France is a country in western Europe located across the English Channel from Great Britain, and bordered by Belgium, the German Empire, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain. Its capital and largest city is Paris.
Like Germany, France is a successor state of the 9th century Frankish Empire of Charlemagne. For much of the last millenium, France's position across the English Channel has made it the greatest European rival of England, and later of Great Britain. Since its conquest by Germany in the Global War in 1939, France has been a German client state.
The North American Rebellion and the Paris Insurrection
During the 18th century the British and French fought in a series of wars that extended to their colonial possessions in India, Africa, the Caribbean, and North America. The end of the Seven Years' War in 1763 resulted in the British acquisition of Quebec, and began the American Crisis that led to the outbreak in 1775 of the North American Rebellion.
King Louis XVI allowed the Comte de Vergennes to provide money and arms to the American rebels, and after the British colonies declared independence in July 1776, Louis considered extending formal recognition. However, the British victory at the Battle of Saratoga ended French interest in supporting the Rebellion, which had collapsed by June 1778. Ties between the rebellious colonists and the French were renewed in the 1780s, when many of the rebels left the British colonies to found the settlement of Jefferson in New Spain. When cotton became a major export commodity in Jefferson after 1795, France was a steady customer.
In the summer of 1789 the French government was shaken by the Paris Insurrection, when mobs seized control of the capital and attempted to storm the Palace of Versailles. However, the attempt was driven off, and the insurrection was put down in the Terrible September Days. A possible war with Great Britain was averted by Louis XVI.
The Trans-Oceanic War
Four years after the Paris Insurrection, Louis XVI died of a head injury, and his young son succeeded to the throne as Louis XVII, under the regency of his mother Marie Antoinette. Under Marie Antoinette's regency, France formed an alliance with Austria, and in April 1795 the two nations launched an attack on Prussia, while at the same time the French brought Spain under their control.
The Franco-Spanish threat to Portugal brought Great Britain into the war as a Prussian ally. By late 1798, the Franco-Austrian armies had been defeated by the Prussians and British. During peace negotiations in the winter of 1799, another revolt shook Paris, which was put down by British and Prussian troops. The foreign troops remained in occupation of Paris for several years, leaving Louis XVII little more than an Anglo-German puppet, and France a second-class power for a generation. Although France lost no territory under the terms of the 1799 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, it was forced to pay an indemnity to the British.
The Franco-Mexican Alliance
By the 1820s, France had recovered sufficiently from the effects of the Trans-Oceanic War to grant a $4 million loan to the United States of Mexico, and several French bankers formed a consortium to invest in the U.S.M. Relations betweeen France and the U.S.M. were aided by a dislike for the British shared by King Louis XVIII and Mexican President Andrew Jackson.
A recession struck France in 1835, causing the collapse of Barings Bank in London, which was overextended in India and suffered unsustainable losses among its French investments. The collapse of Barings set off the financial Panic of 1836. Despite the recession and subsequent panic, French textile manufacturers continued to buy Mexican cotton, but the price fell along with demand. The Panic led French investors and the French government to call in their loans to the Mexicans, resulting in the halting of President Jackson's program of internal improvements, and the abandonment of a planned canal across Chiapas. After the discovery of gold in California in 1838, a group of French and Jeffersonian businessmen led by Maurice Duforge and Jethro Baker organized the Jefferson and California Railroad Company in Henrytown. French engineers supervised the railroad's construction, which was built with imported French iron and steel.
When war broke out between Mexico and the C.N.A. in 1845, King Henry V was unable to assist the Mexicans due to French difficulties with the Germanic Confederation. However, the Franco-Mexican alliance was renewed in the 1850s by King Louis XIX and President Hector Niles. The French King saw himself as the U.S.M.'s mentor, and under his direction the French government offered the Mexican government long-term loans at advantageous interest rates. French traders and investors made the port of Tampico, Durango the principal place for their activities, and Tampico became the most Francophilic city in the U.S.M.
The Franco-German War and the French Revolution
Growing rivalry between France and the Germanic Confederation resulted in the outbreak of the Franco-German War in 1878. The Germans won a series of victories, leading to the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1879. When a mob siezed control of Paris in November 1879, King Louis XX attempted to placate them by abdicating in favor of his son Louis XXI. However, this failed to calm the mob, and the French royal family was seized and put to death by revolutionaries on 25 December. A wave of revolutionary anarchy swept France, and a year went by before a stable French government was formed by the radical socialist Léon Gambetta. Gambetta's economic ideas were influenced by the German economic philosopher Erich Neiderhoffer, and he called for workers' ownership of factories and the expropriation of unused private and Church lands for distribution to farmers. This provoked an anti-republican reaction led by the exiled pretender Charles X, and war between the two factions continued until 1892.
Benito Hermión, who was appointed Chief of State of Mexico in September 1881, opposed the republican government in France, and announced in 1882 that he was repudiating the U.S.M.'s French debts, which amounted to $100 million. Hermión also expropriated the investments of any Frenchmen who swore allegience to the Republic, which amounted to half of all foreign investment in the U.S.M. Hermión claimed that the French government was supporting the Moralistas and rebellious Indians in Arizona and Mexico del Norte, and insisted that France was preparing to invade Mexico. Following the Mexican conquest of Guatemala in 1886, Hermión accused the French of planning to join with New Granada in an attack on the U.S.M., an accusation denied by French Premier Pierre Fornay.
