Cultural Revolutions

Least Noticed

The French are among the least noticed and celebrated of the contributors to what has become the United States. But at one time New France covered a good part of North America. The two most interesting provinces on the continent, Quebec and Louisiana, are remnants of that empire. Huguenot refugees contributed talents to the British colonies far out of proportion to their numbers.

When the 13 colonies confirmed their independence at Yorktown, there were more French than American soldiers present and a French fleet on the coast. But soon a promising alliance ended when the French got up to mischief with guillotines and military emperors, giving our Northeastern elite the excuse to return to their natural Anglophilia. When, more than a century later. General Pershing landed in Europe and declared "Lafayette, we are here," it was a nice touch. But everybody knew we had come to save the Brits and not the Frogs.

Those of us, that is Chronicles readers, who are interested in tradition, regionalism, preserving authentic rooted cultures and know that "small is beautiful," can learn something from the French. Despite their highly centralized government and a streak of avant-gardism, the French remain the most tenaciously regionalist, traditionalist, and culturally conservative of Europeans, and many retain a strongly rooted Catholic faith.

The best way to learn this, other than a long sojourn,...

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