The American War of Independence (1775-1783) was a rebellion against the British colonialists by thirteen North American colonies.
France became officially involved in 1778, supporting the American forces in their quest for independence from Great Britain by providing army and naval reinforcements, as well as money and other supplies. The involvement was largely an ideological and political one, with King Louis XVI influenced by France’s previous defeat in the Seven Years’ War to Great Britain, which had caused the loss of French control in North America.
French military involvement in the American War of Independence was spearheaded by General Lafayette, who galvanised popular French support for the war with his charisma and position as close confidante to George Washington, encouraging many to volunteer for the army back in France. Ordinary Frenchmen who signed up as soldiers quickly became inspired and enthused by the Enlightenment ideals of liberty and equality, as they were immersed in the American attempt to achieve those with the war. These men returned to France, after their military victory in 1783, with new beliefs as to what they deserved as citizens.
While the ideological battle had been won, it had not been an inexpensive endeavour. France had spent over 1.3 billion livres in their military support of America, a sum which placed immense pressure on the inefficient tax system in France at the time, and which directly contributed to the destabilising effects of the Compte Rendu.
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