The Revolutionary Era: Primary Documents on Events from 1776 to 1800

By Carol Sue Humphrey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 23

The Quasi-War with France, 1797–1798

When the United States and France signed their alliance in 1778, they both committed to defend each other when attacked. But, when France and Great Britain went to war in 1793, President George Washington issued the Neutrality Proclamation because he believed the United States was not strong enough to get involved in a war. Then, in 1795, the United States negotiated and signed Jay’s Treaty with the British. France felt betrayed. Partially because of what they perceived as betrayal, and partially because of military setbacks in the war with Great Britain, France began to threaten American shipping. The result was the “quasi-war” between France and the United States.

Between March and June 1797, France seized 316 American ships and threatened to continue doing so unless the United States stopped supporting and favoring Great Britain. Instead of apologizing, the Federalist-controlled Congress prepared for war. The XYZ Affair (see Chapter 24) only made matters worse. Following the president’s report about the XYZ Affair in the spring of 1798, Congress voted to triple the size of the army and authorized American privateers to attack French vessels. During the summer of 1798, Congress came within a few votes of declaring war on France, even though President John Adams had not requested such a declaration.

But President Adams knew that the United States was not ready for a war with France, Although he signed the Alien and Sedition Acts (see Chapter 25), he balked at doing anything else. In fact, he worked to defuse the situation. In 1799, he sent new American representatives to France: William Vans Murray, William R. Davie, and Oliver Ellsworth. Murray, also the ambassador to the Netherlands, was able to negotiate the Convention of Mortefontaine in September 1800. This agreement terminated the alliance of 1778 and finally ended the Quasi-War. The restoration of good relations with France set the stage for the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

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The Revolutionary Era: Primary Documents on Events from 1776 to 1800
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Foreword vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Chronology of Events xix
  • Chapter 1 1
  • Chapter 2 33
  • Chapter 3 49
  • Chapter 4 67
  • Note 79
  • Chapter 5 81
  • Chapter 6 93
  • Chapter 7 105
  • Chapter 8 119
  • Chapter 9 127
  • Chapter 10 137
  • Chapter 11 161
  • Chapter 12 181
  • Chapter 13 189
  • Chapter 14 201
  • Note 210
  • Chapter 15 211
  • Chapter 16 223
  • Chapter 17 233
  • Chapter 18 243
  • Chapter 19 253
  • Chapter 20 263
  • Chapter 21 277
  • Chapter 22 295
  • Chapter 23 303
  • Chapter 24 313
  • Chapter 25 323
  • Notes 335
  • Chapter 26 337
  • Selected Bibliography 349
  • Index 353
  • About the Author 359
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