French Alliance of 1778 ratified May 4th in York, PA

US Bicentennial Postage Stamp commemorating signing of Treaty of Alliance with France during the American Revolution

US Bicentennial Postage Stamp commemorating signing of Treaty of Alliance with France during the American Revolution

The Treaty of Alliance with France, during the Revolutionary War, was both signed in France and ratified by the Continental Congress while York was the seat of government for the new nation. Without France’s significant military aid, provided by this treaty, it is doubtful that the Revolutionary War would have been won against Great Britain.

This 13-cent United States Postage Stamp commemorates French King Louis XVI handing the signed copy of the treaty to Benjamin Franklin. If you are reading this on the Ydr.com site, click on this LINK for a Full View of the illustrations in this post on the original YorkBlog site; since the ydr.com site will occasionally cut off important details in the cropping of illustrations.

The Treaty of Alliance was signed in France on February 6, 1778, following many months of negotiations by American diplomats Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane and Arthur Lee. One of the keys to getting France to finally agree to a treaty was the colonists’ first major military victory in the defeat of British General Burgoyne’s army of 6,000 men at Saratoga, New York, on October 17, 1777.

The signing of the treaty was only the first step. The final step was the ratification of the treaty by the Continental Congress; which was not a given. Some in Congress were reluctant to become entangled with foreign governments, especially a Catholic country like France.

Illustration on First Day of Issue Envelope for the US Bicentennial French Alliance Postage Stamp (S. H. Smith Collections)

Illustration on First Day of Issue Envelope for the US Bicentennial French Alliance Postage Stamp (S. H. Smith Collections)

On the first day of issue of the US Bicentennial French Alliance Postage Stamp an envelope was sold with this illustration. Benjamin Franklin and French King Louis XVI are highlighted. The first day of issue coincided with the ratification of the treaty by the Continental Congress on May 4, 1778.

The difference between the signing on February 6, 1778, and the ratification on May 4, 1778, had very little to do with any reluctance by Congress. The treaty did not reach the Continental Congress in York, PA, until Saturday May 2nd, because it took that long for the messenger to make the trip. The messenger was Simeon Deane, brother of the American diplomat in France; Silas Deane. One of the reasons for the long delivery was due to the round about voyage, by way of Caribbean Islands, and waiting for time windows to avoid British ships on the Atlantic Ocean and along the coast.

Saturday evening May 2nd, the treaty and other dispatches were laid before members of Congress. The Journals of Continental Congress, Volume 11, page 418, records the actions taken on Monday May 4th. Ultimately any misgivings with the treaty were overshadowed by the urgent need for military aid. After the Treaty of Alliance with France was “duly weighted and considered,” it was “Resolved, unanimously, That the same be and is hereby ratified.”

First Day of Issue cancellation of US Bicentennial French Alliance Postage Stamp (S. H. Smith Collections)

First Day of Issue cancellation of US Bicentennial French Alliance Postage Stamp (S. H. Smith Collections)

The First Day of Issue of US Bicentennial French Alliance Postage Stamp was done in York, PA, because that is where the Treaty of Alliance with France was ratified. The First Day of Issue was May 4, 1978, upon the 200th Anniversary of the ratification of the treaty that provided urgently needed money, munitions, ships, and fighting men to the United States fight for independence.

Links to related posts include:

Reading the HEADLINES; A Quick Index to ALL YorksPast Posts

About Stephen H. Smith

Stephen H. Smith is a design engineer who worked at York International Corp. for 33 years before retiring several years ago to research and write books full time; his second career. The initial emphasis was on family history when he won a national award during 2002 for his first book “Barshingers in America.” Positive feedback and that award were influential in his decision to retire early from engineering and start a retirement career.

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