The Franco-American Alliance
On February 6, 1778, France and the fledgling United States of America signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance in Paris, France. The Treaty of Amity and Commerce recognized the United States as an independent nation and promoted trade between France and the United States. The Treaty of Alliance created a military alliance against Great Britain, stipulating American independence as a condition of peace. The treaty also required France and the U.S. to concur in any peace agreement.
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.
Treaty of Alliance, Article Three, signed February 6, 1778, in Paris, France.
Secretly aiding the American colonies since 1776, France’s helpfulness was spurred by resentment over the loss of American territory to Britain in the French and Indian War. In 1776, the Continental Congress sent diplomats Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee to secure a formal alliance with France. American victory over the British in the Battle of Saratoga convinced the French that the Americans were committed to independence and worthy partners to a formal alliance. Over the course of the war, France contributed an estimated 12,000 soldiers and 32,000 sailors to the American war effort.
The Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat, arrived in Philadelphia in July 1777 and offered his services to the Continental Army. Serving as a major general in the Continental forces, he quickly forged a life-long friendship with American commander in chief George Washington. Back in America by April 1780, Lafayette returned to the business of war, playing a key role in securing victory over British commander Lord Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown in late July.
- See the entry for the Treaty of Alliance with France in the Library’s Primary Documents in American History webguide series.
- Read correspondence between George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette. Search the George Washington Papers on the term Lafayette to locate letters the friends and comrades exchanged during and after the Revolutionary War.
- Find more material documenting the United States’ early relations with France in Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774 to 1789. To locate additional documents, search the full text of the collection on France.
- Learn more about eighteenth-century France by viewing The Rise and Fall of the Absolute Monarchy, in the online exhibition Creating French Culture: Treasures from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
- Search the Journals of the Continental Congress in A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates 1774-1875 to locate Congressional information concerning the Treaty of Alliance. This collection also includes The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, which contains a large collection of letters sent by the American diplomatic team that negotiated the Treaty of Alliance.
- Find maps from the American Revolution in the Rochambeau Map Collection. This collection consists of cartographic items used by Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau (1725-1807), when he was commander in chief of the French expeditionary army (1780-82) during the American Revolution.
- France in America is a collaborative bilingual digital library conceived in partnership with France’s national library, the Bibliothèque nationale de France. The collection explores the history of the French presence in North America from the first decades of the sixteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century, including French participation in the American War of Independence.