France formally recognizes the United States

France formally recognizes the United States

On December 17, 1777, the French foreign minister, Charles Gravier, count of Vergennes, officially acknowledges the United States as an independent nation. News of the Continental Army’s overwhelming victory against the British General John Burgoyne at Saratoga gave Benjamin Franklin new leverage in his efforts to rally French support for the American rebels. Although the victory occurred in October, news did not reach France until December 4th.

READ MORE: 5 Ways the French Helped Win the American Revolution

Franklin had quickly mustered French support upon his arrival in December 1776. France’s humiliating loss of North America to the British in the Seven Years’ War made the French eager to see an American victory. However, the French king was reluctant to back the rebels openly. Instead, in May 1776, Louis XVI sent unofficial aid to the Continental forces and the playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais helped Franklin organize private assistance for the American cause.

Franklin, who often wore a fur cap, captured the imagination of Parisians as an American man of nature and his well-known social charms stirred French passions for all things American. He was the toast of Parisian society, enchanting salons with his wide-ranging knowledge, social graces and witty repartee. Nevertheless, he was not allowed to appear at court.

It took the impressive and long-awaited victory at Saratoga to convince Louis that the American rebels had some hope of defeating the British empire. His enthusiasm for the victory paired with the foreign minister’s concern that the loss of Philadelphia to the British would lead Congress to surrender, gave Franklin two influential allies with two powerful—if opposing—reasons for officially backing the American cause. A formal treaty of alliance followed on February 6, 1778.

READ MORE: How the American Revolution Influenced the French Revolution

Today in history: Morocco is the first country to recognize the U.S.

On December 20, 1777, the Kingdom of Morocco became the first country in the world to recognize United States independence, only a year and a half after the U.S. Declaration of Independence was issued. The War of Independence was still in progress, and the result was still far from certain.

In the 1780s, after independence had been secured, Moroccan pirates threatened American shipping in the Mediterranean. Thomas Barclay, the American consul in France, arrived in Morocco in 1786. There he negotiated the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship, which was signed later that year in Europe by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.Under Sultan Mohammed III, Morocco became at once the first Arab state, the first African state, and the first Muslim state to sign a treaty with the United States. Congress ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the two nations in 1787. Renegotiated in 1836, the treaty is still in force, constituting the longest unbroken treaty relationship in U.S. history.

In 1863, the King of Morocco released an official order stating: “the Confederate States of America are fighting the government with whom we are in friendship and good relations….If any vessel of the so-called Confederate States enters your port, it shall not be received, but you must order it away on pain of seizure and you will act on this subject in cooperation with the United States….”

The Moroccan city of Tangier on the Strait of Gibraltar is home to the oldest U.S. diplomatic property in the world. Now a museum, the Tangier American Legation Museum is also the only building outside of the U.S. that is now a National Historic Landmark.

Photo: Sultan Mohammed III | Wikipedia (CC)

The Criteria For Becoming A Sovereign State

Most experts on international law would agree that there are certain basic criteria that a country must meet in order for it to be recognized by other governments or the UN as a sovereign state. Four criteria, to be exact. A country must have a people, a defined territory, a government, and the ability to conduct relations with other countries as a sovereign state. Some would say, however, that there is also a fifth criterion that the country seeking self-determination must have the consent of the government that currently has sovereignty over it. Others, however, contend that this fifth criterion is a contradiction of international law that supposedly gives people the right to self-determination. At the same time, though, international law also guarantees the territorial integrity of states. Thus, there is a contradiction. By convention, an entity that is recognized by the UN should formally be recognized as a sovereign state. In practice, however, recognition by the UN does not guarantee an entity’s sovereignty. But recognition, or at least support, from the US government can do just that.

How Did the French Revolution Affect the United States?

The French Revolution had an impact on the politics and laws of the United States. It was also a primary motivator behind the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798.

