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tv   Larrie Ferreiro Discusses Brothers at Arms  CSPAN  February 20, 2017 8:30am-9:54am EST

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>> host: gordon smith and amir nasr is with morning consult. thank you, gentlemen. >> guest: thank you. >> thank you. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. [inaudible conversations] >> good evening. can everybody hear me okay? good. well, my name is elizabeth willkie is smithsonian associates, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to this evening's program. first, let me take a moment and ask you to please silence or
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turn any cell phones or other electronics you may have with you. we have some nice, wright lights this evening because our friends at c-span are fill be ming tonight's program, so i can when we go to the q&a portion of the event, instead of raising your hand and asking and a question, that we make a line in the front because of the filming from c-span. be. >> he teaches history and engineering at george mason university here in virginia.
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and at the stevens institute of technology in new jersey. he served for over 35 years in the u.s. navy, u.s. coast guard and department of defense and was an exchange engineer in the french navy. larrie is the author of three books, the birth of naval architecture in the scientific revolution, measure of the earth, enlightenment expedition that we shape our world, and is known book "brothers at arms: american independence and the men of france and spain who saved it." so following his talk this evening if you didn't already pick up a copy of his book they are available in the concourse and larrie will be signing copies. so i again thank you very much for joining us tonight and i'd like to welcome larrie to the stage. thank you. [applause] >> thank you, elizabeth. good evening. by early 1776 america was citing britain in the war for
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independence but without a navy, artillery or even gunpowder. only france and spain who were the historical enemies of britain about the motive and the naval and military strength to defeat the british. we needed their alliance. but they would only do so if america was seen not as fighting a civil war but rather as fighting a war as an independent nation. as john adams pointed out, foreign powers could not be expected to acknowledge us until we had acknowledged ourselves as an independent nation. and thomas jefferson said the declaration of independence alone would allow european powers to treat wit with the sps of the declaration of independence was, in fact, an engraved invitation asking friends and spain to fight alongside us. that's why i say it was not just the declaration of independence,
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it was also a declaration that we depend on france and spain, too. now, the americans knew that france and spain wanted a rematch with great britain. they had come out very badly in the seven years war which it ended in 1763 with britain ascendant and france losing canada, and spain losing florida. france and spain were already closely aligned by both famous and military ties. it was called the bourbon, compact bourbon family alliance. and both nations wanted revenge against britain. but i had different goals. france wanted to regain its position at the center of the balance of power in europe. spain wanted to regain gibraltar and drive the british from the gulf of mexico.
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and both nations had predicted that the american revolution would happen long before the americans themselves knew that it would. in 1767, the french foreign minister said only the future of american revolution will consign england to a state of weakness. and so they knew that this revolt of the american colonies that were certain to happen in the future would weaken britain. and so they would send spies and observers like the baron to see when that would happen. but it wouldn't take place for another eight years. when the fighting began in 1775 the british army was supplied by gun factories which would turn out hundreds of thousands of arms per year. a few american gunsmiths that they were to produce perhaps one gun per month. so we needed arms from france
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and spain. france and spain first provided those arms using as their means of conveyance merchants like diego and pierre beaumarchais as fronts to disguise their source from britain and not reveal that these aren't actually came from the french and spanish governments, but the british were not fooled. in the end, over 90% of all the arms and the equivalent of $30 billion in aid would come from overseas. now, beaumarchais worked with silas deane who was at the time the american envoy in paris to negotiate a contract for these arms even before the news of the declaration of independence had reached france. and five beaumarchais ships carried those arms across the atlantic in 1776 and 1777, and
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they arrived just in time to furnish the american troops who were preparing to meet diego de gardoqui at saratoga. and it was the french arms that turned the tide of the campaign. and less these beaumarchais arms had been timely furnish to the americans, start was at the battle and knew what he was talking about, it would invade and easy march to albany. so it was these arms from overseas they gave the americans the first major victory against the british. meanwhile, most of the french and european volunteers who came to the united states did so to fight the longtime enemies, the british. but along the way they also made the american cause their own.
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and washington came to depend upon these immigrants who got the job done as the hamilton musical aptly puts it. duportail became washington's chief engineer and gave needed strategic advice. the baron was washington's man to create the training plan and regime that would turn the band of militia into a professional continental army, a fighting force to be reckoned with. and lafayette demanded troops in the southern theater. he kept cornwallis from coming north and eventually he followed him to yorktown. now the battle of brandywine in 1777 was washington's attempts to prevent the british from occupying philadelphia.
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and it was the trial by fire of these french and european volunteers who had been so mistrusted as you can see nathanael greene pro from up there so many spies in our camp, is how he regarded them, just before the battle of brandywine. but the battle changed all that. the polish officer polaski led a calvary charge that say to the continental troops in retreat. an engineer was commended for particular bravery and, in fact, today the army corps of engineers now has the flurry metal for courage and boldness. and lafayette was wounded in the battle leading and infantr charge. washington commanded his doctor to treat him as if he were my own son. and after that battle, his initial mistrust turned first to acceptance and then to alliance.
