A note about France-American history

Discussion in 'History and Culture' started by LafayetteBis, Mar 9, 2019.

  1. LafayetteBis

    LafayetteBis Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    This comment is about the French participation in the Revolutionary War and about my namesake "Lafayette", a French nobleman of whom George and Martha Washington became very fond.

    The colony's primary concern at the time of the US revolution was ridding itself of the British King because he was exacting too much in taxation. But, in fact, much of the intelligent thinking about "freedom" was being held in Paris with French intellectuals of the same bent.

    Those meetings were being held in a restaurant that is still in Paris today. Le Procope was a key meeting place for French intellectuals bent on overthrowing their King. Franklin, Jefferson and John Paul Jones met with the French. Franklin himself was sent to Paris to meet with the French king, which ultimately resulted in France's help in the fight with its ancient enemy - England. The Treaty of Alliance signed with Louis XVI was instrumental in obtaining France's military aid in the American Revolution.

    The history of that time was very interesting and it would be nice if a movie would show Americans the genesis of its own revolution. There is not much mentioned of their meeting with my namesake - Lafayette - but he was a French noble before scampering off to the US. Where he became the son Washington never had.

    Lafayette returned to live in France after the war in the US, and tried ardently to get the French king to abdicate but keep his title. The French revolutionaries wanted to decapitate Louis XVI. Which finally occurred but that is an entirely different story. What is important is that both Franklin and Lafayette were able to convince the French king to help fight the British.

    What then happened historically is that French troops ultimately were key to the defeat of the British at Yorktown. And yet there is no tribute to that fact anywhere in Yorktown, it is a shame to say. I've looked around there and I did find the names of the French soldiers killed etched on a large stone tablet. But, there is no public notice of the stone or why it is there! (If anyone sees a tribute to France's participation in the Yorktown victory, please let me know.)

    Today, Lafayette is buried in the Picpus Cemetery (Paris), which is the only other place in France where the American flag flies day and night (aside from the our embassy). See photo here.

    PS: Should anyone have further historical information regarding France's participation in this key event at Yorktown, please do respond with some factual information. Thanks in advance!
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2019
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  2. James Knapp

    James Knapp Active Member

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    I think his name is better known now thanks to Hamilton than it would've been 10 years ago. Saying that, Hamilton is largely inaccurate and many think Lafayette was black! I know many teenagers who know who Marquis de Lafayette is so at least his name is getting out there.

    I find it strange that outside of France, no one knows who Maximillian Robespierre is either.
     
  3. LafayetteBis

    LafayetteBis Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Well, the problem is one of language. I'll bet you know who "Scrooge" is - because the author is English. But maybe you are as well, which is not the point. The point, if anything, is that though languages may be common, mentalities may differ. Anyone thinking that French France and French Canada are similar in both politics and outlook are in for a great surprise. Ditto English speaking America and, uh, England. Even a Scot will argue that s/he is different from a Brit!

    And translations do not really-'n-truly convey the same "spiritual message" as do the original. But that has to with the fact that - regardless of politics - the nations are all individuals and the different languages can produce different "opinions and sentiments". I would frankly not want to translate Robespierre. The Latin languages are both verbose and best at communicating emotion.

    My Point: It is really good fun to learn another language AND discover another people. It is a real challenge nonetheless to
    adopt a different "mentality", and live within it.

    I'm no expert either on languages and less so on "national mentalities", but I find the discussion enticing ...
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2019
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  4. Bezukhov

    Bezukhov Member

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  5. LafayetteBis

    LafayetteBis Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Lafayette was literally chased out of France by the French king. Even though he was a "Marquis" and the family well-known. After the victory of the American revolution, however, he decided to bring democracy to France. That did not quite work out so well for him.

    The family comes from Chavaniac (a small town in the center of France - see here), not quite worth a visit unless one is keen on seeing the place. The family name goes back a long, long time to the 15th century and even the Crusades.

    Anyway, it's an interesting story and I have always wondered why Hollywood never did a film on the man who was Washington's unofficial "son" and key (along with French forces) to finally defeating the British at Yorktown. The British government soon after recognized the US as a nation ...

    PS: Interesting side-note is that in Picpus Cemetery, Lafayette is buried under earth removed from Bunker Hill (Boston).
     
  6. LafayetteBis

    LafayetteBis Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Well, you have to read French for that to happen. But, I'll bet that you talk to any French Canadian they will tell you that they "know" (meaning what*?) both Hamilton and Robespierre ...

    *Meaning that they have read the name in a history book about the US. But, I doubt one could say the same about an American who knew Canadian history!
     
  7. James Knapp

    James Knapp Active Member

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    I don't think that you have to read a certain language to understand someone and their history but it sure does help because as you say, translations are extremely variable (See the Bible!). I think it is true of most countries that you would learn about their historical figures over another country's. The exception usually being those who had a major impact on the world for good or bad (Mao Ze Dong, Hitler, Pol Pot etc).

    I have to use England as an example as it is the only one I have experience of but history was very boring and uninspiring in school. I find that the only way to really learn about history is through your own thirst for knowledge. It's also noteworthy that the UK's description of Lafayette will vary from Spain's for example.

    Another forgotten man in history is Toussaint L'ouverture. I'll wager that most people have never even heard this man's name and have no idea of the impact he had in Haiti.
     
  8. LafayetteBis

    LafayetteBis Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Rereading this comment in a French reference provoked some further research, from which I quote this in French:
    Which I translate as: A square in Washington, DC is named after him and Lafayette was declared "Honorable Citizen of the United States" in 2002. (Done so by an act of Congress).

    Meaning he is one of eight individuals who have been accorded the honor of citizenship in the US. (See WikiP article here.)
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
  9. LafayetteBis

    LafayetteBis Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    I agree. If one reads the history of Lafayette in English, one gets a good idea of his life and accomplishments (in war).

    But Lafayette, though very close to Washington, felt that he was obliged to return to France to help his fellow countrymen divorce themselves from the French king. In fact, he did try to save Louis XVII and his family but failed. Both Louis and his wife were beheaded. (Which is altogether another story I wont go into.)

    But he was active in the early 19th century attempting to bring American style "democracy" to France. Which he failed to accomplish as Napoleon furthered his own career to become not King but Emperor of France. France took another long, long time fo find a semblance of "real democracy".

    Still, this "thing" called democracy is hard to nail down. It has different meanings for different people ...

    (Or as some would say, "Your destiny is not in the stars but in yourself!" Now, extrapolate that notion to an entire nation? Mission Impossible!)
     
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