On this date in history – February 6, 1778 – the Treaty of Alliance and Treaty of Amity and Commerce were signed in Paris. The agreements established a crucial alliance between the newly seceded American states and the French monarchy under Louis XVI.

The Treaty of Alliance was a defensive alliance between the new countries and France, promising indefinite military support. The Treaty of Amity and Commerce established a strictly commercial treaty between the states and France, recognizing the independence of each state.

The move came after a successful military campaign in New York, where patriot forces under Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold secured a stunning victory at Saratoga. There, “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne was outmaneuvered in what turned out to be a major turning point in the war. Thousands of British forces surrendered, and Burgoyne returned to England never to command another army again. Britain’s hold on New York was now at hazard, and the event contributed to William Howe’s resignation as overall commander over British forces in North America.

For a time, it looked like the treaty would never come to fruition. After a military campaign by the Continental Army in New York and New Jersey, many French officials believed recognition of the new republics would draw the ire of other European powers, a ruinous prospect for the country. Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, working in Paris, worked diligently to persuade Louis XVI otherwise. Franklin shined in French society and was beloved by the French people, while Adams failed to adapt to the open culture. He was also confused for his cousin, Samuel Adams.

A pivotal event that greatly affected the result of the war, the British now had to fight on two fronts. The blockades established by the French navy frustrated the shipment of British forces and supplies, and French military assistance was integral to future battles in the campaign to inaugurate independence for the newly established American states.

Dave Benner