Paris: Americans in Paris





One of the Oldest Gothic churches in Paris, the recent restauration is one of the structures that affords the visitor the rare chance to see a painted interior.

“The name of the café “Les Deux Magots” (i.e. “two Chinese figurines”) comes from a novelty shop that once occupied the same premises. Founded in 1812 at 23 Rue de Buci, it was transferred to Place St-Germain-des-Prés to expand in 1873. The two statues that adorn the café now stand as witnesses to that era. In 1885, the shop gave way to an alcohol-serving café that kept the same name. Verlaine, Rimbaud and Mallarmé, to name a few, were regulars at the café. The Café began to play an important role in Parisian cultural life before asserting its literary vocation in 1933 with the creation of the Prix des Deux Magots award. Frequented by numerous famed artists including Elsa Triolet, Louis Aragon, André Gide, Jean Giraudoux, Picasso, Fernand Léger, Prévert, Hemingway and others, the café hosted Surrealists under the aegis of André Breton, and Existentialists around Sartre and Beauvoir.” Les Deux Magots

Visitors to Les Deux Magots: Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Mallarmé, André Derain, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, Guillaume Apollinaire, André Breton, Louis Aragon, Le Corbusier, Berthold Brecht, Walter Gropius, Jean-Paul Sartre, James Joyce, Simone de Beauvoir, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Aldous Huxley, Juliette Gréco

Pablo Picasso meets Dora Maar in Les Deux Magots.

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir are the two people that are most closely identified to Cafe de Flore.

« Nous nous y installâmes complètement : de neuf heures du matin à midi, nous y travaillions, nous allions déjeuner, à deux heures nous y revenons et nous causions alors avec des amis que nous rencontrions jusqu’à huit heures. Après dîner, nous recevions les gens à qui nous avions donné rendez-vous. Cela peut vous sembler bizarre, mais nous étions au Flore chez nous. » Jean-Paul Sartre

The Dadaist and Surrealists met here and formulated their ideas. Gabriel Garcia-Marquez came to Cafe de Flore to meet the literary figures he had read so much about and to incorporate their ideas into Magic Realism.

Hemingway wrote here.

Condorcet wrote, “Either no member of the human race has any natural rights or they all have the same; and anyone who votes against the rights of another, whatever their religion, their color or their sex, has from that moment abjured his own.”

It was in this building that the United States officially became an independent nation when the Treaty of Paris was signed. “This treaty, signed on September 3, 1783, between the American colonies and Great Britain, ended the American Revolution and formally recognized the United States as an independent nation. The American War for Independence (1775-1783) was actually a world conflict, involving not only the United States and Great Britain, but also France, Spain, and the Netherlands. The peace process brought a nascent United States into the arena of international diplomacy, playing against the largest and most established powers on earth. The three American negotiators – John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay – proved themselves ready for the world stage, achieving many of the objectives sought by the new United States. Two crucial provisions of the treaty were British recognition of U.S. independence and the delineation of boundaries that would allow for American western expansion.” National Archives

“The peace sealed by the treaty was ultimately won in the Siege and Battle of Yorktown, where Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau, and his more than 5,000 French soldiers joined George Washington’s Continental Army, and troops led by the Marquis de Lafayette, in forcing the surrender of the British commander Lord Cornwallis on October 19, 1781, following weeks of continuous bombardment by artillery and canon. While these troops had blocked a British escape by land, the escape by sea had been thwarted by the French naval fleet under the command of François Joseph Paul, Marquis de Grasse Tilly, Comte de Grasse, which had arrived from the then-French colony St-Domingue, now Haiti.” Blue Lion Tours

Benjamin Franklin engaged in continuous psychological, theatrical acts (dressing as a frontiersman in Versailles) and pillow diplomacy. His unofficial character is captured in his “treaty” with Anne-Louise Boivin d’Hardancourt Brillon de Jouy.

Franklin was a member of the Loge des Neuf Sœurs, a Masonic lodge founded in 1776 and decisive in organizing support for the American Revolution. Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier Voltaire, John Paul Jones, Jean-Antoine Houdon and Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin.