When the French Revolution began in 1789, Americans were largely supportive of it. The United States was allied with France at that time, and the hope was that democratic reforms would turn France into a more powerful ally against Britain. As the revolution became more radical and violent, however, opinion became more divided. This led to political division between the Democratic-Republican party who supported the revolution and the Federalist Party who wanted to maintain a good trade relationship with Britain.

When the other European powers went to war with France in 1793, however, both parties agreed that taking sides would lead to economic devastation and potential invasion for the country. The United States thus remained formally neutral despite heavy pressure from both sides.

The political activities of French citizens in the United States and the proliferation of spies led the Federalists, who controlled Congress, to pass the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. These laws collectively raised the residency requirement for citizenship, gave the president the power to deport aliens considered dangerous and male citizens of hostile nations above the age of 14 during wartime and restricted speech that was critical of the government. Most of the provisions of the acts had expired by 1801.

A debt that’s both moral and material

Former French presidents, from Jacques Chirac, to Nicolas Sarkozy, to François Hollande, have a history of punishing, skirting or downplaying Haitian demands for recompense.

In May 2015, when French President François Hollande became only France’s second head of state to visit Haiti, he admitted that his country needed to “settle the debt.” Later, realizing he had unwittingly provided fuel for the legal claims already prepared by attorney Ira Kurzban on behalf of the Haitian people – former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had demanded formal recompense in 2002 – Hollande clarified that he meant France’s debt was merely “moral.”

To deny that the consequences of slavery were also material is to deny French history itself. France belatedly abolished slavery in 1848 in its remaining colonies of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Réunion and French Guyana, which are still territories of France today. Afterwards, the French government demonstrated once again its understanding of slavery’s relationship to economics when it took it upon itself to financially compensate the former “owners” of enslaved people.

The resulting racial wealth gap is no metaphor. In metropolitan France 14.1% of the population lives below the poverty line. In Martinique and Guadeloupe, in contrast, where more than 80% of the population is of African descent, the poverty rates are 38% and 46%, respectively. The poverty rate in Haiti is even more dire at 59%. And whereas the median annual income of a French family is $31,112, it’s only $450 for a Haitian family.

These discrepancies are the concrete consequence of stolen labor from generations of Africans and their descendants. And because the indemnity Haiti paid to France is the first and only time a formerly enslaved people were forced to compensate those who had once enslaved them, Haiti should be at the center of the global movement for reparations.

The Principles of the French Constitution

The French Republic has one explicit principle and one only, set forth in the fifth line of article 2 of the Constitution and directly borrowed from Lincoln: "Government of the people, by the people and for the people". But no matter how well expressed and how inspiring, this principle is the one the Republic has espoused, without in fact always showing an equally effective concern for its implementation. But the principle of the Republic is not that of the Constitution, which wisely refrains from reducing itself to a single formula. And it is principles, in the plural, that it expresses, sometimes with a flourish, sometimes discreetly principles which it enshrines explicitly, or that follow from it implicitly.

These principles are, all in all, pretty simple, and it is this very simplicity which makes them akin to the best traditions of European democracy.

A Constitution must guarantee rights

First of all, the fundamental rights, those without which no Constitution is worthy of the name. While many countries have chosen to draw up a comprehensive and up-to-date list of these rights, France has preferred to look to its past. The preamble to the Constitution of 4 October 1958 explicitly refers to two previous texts, to which the French people solemnly proclaim their attachment: the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, and the preamble to the 1946 Constitution.

The first of these two texts has withstood the test of time. Because it is a true charter of individual liberties, it is both imperishable and incomplete: imperishable because nothing can last which is not founded on the indefeasible rights of every human being incomplete because it lacks the dimension of collective rights, the very rights we find a century and half after 1789 - in the preamble to the 1946 Constitution - raised to the same level.

Liberty and equality are enshrined, being both affirmed generally and in some instances spelled out, and enriched, in the light of experience, with the principle of human dignity, reflected and consolidated by economic and social rights, exercised collectively as well as individually.

