By November 16, 2015 0 Comments Read More →

Let’s Get Personal: France

What would Ben think about the terrorist attack on France?

In 1776, Ben said, It is a common observation here (in Paris) that our cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own”.   He was speaking of the American Revolution, but his words remain meaningful today.

“We must indeed hang together or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Ben’s statement referred to the American revolutionaries, but it could apply to our efforts to unite the civilized world into defeating terrorism.

Ben would emphasize that France as our oldest ally played a very pivotal role the Revolutionary War.  History would also emphasize France’s important role in the Civil War as well.  If not for France’s involvement in these two wars, we probably would be speaking British English, and we  might even be two countries:  the United States of American and the Confederate States of America.

When Ben went to France in 1776 as the representative of revolutionary America, he was the most famous man in the world.  He was a 70-year old rock star. His face appeared on engravings, prints, teacups, etc in the era before t-shirts. He charmed French society, and convinced Louis VXI and Marie Antoinette to support the revolution with men, ships, money, arms and to stand with us against England.  He was the chief negotiator of the Treaty of Paris which ended the war with England without America being obligated to the French for their assistance.

He served as ambassador to France for nine years until 1784, and made many close friends among the scientific and the aristocracy communities. Unfortunately, most of those people went to the guillotine during the French revolution. And, of course, along with Louis XVI and Marie as well.  Ben died before the Reign of Terror in 1793 was in full swing (40,000 people were executed), but, to the end, he believed his friends would be safe and this would all pass.

When Thomas Jefferson arrived Paris to take over the job in 1785, the French foreign minister said, “You replace Dr. Franklin then?”, and Jefferson said, “I succeed; no one can replace him.”

In the Civil War, the South was winning during the first couple of years, and Europe was hedging their bets.  France came close to endorsing the Confederate States; however, when Lincoln freed the slaves in the Confederate states (The Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in those states as there were several slave-holding states fighting on the Union side),  and as France had freed its slaves a few years earlier, France could no longer consider endorsing  the South.  Without French endorsement, the Union victory was greatly facilitated.

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American Cemetery on Normandy Beach

On a personal observation, traveling around Europe, people are almost always  pleasant.  However, the people of Normandy and in the towns such as St. Lo, and Bayeux  don’t hesitate to approach you with stories about the D-Day invasion, and will stop you on the street and say, “Thank you”. History is still strong in those communities.

And Ben would caution us about overreacting, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

In today’s world, a warning comment on how far we should go to feel safe in this techie world.

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About the Author:

I am an observer of our interesting world , sharing my passions and my outrages, and thinking of Incredible Ben, his amazing blending of a social and civic life with superb common sense.

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