“The Nine Sisters Lodge was founded on July 5, 1776, as a learned society devoted to the spread of Enlightenment ideas. Franklin was very active in it, becoming lodge master in 1779 and so inheriting, among other regalia, the Masonic apron first worn by the philosopher Helvétius and then by Voltaire, whom Franklin escorted to his Freemason induction in April 1778, a few weeks before the latter’s death…When the lodge held a special assembly for Franklin before his return to the United States, the Duc de Rochefoucauld distributed copies of the Declaration of Independence to lodge members. Another member of the lodge was Lafayette” Blue Lion Tours

Keeper of the French Language.
“Hey. I’ll send you an email about grabbing a quick lunch.”
“Salut, je t’ai envoyé un mail pour qu’on se fasse un McDo.”
“Bonjour, Je vous envoie un courrier électronique pour arranger un déjeuner de restauration rapide.”

After dinner We went to the Accademy of Sciences, and heard Mr. D’Alembert as Secretary perpetual, pronounce Eulogies on several of their Members lately deceased. Voltaire and Franklin were both present, and there presently arose a general Cry that Monsieur Voltaire and Monsieur Franklin should be introduced to each other. (They had in fact already met.) This was done and they bowed and spoke to each other. This was no Satisfaction. There must be something more. Neither of our Philosophers seemed to divine what was wished or expected. They however took each other by the hand…. But this was not enough. The Clamour continued, untill the explanation came out ‘Il faut s’embrasser, a la francoise’ [They have to hug each other the French way]. The two Aged Actors upon this great Theatre of Philosophy and frivolity then embraced each other by hugging one another in their Arms and kissing each others cheeks, and then the tumult subsided. And the Cry immediately spread through the whole Kingdom and I suppose over all Europe Qu’il etoit charmant. Oh! il etoit enchantant, de voir Solon et Sophocle embrassan[t]. How charming it was! Oh! it was enchanting to see Solon and Sophocles embracing!” John Adams 29 April 1778 

This Academy of Sciences inspired John Adams to establish the American Academy of Arts and Science in 1780 in Cambridge, Massachusetts . The Academy’s mission is the following: “Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences honors excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world, and work together “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.”

Although the less popular of the three Enlightenment philosophers, Montesquieu is probably the most important to the history of the USA. James Madison’s separation of powers came from the ideas of Montesquieu.

“At the time, some officials were surprised or bothered by the fact that this acquisition included works not necessary or even appropriate for a legislative library, such as books on science/philosophy, works of literature and books in foreign languages. To such critics Jefferson wrote, “I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection; there is, in fact, no subject to which a Member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.” This Jeffersonian concept of universality remains the basis of the Library of Congress’s policy of all-inclusive collecting.” Blue Lion Tours

“Either no member of the human race has any natural rights or they all have the same; and anyone who votes against the rights of another, whatever their religion, their color or their sex, has from that moment abjured his own…Condorcet was targeted by the Reign of Terror for his radical views and because he was an aristocrat. He went into hiding south of Paris. Discovered and imprisoned, he apparently committed suicide, probably by poison, in 1794. At the end he wrote a will, on the flyleaf of a copy of Homer he was carrying, stipulating that his daughter, Eliza, was to be taught English in case she had to flee to America for safety and that, if this happened, she was to seek protection from Benjamin Franklin’s grandson Benjamin Franklin Bache – or from her father’s good friend Thomas Jefferson.” Blue Lion Tours

“Opened in 1686, The Procope rapidly attracted people who opposed the absolute monarchy. Famous Enlightenment philosophers like Diderot or Voltaire, as well as other lesser-known figures, were regulars here. Before the Revolution, it was even nicknamed the “House of Commons,” in reference to the English Parliament! In 1789, the Procope, which was also called “Café Zoppi,” continued to be a symbol: in 1791, Voltaire’s table was even included in the procession taking his ashes to the Panthéon. Many revolutionaries were neighbors: the journalists Marat and Desmoulins, as well as the deputies Danton and Fabre d’Eglantine.” Paris: Parcours Revolution

Thomas Paine, Camille Desmoulins, and Shakespeare and Company.

Paine wrote Common Sense and Rights of Man. He played a decisive role in both revolutions. John Adams said, “History will ascribe the American Revolution to Thomas Paine” and “Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.” Danton told Paine, “What you have done for the happiness and liberty of your country, I have in vain tried to do for mine.” 