With the seventeen articles of 1789 and eighteen paragraphs of 1946, France and the French are thus endowed with fundamental rights and freedoms, defined in terms sufficiently precise to afford protection, and sufficiently open to be adapted to developments in collective consciousness and, more prosaically, technical progress: despite the phenomenal transformation of the media, the terms in which freedom of expression was enshrined in 1789 have aged not one whit.

So it remained only to guarantee those rights in all circumstances, or nearly all. That guarantee has been in place since 1971, with the Constitutional Council responsible for ensuring that all laws passed by Parliament are in conformity with these Constitutional texts

The Constitution must also provide for the separation of powers.

But if, as article 16 of the 1789 Declaration says, a Constitution must guarantee rights, it must also, faithful to Montesquieu, organize the separation of powers. And those powers have first to be shaped before they can be distinguished.

The executive has two heads. This is troubling for the foreign observer, as it sometimes is for the French citizen himself, who does not always understand the logic of the relationship between President and Prime Minister.

The President of the Republic, the head of State, is the embodiment of the Nation, its history, unity and integrity. He has important powers, such as the power to appoint the Prime Minister, and then, on the latter’s proposal, the other members of the government. He can call a referendum, dissolve the National Assembly, negotiate and ratify treaties, and even take the initiative of proposing a revision of the Constitution. His most important power, however, stems from the way he is elected: by direct universal suffrage. If a candidate obtains an absolute majority (over half the votes cast), he is immediately elected. Otherwise there is a second round, involving only the two candidates who led in the first. Arithmetically, then, one of the two will necessarily attain an absolute majority.

The fact that over half the voters have voted for him personally gives the head of State an incomparable political power. As the undisputed leader of his political camp, he is actively backed by the government which he appoints and by the parliamentary majority which supports him. Consequently, he can not only wield his own powers, but also resort to those of the government and the Parliament which, out of political solidarity, put them at his disposal.

Nevertheless while the President acts as a spur to the parliamentary majority, it is the Prime Minister who is its day-to-day leader. The regime remains formally parliamentary, in that the government is answerable to the National Assembly which, in principle, has the power to bring it down it at any time, just as in the United Kingdom, Germany or Spain, for example.

In these conditions, when the Parliamentary majority belongs to the same camp as the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister is a link between the two. It is he who runs the government and guides the work of Parliament, but the head of State who in fact sets out the main lines of policy, at least on the most important subjects. So it is the President of the Republic who holds the bulk of the executive power and has the lion’s share of legislative power at his disposal, albeit indirectly.

All this changes, of course, when the President loses the support of the parliamentary majority.

This situation, which obtained in France from 1986 to 1988 and from 1993 to 1995, and has existed since 1997, is known as "cohabitation" because it forces a President and a Prime Minister to cohabit at the head of the executive despite being political adversaries who will often be running against each other in the next elections. In this situation the President is limited to the exercise of his own powers, powers which politically he can make little use of immediately after being personally disavowed by the voters in parliamentary elections won by his opponents. It is the Prime Minister, by contrast, who then becomes the country’s real political boss.

It is therefore a variable-geometry system. Normally it ensures the primacy of the President, but that primacy is always strictly proportional to his support in Parliament. If the President enjoys the unconditional support of that majority, his primacy is unconditional. If the support is conditional, so is his primacy. And if the support disappears, the primacy disappears with it.

But the most important thing in this strange arrangement is that the variations in question are always decided by the citizens themselves, and by them alone. It is they who directly choose a President, and they again who, in parliamentary elections, give him or deny him a majority in Parliament. Given that henceforth the head of State is to be elected for the same term - five years - as the National Assembly deputies, French voters will probably find themselves making these two choices at more or less the same time, which logically should take some of the heat out of the electoral calendar. Barring accidents, the French President and National Assembly will in future be elected once and for all for a five-year term.

Turning now to the legislature, we see that it is unequally divided between two chambers, the National Assembly and the Senate.

