With Americans of Past and Present Days
Under the above title M. Jusserand presents the American public with a series of seven studies and addresses which are dedicated in graceful fashion to the thirteen original states. The reputation of the author as a scholar, a statesman, and a master of English style will ensure the volume careful attention, which will not be misplaced. Much new and interesting material has been here collected and interpreted by M. Jusserand to whom the task has evidently been a labor of love.
The first three sections, entitled “Rochambeau in America,” “L’Enfant and the federal city,” and “Washington and the French,” comprise nearly four-fifths of the entire volume and are, as the author suggests, compilations of various speeches delivered at different times during the thirteen years of the ambassador's mission here. They deal with the history of the official French cooperation with the American forces during the concluding years of the revolution, with the attitude of Washington toward France and his personal friendships with the leaders and with some very interesting details connected with the establishment of our national capital. The material is largely drawn from the store of Franco-American correspondence, published and unpublished, and from a number of works many of which are familiar only to historians of the period. M. Jusserand is explicit in his citations and one is much impressed with the fruitfulness of the field for further investigation.
Americans generally do not feel that Rochambeau is as romantic a figure as the gallant Lafayette but in the first article we learn how effective his force was in a military way to the final outcome because of the way it kept Clinton inactive in New York, preventing reinforcements to Cornwallis, and because of the encouragement it gave to the Americans and by the part it played at Yorktown. Stress is laid upon the operations of the French fleet under De Grasse, who is noted as “the single one of the leaders to whom no memorial has been dedicated.” Many other slightly known figures are done a tardy justice and we are given details as to the later years of the French commander.
The space devoted to Major L’Enfant contains much information that is valuable concerning the planning of the national capital. One sympathizes with the ambitions of the engineer, regrets the neglect which he suffered, due in part to his temperamental nature, and welcomes the vindication his ideas received at the hands of the committee of 1902 which declared for a return in all respects to the original plan.
Washington is presented in a new light for the third section is centered about his relations toward the French and his changes in view as time passed. From a distrust derived from his experiences in the colonial wars and a suspicion of French motives during the early years of the revolution, Washington seems to have come to a wholehearted acceptance of his allies and a sincere friendship for their leaders which is manifest in his correspondence. Various instances of his keen political observation are quoted and much space is devoted to an account of French tributes at the time of Washington’s death.
The fourth essay, devoted to Abraham Lincoln, aims to throw new light upon French public opinion during our civil war. While it contains a eulogy of Lincoln and reviews his life, the chief stress is laid upon the real sympathy of the French people with the cause of the north, no matter what the attitude of Napoleon III may have been. M. Jusserand quotes among other things the letter of Gasparin to Lincoln, the efforts of Frenchmen like the Comte de Paris, General de Trobriand and others, the medal sent to Mrs. Lincoln and a host of tributes coming from all classes and factions to support his view. We must confess ignorance that such a feeling for Lincoln existed among the French people.
The last three portions are short addresses, given as delivered, upon accepting the Franklin medal, on Furness, the Shakesperean scholar, and upon “From war to peace.” The last was delivered in 1910 and is almost prophetic in view of recent events.
The purpose of the volume if we may hazard a guess, is to add to the keen sympathy felt in America for France by reminding us of her part in our history and by showing how her ideals correspond with our own. This thread pervades everything and, if it is a work of propaganda, it is distinguished by good taste and fortified by fact. The author is conspicuously cordial toward England and the English leaders. He repeatedly refers to the lack of national hostility and the friendship of Rochambeau and Cornwallis. No Englishman comes in for criticism, not even the infamous Tarleton. Quite a contrary attitude is manifest in his reference to Frederick the Great, whose regard for Washington is frequently asserted; he reminds us that Prussia refused us formal aid and he indulges in sarcasm at the expense of the Hessians. The object is apparently to show France, England, and America linked together by a common ideal. One cannot help wondering at the scant attention shown to Lafayette, probably in order to bring Rochambeau into prominence.
Well-written, interesting, accurate (save for the slight pro-English touch), the work of M. Jusserand cannot fail to stimulate American feeling for France.
Review by: H. R. Brush
The Mississippi Valley Historical Review
Vol. 4, No. 1 (Jun., 1917), pp. 112-114