In the 1790-s, as a country that had only recently gained its independence, America was preoccupied with developing its foundational principles. However, the revolution in France and its subsequent war with Great Britain demanded the U.S. adjust its foreign policies. The government needed to find the most politically and economically effective course.
The war between France and Britain affected the U.S. in several ways. Their naval battles “threatened American shipping” (Lock & Wright, 2019). The Impression of American sailors into the British army was also a matter of concern. President Washington believed that America was not strong enough to take sides, which led him to announce the Proclamation of Neutrality in 1973 (Lock & Wright, 2019).
However, America signed with Great Britain a treaty, which demanded the British surrender the northwestern posts and the U.S. treat Great Britain as their preferential trading partner. This decision was unpopular in America, as many saw it as favoring Britain over France, consequently violating neutrality, but it helped maintain the peace. At first, Americans supported the French Revolution as the symbol of liberty spreading in Europe. However, as the events turned violent, many started to fear chaos more than they favored freedom. Republicans supported Revolutionary France, while Federalists believed that cooperation with Great Britain offered more stability.
However, the following events made the U.S. make the decision not so much in favor of France but against Britain. Both countries “refused to respect American ships neutrality” (Lock & Wright, 2019). Moreover, Great Britain continued to terrorize American sailors with impressions (Lock & Wright, 2019). The embargo policy employed by President Jefferson helped maintain the peace for a while but proved economically disadvantageous. Eventually, the scale of the conflict between Britain and America reached its peak resulting in the latter declaring the war in 1812.
Lock, J. L., & Wright, B. (Eds.). (2019). The American Yawp: A massively collaborative open U.S. history textbook. Stanford University Press.