Saturday, January 21, 2012
The Greatness of King Louis XVI
This was what ultimately led to the French intervention in the American Revolution (or more properly ‘War for Independence’). Louis XVI had deep reservations about helping any rebels in waging war against their sovereign yet he was persuaded to make an alliance with the fledgling United States by a combination of the urging of his advisors and his desire to see an end to the British domination of North America and, perhaps, a much greater French influence in the region. Although not often remembered, following the French and Indian War the French military had been reformed and greatly improved. The expeditionary force sent to North America fought extremely well and, along with the French navy, proved decisive in securing the independence of the United States by forcing Great Britain to give up on the war and come to terms with their former fellow subjects. The islands of Tobago and Grenada were taken from the British (Tobago being retained by France along with Senegal in the final settlement) but, to some extent, Louis XVI was undercut by his American allies who made a separate peace with Great Britain and effectively thwarted the greatest ambition King Louis had for the conflict which was the recovery of Canada. Had the war gone on there is every reason to believe that could have happened.
In the other great arena of colonial competition, Louis XVI also hoped to reverse previous losses and see the growing British dominance in India come to an end. He allied with the Maratha Empire and took the side of the Sultan of Mysore in the Second Anglo-Mysore War in the hope of breaking the dominance of the British East India Company, curtailing British influence in India and increasing French influence. France actually had a much larger sphere of influence in India, controlling large parts of the east coast and holding sway over the majority of the southern subcontinent. French troops and ships were active in the region but due to the distance involved the campaign was overtaken by events elsewhere and when the end of the American Revolution forced France to make a hasty peace with Britain the previous French support for the Indians was withdrawn. In the end Britain and the Indian forces made peace that restored the pre-war status quo in India. Again, had not the situation in American brought hostilities to an end, it is conceivable that France, working through local alliances, might have dethroned Britain from her place of prominence in India.