french revolutionary war

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June 13th 1777: Marquis de Lafayette arrives in America

On this day in 1777, the nineteen-year-old French aristocrat, Marie-Joseph Paul Roch Yves Gilbert du Motier (Marquis de Lafayette), arrived in South Carolina to aid the American Revolution. Lafayette, from a prominent military family, had been recruited by a representative of Congress the previous year. However, King Louis XVI feared French intervention would provoke British anger, and sought to prevent Lafayette from departing. Determined to reach America, Lafayette set sail, managing to evade capture by British ships. He arrived in South Carolina in June 1777, and travelled to Philadelphia, the seat of Congress. The young Frenchman impressed the initially sceptical Congress with his devotion to the cause of independence, and in July he was commissioned as a major-general. Lafayette served in a number of battles, including the Battle of Monmouth, and became a close friend of General George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. After France formally allied itself with the United States, Lafayette was recalled to Paris to consult the king. He returned to America later that year, and fought at the decisive Battle of Yorktown in 1781, before once again returning to France. Lafayette joined the French army, and advocated political reform, co-authoring the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. However, his military duties meant he had to protect the royal family upon the outbreak of revolution in 1789, and he fled the country in 1792 after radical revolutionaries called for his arrest. Lafayette maintained a low profile during the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte, and later supported a constitutional monarchy. Marquis de Lafayette, the ‘hero of two worlds’, died in May 1834, aged 76, and was buried in Paris under soil from Bunker Hill.

One of the most famous monuments in all of France, the Arc De Triomphe was built to honor the fallen soldiers of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (and not the host of L'Apprentice, Donald Triomphe). It’s an impressive, Roman-inspired architectural marvel with an opening large enough for a suicidal idiot to barnstorm an airplane through.

Beneath the Arc is a WWI tomb for unknown soldiers, whose ghosts probably feel pretty thankful that they weren’t forced to spend eternity underneath another of the proposed designs for the monument: a monstrous, water-spewing circus elephant.

6 Iconic Monuments That Almost Looked Completely Insane

Cool Hamilton Things You Might Not Know

Hamilton: -He was taught at a Jewish private school, learned Hebrew, and defended the religion his whole life! -He might have been bi. His letters sound, and I don’t say this lightly nor impolitely in intention, SUPER gay. Like way past bromance “no homo” gay -He really liked Eliza’s dark eyes - He asked Lauren’s to find a wife for him - He had 2 sons named Phillip Angelica: - She was really good friends with Thomas Jefferson - She corresponded with Jefferson, Lafayette, and Washington - She had a literal town in NY named after her - The plan of the original village was based on Paris, France Lafayette: - Martha Washington named her family’s special gingerbread after him - He named his son Georges Washington after, you guessed it, George Washington - The length of his full name is even longer than the French equivalent of Esteban Julio Ricardo Montoya De la Rosa Ramirez - visited all 24 existing states and had a hero’s welcome - he effing declined the offer to be dictator of France I’m so angry about this! Imagine how different France would be today if he had ruled like wow, someone write an alternate history (aka acceptable, non-kink-shamable fanfic) about this - he was taken prisoner during the French Revolution - at this time, Jefferson proved his friendship and like a BOSS got Congress and Washington to pay Lafayette for his services to America by finding a loophole even though his status as French officer took precedent over his claim for American citizenship. Washington had not originally helped because he wanted to avoid messing with foreign affairs. These funds got he and his wife special privileges while imprisoned - he had tried to escape prison in a plot sponsored by John Church and his wife, ANGELICA EFFING SCHULYER! - he escaped but got lost and was subsequently recaptured - Didn’t support Napoleon and they really disliked each other - at washington’s memorial service in France, Napoleon didn’t invite him, nor did he mention him (talk about a salty bitch, Napoleon, how dare you???!!! Feel free to add stuff. I’m always a slut for Hamilton.