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and green would have called these men so may spies in our camps just a few weeks earlier actually came to rely on both von steuben and lafayette during the southern campaign. now, back in for site and help all of you were watching the series, the french foreign minister was the most important character in this whole story. he made almost all of the key decisions that concerned this alliance. his primary goal as i had mentioned earlier was to have the war of american independence sufficiently weak in britain so the european balance of power was tilted back in france's favor. so he had already decided to ally with the americans, even before the battle of saratoga. on the grounds that without france the americans would
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certainly lose the war, and that a reunited british empire on the north american continent would threaten the french sugar colonies in the caribbean and that was too great a risk. so the american victory at saratoga was simply the pretext that he needed to form that alliance with the americans. so the treaty was signed in early 1778 which effectively brought france into the war against britain and it brought the french navy to the american shores. that forced the british troops to evacuate philadelphia and consolidate in new york city. now, at this time spain was aligned with the france but they not risk going to war in early 1778. 1778. and the reason was that they still have a treasure fleet at sea, which was carrying 50 billion, equivalent in silver
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from peru, and until that treasure was safely home in spain they could not risk having it attacked by the british. when that fleet finally arrived safely in spain, late in 1778, spain was now free to go to war with britain. the spanish foreign minister had established the spanish goals of the war, recover gibraltar and drive the british from the gulf of mexico. now, spain offered to mediate between france and britain after the treaty of 1778, and also offered not to enter the war if britain would hand over gibraltar. but britain refused. now in one of his usual tirades, he called gibraltar is pile of rocks, but for the british this was a strategic asset and they
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would not give it up, and so france went to war against britain on the side of france. it is no exaggeration to say that britain sacrificed america for gibraltar, this pile of rocks. spain was not actually allied with the americans during this war, but they did agree that the terms of the peace could only happen with britain's recognition of the sovereignty of the united states. the entry of spain into the war alongside france fundamentally changed the nature of the war, from a regional clash in north america to a global conflict. the british navy and the british army were now spread ever thinner around the world. the combined navies of france and spain numbered 124 ships
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aligned against britain's 95 95 ships, and they were overwhelm overwhelmed. so instead of only attacking the americans in america, britain now had to shield england from the threat of invasion by france and spain. they had to defend against the siege of the gibraltar, and they had to protect their own colonies, their sugar colonies in the caribbean and their colonies in india. this all happened in 1779-1780 as the war and america was coming to its lowest point. you can see by alexander hamiltons despond and comment, if we are saved, france and spain must save us. that reflected the fact that the americans understood now that winning the war against britain rested with france and spain.
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after spain declared war in 1779, the french and spanish navies formed an immense fleet of 150 ships, 30,000 troops, to invade britain. this was larger even than the feigned armada of 1588. the plant invasion of britain would capture portsmouth and southampton. it would wreak havoc on the economy, and it would potentially bring britain to the peace table. but it was sidelined by a massive dysentery outbreak which laid low 8000 men and in which the french admirals son was lost. the spanish admiral was unable to carry out this mission, and the entire invasion scheme simply fizzled out.
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now, as a side note the french navy had assigned a little-known american captain, john paul jones, too great a diversion for britain by cruising around the british empire with a small squadron led by his ship. no british admiral was foolish enough to chase after john paul jones, and his diversion was largely ignored, certainly played no part in the invasion scheme, but his victory over the much larger british break it made the headlines in the american newspapers as a david versus goliath conflict that stood in for the much larger america versus britain war. it was a sorely needed shot in the arm. back in new orleans, the government a spanish louisiana,
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he supplied the american troops in western theater, that's up the mississippi and today's pittsburgh with arms and munitions. but when war was finally declared by spain against britain in 1779, he leapt into action and i he launched a seris of attacks that captured the british post at mobile, natchez, and baton rouge. then after a series of setbacks due to hurricanes, in 1780 when he commanded a joint spanish french force that captured pensacola, which was the british capital of west florida. britain was effectively now out of west florida, and with spain now rolling the gulf of mexico, and with britain no longer a threat, the french naval commander who had just arrived on scene asked the spanish navy to protect the french sugar colonies while he took his entire convoy, his entire fleet
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up to the chesapeake. now, washington learn that they were heading to the chesapeake, so they raced south from new york to medium and encircle cornwallis at yorktown. it was a fighting admiral who was beloved by his failures, who said of him, he stands six-foot four, and six-foot five updates of battle. and yes, since you asked, he was an ancestor of the rockstar astrophysicist neil degrasse tyson. when he met george washington who was shorter than the grass by two inches, he embraced him and explained -- is fleet was landing troops around yorktown. when a bridge fleet under thomas
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greaves appeared, he quickly moved his fleet from chesapeake bay, prevent him from resupplying or from if i could cornwallis and that sealed the fate of the british at yorktown. the story of yorktown is very well known. after they led the troops on a quick march of new york to yorktown, they surrounded cornwallis. this siege began on october 9, 1781. 1781. the guns blasted away for five days while the seizure lines advanced. it was french officers who directed the siege, french officers who directed the placement of the trenches, french officers who directed the gunfire. the french also suffered twice the casualties of the americans during the battle. once the french and american troops had captured british