The National Assembly is elected by direct universal suffrage. The electoral method, similar to that used for presidential elections, produces effective majorities. Each of the 557 deputies is elected in one constituency through a two-ballot majority (first-past-the-post) polling system. This system has constrained the political forces to band together and forge alliances, finally giving birth to two great coalitions. The voters thus always have a choice between the two, the outcome of parliamentary elections generally being a clear winner and a clear loser.

Thanks to this, it is a clearly identified majority which will exercise the essential legislative power and support the government.

It will do so under the watchful eye of the opposition, which though lacking any formal status has come to enjoy many rights. But now, once again, it is the French people themselves to whom the majority will be answerable, since they will have an opportunity to judge it at the next election, if necessary punishing it with defeat, an opportunity they have never failed to grasp for over twenty years.

The Senate is in a different position. While the deputies represent the people, the 321 senators represent France’s local authorities, both in metropolitan France and overseas (as well as French nationals residing abroad). They are in fact elected, by indirect universal suffrage, by locally elected representatives. They serve a nine-year term, and the Senate, one third of which is up for re-election every three years, cannot be dissolved. Conversely, the government is not answerable to the Senate, which cannot bring it down.

In the exercise of legislative power, it has a priori the same powers as the Assembly, but this two-chamber system becomes inequitable in that, if a disagreement should persist between the two chambers, the government can ask the deputies to make a definitive ruling. So it is the Assembly which has the last word (except in the case of an amendment to the Constitution, or an institutional act of concern to the Senate). Because of the particular way it is elected, the second chamber serves as a stronghold of the conservative forces in France and guarantees a majority for the corresponding coalition in all circumstances.

A rationalized parliamentarianism

In the relations between government and Parliament, the former has many ways of forcing the latter to take decisions. This is what has been called "rationalized parliamentarianism", thanks to which the executive is always able to confront the legislature with its responsibilities and, thus, not to allow it to shirk them. Political solidarity does the rest, which thus ensures the existence of a majoritarian discipline without which no country is governable in the long term.

The members of Parliament sometimes feel uncomfortable about this, considering themselves too much constrained by their duty of loyalty to the government. But this feeling is certainly not peculiar to France, and a comparable regret may be observed, varying only in its keenness, in all similar assemblies.

The Constitution has brought into being another body, this one not belonging to Parliament. This is the Economic and Social Council, which brings together what in France are usually called the "living forces of the Nation", i.e. prominent people in civil society, the voluntary sector, trade unions and employers’ associations. Its powers are consultative only.

The third branch of government, the judiciary, is not really a power in its own right, since the Constitution defines it in more restrictive terms as the "judicial authority". Traditionally, the French judge is conceived as a mere "mouthpiece of the law". The judge’s duty is strictly to interpret and apply the law, since he has no power to depart from it and is not himself recognized as a real creator of law.

The Constitution guarantees his independence, and a special status effectively offers members of the French judicial service wishing to make use of them the means of total independence.

Again by tradition, France has in a sense a dual judicial system, with two parallel but separate hierarchies: the civil and criminal courts, headed by the Court of Cassation and the administrative courts which are empowered to hear all disputes between the authorities and private individuals, headed by the Conseil d’Etat. There is also the Cour des comptes (Auditor-General’s Department or Audit Court), with important responsibilities in the budgetary and financial sphere.

But it was a break with French tradition when, in 1958, the present Constitution created the Constitutional Council. This body, composed of nine members, three appointed by the President of the Republic, three by the President of the Senate and three by the President of the National Assembly, is responsible for ensuring the proper conduct of presidential elections, referenda, and parliamentary elections. But its essential - and most innovative - role is to monitor constitutionality, making sure the laws are in conformity with the Constitution.

Not anyone may apply to this body for a ruling, but since 1974 the parliamentary opposition has had the right to refer to it any statute adopted by Parliament. Consequently, the Constitutional Council is frequently mobilized in this way, and frequently, too, sets aside provisions adopted by Parliament as contrary to the Constitution. The result is that there is a strict limit - that of respect for the Constitution - placed on the majority power jointly exercised by government and Parliament.

