On January 21, 1793, the people of France executed Louis Capet, their former king, for treason. Ten months later, on October 16, 1793, they executed his wife, Marie Antoinette. Between September 1793 and July 1794, more than 200,000 people were arrested and thousands (mostly members of the aristocracy) were executed by order of the French government. This Reign of Terror marked the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one in the French Revolution. Beginning with the Reign of Terror, the Revolution became more bloody and then more repressive.
In the United States, the French situation became problematic because of the efforts of the new French ambassador, Edmond Genet. He had arrived in the United States on April 22, 1793, the very day that George Washington issued the Neutrality Proclamation declaring that the United States would not get involved in the war between France and Great Britain. Genet had arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, and he quickly ignored the Neutrality Proclamation by issuing letters of marque to American ship captains to enable them legally to raid British trading vessels. He then went on a triumphal trip north to Philadelphia. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson made it clear that the United States intended to remain neutral, but Genet continued to plan to use Americans as privateers. When told to stop in no uncertain terms by the president, he threatened to go over Washington’s head directly to the American people. Thomas Jefferson then requested his recall and replacement as French minister to the United States. Because of his failure to gain American military and financial support for the French Revolution, Genet was now considered an enemy of France. He sought, and was granted, political asylum in the United States, where he remained until his death in 1834.