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Citizen Edmond Genêt

Citizen Edmond Genêt


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The British were pleased with America's neutrality, but the French held that the Americans were ungrateful by refusing to reciprocate for assistance rendered during the American Revolution. Hamilton convinced President Washington that any obligation was to the French monarch Louis XVI, who had been beheaded in the revolutionary frenzy.The French minister to the United States, Edmond Genêt, tried to win Jeffersonian-Republican support, going so far as to outfit privateers in American ports and raise soldiers to wage war against Spanish possessions in North America.This event provoked tremendous friction in the cabinet, but Washington eventually asked the French for Genêt's recall. The dismissed minister, fearing for his life, was granted asylum in the United States where he lived out his life.


See Neutral Rights.


The Citizen Genêt Affair of 1793

The new United States federal government had largely managed to avoid serious diplomatic incidents until 1793. And then along came Citizen Genêt.

Now more infamously known as “Citizen Genêt,” Edmond Charles Genêt served as France’s foreign minister to the United States from 1793 to 1794.

Rather than maintaining friendly relationships between the two nations, Genêt’s activities entangled France and the United States in a diplomatic crisis that endangered the United States government’s attempts to remain neutral in the conflict between Great Britain and Revolutionary France. While France ultimately resolved the dispute by removing Genêt from his position, the events of the Citizen Genêt affair forced the United States to create its first set of procedures governing international neutrality.


Further Reading

There is no satisfactory full-length study of Genet. His diplomatic activities in the United States are discussed in Alexander DeConde, Entangling Alliance: Politics and Diplomacy under George Washington (1958). For his political activities in America see Eugene P. Link, Democratic-Republican Societies, 1790-1800 (1942). There is a useful summary of Genet's mission in John C. Miller, The Federalist Era, 1789-1801(1960). See also George Gates Raddin, Caritat and the Genet Episode (1953). □


Edmond Charles Genet

Visit the location where Washington resided as president in Philadelphia, when the Genet Affair took place. Today, the site is operated by the National Park Service.

Edmond Charles Genet was a French diplomat sent to the United States during George Washington's first term as president in 1792. He planned to have Americans attack the British and Spanish in North America, countries then at war with France. Genet&rsquos actions, known today as the Genet Affair, created a major controversy in foreign affairs at a time when Washington had pronounced American neutrality.

The son of a minister in the French Bureau of Foreign Affairs, Genet was introduced to diplomacy at an early age. In his first experience with the Americans, he went to the French port of Brest where he studied the language of American and English sailors in order to create a dictionary for use by French sailors in the American War of Independence. He was appointed a lieutenant in the French army, but hostilities had diminished before he could be sent to war. Instead, after his father's death in 1781, Genet was appointed to the same position his father held as head of the translation department in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1783, Genet was sent to London to gather information on England's commerce for use in the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolutionary War.

After years of diplomatic missions across Europe, Genet returned to France in 1789 and became editor of a prominent Parisian newsletter, Le Patriote Francais. With the storming of the Bastille in July 1789, the French Revolution would come to define Genet&rsquos career. In 1791, he was elected to the newly formed National Assembly as a member of the Girondins, the conservative party in power at the time. In two years, however, the revolution in France became more radical and support grew to execute King Louis XVI. Genet led the charge against the king's execution, supporting his exile to the United States instead. Yet Genet was called for his own special mission to the United States before he could intervene on behalf of Louis, who was eventually executed in January 1793 as the more radical Jacobins took power in France.

On April 8, 1793 Genet arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, to promote French interests to the United States government, as France had become embroiled in war with Britain and Spain. His mission was to reinstate the alliance between France and the United States and to "liberate" Spanish America and British Canada either as independent states or to America. His arrival was met with grand receptions in Charleston. His ultimate destination was the capital in Philadelphia, but first he planned to travel up the southern states to ascertain public opinion toward France in advance of his meeting with President Washington. Before leaving for Philadelphia, he arranged four privateers to raid British shipping off the American coast. Genet wanted a partnership, or at least approval for his actions, which had been ordered by the French government. He hoped he could receive funding as repayment for French debts incurred during the American Revolution. What Genet did not immediately know is that Washington had proclaimed American neutrality in regard to the war between Britain, France, and Spain shortly after his arrival.