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readouts nine and 10, the situation for cornwallis had become untenable. and so when brigadier general charles o'hara who was cornwallis is second in command came out to offer the surrender, which is the scene in the painting, o'hara considered the victory to be a french one, and he offered the surrender. he understood this was a french victory but he also understood that the moment belonged to george washington. so without a word he gestured o'hara to washington. and washington intern gestured him to his own second-in-command, benjamin lincoln would then accepted the surrender. now, after yorktown there were no more major american battles, but that did not mean the fighting stopped. in fact, the fighting was
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continuing around the world between britain, the burma alliance and other nations. in fact, by the time of yorktown, written was fighting five separate nation-states. it was simply overwhelmed. for example, the battle at gibraltar absorbed over 60,000 spanish troops in a four-year siege that ultimately failed, and yes, that is a mushroom cloud over the rock of gibraltar. the fighting was that fierce. the dutch republic was drawn into the war for a lot of supplies to go into france, and the battles in the north sea were equally fierce. france had allied with the kingdom in india to drive the british east india company from the subcontinent, but this failed. and, in fact, the last major battle of the war which was the battle of, in india, equally fierce, happened six months after the preliminary peace
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treaties had been side. -- signed. this ended eight years of war and during that time over 200,000 french and spanish troops and sailors fought in the war, an estimated 250,000-380,000 americans. they were as invested in the war as we were. and the americans could have never won the war without france, and france would have never fought the war without spain. so what i hope all of you take away from this is the following. the united states did not achieve independence by itself. it was, in fact, born as the centerpiece of an international coalition which together worked to defeat a common adversary, and it is, in fact, america's role as the centerpiece of international efforts for common
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good that continues even today to define the united states as the indispensable nation. thank you. [applause] >> and as elizabeth had said, there is a microphone here in the front, and i'm very happy to take questions. >> thank you so much. i have two quick questions. never one, related to france. can you say something about the debt france might've gone into and also maybe spain, the debt they would've incurred to up and to fight this? number one. and number two, where's rashi and all of this and catherine the great? i'm just curious. i have no idea. i do remember reading that she was not a fan of georgia the third, but if you have any
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comments or come any comment about catherine's role and water views are. >> i do discuss both the my book. the first question was about the debt of france after the war. the short answer was that it was in debt but it'd seem that level of debt before and it was not crushing in the way it is sometimes portrayed. just to give you some background, after the seven years war all the countries, britain, france were heavily in debt, but through very strict financial measures france was able to repay that debt, as was britain. so the actually both entered the war of american independence relatively free of debt. it accumulate again for both nations but france had abandoned strict financial policies, allowed a number of less than savory ways of collecting money to creep back in, and they also
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were not able to get the kind of loan rates that britain was able to get because it had a centralized bank. so at the end of the war of american independence, both nations as a percentage of the gross domestic product were approximately equally in debt. but britain had better terms. they could pay it down quicker. france could not pay it down, and the, the accumulated debt on top of that. so the point is that when the french revolution, which was to a large part a result of francisco crisis erupted, yes, the reagan revolution was one cause but it was not the catalyst. it was not the primary cause. it had simply abandoned good fiscal policy. so that's the first one. catherine the great was a wonderful hidden player in all of this. european politics didn't stop while the american war was going on. and at the center of the
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juggling of european politics was russia, because they were threatening france's allies, the ottoman empire. in fact they recently had invaded crimea -- sound familiar? and also it was a siege, i'm sorry, a petition of poland. catherine the great was making noises about helping britain, and britain was certainly trying to attract russia's help by offering them minorca as a prize which catherine wisely refused. she was also very concerned about britain's continued -- neutral shipping. many nations were helping france, the dutch republic was subbing them, for example, so she offer something else known as the league of arms neutrality which was supposed to be a fleet of about a dozen chips that would patrol the oceans and stop britain from attacking neutral ships. so that was the intent.
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unfortunately, it ended up bringing the dutch republic into the war because the dutch republic thought they were be protected by russia. britain declared war on the dutch republic and he was quite devastating for them. so russia never officially got into the war, but they were always behind the scenes in everybody's calculations. does that help? >> yes thank you. >> okay. >> internationalism is central to the birth of our independence. why is american isolationism such a persistent, and if i dare say, recurring phenomenon? >> well, i've actually thought about this question. and i have to say that unfortunately this question is not for me. this question, since the beginning, as i said, we really have been a nation that has depended on its alliances and on
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its immigrants. that's who we are as a nation. the question i think is more for the administration. historically, we've actually, despite our protests sporadically from time to time about isolationism, about closing the gates and barring the door, we generally have been quite open. that's who we are as a people. i think the real question that you should all be asking is, if that's who we are as a nation, as a people, how does the administration, the congress, the government live up to that, lit up to our core set of beliefs, but not just beliefs, but actions, over the past 200 years? that is i think the question you need to ask more so.