Although, a priori, the way its members are appointed holds out no serious guarantee of autonomy, to the point where its composition might be thought outlandish, the status of its members, appointed for nine years, who may not be removed and are ineligible for re-appointment, does gives them the means to act independently, and the way the institution has evolved has made them want to use those means, so much so that the Council has progressively won public respect, thanks to which it is able to impose its authority in the peaceful resolution of numerous political or judicial disputes.

Within the international system, finally, France formally recognizes the rules of international public law, which should certainly be the least she could do as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. On the European level, since 1992 the French Constitution has included articles (88-1 to 88-4) legalizing France’s participation in the European Communities and European Union and the sharing of sovereignty to which it has given rise, while at the same limiting it for the future, since any further transfer of essential elements of sovereignty must be authorized in advance by a revision of the Constitution.

That revision, like any other, can in any event be decided upon only if both the National Assembly and Senate separately give their consent. Once this first step has been taken, there may be a choice, before any reform is definitively ratified, between a national referendum and, the simpler procedure of adoption by a three-fifths majority of both chambers meeting together in Congress.

As regards length, the Constitution is very short since it has only 88 articles (plus those of 1789 and 1946).

Three major characteristics

Basically, it guarantees the functioning of a system which has three major characteristics: the governed choose the governors, since the outcome of an election leads directly and immediately to the handing over of power to the winner(s) the governors have the means of governing, since rationalized parliamentarianism ensures the stability and power of the majority bloc and the governors are effectively answerable to the governed, since the latter always have an alternative solution, at the next election, if they are dissatisfied with the outgoing majority.

Thus summarized, the principles of the Constitution bring it much closer than one might think to systems operating in countries as different as Portugal, Sweden, Spain, Germany and even Britain. Beyond what are only superficial differences, these fundamental elements are present in all these countries’ systems.

All that remains is to point to the solidity of the rule of law and effective guarantee of freedoms, and to conclude that what we have here really is a modern democracy./.

Marriage in France

Note : The French legal system requires that civil marriages take place in a French "mairie" (City Hall). Therefore, marriages cannot be performed within the Embassy or within an French Consulate in the U.S.

Civil Ceremony

All marriages must be performed by a French civil authority before any religious ceremony takes place. The mayor can authorize the deputy mayor or a city councilor to perform the ceremony in the town in which one of the parties to be married has resided for at least 40 days preceding the marriage. These requirements can not be waived.

Religious ceremony

The religious ceremony has to be performed after the civil ceremony (never before). The minister, priest or rabbi will require a certificate of civil marriage before any religious ceremony takes place.

Publications of banns

French Law requires the posting of marriage banns at the appropriate "mairie" no less than 10 days preceding the date of marriage. The first publication of the banns can be made only at the end of the 30 days of residence in France by one party to the marriage.

Marriage certificate

Couples married in France receive a "livret de famille." This is a booklet which serves as an official record of marriage and subsequent events in the family such as births, deaths, divorce or name changes. A marriage certificate can be obtained by writing to the "mairie" where the marriage took place.

Documents required

Note : Most mairies require these basic documents. Please contact your local mairie for exact requirements.

A valid U.S. passport or a French resident permit
A birth certificate (less than three months old)
A certificate of celibacy (less than three months old) which can be done before an American Consular Officer in France
An affidavit of Law. It is a statement (must be done by an attorney licensed to practice in both France and United States) about U.S. marriage laws, certifying that the American citizen is free to contract marriage in France and will be recognized in the United States
A medical certificate (less than three months old)
Proof of domicile (electricity bill, etc.)
Certificat du notaire (if the parties to the marriage opt for a prenuptial contract)