In the C.N.A., the newly-established People's Coalition tended to favor France, especially after the Revolution and the establishment of the Republic. When P.C. candidate Ezra Gallivan was elected Governor-General of the C.N.A. in February 1888, he received a message of congratulations from Premier Antoine Phillipe. However, Gallivan would not join France in opposing Hermión's invasion of New Granada in 1890.
The civil war between republicans and royalists resumed in 1895 with the landing of Charles X at Calais. The fighting continued until 1909, when Marshal Henri Fanchon seized power in a coup, the fifth since 1884, and made himself the head of a provisional government. Under Marshal Fanchon's leadership France had a strong government able to control all parts of the nation for the first time since the Revolution. Within two years the French economy had recovered from the civil war. Fanchon established a new constitution in 1911 and was elected President of France. As Prime Minister Stanley Martin remarked at the time, "France is now at peace. The republicans have their republic, and the royalists their king."
Fanchon was a devoted expansionist and proponent of the Moral Imperative. Speaking of Joan of Arc, glory, and duty, he noted that much of Africa and Asia had been taken by the British and Germans. "France has a mission," he said. "We cannot fail our blood and our history." He was prepared to end the fragile peace that had developed in Europe since the end of the Bloody Eighties, and use military force to make France a global power.
Fanchon's initial efforts were tentative and exploratory while he built up French military power. In 1912 he sent fraternal greetings to the governments of Quebec, Ghana, and the Santos colony of Brazil, letting each know that "Your Mother remembers." The results were mixed: Fanchon was rebuffed by Quebec, was invited to visit Santos but was refused permission to travel to Brazil, and was asked for economic assistance by Ghana.
In 1913, Fanchon's military buildup had reached the point where he was willing and able to resort to war to advance his aims, and he chose the U.S.M. for his first target. He reopened discussions with the Mexican government regarding properties seized by Hermión in the 1880s. If the Mexicans refused to make restitution, Fanchon was prepared to call upon Franco-Mexican residents of Tampico to remember their homeland, sponsor a Moralista revival, and call for an end to slavery. He believed that the Mexican-German alliance of 1886 was moribund, and that the Germans would not aid the Mexicans; he also believed that the C.N.A. would either remain neutral, or would sympathize with France. "Burgoyne will be with us in spirit as we enter Mexico City," he said. French conquest of the U.S.M. would make France the world's leading reformist power, and possibly bring South America under French influence.
When the French Navy held maneuvers in Argentine waters in March 1914, newly-elected Mexican President Victoriano Consalus sent a note to Argentine President Lopez Vargas warning him of "dire consequences should the Argentine continue its warlike alliance with France." The U.S.M. broke off diplomatic relations with Argentina on 1 April, and France recalled its ambassador to Mexico City three days later. French troops landed in Argentina on 16 May "to assist that government in repressing guerrilla activities near the capital," and on 2 June a French brigade disembarked in Martinique.
The Hundred Day War
A major riot erupted in Tampico on 12 June and lasted for four days before being halted by government troops. Fanchon sent the French Navy to the port "to assist our countrymen in their fight against tyranny," and the fleet anchored just beyond the 15 kilometer limit on 22 June. Rioting resumed on the night of 27 June, and ten French troopships survived a bombardment by Mexican coastal batteries to land French marines in the city, marking the start of the Hundred Day War. In the next month, the marines were able to consolidate their position in Tampico while a second French naval force secured the Caribbean end of the Kinkaid Canal and a third was defeated by the Mexican Navy at the Battle of Campeche Bay. Additional French troops landed in Tampico under General Jacques Beauchamp on 15 July, and began a drive on Mexico City.
Mexican forces were driven back by the French until the decisive Battle of Chapultepec on 28 August. Mexican airmobiles were able to destroy the French artillery, while Mexican soldiers surrounded the French force with barbed wire barricades which the French were unable to penetrate. General Beauchamp was killed, and his successor, General Pierre Bordagary, surrendered unconditionally to the Mexican commander, General Emiliano Calles. Calles placed Tampico under siege, while the Mexican Navy sealed the port against further French troop landings. The French garrison in Tampico surrendered to Calles on 29 September, and Fanchon sued for peace on 3 October. An armistice was declared between the two nations on 10 October. By the terms of the Treaty of Caracas, France was forced to pay an indemnity of $200 million and cede control of the Caribbean islands of St. Thomas and Martinique to Mexico.
The Global War and its Aftermath
France was allied with Great Britain at the outbreak of the Global War, and declared war on the Germanic Confederation on 3 October 1939. Defeat quickly followed, and the French government was forced to capitulate on 27 November. However, an uprising in Paris in November 1944 led to a general anti-German revolt in Europe. In 1947, German Chancellor Heinrich von Richter permitted elections to be held in France, and by the end of 1948 a new government had been established, and most of the guerilla fighting was over.
In 1969, anti-German riots rocked Paris and other national capitals, with more taking place the following year.
This was the Featured Article for the week of 5 May 2013.