Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Thomas J. Brown

Abstract

In 1778, during the early days of the Franco-American alliance, a Boston mob killed the Chevalier de Saint-Sauveur, a high-ranking French officer, jeopardizing the two countries’ partnership just as soon as it began. American and French leadership alike quickly went to work in transforming the story of Saint-Sauveur’s death from one of anti- Catholic sentiment into one that demonstrated the urgency for unity and cohesion. Through the promise of a monument, his death became a teachable moment, signifying the fragility of the alliance and the importance of cooperation on both martial and civic levels.

By the time of the Great War (1914-1918), when Boston elites finally constructed the promised monument, its purpose had in some ways transformed. No longer just meant to tell Bostonians that they should not oppose the French, the speakers at the monument’s dedication expressed their hope that the obelisk could help show Bostonians not just to tolerate the French, but to love them. Still, it was not as much the accuracy of their story that they cared about, but the utility of it. The monument’s construction and unveiling became a way for the Boston elite to reforge the city’s memory of the alliance and demonstrate their dedication to fulfilling America’s historical debt to France. Among an Irish populace that was particularly hostile to Britain, emphasizing the French was an integral part of the Brahmins’ strategy to win support for the war effort.

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