“Where liberty is, there is my country.” Benjamin Franklin
“Where liberty is not, there is mine.” Thomas Paine

“But because Paine voted against the execution of Louis XVI, he found himself on the wrong side of Robespierre, who had him jailed in one of the makeshift prisons set up during the Reign of Terror to accommodate the numerous perceived enemies of the Revolution. That makeshift prison, right behind the theater you see at the end of Rue de l’Odéon (to your left, if you’re facing the Paine plaque), was the Palais de Luxembourg, originally built for Marie de Médicis, now the seat of France’s Senate. Paine’s life was saved by the stupidity of a prison guard: an “X” was to be marked on the door of each inmate slated for execution, but a doctor, in Paine’s cell to treat him for a fever, had left the door open, so the guard put the fatal mark on the inside of the door where it would be out of sight as soon as the door was closed!” Blue Lion Tours

Charles IX or the School of Kings, 1789 by Marie-Joseph de Chénier criticizes the a king indirectly targeting Louis XVI

Act V
Scène IV, v. 645-648
The King of France:
Cruel men taught me how to be a true imposture;
Their voices have, in my soul, stifled my nature;
I betrayed the nation, and honor, and the laws:
Heaven, strike me down, and exemplify my flaws.”

It is also from the theatre that ammunitions were sent to the American rebels.

“Beaumarchais was perhaps the most colorful of the French patriots to aid in the American revolutionary cause. His plays The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro secured his place in history, but his secret activity as gunrunner for the colonies made him one of the unsung heroes of the Revolution. Pierre-Auguste Caron, son of a clockmaker, developed a mechanism for pocket watches that won him the post of official clockmaker to Louis XV. At court, he met his first wife, a wealthy widow. It was her land that allowed him to add “de Beaumarchais” to his name. In the 1770s, as a spy at the English court for Louis XVI, he met influential colonists such as Arthur Lee, a wealthy Virginian, who sparked Beaumarchais’s interest in the fledgling rebellion. A liberal thinker, Pierre was easily swayed to the cause and he in turn persuaded Louis XVI’s foreign minister, Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes, to aid the rebels. To allow France to preserve the appearance of neutrality, Beaumarchais set up a trading company as a front. France secretly gave it a million livres in May 1776. Beaumarchais oversaw the shipment of 25,000 pounds of ammunition, plus guns and uniforms, to the colonies, working through Silas Deane, who, you may recall, was the first American expat. These supplies helped the Americans win the battle of Saratoga in 1777, after which France openly gave military and naval support.” Blue Lion Tours

“In August 1779 Jones took command of the Bonhomme Richard and, accompanied by four small ships, sailed around the British Isles. In September the little squadron intercepted the Baltic merchant fleet under convoy of the British ships Serapis and Countess of Scarborough. What followed was one of the most famous naval engagements in American history. During the early stages of a gruelling 3 1/2-hour gun battle, Jones answered an enemy challenge to surrender with the memorable words, “I have not yet begun to fight!” He won a stunning victory, though with a heavy loss of life, when the Serapis surrendered and was boarded by Jones and his crew. The Bonhomme Richard sank soon afterward from damage received in the engagement, and Jones sailed both the Serapis and the captured Countess of Scarborough to the Netherlands. In France Louis XVI rewarded him with a gold-hilted sword and made him a chevalier of France.” Encyclopedia Britannica


Blue Lion Tours

Paris: Parcours Revolution

Deutsch, Lorant. Métronome : L’histoire de France au rythme du métro parisien. Michel Lafon, 2014.

Gray-Durant, Delia. Blue Guide Paris . Blue Guides, 2015.

Horne, Alistair. Seven Ages of Paris . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2004.

King, Ross. The Judgment of Paris. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006.

Norwich, John Julius. A History of France. Grove Atlantic, 2018.

Price, Roger. A Concise History of France (Cambridge Concise Histories). Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Steves, Rick; Smith, Steve; Openshaw, Gene. Rick Steves’ Paris 2014 . Avalon Travel, 2014

John William Bailly 15 July 2022

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