Genet arrived in Philadelphia on May 18 and first met with Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, whom he knew was sympathetic to the French cause. Although Jefferson was pro-French and disagreed with Washington's neutrality policy, he was upset with Genet&rsquos violation of American laws. Genet was discouraged by Jefferson but persisted nonetheless, apparently with a serious misunderstanding of the American political system, as he believed Congress possessed all diplomatic powers. After deliberating with Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, Washington reaffirmed American neutrality to Genet, and demanded that he not hire more privateers, cancel his plans to invade British and Spanish territory, and return the goods privateered by his ships. Washington asserted that these actions were in violation of American neutrality, yet Genet insisted that privateering and selling the goods in American ports was within his rights by the 1778 Treaty of Amity and Commerce. Washington's advisors John Jay and Rufus King publicly denounced Genet for his actions in August 1793. Genet then wrote personally to Washington to explain his intentions and clear his name: "Certain persons, actuated by views which time will develope, despairing to attack my principles, have descended to personal abuse&mdashIn hopes of withdrawing from me that esteem which the public feel and avow for the representative of the French republic." 1 In Genet&rsquos mind, anti-French members of Washington's cabinet were seeking to sabotage him.

After consulting with his cabinet, Washington asked the French to recall Genet. It was feared that Genet would incite a pro-French coup against the government by appealing directly to the people. The French acquiesced because they feared losing American favor when they needed access to American ports and goods. Washington wrote of Genet in a 1793 address to the Senate: "It is with extreme concern, I have to inform you, that the proceedings of the person whom they have unfortunately appointed their minister . . . here have breathed nothing of the friendly spirit of the nation which sent him their tendency has been to involve us in war abroad, discord and anarchy at home." 2 Washington's response caused a divide in his cabinet along pro-British and pro-French lines. Genet was recalled in January 1794 but was granted political asylum by Washington when Genet&rsquos Jacobin replacement called for his arrest and deportation to France.

Genet married New York Governor George Clinton's daughter Cornelia on November 6, 1794, and retired to her farm on the Hudson River. After her death in 1810, he married Martha Osgood, the daughter of Washington's postmaster general. He lived the rest of his life out of the public eye as a farmer in New York. The couple remained married until his death in 1834.

Elliot Warren
George Washington University

1. &ldquoTo George Washington from Edmond Charles Genet, 13 August 1793,&rdquo Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-13-02-0288. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 13, 1 June&ndash31 August 1793, ed. Christine Sternberg Patrick. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007, pp. 436&ndash438.]

2. U.S. Cong. House. A Message of the president of the United States, to Congress, relative to France and Great Britain: delivered, December 5, 1793.: With the papers therein referred to.: Published by order of the House of Representatives. By George Washington. 3rd Cong. Doc. (Philadelphia: Childs & Swaine, 1793). iii-iv.

Bibliography:

Ammon, Harry. The Genet Mission. New York: Norton, 1973.

Genet, George Clinton. Washington, Jefferson, and Citizen Genet. New York, 1899.

Sharp, James Roger. American Politics in the Early Republic: New Nation in Crisis. Yale University Press, 1995.

Sheridan, Eugene R. "The Recall of Edmond Charles Genet: A Study in Transatlantic Politics and Diplomacy." Diplomatic History18, no. 4 (Fall 1994): 463-89.


How did the Citizen Genet Affair derail relations between the United States and France?

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. Genêt’s recall ultimately resolved the controversy from his position. As a result of the Citizen Genêt affair, the United States established a set of procedures governing neutrality.

The Impact of the French Revolution on US Foreign Policy

The events surrounding the French Revolution dominated American foreign policy in the 1790s. 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 proclaimed neutrality on April 22, 1793.