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>> wish you could set me straight on something. straistraighten out some readinr me if you would. twice now i have read that washington was captivated by new york. a lot of the action in new york. it was beaumarchais who wanted to move the troops down to your down. washington wanted the fleet to come up to new york. now recently i've seen a new book saying no, washington wanted it, too. he was just doing it in secret. whose idea was it? what was the role of beaumarchais? in fact i've even read beaumarchais sent a secret note to degrasse saying, and up to your account. >> i discussed this extensively in the book. the answer is beaumarchais made the decision with the full knowledge by washington that he had done so. to washington's disappointment, washington was too good a strategist to reject what he was
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doing. he wasn't the issue. yes, washington didn't want to get new york back, and i mentioned duportail. he knew what it meant to lay siege to a city because that's what the french did for a living during the seven years war, and wars for 100 years before that. so he understood the logistics that would be required to lay siege to an overwhelming force inside, and the fact that they would also need a solid naval presence to be able to carry out that feat. so you really needed both. ..
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by offloading their guns. they couldn't let it affect a naval siege. so it requires more troops than either washington or rochambeau had. archambeau and across both understood it was a strategic opportunity and the chesapeake that it just afforded themselves. rochambeau wrote letters to the grosse. in fact, it was a sister ship, the replica that was here a few years ago. some of the latest enable architecture. great ships and rochambeau said in its letter it sent to you,
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but your best opportunity is going to be in the chesapeake. and by the way, they had sent pilot on the ship for any potential call. it could have been chesapeake, could've been delaware, could've been meager, could've been boston. they sent pilots for all of those locations. when the grosse read the letter, again he was a very skilled who fight alongside the army, and saw the writing, solid rochambeau was saying. all, to the chesapeake. a two day sale from the chesapeake to new york. that's where you got to meet me. at that point, they were around new york city. they had to do a quick march and put attention away from where they were marching at the same
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time. that to me in every historian is that these this is the most amazing thing. the two together managed to draw two separately and three armies into one place within a very narrow window. they would only be up for a few during the hurricane season. somehow they managed to pull it off. that's a longer story, but the direct answer to the question is rochambeau really did make the decision, but he kept washington fully informed. they were equal partners. they both knew the measure of each other. they were both experienced, sober warriors and they fully respect each other's opinion and they worked side-by-side. >> thank you >> which is one reason why the book was turned "brothers at
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arms" because there's a wonderful letter from washington to rochambeau as rochambeau was departing the country referring to him. >> there are stories or opinions that america was a bit discomforted by the deals in spain and france were getting out of britain while the peace of paris has been written. america was not aware they had their own agendas. >> what happened was as the piece was being negotiated, the minister who i mentioned and franklin worked very well together. franklin was an extremely capable ambassador. but it is important to understand that franklin understood the role of ambassador as being someone who gave information, who helped to
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convey a position, who would never want to impose his view on a sovereign nation. no ambassador today with your gut. unfortunately, while they were negotiating, they understood they have to negotiate someone separate peace between britain and the united states. the other one between britain and france which also acted on behalf of spain. but they agreed as long as we are conducting these side-by-side, as long as neither side makes a commitment before letting the other one know, we are keeping to the terms treaty. that is going along very well. might've been gall stones. might have been kidney stones. he took over for a little while. he was a character who saw peace
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negotiations which had approval going on and threatened almost to pull out of the negotiations, almost matching defeat from the jaws of the area. franklin recovered in the peace process was continued. now what actually happened was that due to the pressure from when faced on the rest of the other people in his group, jay and so on, he had to agree to a premature settlement with britain prior to france having finalized the negotiation with written. what happened was that spain lost her broker. affect really when the american treaty that and possibly except
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they would lose america. gibraltar was unsupportive and so the negotiators, the british negotiators back out of the deal at the last minute. lucky not the own recognizance and accepted minorca and florida as repayment for gibraltar. and with serious, but a this point he was smart enough to understand that this was the best deal they were going to get. that is why today gibraltar is one of the vortices around which which -- it is still in british hands.
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to lay to rest the idea that france was. it was not by any means they worked very well side-by-side. whoever asked the question, i hope that answered it. [inaudible] >> you're welcome. >> yes, sir, in your introduction, you suggest -- as a matter of fact he did not just, you say that thomas jefferson included the phrase that we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor. as a direct plea for the french and the spanish to support the revolutionary war. >> i would take exception to that. i would say that is not true and
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thomas jefferson and the other 55 men only wrote the declaration of independence after the american army had achieve certain successes and 75. and in your introduction, you give no evidence whatsoever that was a direct inclusion by mr. jefferson as a plea for either of the continental powers to join the revolution. suicide may read the quote from a hook, during the end of the declaration of independence, the jeffersons included a passage that's accused france and spain might have taken particular notice of. the action describes what the kings of france and spain would likely take notice of, not what jefferson was. and that was however a day.
