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Treaties of Alliance

Under the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the companion Treaty of Alliance, concluded in 1778, France recognized American independence and allied itself with the new republic. France had secretly aided the colonists since the beginning of the war, but this alliance formalized the commitment. Again at war with Britain, France sought to achieve its own objectives as well as aid the Americans.

The Franco-American Treaty of Alliance, February 6, 1779

The Franco-American Treaty of Alliance, February 6, 1779

Courtesy of American Philosophical Society

Porcelain Figurine of Benjamin Franklin and King Louis XVI, 1780s

Porcelain Figurine of Benjamin Franklin and King Louis XVI, 1780s

Benjamin Franklin was America’s first diplomat to France, and its most effective. Widely admired there, he successfully led the negotiations with the king and his ministers that secured the French alliance. France, in turn, convinced Spain to join in aiding the Americans.

Loan from Winterthur Museum

French and Spanish Gold and Silver, circulated 1760–1770s

French and Spanish Gold and Silver, circulated 1760–1770s

Financial support was as critical as military support. Because America had little hard money—gold and silver—it borrowed heavily from its allies. Just before the Yorktown siege, George Washington paid his troops with Spanish coins borrowed by France, to renew their spirits. 
Gift of The Chase Manhattan Bank, Estate of Josiah K. Lilly, Paul A. Straub, and Government Transfer