Bastille Day

Vive la Republique.

Vive la Révolution.

Vive la France.

You and I belong to the only two republics among the great powers of the world. The ancient friendship between France and the United States has been, on the whole, a sincere and disinterested friendship. A calamity to you would be a sorrow to us. But it would be more than that. In the seething turmoil of the history of humanity certain nations stand out as possessing a peculiar power or charm, some special gift of beauty or wisdom or strength, which puts them among the immortals, which makes them rank forever with the leaders of mankind. France is one of these nations. For her to sink would be a loss to all the world. There are certain lessons of brilliance and of generous gallantry that she can teach better than any of her sister nations. When the French peasantry sang of Malbrook, it was to tell how the soul of this warrior-foe took flight upward through the laurels he had won. Nearly seven centuries ago, Froissart, writing of the time of dire disaster, said that the realm of France was never so stricken that there were not left men who would valiantly fight for it. You have had a great past. I believe you will have a great future. Long may you carry yourselves proudly as citizens of a nation which bears a leading part in the teaching and uplifting of mankind.

Theodore Roosevelt, “Citizenship in a Republic” (The “Man In The Arena” Speech), given at the Sorbonne, Paris, France, April 23, 1910.

10 thoughts on “Bastille Day”

  1. I love France, although it was not very friendly when I first went there. For the past 25 years, and since I got a rudimentary grasp of the language, it has been very pleasant and friendly.

  2. France is our sister country: a brilliant, beautiful, eccentric, difficult and troublesome sister, but still our blood, and our lives are bound up together, and we could not do without her. And when a real threat to the family emerges, we end up on the same side. The Anglosphere is interwoven with France in countless ways, despite everything that has brought us into conflict. The West would not be the West without France. Much that is great and beautiful and cultured and pleasant and delightful and inspiring in the world would not exist but for France.

    I love my country, and the English speaking world, 365 days a year. But one day a year I admit my love for France as well.

  3. I have visited rural southern France for the last three years on cycling trips. The people have been extremely friendly and pleasant. If things end up right, I can see myself getting a small place there someday.

  4. As irritating as France has been post WW2 – deGaulle seemed to me pompous and ungracious – and having an inflated view of France’s contribution to the allied effort – that being said, would the American revolution been a success without France’s help?

  5. A somewhat different take on the glory of Bastille Day:

    “On July 14, 1789, the prisoner population consisted of four forgers, three madmen, and another. The forgers were aristocrats and were locked away in the Bastille rather than be sentenced by the regular courts. The madmen were kept in the Bastille in preference to the asylums: they were unmanageable at home, and needed to be locked away. The servants/warders were bribed to treat them well. The Bastille was stormed; the garrison was slaughtered to a man, some being stamped to death; their heads were displayed on pikes; and the prisoners were freed. The forgers vanished into the general population. The madmen were sent to the general madhouse. The last person freed was a young man who had challenged the best swordsman in Paris to a duel, and who had been locked up at his father’s insistence lest he be killed. This worthy joined the mob and took on the name of Citizen Egalite. He was active in revolutionary politics until Robespierre had him beheaded in The Terror.”

    Jerry Pournell, writing at Chaos Manor in 2004. (

  6. Bill Brandt: short answer = no.

    Rochambeau and De Grasse were as important as Washington in winning the war.

  7. Sgt. Mom, I can see France as metaphorically a sibling, but not a romantic partner. You can’t break up with a sibling — you are stuck with her!

  8. It was Rochambeau who finally convinced Washington to concentrate on the southern theater instead of trying to retake New York. Washington was looking for some retribution after being driven out and disrespected in the process. Also another motivating factor was the brutal British occupation of New Jersey. The problem was we had to rely too much on militias and Washington just couldn’t get them to properly execute his attacks.

    Washington’s relentlessness pulled Cornwallis out of New York, and Rochambeau recognized that attacking him as his forces were pressed near the sea was a better option than hitting the British where they were strongest. It also happened to be a better environment to mix in the irregulars. Once we figured out how to do it and coordinate with the French forces was when we found success.

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