Although the hyphenated label “Franco-American” identifies a special ethnic minority, the name is more than what’s applied to describe a group with French heritage. Indeed, modern American history has experienced parallel events in symmetry with French history. A Franco-American legacy of intersecting events has been reinforced during the past 400 years during astounding and monumental happenings. I found reference to these facts in the award winning New Orleans journalist Errol Laborde’s news reports. He is a political scientist who writes about Louisiana history, especially focused on New Orleans, in MyNewOrleans.com. He described the relationship between America and France in his article, “Two Nations, Two Revolutions”.
With Laborde’s kind permission, I can report his analysis. His article reminded me to pull out my family’s memories about the most momentous of shared Franco-American history, with postcards purchased during one of our visits to France and one picture.
Dr. Laborde wrote: Parisians, who are vacationing on the French Riviera, may be pleased to see hardly any Americans this year because of the COVID-based travel restrictions. Yet, one beach where Americans are generally appreciated is along the English Channel. It is called Normandy. Here too, the tourist invasion from the states will be curtailed because of the airborne virus enemy.
Our counties share a circular relationship in their revolutions. France provided military power to defeat the British in the Revolutionary War; the United States’ new republic influenced the French model.
In New Orleans, one of Franco/America’s most hallowed moments was made official in 1803, when the French flag was lowered at the Place de Armes (Jackson Square) and the American flag raised to signify the completion of the Louisiana Purchase. Napoleon’s decision to sell his country’s sizable North American holding to the fledgling United States was a first step toward America becoming big and powerful. The world map would be much different and more dangerous had the United States not served as a global protector, including for France, in two world wars.
Both countries experienced subdued national days in July. There is a war of a different type, and both countries have battlefield experience. Though there will have been a lack of fireworks, may the two countries celebrate the revolutionary flames in their past.
Another article of interest by Laborde is at this link:
Vive Franco-American celebrations!
July 1- Canada Day Fête du Canada
July 4 – American Independence Day
The Center Square When the British were defeated at Saratoga, the French eagerly entered the war to help their American friends gain independence. Fourteen decades later, America was about to return the favor. By 1917 during World War I, every French family had been touched by the injury and loss of loved ones. The war was entering its fourth year with no end in sight. On July 3, 1917, members of the U.S. 2nd Battalion arrived in Paris. These Americans were an instant symbol of deliverance for the people who had waited for hours to greet them at the Gare d’Austerlitz. French nurses fed them lunch and tended to the ill. They were then escorted to their barracks for a much-needed rest and dinner, which included their best champagne.
July 14- France National Day Commemorates the Storming of the Bastille
Also on July 14, the Feast Day of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, a disciple of the French Jesuits in upstate New York and Montreal, and the first Native American saint, the patroness of the environment. (Franco-American George Blouin informed me that he attended a summer camp in Leeds Maine for three years in the 1940s!).
Merci to Dr. Laborde! Check MyNewOrleans.com and read about the books he has authored.
New Orleans the First 300 years with Peggy Scott Laborde
Errol Laborde holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of New Orleans and is the editor-in-chief of Renaissance Publishing. In that capacity he serves as editor/associate publisher of New Orleans Magazine and editor/publisher of Louisiana Life magazine.I have enjoyed reading the MyOrleans.com articles.