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>> yes, sir. my proposition is anticipation of ranchers and their support was not what motivated mr. jefferson but the success of an army of 1775. how better they not been successful in 1775, not only with the gathering of those 55 men been publicly delayed, but such a proposition would never have been written by mr. jefferson. >> please do read the book you're guilty in the i laid out very carefully. independents only happened after thomas paine's common sense was published in january 1776. every discussion before that that was done in public referred to an accommodation with the cane. yes, i'm sure independents had been privately, but the majority
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of the publications, including jefferson, the declaration for the reasons and causes were all directed to somehow come to an accommodation with written. thomas paine drew the line who said it is that ship has left the station. the train has sailed. it is time to call for independence. once that call for independence by thomas paine was made, other legislative bodies around the state started suggesting sending their people to philadelphia to call for independence. thomas paine says quite clearly and common sense, the only thing that is going to achieve an independence is to write the declaration that would be received by the kings and courts of europe and he means france and spain and he actually says that because we need their help.
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you see, america in 1775 and the early part of 1776 as i've just explained was incapable of fighting a war with britain, was like an adolescent i was running away from home without a penny to his name. they have, as i've said, no gunpowder, no canon, no navy. there is no hope for them to ever win. the only way they could prevail us to have letters by their side. the founding fathers very clear about this. the letters by the people who are proposing independents are very clear about this. thomas jefferson and adams were very clear about this. the declaration of independence, although it was written by jefferson as a document or the ages and then make that very clear, was specifically
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addressed to the course of france. you don't write a declaration just for the record. he never did that. the declaration jefferson wrote as i mentioned were taking up arms was specifically addressed to king george the third, even if he was not and i say this because the first considered action by the congress after his signature after his successors were not signed into law this, but its acceptance in printing july 4, 1776, the first action that congress do was to put it on a ship bound for france so that the kings of france and spain could be and they were very clear about that. so again, the writing committee evidence is all quite clear. yes, it certainly help to rally the troops, but the intent was always to bring france and spain
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and undecided this. >> france and spain both pat and the case to jump into the fray. i.e. written and understood. regarding france, the traditional account is brent franklin spent quite some time cajoling with the french government to get them to jump in. and it was really what persuaded france. could you elaborate a little bit more on how much was franklin and how much was the french administration regarding spain that they didn't jump into the water until it was safely home for everybody on this tangible. but is there a point before him which they had already committed, and when they decided to go, even if they had to wait
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a little bit. >> would address the question of france in first, i admitted the illusion that franklin was the very fact of ambassador. let's be very clear about what ambassador, the role of an ambassador is. the country to present facts, but not to try to influence a major wreck to a decision of a sovereign nation. we would never accept an ambassador coming into the white house and saying you must go to war against our enemy or with someone else. that's never been the role of the ambassador. franklin fully did that. he actually spent a lot of time just idling about. but i think franklin understood that are then anybody that doing
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nothing if not the same as not getting something accomplished. he was probably quite astute in knowing that even though this is an absolute monarchy. let's be clear. the french government bore no resemblance to the british government. and they didn't have to gain popular support. version and north florida were worried about popular support. would it help to keep them at least happy? and certainly the aristocrat. franklin was very good at keeping them happy and was also very good at presenting facts that made america look better than it actually was. which is the role of an ambassador 70 years before franklin even stepped foot in france, someone had said the ambassador was the man today anybody sent abroad for his country.
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you know, he certainly did that quite affect delay. but let me be very clear,% called the shots every time. there was not an action that was taken that was not his doing. i'm going to go a little bit beyond franklin because it is not uncommon to see the report and from the american point of view, it looks like cause and effect. lafayette captured the first encounters, the first battles had gone back to -- sorry, when france declared war on, back in action, he came back with the news of troops and money and so in the play, hamilton of course gives all the credit to lafayette for bringing guns and ships. it's a great song. the kids know it by heart. it's just not true. lafayette was a charismatic
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person. you certainly can't the king and the queen and he was an effective general. let me be very clear. the lafayette saturday made the decision that we needed the french army needed to comment on the side of the american and provide more troops for the reasons i've heard he elaborated that they reestablished british empire in the north american continent would have been too great a risk for the french colonies. let me say one more thing about that because i think this is the most important idea to have as your reading this book. no nation ever goes to war with someone else against another nation for altruistic purposes. we have never done it. no nation has ever done it. we talk about america first, even when we are intervening
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overseas, it is because it is in our national interest to maintain a stable global economy to have stable partnerships. these are all part of our national interest. so what was france first. now our interests and france's interests intersect did. for spain, spain first meant we are going to get back florida. we want gibraltar, and they never lied -- allied with the americans. it was in their interest to fight the common enemy. so the fact that they were doing it for their own purposes should in no way undercut the support that they gave us. you have a second question. i overextended on your first one because i thought that was a critical point. your second question has to do -- >> wended spain make the decision rushing mark today say here is our chance, but they had to wait?
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>> had been preparing for some time. they were arming the americans. they were actually and with the french. i mentioned diego, the spanish merchant. it is certain a spanish court and what he was doing. all along, and they saw this as an opportunity to get written out of the territory that they wanted. this is really critical for them. remember where the majority of their wealth came from. we call it today south america. and peru was for the caribbean, so they did not want the british they are and they want future brought her. this was an opportunity. but they had to wait until the right moment specifically until that treasure fleet was home before they went to war directly. but bush and -- both vendors to
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eventually spain would come in on the side of france. it was critical for their alliance. i cannot overstress how important the french come as banish alliance was -- were -- was against the british. that would be a whole and i could do an entire lecture on not. and that is the crux of this entire war. that answer your question? >> you told us one of the french observers spies in 1767 at-bats time that the americans work in revolt. there'd be an american revolution. how could he say that and what is the background?