City Hall = Mairie
Deputy mayor = adjoint au maire
City Councilior = conseiller municipal
French civil authority = Officier de l’Etat civil
Publication of banns = publication des bans
Marriage certificate = attestation de marriage
Birth certificate = Extrait d’acte de naissance
French residency permit = Carte de séjour
Certificat of Celibacy = attestation de célibat
A medical Certificate = certificat médical
Proof of domicile = justificatif de domicile
Honeymoon = Lune de miel

Relations With the People's Republic of China

The Peoples Republic of China claims sovereignty over Taiwan and its territories. In 2005, China enacted what was called an "anti-secession law" towards Taiwan against military intervention from the US on Taiwan's independence. The law formalized China's policy to use non-peaceful means against the Taiwanese independence movement in the case of a declaration of independence. This created tensions between the two entities.

Neither China nor Taiwan sees their relations as foreign. They prefer to use the term Cross-Strait relations in referring to their geographical separator, the Taiwan Strait. The Taiwanese and Chinese governments do no interact directly.

However, relations between the two sides have been warming up since 2008 with the promotion of cross-strait links and increased economic and social interchanges between them.

The War of 1812

James Madison succeeded Jefferson as president in 1809. France soon promised to end its interference with American shipping, but Britain did not. Also, people believed the British were encouraging Indians to attack American pioneers moving westward. For these reasons, many Americans demanded war against Britain. They were led by members of Congress from the West and South called War Hawks. Other Americans, especially New Englanders, opposed the War Hawks' demand. But on June 18, 1812, at Madison's request, Congress declared war on Britain and the War of 1812 had begun.

Neither side gained much advantage early in the war. But on Aug. 24, 1814, British troops captured Washington, D.C., and burned the Capitol and other government buildings. This British action made Americans realize their nation's survival was at stake. Large numbers of American volunteers rushed into service, and helped stop the British offensive. The Treaty of Ghent of Dec. 24, 1814, officially ended the War of 1812. Neither side won the war and little was gained from the struggle.

Biden formally recognizes LGBTQ Pride Month, restarting a tradition that Trump abandoned

President Joe Biden on Tuesday formally declared June as Pride Month and reiterated his pledge to defend the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in the US.

"This Pride Month, we recognize the valuable contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals across America, and we reaffirm our commitment to standing in solidarity with LGBTQ+ Americans in their ongoing struggle against discrimination and injustice," Biden said in a presidential proclamation marking the beginning of Pride, a month commemorated with parades and festivities across the country in support of LGBTQ+ rights.

Biden's executive action on Tuesday marks a return to a president who officially recognizes Pride Month. For eight years, former President Barack Obama issued presidential proclamations for Pride. But former President Donald Trump halted the tradition when he took office.

The White House weighed in on the difference, saying in a statement that "after four years of relentless attacks on LGBTQ+ rights, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken historic actions to accelerate the march toward full LGBTQ+ equality."

Trump once recognized Pride Month in a tweet in 2019, yet he neglected to issue a presidential proclamation for Pride during his four years as commander-in-chief.

On his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order calling on federal agencies to re-enforce protections for LGBTQ+ individuals and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in education, employment, healthcare, housing, and other areas.

A few days later, Biden reversed a Trump-era policy that largely banned transgender people from serving in the US military. "It's simple: America is safer when everyone qualified to serve can do so openly and with pride," Biden said at the time.

The Biden administration last month also authorized US embassies to fly the Pride flag, repealing another Trump administration decision.

On Tuesday, Biden touted his administration's efforts to fight for the LGBTQ+ community and said he "will not rest until full equality for LGBTQ+ Americans is finally achieved and codified into law."

He called on Congress to approve the Equality Act, a bill that aims to expand civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ individuals. The House passed the legislation in February, but the Senate has yet to take it up.

Biden also acknowledged the "tragic levels of violence against transgender people, especially transgender women of color" and how several states have introduced "discriminatory" bills targeting trans athletes in schools.

Watch the video: 6th February 1778: France and the US sign the first treaties that recognise American independence