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July 14th is often thought of as France's Independence Day.

More accurately, it's the French National Day - called La FĂȘte Nationale in French - commemorating the day in 1789 when crowds stormed the Bastille, a fortress used as a prison in Paris. The event marks the beginning of the French Revolution.

So what does it have to do with the USA? A lot, actually.

The French royal treasury had essentially run out of money, largely due to the funding it provided to the colonies during its revolution, as well as a French tax system that favored the aristocracy.

The financial crisis prompted King Louis XVI to convene a meeting in Versailles. During the meeting, the king fired a popular finance minister.

This news prompted a young writer named Camille Desmoulins to call on the people at Palais Royal - a square where citizens went to speak their minds - to march to the fortress. By July 14, a crowd of 80,000 had amassed outside of the Bastille.

The military significance of the storming of the Bastille was small. There were only a handful of prisoners in the fortress at that time.

But the day remains a symbol of people overcoming "monarchical despotism, censorship, oppression of people who spoke up. Its fall carried enormous symbolic power," Paul Hanson, a professor of history at Butler University, told USA TODAY Network.

Americans will also see parallels between their own revolution and that of France's.

"Our Bill of Rights, our Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Right of Man and of the Citizen grew out of the same Enlightenment philosophical culture," Hanson said. "We share a lot of the same ideals and assertions of human rights."

To Gabrielle Hendryx-Parker, co-founder of the Indiana Bastille Day celebrations, the day is an opportunity for Americans and French to reconcile their "love-hate relationship."

"The two countries have really been helping each other over the past 300 years. ... I think Bastille Day is a great way to talk about it," she said.

Follow @JolieLeeDC on Twitter.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Happy Bastille Day: Why the U.S. should care about the French holiday

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