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very few columnists, americans are in england who saw that coming and what was the reason -- >> very serious setbacks directly after the seven years war. if anyone's interested in the question. if you could please come down. right after the seven years war, one historian famously said the americans would never be british. but the name that sparked the curiosity of the observers was that at the same time, britain decided that it needed to bolster the defenses of the americans and also start getting them to shoulder the burden. there was a series -- part of it was taxes are taxes really weren't a big deal. in terms of direct numbers. but they also lay some came to rest. many historians say this. they just happen to have.
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history books. the tax burden on americans was very small. the average grade at the time was paying the equivalent today of about $200 per year in taxes. the americans were paying one 20th of that. so it's never the tax burden that was the problem. there were two issues. americans did not believe they have the right to tax because all of the american legislative bodies in the colonies and they have the right. so that was a philosophical agreement. the comic disagreement and the one you always have to follow his british sponsor prohibiting the import and when americans try to solve the commodity, that
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meant all good hide britain in fact, washington was famous for smuggling a lot of crops and other produce. the greenery made, i think it was risky. he was very happy to smuggle that. so these were the things that often on.the americans upset. the british would put down a law. americans would get very upset, they revolt, back track on the love in the cap going back and forth to lead until about 1374, things became untenable. at the time it had done, he said number one they are definitely upset into revolution is not going to happen in our lifetime.
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now, true so who was the frenchman is your also some others who thought otherwise and he was repressed and as it turned out. that's what happened. >> they of course had similar concerns in those economic issues with. lafayette and others who i think saw the american revolution is potentially triggering other revolutions against the peerless. >> very much. spain was far more worried than france. by the way, that just reminds me the earlier questions asked me and they never went into that kind of debt that france didn't impart because they were able to fund their money through the colonies and also they might be large-scale commitment that the french did in terms of supplying the americans.
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so about $30 billion in aid that i mentioned, only one to 2 billion equivalent came to spain from france and france and spain itself did not go heavily into debt. but they were very worried. &-ampersand, the spanish had taken over the umpires all the way from max echo to the middle of today's chile and argentina. interestingly enough, the colonies never did go all the way. every 10 years or so they would be some kind of uprising. usually, the indigenous people against spanish taxation, which we say a very nasty way of imposing law on the native -- the indigenous peoples. and those uprisings and rebellions were put down viciously. right around the time of
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pensacola with the uprising. i described it very briefly because i didn't want to be sure you from reading further, that this uprising which was probably the most notorious was put down within a matter of maybe six to 10 month period and once they were captured, if you don't mind bearing witness, they were not just drawn and quartered, all the body parts were sent around device royalty so they were very worried about a similar uprising. here's another question. >> china washington stopped on to that of the chesapeake to insult the french repaired and
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jumped up and down and understood what was going to happen. is that apocryphal? >> he was actually near wilmington, delaware. i believe he was in chester, pennsylvania when this happened. i have the account. i think he wrote the account, but if i'm wrong but tonight the same place, which allowed to ride it. i have to memorize it. he saw from his boat they were expecting the floors further down the river. he saw washington waving a handkerchief and job in on the bank. the interesting thing, rochambeau goes to shore. he has a letter stating that de grasse had arrived.
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he knew it was going to happen. and he embraced rochambeau. this i find absolutely fascinating. there so many accounts of george washington, demand that no american officer with hair slap on the back, embracing and kissing his french counterparts. lafayette, rochambeau, de grasse as i just mentioned. he was for some and always more relaxed, less stern, less stoic with the french counterparts. i just am not so revealing. >> you get to the battle of the caves. normal british admirals do not lose to french fleet. the gratuitous accident that encountered the french victory
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that made yorktown possible. >> there is a running theme throughout most accounts of the continuing wars between france and that the french just weren't british. had they been british, it would have been so much better. france went out for rid. simple, pure. in fact, i reference it in my vote is a wonderful bachelor's pieces by a naval academy. he is no longer the shipmate, who looks at the actions, looks at the diaries, looks at the logs and draws the conclusion of just giving you now. do cross was a fine animal. either way,, the spanish were fined dealers. they did not operate it see nearly as much as britain and
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there's various reasons for that. the vein of which is britain was an island and half-truths. france is worried about enemies on the border as was spain. so the military budget, britain spent two thirds on the navy. france spent two thirds on the army and that alone makes them fit. but the french admirals are actually called captain generals and the spanish were effective fighters. they need their business. de grasse was a particularly good tailor. i am going to give you one other example. and my boat, i described a wonderful little action against a british convoy which was carrying an enormous amount of love to the caribbean. in the middle of the night, staff hearty tannenbaum and figured that it was a signal
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from the british con roy. so in the middle of the night, managed to sail into the middle of the convoy. the british convoy south astern lamp, thought it was their own escort, followed the spanish and the daybreak they were under the gun and a combined french spanish fleet. guests come and something right out of master commander. it is the spanish are today. it is worth reading the accounts of the french navy. unfortunately they are generally written in french except for my friend jonathan doles wonderful books, which you should buy after you buy my book. another wonderful book by recently deceased friend of mine about the spanish navy at trafalgar, which you should buy after you buy my book. that will give you a more balanced view of how these babies worked. they were all professional. they did their duty and their