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February 24th 1797: Last Invasion of Britain fails

On this day in 1797, the Battle of Fishguard - otherwise known as the Last Invasion of Britain - was won by the defending British. The invasion, the last to occur on British soil, was led by Revolutionary France and was devised by General Lazare Hoche. The French wished to support the burgeoning republican movement in Ireland and encourage a working class uprising in Britain, and planned to send a main fleet to Ireland, with others as diversions on the British coast. However, ultimately only one of the contingents reached Britain, landing on the Welsh coast on February 22nd 1797. They had intended to reach Bristol, but poor weather forced them to land at Fishguard Bay, Wales. Under Irish-American Colonel William Tate, over one thousand soldiers arrived in Wales and were immediately confronted by local defenses. After hundreds of recently-hired troops deserted - the seasoned soldiers were on campaign with Napoleon Bonaparte - the remaining French forces were faced with around five-hundred British fighters. The small band successfully repelled the French invasion, and Tate was forced to surrender on February 24th. Some of those defending Britain were not even trained in the military, and included many local women posing as soldiers. One famous such woman was forty-seven year old Jemima Nicholas, the wife of a Fishguard cobbler, who personally apprehended twelve French troops. 1797 thus remains the last attempted invasion of the island, when Britain was defended by a ragtag team of Welsh townspeople.

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- Les trois Dumas : Le général de la Révolution Thomas-Alexandre Dumas né esclave en Haïti (la statue original fut fondue pendant la guerre), son fils Alexandre Dumas auteur des Trois Mousquetaires, et le petit-fils Alexandre Dumas fils auteur de La Dame aux Camélias.

- The three Dumas: the General of the French Revolutionary wars Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, born into slavery in Haiti (the original statue was melt down during the nazi occupation), his son the Three Musketeers author Alexandre Dumas, and the grandchild La Dame aux Camélias author Alexandre Dumas fils.

I have always loved liberty with the enthusiasm which actuates the religious man with the passion of a lover, and with the conviction of a geometrician.
[…]
Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights.
—  Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette
Let Me Tell You A Story....

In 1792, France declared war against Austria, beginning the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1793, the Committee of Public Safety, gained dictatorial control over France during the Reign of Terror. During the Reign of Terror, 16,594 were executed by guillotine (2,639 in Paris alone).

After 1792, the United States saw a massive influx of French refugees, most of course fleeing from the violence and turmoil of the French Revolution. Cargo vessels were used to transport thousands of French refugees, as food and jobs were scarce in France at this time, unless you wanted to serve in the army in Austria. Even then, there was a unnamed “list” of names of those to be sent to the guillotine, and only by luck or by rumor were you warned to flee the country.

All walks of society arrived, in Philadelphia, Boston, Charleston and of course New Orleans. Members of the royal court, noble men and  women reduced to the clothing on their backs, as well as the lowliest craftman who fled the country in hopes of finding work in America to feed his starving family.

At first Americans welcomed the French refugees. Thousands settled in the Ohio country, Philadelphia, Tidewater Virginia, and in the Louisiana countryside. After all, they had been our allies during the American Revolutionary War, and with them the French brought new food, new crafts, new fashions, and the Americans wanted to appear as cultured and worldy as possible.

Then the fear came. 

As the war in Europe raged on, the American became suspicious of the French…

These French people are too radical. We had our revolution, but we didn’t cut anyone’s head off right? Napoleon is gaining power… What if the French try to overrun us?! Just the other day I saw a French man in the street shouting to the crowd about liberty and equality! What if they try to overthrow our new government and make us French?!

Then the borders closed.

Then came the Naturalization Act.

“That no alien shall be admitted to become a citizen of the United States, or of any state, unless… he shall have declared his intention to become a citizen of the United States, five years, at least, before his admission, and shall, at the time of his application to be admitted, declare and prove… fourteen years residence within the United States, and five years in the state, &c. where he applies…”

Then came the Alien and Sedition Acts.

“ In case of war, or actual threatened invasion, the President shall make a proclamation. That whenever there shall be a declared war between the United States and any foreign nation or government, or any invasion or predatory incursion shall be perpetrated, attempted, or threatened against the territory of the United States.. all natives, citizens, denizens, or subjects of the hostile nation or government, being males of the age of fourteen years and upwards, who shall be within the United States, and not actually naturalized, shall be liable to be apprehended, restrained, secured and removed, as alien enemies.”

So what happens when you flee war and starvation in your own country, only to have the country you fled to turn around and accuse you of being enemies of the state, terrorists if you will, just because…you are French? 

Many in society today will brag that their families are descended from French nobility, especially in the South, not knowing that the very person their pride is built on was a foreign refugee.

