Did France gain anything significant (territories or other concessions) at the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War? I tried to look up for it, but what I found were very minor (Senegal in Africa and the island of Tobago). This looked very minor for one of the major victors in the war and compared to huge French losses during the Seven Years War.

Did France receive other kind of compensation? If not, why did they receive so little gain as victor?

  • There wasn't all that much use for France to snatch up overseas possessions. England would just snatch them back for free when the next war started in about 10 years.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Aug 15, 2014 at 23:51

5 Answers 5


France in the 18th century often didn't seem to press its advantages at the negotiating table. The most notable example came after the War of the Austrian Succession (1744-48), when France gave back the Austrian Netherlands (now Belgium) to Austria even though it had conquered it, and conquering Belgium had been a long-time goal of France's. Apparently this was done because France's Louis XV hoped to avoid overly antagonizing Britain, but if so, the plan failed because the two countries were at war just a few years later. This peace treaty was bitterly resented in France.

In the American Revolutionary War, France conquered several of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean, but returned them all except Tobago. Why is not entirely clear. It may be that Louis XVI, like his grandfather, wanted to avoid making Britain thirst for revenge and another war.

Tobago was a fertile sugar-producing island and Senegal was a major slave-trading station, so they did bring some value - though not enough to offset France's enormous expenditures in the war, which eventually fueled the Revolution.

Britain, in contrast, seemed more eager to press its advantages, and after the Seven Years' War it managed to keep almost everything it had conquered. It must be noted though that France was fairly willing to let its North American colonies go, as it was tired of having to repeatedly defend them against their much more populous neighbors, especially when their only major export was furs.


There is the obvious geo-political gain of weakening their British enemies, who had seen such expansion in that theatre during the seven year war. Come the next war (Napoleonic, yes, unfortunately not so much of a gain for the Bourbons) the United states offered both trade to France and co-belligerency (1812 war). However, I get the feeling France expected more. Can't find a source for that right now though.

This is what wikipedia thinks by the way. They think France dropped the ball as well.


The general war was actually between Great Britain on one side, and France, Spain, the Netherlands, and the new United States on the other. However, only the French were acting as direct USA allies. (The Spanish, for obvious reasons, weren't real keen on the idea of helping colonies in the Americas revolt).

If this sounds complicated, it was, and the treaty negotiations to end it all were even moreso. For starters, France insisted on USA independence being recognized up-front, which is why the Treaty of Paris covered only that and not the grievances of the other parties.

If that sounds oddly like altruism on the French part, I can assure you it was not. They were purposely delaying negotiations this way so that they and the Spanish could try to take Gibraltar. Sadly for them, they failed miserably. As a result, all Spain managed to get was Florida (half of which they had conquered, and the other half they traded for the Bahamas) and Minorca. France, which was bankrupted by the war, did even worse. They essentially traded back everything they took from Britain for everything Britain took from them, with the exception of Tobago and a small bit of land in Africa which they got to keep.

The Dutch fared so badly in the war that they actually did pretty darn good just to get most of their prewar possessions back. The Brits only kept the parts that were in India proper.


France did make some important gains from the American Revolution, but they were mainly longer term.

The first was that she deprived Britain of what later became the United States. Britain lost not only the 13 Colonies, but also "East Louisiana," (the part of the country between the Mississippi River and Appalachians) to the new Republic, and "Florida" (including the Gulf Coasts of the future Mississippi and Alabama back to Spain. This paved the way for Spain's retrocession of the "Louisiana" (Purchase) to France, which France sold for $15 million in 1803.

More important benefits took place over a century later. In 1917, when France was allied with England and facing a new enemy, Germany, John J. Pershing, America's General of the Armies announced the arrival of war-winning American troops by reportedly saying, "Lafayette, we are here." American soldiers also landed at Normandy some 27 years later in 1944.

  • 1
    That quote is often attributed to pershing but was actually said by his aide, colonel Charles Stanton. Its mentioned on his wikipedia page en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_J._Pershing
    – Lawton
    Commented Jul 19, 2013 at 19:11

France got little or nothing for the war, hence the reason for the French revolution happening, Louie the VI bankrupted France fighting this war. So nice of the Americans, they left France completely out of the negotiations when dealing with England after the war. The least they could have done is give France back the province of Quebec. I guess they thought it was better to have English neighbors than French.

France go screwed by the colonist


  • Could you support this argument with research? it contradicts everything I've learned.
    – MCW
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 2:30

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