How did the alliance with France help the colonies win the American Revolution?
The Franco-American alliance, concluded in 1778, was a major turning point in the Revolutionary War between the former colonies, which became the United States, and Great Britain. This alliance was instrumental in securing victory and, ultimately, independence for the US. In fact, one of the terms of the alliance was that France would only agree to peace with Great Britain if American independence were recognized. But the alliance contributed to victory in the war in more direct ways, as well. First, the French government loaned enormous sums to the cash-starved US and supplied the Continental Army with weapons and other crucial supplies. Second, France sent over 10,000 soldiers to bolster American forces. This came at a crucial time, as the British army had won success after success before French forces arrived in 1780. Third, the French navy made it more difficult for the British to conduct operations on the American coast. Where the British had been able to rapidly move troops from...
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The American Revolution could not have been won so decisively without the significant naval and tactical aid of France. With the combined leadership of French General Rochambeau and - more famously - Lafayette, ground troop movements and naval assaults eventually drove the British army to Yorktown, Virginia, where Lord Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington on October 19, 1781.
Prior to France's recognition of the United States on February 6, 1778, the war had been going poorly for the Americans. Following a devastating loss in New York City and the British seizure of Philadelphia, the Continental Congress fled to Baltimore, and Washington's army endured the harsh winter of 1777 at Valley Forge.
In France, Benjamin Franklin was met with enthusiasm by the French court. However, King Louis XVI and his advisers were reluctant to enter another full-scale war against their British enemies. While the prospect of avenging their 1763 defeat in the Seven Years' War (aka the French and Indian War) was tempting, the French Navy was continuing its reconstruction and military advisers were concerned about the financial impact.
As a consolation, the French government had covertly supported the American Revolution as early as 1776, when a shipping company was set up to send gunpowder and arms to the United States via the neutral Dutch West Indies. The Continental Congress paid a hefty sum for this aid, but the trade has been credited with helping the Americans win a decisive victory at Saratoga on October 7, 1777.
When news of the Battle of Saratoga reached Franklin in France, King Louis XVI authorized the declaration of war against Britain and signed an alliance with the United States. As a result, the British Navy had to remove ships from American ports in order to engage the French in the Caribbean. Less experienced Loyalist soldiers - American colonists loyal to King George III - were more heavily relied on to aid the struggling British army. Meanwhile, Washington had gained the assistance of Rochambeau and Lafayette.
It could be theorized that the American Revolution could have been won without the aid of France, but the conflict would likely have lasted years longer and at great cost to the United States and Britain. King George III was against letting the American colonies leave the British Empire, but popular opinion of the war was low by 1781. With France's military assistance, the war ended quicker and cleaner for the United States and Britain with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Britain gave the new country a significant amount of territory in the Ohio River Valley and along the Mississippi River, allowing British diplomats to reaffirm Britain's "generosity" to America.
Unfortunately, France's significant aid to the American Revolution created a huge war debt, and their Revolution would come soon after.