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bids us. by the way, they were all royal navies. in my book is a british navy ranch because it was the british royal navy. and it's armando rayon and spanish. all very, very good. sorry. >> benjamin lincoln, the guy that except to the surrender at yorktown, and see an ancestor of abraham lincoln? >> intriguing question that i am willing to bet it's probably answerable quickly, but i don't know. i hope somebody here baby afterwards. anybody in the audience happen to know the answer? if you could come to the microphone. [inaudible]
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>> okay, the answer to the question was benjamin lincoln's second in command to george washington could than in charleston, by the way. was he an ancestor direct of abraham lincoln and this gentleman says no biography of benjamin lincoln mentioned. thank you. so let's look into this. if you find something different, please let me know. good question. >> two questions notwithstanding the facts they failed to take québec when they tried, why didn't the french canadians throw in that the americans against the british. the holy roman empire have an ace taken this conflict. >> the first question was why did not canada -- do i have a rate? french canada, québec came in on
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the sides of the americans. the answer was they did not see any added advantage of being with the american band with the british who were already treating them as reasonably as could be expected. one of the things the americans were not happy about for the laws that permitted the use of the catholic faith in québec. i think they were called the québec acts. so there were and this is important, french people in canada who actually came in on the side of the americans. in fact, some of the very earliest volunteers were from canada, ones who fought alongside the americans that the vast majority saw no benefit of siding with the americans. americans again wanted to grab hold of canada that was one of the reasons why we went to war.
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and again thought no benefit to begin with the americans. sir, you have a question. >> to the holy roman empire have a stake in any of this? i have to remember which nations are part of that. neither holy nor roman or an player. and oster is the one that springs to mind. in the horrors, marie therese was allied with france and of course her daughter was clean. she and her son joseph became jealous of the second, stood on the sidelines. again, it is pretty important to note that during this whole period, there were no major conflicts on the european continent. there were probably some brushfires, but that was always the chance concern.
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he did not want to, for example, invade london because he did not want to set off the fire started that would bring other nations now scared of france on the site of written. it is a very delicate balance of power he was trying to maintain. he was worried. on the death of marie therese, this is towards the end of the word they just have the second would then allied with russia, which did not add. it was always the concern, but they did not directly allied or fight with anybody. now there's an interesting little side that the principality of dh, which was part of the holy roman empire which is part of the austrian belgium and netherlands which is today dull job, and major supplier of him with france and spain. i talk about this in the
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chapter. a number of arms and anybody who collects arms from that era or if you go to the smithsonian, if you ever have a chance to go to the arms collection, which is a great place to go, you will see they were sold to the americans usually via dutch boards or via the ports of the austrian netherlands and were major suppliers. as turns out, to both sides. so it more, everybody was trying to make a profit. so within the holy roman empire, there were a number of small principalities, small nationstates involved in the work in the war but in the war but he was generally and in a direct way. does that answer the question? okay. >> i've had a fascination with this double were since i was as old as that little guy over
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there. recently, i learned that britain treated slaves in 1833 and the thought that came to me was if washington and all his buddies had been put in their place that we would have waited the civil war because they freed slaves not only in britain, but all their colonies. i'd like you to comment on that. they asked it to question at a park service presentation. one of the people in the audience said that part of the reason that the americans went to war was because they did a great with inking about freeing their slaves and they didn't want to be part of the british empire and that casts a whole different light on these slaveowning guys. >> nothing in the readings that i have encountered indicate in any way that in the year 1795 or
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76 when all this is coming to a head, that frees slaves not becoming -- not being an empire that depended on slaves and remember where britain was getting most of his wealth. the sugar colonies and who were the workers there. the caribbean, all the nations in europe were slave owners, portugal, brazil, spain of course. nothing that i have read indicates britain was considering that at that time and that was one of the concerns of the american. that isn't to say that their idea might not have been in some people's minds, but the specific reasons that you see when you encounter ratings of why they want to break free hires more to
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do with the reasons i stated. the idea of national sovereignty or colonial sovereignty was a big one and the inability to conduct trade if they wanted. the counterfactual is our fascinating. so what could it then. it's always a wonderful train to the fund and a matching. i often wonder that is tough because several of the people i talk about in my book stayed behind and some of them became noted abolitionist. they saw the cause for freedom and they wondered why the american are not themselves fighting for those same freedoms for their enslaved people. not just the african slaves, but as we all understand today, native americans were equally of
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slave. so i can do is direct you to another book by my friend who after you buy his first two books, after you buy my book and it's called the american independents, 20 ways in which it could have turned out differently. it talks about a number of areas where britain would have one and quite frank lee even today it is amazing that it happened. would we have ended up like canada? that is a distinct possibility. there were a lot of potential routes that the war and the outcomes could have taken. not just britain now maintain pulp 13 colonies. it could and that they split up southern colonies which was possibility. georgia was actually under british control for their amount of the war. they could've split off some of the colonies and left rough
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colonies and other places which never would have asked and that because of the president of the dominant empire. it could've been that these 13 states, which were not a nation. if you read through the machinations that eventually led to the constitution, it wasn't clear that we were going to stay as a single nation. we have 13 separate nations. any number of things could have happened. but yes, it's entirely possible we could have ended up as canada and done reasonably well economically. if that had been the case, we would've always had the conflicts with other nations, which were on the continent. by that time, france was off and there is always spain. russia had a five on the west coast and we simply don't know what might have happened there.
