It is the weekend and as a small diversion from the horrific news of the I would like to offer up a little American since there are moves to re-write it….I think it is important to learn it all…the good, the bad and the ugly…..so let’s step into the ‘way back machine’ to the early days of our republic.
I once taught a class on American Foreign Policy from the beginning to recent history……some say the John Adams and his Sedition Act was our first crisis on the international stage….I disagree.
The new nation of United States of America faced its first foreign policy crisis in 1793 when the US and France were at diplomatic odds….
Edmond Charles Genêt served as French minister to the United States from 1793 to 1794. His activities in that capacity embroiled the United States and France in a diplomatic crisis, as the United States Government attempted to remain neutral in the conflict between Great Britain and Revolutionary France. The controversy was ultimately resolved by Genêt’s recall from his position. As a result of the Citizen Genêt affair, the United States established a set of procedures governing neutrality.
American foreign policy in the 1790s was dominated by the events surrounding the French Revolution. Following the overthrow of the monarchy in 1792, the revolutionary French Government clashed with the monarchies of Spain and Great Britain. French policymakers needed the United States to help defend France’s colonies in the Caribbean – either as a neutral supplier or as a military ally, and so they dispatched Edmond Charles Genêt, an experienced diplomat, as minister to the United States. The French assigned Genêt several additional duties: to obtain advance payments on debts that the U.S. owed to France, to negotiate a commercial treaty between the United States and France, and to implement portions of the 1778 Franco-American treaty which allowed attacks on British merchant shipping using ships based in American ports. Genêt’s attempt to carry out his instructions would bring him into direct conflict with the U.S. Government.
The French Revolution had already reinforced political differences within President George Washington’s Cabinet. The Democratic-Republicans, led by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, sympathized with the French revolutionaries. The Federalists, led by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, believed that ties with Great Britain were more important. President Washington attempted to steer a neutral course between these two opposing views. He believed that joining Great Britain or France in war could subject the comparatively weak United States to invasion by foreign armies and have disastrous economic consequences. President Washington issued a proclamation of neutrality on April 22, 1793.
Further reading on this historic issue…..
The early years of our republic are fascinating….so much back and forth…..start and stop for American foreign policy.
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