Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1778

King Louis XVI receives U.S. representatives

Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane and Arthur Lee present themselves to France’s King Louis XVI as official representatives of the United States on this day in 1778. Louis XVI was skeptical of the fledgling republic, but his dislike of the British eventually overcame these concerns and France officially recognized the United States in February 1778.

Some of the great ironies of the American Revolution lay in the relationship between the new United States and the French. In 1774, when Parliament decided to offer religious toleration and judicial autonomy to French-speaking Catholics in Quebec, North American colonists expressed horror at the notion of empowered French Catholics on their borders. In 1778, though, Franklin, Deane and Lee, all proponents of democratic government, were delighted at the prospect that the French Catholic monarchy, ruling by divine right, would come to their aid in a war against British parliamentary rule.

As for the French, they had recently been dealt a humiliating defeat in the Seven Years’ War by the British and stripped them of their own North American empire but still, they were loathe to declare war on Britain as an official American ally. King Louis XVI permitted secret aid to the American cause beginning in May 1776. The two most powerful men at court finally decided to make their support public in 1778 for opposing reasons. Louis XVI, who had previously refused to commit himself to a potentially losing cause, only decided to back the Patriots when they proved themselves capable of ultimate victory with a win at Saratoga in October 1777. By contrast, the French foreign minister, Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, had decided that the French should enter the war one month earlier, after the fall of Philadelphia to British control in September 1777 frightened him into thinking that the Patriots would give up without overt French aid.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Tokyo subways are attacked with sarin gas

Several packages of deadly sarin gas are set off in the Tokyo subway system killing twelve people and injuring over 5,000. Sarin gas was invented by the Nazis and is one of the most lethal nerve gases known to man. Tokyo police quickly learned who had planted the chemical weapons ...read more

Republican Party founded

In Ripon, Wisconsin, former members of the Whig Party meet to establish a new party to oppose the spread of slavery into the western territories. The Whig Party, which was formed in 1834 to oppose the “tyranny” of President Andrew Jackson, had shown itself incapable of coping ...read more

Henry V ascends upon father’s death

King Henry IV, the first English monarch of the Lancastrian dynasty, dies after years of illness, and his eldest son, Henry, ascends to the English throne. In 1399, Henry Bolingbroke was crowned King Henry IV of England following the forced abdication of King Richard II, who was ...read more

Black Death is created, allegedly

According to scholars at the University of Paris, the Black Death is created on this day in 1345, from what they call “a triple conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in the 40th degree of Aquarius, occurring on the 20th of March 1345″. The Black Death, also known as the ...read more

Khrushchev begins his rise to power

The Soviet government announces that Nikita Khrushchev has been selected as one of five men named to the new office of Secretariat of the Communist Party. Khrushchev’s selection was a crucial first step in his rise to power in the Soviet Union—an advance that culminated in ...read more

Willie and Tad Lincoln get the measles

On this day in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln’s sons, Willie and Tad, are diagnosed with the measles, adding to the president’s many troubles. Few U.S. presidents worked as hard in office as Abraham Lincoln did during the Civil War. Besides managing his generals and the war ...read more