Le quatre juillet. Please rise and sing the Marseillaise

Everyone knows how France financed our Revolution, which could not possibly have succeeded without money to buy esssential supplies, particularly gunpowder.

When I say everyone, I mean, of course, at least half a dozen people in each state. Each of the larger Blue states.

But I had failed to notice, till I read a review of Lavoisier in the Year One by Madison Smartt Bell, who it was that provided that gunpowder. After some embarrassments in the Seven Years' War (which we call the French and Indian War), France decided to expand its gunpowder-making facilities by applying the latest Enlightenment science. The new production came on-line in time to supply the Americans, thanks to its director : Antoine Lavoisier.

Well, this republic, at least, had need of savants; and on this day we should thank him of whom (according to the apocryphal story) the French one decided it had no need.

Nations, of course, never do good things for entirely pure motives. France did not support our revolution out of devotion to Enlightenment ideals of Liberty, whether those of Locke or of Voltaire et al; nor out of fondness for the British colonists, their recent enemies on the North American continent where the French empire suffered such a disastrous loss. It wanted to weaken the British, that's all. Nor need we overlook that the money provided for purchase of powder went right back to France to buy powder, setting the classic pattern for 20th-century American foreign aid.

Then, as to repaying our debt to France (people really did use that phrase once upon a time), the United States did not come running to save European civilization in 1914 and 1939, but held out, as our English friends never tire of telling us, for years in the First war, and until the other guys declared war on us in the Second.

But, T. S. Eliot or none, there is something to be said for eventually doing the right thing if your reasons aren't entirely wrong. Some people who were also France did love Liberty; and the US got around to doing some damn fine things in Europe when it got around to it. (Shall we just forget Versailles? No one comes out a winner there. Well, maybe John Maynard Keynes.)

Jacques Chirac is said to have had very naughty profit-seeking motives in 2002-2003; but in fact the French made a serious effort to stop our government from pursuing a disastrous military adventure based entirely on the most dubious grounds, except for those grounds that were not even dubious. They failed; had their hearts been pure enough to give them the strength of ten, they still would have failed; but they seriously tried. Today I'll raise a toast to them; maybe I'll save the Marseillaise till the 14th when I run a video of Casablanca.

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