Originally posted by Paul
The French don't hate you, at least the majority do not anyway. Like most people accross the world though, they view the aggresive foreign policy of
a large and powerful nation's government with caution and suspicion.
Peter Robinson: Give us the Revolutionary period. What was the friction during the pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary period?
John Miller: Well, before the Revolution, there was a long period of the French and Indian wars, of course, so named because the French and Indians
were the enemies of the American colonists of the time. And it was during this period when the first articulations of American national consciousness
come into being because Americans are perceiving the French Empire as an external threat. And they're beginning not to view themselves as Virginians
or colonists in Massachusetts but as Americans with a common bond.
Peter Robinson: Bob, even before this country was a country, the French were behaving badly toward us. French and Indian War is trying to kick us out
of the continent.
Robert Paxton: Well, the French and Indian Wars are--it takes two to make a war and we were trying to kick them out of the continent. And actually we
succeeded and they've mostly failed. They hung on in Quebec but the French and Indian Wars, the French had their Indians and we had our Indians. And
there were some rather ugly stories on both sides. And the ugliest story of all which I read about as a schoolboy in Longfellow's Evangeline when the
British cleared the French out of Nova Scotia. I just read a review of a new book by a man named Faragher, I believe, who says that 10,000 mostly
women and children died in that ethnic cleansing of exposure and starvation which is the Acadians who got to Louisiana and became the Cajuns. So it
was a dirty war on both sides and we won.
Peter Robinson: As we discuss the history of Franco-American relations, on to another low moment.
Title: Un-Civil Conduct
Peter Robinson: We now go to the Civil War. The French supported the secession of South. Why?
John Miller: It's true. Napoléon III was the Emperor of France at the time. He was the nephew of the Napoléon Bonaparte, the one we all know very
well. And he had a lot of visions about the French empire and what he could do with it in the New World. Like many people in Europe, he was
sympathetic to the South for a variety of reasons, some having to do with aristocratic affinity with Southern plantation owners, a lot of it economic.
And he wanted to enter the war on the side of the South. He supported secession but he wouldn't do it without the British. And the British never
quite got there. So Napoléon did not enter militarily into the war. But he did do one thing. He took advantage of the distractions Americans had
among themselves over the war and installed a puppet regime in Mexico. This was the first major transgression of the Monroe Doctrine which is the
policy President Monroe had set up several decades earlier saying that the western hemisphere was essentially off-limits to European powers. This was
the first major transgression of that doctrine which, by the way, was largely set up out of concern for France.
Peter Robinson: Okay, so France supports the South--not a good thing to do from the point of view of the United States--and he installs the brother of
the Austro-Hungarian Emperor, the Emperor Maximilian into Mexico whose…
John Miller: Well, anti-Americanism is a deep part of French culture.
Peter Robinson: Bob?
Robert Paxton: I think there are a few Frenchmen like that but there are many who are not.
Peter Robinson: Many who are not. All right. This is television so this will be extremely compressed but we're now about to engage in a little more
than two centuries of Franco-American history. John Miller, you describe France as our oldest enemy yet we're all taught that the United States owes
its existence, its independence to France. If the French hadn't helped us during the Revolutionary War, we'd still be part of the British Empire.
John Miller: Well, there's a popular story in America about France and Franco-American relations that is essentially a myth. It does begin with
Lafayette and Yorktown and then it proceeds to the Louisiana Purchase which is described as the greatest real estate transaction in history in which
Napoléon gave vast amount of land to the United States at rock bottom prices to his good friend, Thomas Jefferson. There's the Statue of Liberty.
There's, of course, the storming of Normandy right up to the present day. And when you see conflict like we had recently--the recent unpleasantness
between the two countries over Iraq, a lot of Americans scratch their head and they say well, isn't France our oldest friend? Haven't they always
been with us? And, in fact, that is not true. The popular story is told in our textbooks, cultivated by French diplomats and many Americans like to be
seduced by this myth. The myth is 200 years of sweetness and light when, in fact, it is 300 years of friction and hostility."
maybe not most of the people of France, but there were Frenchies whos like to see America goin down even during the civil war, by support the South
which is slavery country in my view but since then they take ani opportunity to show how much they hated America.