Let that sink in.

At the start of the French Revolutionary War in 1793, seamen serving in the Royal Navy hadn’t had a pay rise for a little over a century. Their complaints were ignored, and in April of 1797 the frustration and resentment resulted in mutinies at Spithead and the Nore. Although the mutinies were quelled, the Admiralty saw reason, pay was increased, and conditions were improved. From late 1797 on, ‘seamen’ were given a monthly wage of around £1 15s a month (the equivalent of a farm labourer’s wages), while 'landsmen’ earned around £1 (20s).


Clearly these wages were minimal, so most sailors hoped to augment their income through prize money–the bounty issued on capturing an enemy ship. This was a major spur for seamen, and encouraged ferocity in boarding actions or when manning the gun deck. The value of a prize was decided by the Admiralty prize court, and the total was usually equivalent to the value of the ship and its cargo if a merchantman, or a ship and its armament if a warship.

—  “Pay and Prize Money in the Age of Fighting Sail” from Angus Konstam’s Naval Miscellany.

“An intimate and friend of world leaders over seventy years of earth-shaking social, political, and economic change, Lafayette led three revolutions that changed the course of world history and became the world’s foremost champion of individual liberty, abolition, religious tolerance, gender equality, universal suffrage, and free trade. He was arguably the wealthiest aristocrat in France, with close ties to the king, the royal family, and the entire court; his wife’s family was equally wealthy and well-placed. He and his family danced at Marie-Antoinette’s balls, hunted with the king, and glutted themselves at palace banquets in Versailles. Lafayette turned his back on it all—indeed, fled, from incomparable luxury—to wade through South Carolina swamps, freeze at Valley Forge, and ride through the stifling southern heat of Virginia—as an unpaid volunteer, fighting and bleeding for liberty, in a land not his own, for a people not his own. Even the most selfless Founding Fathers in America had some personal interest at stake. George Washington also refused compensation for his military service, but admitted that his initial motive for battling the British was his distaste for taxes: ‘They have no right to put their hands in my pockets,’ Washington complained.

Lafayette had no such motives when he came to America in 1777. Only nineteen, he all but immediately proved himself a brave, brilliant soldier and field commander, admired and adored by his troops and fellow commanders. And when the American Revolution seemed lost, he sailed back to France to win the most stunning and paradoxical diplomatic victory in world history—coaxing Europe’s oldest, most despotic monarchy into making common cause with rebels to overthrow a fellow monarch. Returning with a huge French armada and thousands of French troops, Lafayette helped lead a brilliant military campaign in Virginia that climaxed with Britain’s defeat at Yorktown and earned him world acclaim as ‘the Conqueror of Cornwallis.’”

From Lafayette by Harlow Giles Unger

In August 1792 grave events were unfolding across the Channel.

Would the Prime Minister here convene an emergency Cabinet to discuss the government’s response? Perhaps even recall Parliament?

Nuh-uh.

Funny how politicians so often seem reluctant to let international crises interfere with their holiday plans. (Paragraphs taken from The Times, Thursday August 16th 1792.)

I suppose the British government’s position during this time could best be described as determinedly neutral. A couple of quotes from Home Secretary Henry Dundas a few weeks later sum it up well.

On the British government’s policies:

The foreign consists of a decided Neutrality and the domestick in watching all disaffection and making the most of our Prosperous Situation.

On the war against revolutionary France, in which Britain was not yet involved:

It is impossible for me to say more than in general to express the hopes of His Majesty that the result of the present interference of the powers of Germany may be the re-establishment of such a government in France as would, on the one hand, protect other powers from a renewal of that spirit of restlessness and intrigue which has so often been fatal to the tranquillity of Europe; and, on the other, secure to the Executive Government such a degree of energy and vigour as might enable it to extirpate those seeds of anarchy and misrule which had, so peculiarly of late, characterised the whole transactions of that distracted country.

Note that there’s nothing here about looking for the restoration of the monarchy. Pitt and his closest colleagues felt that the French people had a right to choose their own form of government, and they had no ideological objection to a French republic, if it could be made to work. What they did object to though was “anarchy and misrule”. Since at this point Britain was not at war with France, Pitt was probably just hoping for the establishment (or imposition) of any kind of stable, legitimate government that he could officially recognise and do business with.