Treaty of Alliance with France (1778)
Believing that they would benefit militarily by allying themselves with a powerful nation, the newly formed United States in Feb. 1778 formed an alliance with France against Great Britain. Benjamin Franklin was the chief negotiator. He was popular in Paris and American victory at Saratoga in 1777 convinced France that an alliance could be a military success and humiliate France's arch-enemy by stripping away most of its empire.
According to this first military treaty of the new nation, the U.S. would provide for a defensive alliance to aid France should England attack, and neither France nor the United States would make peace with England until the independence of the United States was recognized.
France, with its powerful navy, did declare war on Britain, and brought the Netherlands and Spain into the war along with their strong navies, while keeping the other major powers neutral. Britain was isolated, outgunned at sea and outnumbered on land.. The French sent an army and navy, which proved decisive at the battle of Yorktown in 1781. Both sides thus honored the treaty, which lapsed when peace was signed at the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
In the 1790s the Jeffersonian Republicans tried and failed to keep the treaty alive, as the U.S. and France fought an informal war in 1798 known as the "Quasi War".
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Text of the Treaty
Treaty of Alliance
The most Christian King and the United States of North America, to wit, New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhodes island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, having this Day concluded a Treaty of amity and Commerce, for the reciprocal advantage of their Subjects and Citizens have thought it necessary to take into consideration the means of strengthening those engagements and of rend'ring them useful to the safety and tranquility of the two parties, particularly in case Great Britain in Resentment of that connection and of the good correspondence which is the object of the said Treaty, should break the Peace with France, either by direct hostilities, or by hind'ring her commerce and navigation, in a manner contrary to the Rights of Nations, and the Peace subsisting between the two Crowns; and his Majesty and the said united States having resolved in that Case to join their Councils and efforts against the Enterprises of their common Enemy, the respective Plenipotentiaries, impower'd to concert the Clauses & conditions proper to fulfil the said Intentions, have, after the most mature Deliberation, concluded and determined on the following Articles.
If War should break out betwan France and Great Britain, during the continuance of the present War betwan the United States and England, his Majesty and the said united States, shall make it a common cause, and aid each other mutually with their good Offices, their Counsels, and their forces, according to the exigence of Conjunctures as becomes good & faithful Allies.
The essential and direct End of the present defensive alliance is to maintain effectually the liberty, Sovereignty, and independence absolute and unlimited of the said united States, as well in Matters of Government as of commerce.
The two contracting Parties shall each on its own Part, and in the manner it may judge most proper, make all the efforts in its Power, against their common Enemy, in order to attain the end proposed.
The contracting Parties agree that in case either of them should form any particular Enterprise in which the concurrence of the other may be desired, the Party whose concurrence is desired shall readily, and with good faith, join to act in concert for that Purpose, as far as circumstances and its own particular Situation will permit; and in that case, they shall regulate by a particular Convention the quantity and kind of Succor to be furnished, and the Time and manner of its being brought into action, as well as the advantages which are to be its Compensation.
If the united States should think fit to attempt the Reduction of the British Power remaining in the Northern Parts of America, or the Islands of Bermudas, those Countries or Islands in case of Success, shall be confederated with or dependent upon the said united States.
The Most Christian King renounces for ever the possession of the Islands of Bermudas as well as of any part of the continent of North America which before the treaty of Paris in 1763. or in virtue of that Treaty, were acknowledged to belong to the Crown of Great Britain, or to the united States heretofore called British Colonies, or which are at this Time or have lately been under the Power of The King and Crown of Great Britain.
If his Most Christian Majesty shall think proper to attack any of the Islands situated in the Gulph of Mexico, or near that Gulph, which are at present under the Power of Great Britain, all the said Isles, in case of success, shall appertain to the Crown of France.
Neither of the two Parties shall conclude either Truce or Peace with Great Britain, without the formal consent of the other first obtain'd; and they mutually engage not to lay down their arms, until the Independence of the United States shall have been formally or tacitly assured by the Treaty or Treaties that shall terminate the War.
The contracting Parties declare, that being resolved to fulfil each on its own Part the clauses and conditions of the present Treaty of alliance, according to its own power and circumstances, there shall be no after claim of compensation on one side or the other whatever may be the event of the War.
The Most Christian King and the United States, agree to invite or admit other Powers who may have received injuries from England to make common cause with them, and to accede to the present alliance, under such conditions as shall be freely agreed to and settled between all the Parties.
The two Parties guarantee mutually from the present time and forever, against all other powers, to wit, the United States to his most Christian Majesty the present Possessions of the Crown of France in America as well as those which it may acquire by the future Treaty of peace: and his most Christian Majesty guarantees on his part to the United States, their liberty, Sovereignty, and Independence absolute, and unlimited, as well in Matters of Government as commerce and also their Possessions, and the additions or conquests that their Confederation may obtain during the war, from any of the Dominions now or heretofore possessed by Great Britain in North America, conformable to the 5th & 6th articles above written, the whole as their Possessions shall be fixed and assured to the said States at the moment of the cessation of their present War with England.
In order to fix more precisely the sense and application of the preceding article, the Contracting Parties declare, that in case of rupture between France and England, the reciprocal Guarantee declared in the said article shall have its full force and effect the moment such War shall break out and if such rupture shall not take place, the mutual obligations of the said guarantee shall not commence, until the moment of the cessation of the present War between the United States and England shall have ascertained the Possessions.
The present Treaty shall be ratified on both sides and the Ratifications shall be exchanged in the space of six months, sooner if possible.
In faith where of the respective Plenipotentiaries, to wit on the part of the most Christian King Conrad Alexander Gerard royal syndic of the City of Strasbourgh & Secretary of his majesty's Council of State and on the part of the United States Benjamin Franklin Deputy to the General Congress from the State of Pennsylvania and President of the Convention of the same state, Silas Deane heretofore Deputy from the State of Connecticut & Arthur Lee Councellor at Law have signed the above Articles both in the French and English Languages declaring Nevertheless, that the present Treaty was originally composed and concluded in the French Language, and they have hereunto affixed their Seals
Done at Paris, this sixth Day of February, one thousand seven hundred and seventy eight.
C. A. GERARD B FRANKLIN SILAS DEANE ARTHUR LEE