France Is First Country to Recognize Libyan Rebels

Two hundred and thirty three years after France was the first to recognize the American colonies as a country separate from Britain, it became the first (and so far only) country to recognize the Libyan Rebels fighting to overthrow Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who has led an oppressive regime in Libya for more than 40 years.

But there are differences.

First, America’s struggle for independence was a revolution in slow motion. In 1775 and into 1776 the Continental Congress was looking for a way to assert its rights and to reconcile with the Britain. Many months in 1776 were a political dance to ensure that all thirteen colonies would finally agree to independence. Then Congress formally adopted it (2-Jul-1776) and then announced it (4-Jul-1776). We remember the Declaration of Independence for the soaring language in the first part of the document. But at the time the most important section was at the end, where these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, with the full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances … That allowed Congress, on behalf of the colonies, to begin the long diplomatic courtship with France which, due to the canny diplomacy of Dr. Franklin — plus the British defeat at the Battles of Saratoga (Oct-177) — finally became an engagement with the Treaty of Alliance (Feb-1778).

What is happening in Libya is much more like the storming of the Bastille. The single goal for the rebels is to topple Gaddafi’s government — without thought about what will come next.

One can admire France. By recognizing the rebel leadership it is trying to get out ahead of the situation, ahead of its allies, and perhaps trying to apply lessons from its mistakes in Algeria. But it is not supporting a state; it is supporting a goal: the removal of Gaddafi, and the people that have that goal.

The United States has been lucky in so many ways, most especially in the way the American Revolution unfolded over extended time. Unfortunately, the rebels in Libya don't have that option. They've grabbed the tail of a tiger and cannot let go.

JDN | 10-Mar-2011

By modern standards there is something unlikeable about John Hancock. His type of patriotism and charity is as obsolete as his brocaded dressing-gowns and jewelled buttons. He was one of those men who curiously go in and out of style. Once they are out they are hard to value. ‘The golden showers of guineas’ that marked his almost royal progress, his big speeches, like ‘burn Boston and make John Hancock a beggar if the public good requires it,’ do not arouse in us the same genuine enthusiasm they did in his contemporaries. Such men as Paul Revere, [Royal Governor Thomas] Hutchinson, Joseph Warren, or Sam Adams never are in style or out. Their personalities exist quite independently from the accident of their birth in the first half of the eighteenth century. This is not quite true of John Hancock.

Esther Forbes
Paul Revere & The World He Lived In (1942)