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The American Revolution
Revolutionary War: The Turning Point, 1777-1778
The French Alliance, May 4, 1778

On May 4, 1778, the Continental Congress discussed two treaties with the French that had been signed in Paris by American and French officials on February 6, 1778. What are the major provisions of the treaty? What issues do these provisions seem to address? Why do you think the Secret Article of the Treaty was a secret? Compare this treaty with the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, which can be found in the same document. What are the major differences?

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Congress took into consideration the treaties concluded between the king of France and the United States of America, and after some time spent thereon, adjourned to 3 o'Clock.

TREATY OF ALLIANCE, EVENTUAL AND DEFENSIVE

The most christian king, and the United States of North America, to wit, New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode 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 rendering them useful to the safety and tranquillty of the two parties; particularly in case Great Britain, in resentment of that connexion 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 hindering 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 counsels and efforts against the enterprises of their common enemy, the respective plenipotentiaries empowered to concert the clauses and conditions proper to fulfil the said intentions, have, after the most mature deliberation, concluded and determined on the following articles.

Article I. If war should break out between France and Great Britain, during the continuance of the present war between 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 and faithful allies.

Art. II. 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.

Art. III. 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.

Art. IV. 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 succour 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.

Art. V. 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.

Art. VI. 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.

Art. VII. If his most christian majesty shall think proper to attack any of the islands situated in the gulf of Mexico, or near that gulf, 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.

Art. VIII. Neither of the two parties shall conclude either truce or peace with Great Britain, without the formal consent of the other first obtained; 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.

Art. IX. 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.

Art. X. 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.

Art. XI. 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 of 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, conformably to the fifth and sixth articles above written, the whole as their possession shall be affixed and assured to the said states at the moment of the cessation of their present war with England.

Art. XII. In order to fix more precisely the sense and application of the preceding article, the contracting parties declare, that in case of a 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 their possessions.

Art XIII. The present treaty shall be ratified on both sides; and the ratification shall be exchanged in the space of six months or sooner if possible.

In faith whereof the respective plenipotentiaries, to wit, on the part of the most christian king, Conrad Alexander Gérard, royal syndic of the city of Strasburg, and secretary of his majesty's council of state; and on the part of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, deputy of the general Congress from the state of Pennsylvania and president of the convention of the said State, Silas Deane, heretofore deputy from the state of Connecticut, and Arthur Lee, counsellor at law, have signed the above articles, both in the French and English languages; declaring, never-less, that the present treaty was originally composed and concluded in the French language; and they have hereunto affixed their seals.

Done at Paris, this 6th day of February, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight.

C. A. Gerard. [L. S.]

B. Franklin, [L. S.]

Silas Deane, [L. S.]

Arthur Lee, [L. S.]

ACT SEPARATE AND SECRET

The most Christian King declares, in consequence of the intimate union which subsists between him and the King of Spain, that in concluding with the United States of America this Treaty of amity and commerce, and that of eventual and defensive alliance, his Majesty hath intended and intends to reserve expressly, as he reserves by this present separate and secret act, to his said Catholick Majesty, the Power of acceding to the said Treaties, and to participate in their stipulations at such time as he shall judge proper. It being well understood nevertheless, that if any of the stipulations of the said Treaties are not agreeable to the King of Spain, his Catholick Majesty may propose other conditions analagous to the principal aim of the alliance, and conformable to the Rules of equality, reciprocity and friendship.

The Deputies of the United States in the name of their constituents, accept the present Declaration in its full extent; and the Deputy of the said States, who is fully empowered to treat with Spain, promises to sign on the first Requisition of his Catholick Majesty, the act or acts necessary to communicate to him the stipulations of the Treaties above written; And the said Deputy shall endeavour in good faith, the adjustment of the points in which the King of Spain may propose any alteration, conformable to the principles of equality, reciprocity and the most sincere and perfect amity; he the said Deputy not doubting but that the person or persons, empowered by his Catholick Majesty to treat with the United States, will do the same with regard to any Alterations of the same kind that may be thought necessary by the said Plenipotentiary of the United States.

In Faith whereof, the respective Plenipotentiaries have signed the present separate and secret Article, and affixed to the same their Seals.

Done at Paris, this sixth Day of February, one thousand seven hundred and seventy eight.

C. A. Gerard. [L. S.]

B. Franklin, [L. S.]

Silas Deane, [L. S.]

Congress also took into consideration the treaty of Alliance, concluded at Paris on the 6 day of February, 1778, between the most Christian King and the United States of America, and signed by Conrad Alexander Gérard, plenipotentiary on the part of his most Christian Majesty, and Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee, plenipotentiaries on the part of the United States of America, and the same being read, duly weighed and considered,

Resolved, unanimously, That the same be and is hereby ratified.

Congress also took into consideration an "Act separate and secret", concluded at Paris, the 6 day of February, 1778, between his most Christian Majesty and the United States of America, signed as the above, and the same being duly weighed,

Resolved, unanimously, That the same be, and is hereby ratified.

Resolved, That this Congress entertain the highest sense of the magnanimity and wisdom of his most Christian majesty, so strongly exemplified in the treaty of amity and commerce, and the treaty of alliance, entered into on the part of his majesty, with these United States, at Paris, on the 6th day of February last; and the commissioners, or any of them, representing these States at the court of France, are directed to present the grateful acknowledgments of this Congress to his most Christian majesty, for his truly magnanimous conduct respecting these states, in the said generous and disinterested treaties, and to assure his majesty, on the part of this Congress, it is sincerely wished that the friendship so happily commenced between France and these United States may be perpetual.
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View the original document from the Journals of the Continental Congress in A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.