PARIS, FRANCE (FEBRUARY 6, 1778) — Following U.S. diplomats Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane and Arthur Lee’s meeting with King Louis XVI in December 1776, King Louis XVI announced today that France would officially join the United States’ war effort against Great Britain.
The French formally acknowledged the United States and their decision to ally with them against the British, and signed what they called The Treaty of Amity and Commerce, which recognized the States as an independent nation. The treaty also encouraged further trade between France and the States.
The Treaty of Amity and Commerce was directly followed by the The Treaty of Alliance, which formed a military alliance against Great Britain with the stipulations that the States would not accept peace with Great Britain that did not include their independence, and that the French would be allowed to conquer the British West Indies.
Before France’s entry into the war, the European nation — for over a year — has been rumored to be providing U.S. soldiers with armaments and supplies.
After many months of deliberation, King Louis XVI — initially a skeptic of the colonies’ fledgling republic — made the decision to ally with U.S forces. Sources close to the king say that his blatant hostility toward the British won out over his skepticism of the military viability of the Continental Army.
The French was also reportedly concerned that the French Navy was insufficient and thusly unprepared to enter a war against the British. As a result, sources say that King Louis XVI was reluctant to put the French economy in further debt.
However, the Battles of Saratoga, fought in 1777, were a turning point in convincing King Louis XVI to join the war effort against Great Britain.
After British Gen. John Burgoyne launched an attack against Gen. Horatio Gates and his American forces in the first battle of Saratoga in September 1777, King Louis was convinced of the States’ ability to stand on its own two feet after British forces were defeated and surrendered in October 1777.
Leading up to the King’s official announcement that the French would back the States’ efforts, French foreign minister Charles Gravier had decided that French forces should enter the war after the city of Philadelphia fell to British control in September 1777.
Gravier’s decision was as a result of fear that the States would not win the war against the British without French intervention.