book is centered on Paris and the French connections with American independence. Readers who already have visited the sites of the War of Independence in their own country will find a complement to their knowledge on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
From time to time, nationalistic historians or disgruntled politicians, both French and American, love to say that if France was involved in the War of Independence, it was to pursue her own self-interest. True, "la raison d'Etat" existed and France was not going to forget where its interest lay. Reading the testimonies of the time, however, would convince anybody of the tremendous emotional support for the American cause that came from every part of French society.
- Many aristocrats volunteered for the war and served with the American forces even before France officially went to war in 1778. La Fayette was one of many...
- The King of France secretly supplied the Insurgents with money from the Royal Treasury to buy weapons and equipment.
- Collections were taken up in the streets of Paris to pay for the flagship of de Grasse's fleet, the "Ville de Paris."
- Ladies at the Court of Versailles collected money to buy a battleship for John Paul Jones.
- French officers fought to get on board ships leaving for America. The future Maréchal Alexandre Berthier was one of them.
- The Insurgents were so popular that they inspired the fashion of the times. Marie-Antoinette wore a hat "ŕ la John Paul Jones." There were coats "ŕ l'Insurgente," and dresses called "Lightning Conductor" to honor Franklin. Hairstyles were "ŕ la Boston, ŕ la Philadelphie." A new coiffure "aux Insurgents" was all the more popular because it was forbidden by law! Everyone liked hats, gloves, and snuff boxes "ŕ la Benjamin Franklin."
- Even the most cynical and critical French writer of the century, Voltaire, became enthusiastic about the American cause. He rooted for Doctor Franklin's armies! And, for once, he wrote praises ...praises for the Americans: