03 Oct 2004 France: Our Oldest Enemy
Many of us think the French have been hostile lately, but were great friends to America during the 1700s. This is not so. I expect John Miller and Mark Molesky’s new book, “Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America’s Disastrous Relationship with France” will prove the case nicely.
As an amateur genealogist, I was struck by the number of times noxious policies by the French hurt my ancestors and my husband’s. For example, in the 1750s, my ggggggg-grandfather was murdered in central Pennsylvania by Indians at French instigation. He left a widow and several young orphans. (The many and brutal murders of this sort in that area at the time were one of the factors leading to the Revolutionary War — settlers were dissatisfied with the amount of protection being provided by the British government, while the British government thought it quite reasonable to tax the colonists for the cost of said protection. No doubt France was gleeful.)
Ancestors on both my side of the family and my husband’s fled France and areas near France a few centuries ago because the French government tended to slaughter innocents, especially Protestant ones.
(By the way, if anyone thinks my last name is French, don’t. Some of my husband’s paternal ancestors changed their German surname to this spelling long before my husband was around to have a say in the matter.)
I do think highly of some individuals in France, including an old and very pro-American Parisian friend I haven’t seen lately, but that friend is only alive today because his Dad was sick and missed school one day back in the 1940s — the day all the Jewish students were rounded up by French authorities. I suspect I don’t have to tell anyone what happened to those children.
I’ll say this for France, though: It drove a lot of our ancestors to get the heck out of Europe, making us Americans. That, at least, is a debt we can never repay. But I’m still willing to put down $16.97 for “Our Oldest Enemy.”
Addendum: Ally at Who Moved My Truth, one of the blogs I read regularly, sent over this comment: “I just wanted to respond to your post on France. While I guess some are misinformed regarding France’s relationship with the U.S., I had a very good history professor who put that myth to rest. During the U.S. founding, the French only were interested in us when it provided something to them without any risk. Look at the Revolutionary War. They laughed at us, until they saw that we had the upper hand. Only then were they willing to commit – precious little – help in our direction. And later, they fought against us with the Native Americans (if they were on the Native American side for altruistic reasons, I would have more respect for them; alas, they were just as guilty as us for using the Native Americans for their own designs). The French have always been Machiavellian in their hearts – which is why the world comes knocking at our door for help, and not at the Louvre. They might have the prettier language, but we will always have the bigger heart.”