This post is part of a series, written by Jim Zeender, devoted to letters written by the Founding Fathers in their own words and often in their own hand. Jim is a senior registrar in Exhibits.
On July 14, 1789, the U.S. Ambassador to France, Thomas Jefferson, was a witness to the events of a day in Paris that is commonly associated with the beginning of the French Revolution. Jefferson recorded the events of the day in a lengthy and detailed letter to John Jay, then Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
The American Revolutionary War began as a conflict between the colonies and England. In time, what began as a civil disturbance turned into a world war drawing France, Spain, and the Netherlands into the hostilities. France would send troops, ships, and treasure to support the American effort. During the war, one of the first priorities of the French government and its allies was to raise funds to fight the war.
When the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, France was virtually broke and on the edge of social catastrophe, the result of decades of war with England and other countries. The poor suffered hunger and privation. By 1789, revolution would come to France.
In 1785, Thomas Jefferson arrived in Paris to replace Benjamin Franklin, who was retiring … [ Read all ]
Posted by Hilary on July 13, 2012, under Letters in the National Archives.
Tags: bastille day, Benjamin Franklin, Founding Fathers, france, in their own words, John Jay, letters, Marquis de la Fayette, Paris, Thomas Jefferson, Versailles