History of Aid from France during the American Revolution 

Summary of French Aid

In 1775, the Continental Congress considered whether or not to declare independence so as to achieve the liberty and opportunity they were denied as British colonies. Such a declaration would be considered a revolt, for which the punishment was hanging, and the chances for military success were very slight, since the American colonies had little money, no arms industry, and only about one-third the population of Great Britain.

A secret committee led by Ben Franklin explored the prospect of getting aid from France, which had three times the population of Great Britain, extensive military and trading resources, and an interest in turning British attention away from North America.

France almost immediately sent armaments and experienced senior officers to aid the United States, and after a year of fighting that showed the commitment and strength of U.S. support for independence France signed a trade and military treaty recognizing the United States as an independent nation and exchanged ambassadors with the United States .

France sent two expeditionary forces to fight in the United States, with dozens of ships and thousands of troops. French forces sustained several thousand deaths and lost of many ships in U.S. waters, and even greater losses in fighting around the globe.

France also gave and loaned to the United States millions of silver livres. Both U.S. merchants and foreign governments valued this "hard cash" much more highly than the United States' paper Continental dollars.

An Excellant Summary of the March

The National Park Service site for the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail has a 14-page historical summary with historic maps. Read the NPS summary

Aid from Other Nations

The British colonists who sought independence understood that achieving it was a task beyond the resources then available in those colonies, so they sent representatives to many nations seeking military, financial, and diplomatic support.

Some of these nations refused any assistance, some fended off the representatives completely, some provided some foreign trade, some made loans that posed less risk of retaliation from Great Britain than they might get if they recognized the independence of the U.S.

Some European nations that we recognize today were not nations in 1775. For example, the area that is now Germany was then a patchwork of city-states and duchies whose trading and political relations were somewhat coordinated by an assembly that met infrequently. This assembly was known as the Holy Roman Empire and was the remnant of a much larger and more tightly-governed empire that collapsed at the start of the Dark Ages. In this website their subjects are generally referred to as Germanic rather than German.

The Amerindian nations have often been forgotten in U.S. history, but in colonial times they were powerful forces that could and did negotiate and do battle with European nations. During the Revolutionary War these nations and the new United States threatened and damaged large areas of each others territory. In the intercontinental struggle for control of the North American continent the support of Amerindian nations was courted by both sides. The Amerindian nations suffered from having considerably less advanced weaponry than the European nations.