Six Things France Contributed to the U.S. (and One It Didn’t)

It's France’s Independence Day. Today, we salute our longtime ally by recognizing its contributions to our United States.

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On July 14, 1789, French citizens stormed the Bastille, beginning a bloody shootout that ended with a mob beheading the fortress’s governor. The event catalyzed the French Revolution, in which France rid itself of tyrannical monarchy (13 years and 10 days after we did). In honor of our longtime ally’s independence holiday, here are some notable French contributions to the United States.

1.    The Funds We Needed to Win Our Own Independence

One of the reasons the French stormed the Bastille and began a revolution that put their king’s head in a basket was that French King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were spending egregiously. One of the king’s larger expenditures was his contribution to the United States’ Revolutionary War effort, which he made in the interest of weakening England’s power.

2.    Political Theory

Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, who both served as U.S. ambassadors to France, were known Francophiles. Though the chief influence on early American democracy is said to be John Locke, French Enlightenment ideals like those of Jean-Jacques Rousseau certainly influenced our modern democracy.

3.    The Louisiana Purchase

It comprised what is now Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and parts of Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. All for a mere $15 million, which in today’s inflation would work out to around six gallons of gas.

4.    Croissants, Sort Of

French bakers adapted the Austrian kipferl cookie by using puffed pastry instead of biscuit to create the croissants French bakeries are known for — which we de-flaked, methodized for mass production, and now sell in round tins labeled “crescent rolls.” Our famous Pillsbury Crescent Rolls are prohibited in much of Europe for their non-food ingredients.

5.    The Statue of Liberty

France gifted us this “universal symbol of freedom and democracy” in 1886. She’s made of copper and, when inaugurated, shined like a new penny. Did the French designers intend for her skin to oxidize into a green patina? Probably. Would it be convenient for them to say that after the fact? Definitely.

6.    A Larger Language

You might think first of words like déjà vu, faux pas, fiancé, soufflé, or bourgeois, which we recently shortened to bougie, but French also gave us words like fashion, hotel, juggle, and vehicle. French is the reason farmers raise cattle, pigs, and sheep, but we eat beef, pork, and mutton. Even the word language came to English through French. And this list is only a drop in the bucket (oh, also cliché) of French contributions to the English language.

Not French Fries

They’re Belgian, using a French frying technique. Other foods not invented by the French: French toast, French dressing, and French onion dip.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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