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the outcomes could have been vastly different. >> the other comment i heard was george washington and what they were really wanted to get out of this european war and the spanish succession had gone on and they didn't want america drawn into those wars. is that a possibility that they were thinking about? >> $-dollar-sign george washington signed her in his farewells each when he said anybody remember the exact phrase? [inaudible] that has become part of our national lexicon. he was worried about that he did not want america to be enmeshed in the conflicts between giant. if you step in the middle of a conflict between giants, and you would not come out very well. so it was more -- i would say that the question you are asked is more about where he felt america needed to go as opposed
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to what i do into the war with written in the first place. he would never again -- let me be clear, when he started tangling alliances that the word quite clearly that military appliances. we were a nation of traitors long before, even as colonies. if they mention, he was himself as a farmer quite interested in trade. he was never again commercial reciprocity that we were used to. but he did not want this still small, unsettled nation to be in the middle of major conflict. >> you brought up thomas paine. that last question is this. i was at colonial williamsburg and wanted to reenact your soul does how thomas paine died. can you comment on that? >> i do not remember how they died. >> the pamphlet at williamsburg
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at the george tucker house explained to us that he committed suicide in france. he was arrested by the government. i think he went crazy because he had a democracy that the people of the democracy would go crazy like they did. >> area interesting. did anyone else ever hear -- the! looking to this absolute way. now it is piqued my interest. you're most welcome. sarah. >> thank you. the young man who raised the question earlier may be the best informed young student in america on these issues. unless i am wrong, isis bag that this vein of triumphalist nationalism that runs through our country, our educational system that has maybe presented an alternative view of all of this. i'm wondering. you are a fact finder.
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i wonder if you countered, you could your book in context earlier with some remark. do france and spain have the same nationalism in terms of how they approach this a check of the american? >> american exceptionalism is the tale, weak shadow of french exceptionalism. and i assure you, there is this fannish exceptionalism. and i assure you there is a peruvian and name your country exceptionalism. so it's normal. now what has always made american and somewhat different and many people have commented on this has not been the idea that we are somehow endowed with some physical or moral or religious capability that nobody
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else has it got us where we all came from. all of those countries that themselves had. we didn't just become exceptional. i'm going to answer your question and give my view of american exceptionalism which may not be quite the question you asked. the question you asked was how to aim that thread through history books and the short answer is that key into the story by reading what my two sons had in their text books. i did my doctoral thesis on ship building during the age of sail and nightmare that france and spain together had created a common navy. that was part of what i studied. in order to defeat written, they are critical to the victory of america. so when my children were in school and saw that france barely got to mention thomas
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davis never mentioned at all. i began to wonder nih's that there is a story there. i kind of traced this to the exceptional as narrative that occurred during the 19th century, it during the expansionist era when we were moving to the west but their manifest destiny to go to the pacific. there was a particular historian in george bake-off used to be secretary of the navy who wrote the standard histories of the united states. he had a very exceptional model and its history. he had written out much of what france and spain had done. so that is where i attribute it to. i understand the idea of exceptionalism. here is my view of the covenant of its research and looked at our history. we are exceptional because more
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than almost any other nation, we've been able not just to bring people from other countries, immigrants into our nation. i think they should call themselves in the great nations and correctly so. but we do far more than adapt. we become who comes to our shores and as always for the better man. would that not historically more and sorry france, sorry spain, sorry australia. we've done it better than anybody else. i could see some of that here tonight. i see it at my all the time. i see it around me all the time. who we are is the people who can't to become americans and we in turn have become better. [applause] do i have two minutes?
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nobody asked the question i thought they were going to ask, which is that lafayette was the most important, not the most important figure, and the answer is he made a grand juror and then he died. he came to america in 1824 in 1825 and was seen as the hero of two rows. people on both sides of the atlantic webcam. i love this portrait of him as a note to him. he looked so elegant that the same time very frail. in world war i, pershing's aide honored the application of lafayette and that sounded great. but it's important to understand when he became the icon he did. i checked with the usage of the word lafayette going all the way back to 1770. you can see the majority of the mentions of lafayette occurred when he was in exile. he died.
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as famous person said about all of about all this in a great career move. there are mentions of lafayette afterwards and that is not just in the english language. it is also true in the french language. lafayette got the notoriety long after the actual events. thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
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>> avert a explained explained what i wanted to do was to take take -


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