Genêt Seeks to Outfit French Privateers in US Ports

Genêt arrived in Charleston, South Carolina on April 8, 1793—calling himself “Citizen Genêt” to emphasize his pro-revolutionary stance. Genêt immediately began to issue privateering commissions upon his arrival in Charleston, with the consent of South Carolina governor William Moultrie. These commissions authorized the bearers, regardless of their country of origin, to seize British merchant ships and their cargo for personal profit, with the approval and protection of the French Government.

When Genêt arrived in the U.S. capital of Philadelphia in May to present his credentials, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson informed him that the United States Cabinet considered the outfitting of French privateers in American ports to be a violation of the U.S. policy of neutrality. Genêt’s mission ran into further difficulties when the U.S. Government expressed no interest in a new commercial treaty, as it already enjoyed favorable trading privileges in French ports. The U.S. Cabinet also refused to make advance payments on U.S. debts to the French government.

Washington's Administration demands Genêt's recall

Genêt ignored American warnings and allowed the outfitting of another French privateer, the Little Democrat. Defying numerous warnings from U.S. officials to detain the ship in port, Genêt continued to ready the ship to sail. Genêt also threatened to take his case to the American people, bypassing official government opposition. Genêt failed to realize that Washington and his neutrality policy were politically popular, and that his pro-British enemies would depict such an attempt as foreign meddling in American domestic affairs.

Washington’s Cabinet met to consider a response to Genêt’s defiant actions. All members agreed to request Genêt’s recall but were divided as to how to go about doing so. Before the Cabinet reached a decision, Genêt allowed the Little Democrat to sail and begin attacking British shipping. This direct violation of neutrality forced the U.S. Government to take more prompt action and request that the French government recalls Genêt. However, Secretary of State Jefferson stopped short of expelling Genet from the United States, as Hamilton had wished.

By the time Jefferson’s request for recall reached France, power had shifted from the more moderate Girondins, who had originally sent Genêt on his mission, to the radical Jacobins. French policy began to emphasize friendlier relations with neutral countries who could provide crucially needed food supplies. French officials were already dissatisfied with Genêt’s failure to fulfill his diplomatic mission, and the Jacobins suspected him of continued loyalty to the Girondins.


Contents

Genet was born in Ossining, New York on November 9, 1896, to Albert Rivers Genet and Martha Rodman Fox. He was the youngest of three sons and his two brothers served in the military during the First World War. [1] [2] : xi His father was a lawyer and his mother was involved in several organizations including the Daughters of the American Revolution. [1] Genet was the second great-grandson of Edmond-Charles Genêt, the controversial French Ambassador to the United States in 1793. He was educated at Mt. Pleasant Military Academy. [2] : xi When his father died in 1912, he took on several jobs to help his mother with bills, including one at a dairy owned by V. Everit Macy, a government official for the county. [1]

Genet interviewed to be accepted as a cadet at the US Naval Academy but failed mathematics and was rejected. Genet was encouraged to join the US Navy as it was thought that he would be promoted quickly. [2] : xiii [3] Genet joined the US naval militia as an ordinary seaman in 1914 at just 17. Genet was posted to USS Georgia, which was sent to the port city of Veracruz as a result of the Tampico Affair. [4] [2] : 10–14 After three months, Georgia left Veracruz and sailed to Port au Prince, Haiti, where Genet heard that war had broken out in Europe. [2] : 20–21 In late December, Genet was given leave of ten days but failed to return as he decided that he would go to France to fight against the Central Powers. He was able to get a visa by giving his age as twenty-one to the French visa official. [2] : 43 He was able to secure a passport by lying and saying he was only going to France to inquire about his family's estate. [5] : 99–100 Genet kept quiet until he was able to secure the necessary documents but before leaving on SS Rochambeau, Genet wrote letters to several of his friends and family that he did not expect to survive this conflict. [2] : 33–36 On January 14, 1915, he wrote to his mother:

I never expect to come back—death seems nearer to me than any possible chances of going through the horrible ghastly conflict which is carousing over Europe without meeting death. I do not fear when I think of it, Mother. I can give my life just as freely for the Tricolor as I can for Old Glory.

— January 14, 1915. [2] : 31

French Foreign Legion Edit

Genet arrived in Le Havre, France on 29 January. He joined the French Foreign Legion and was sent for training in Lyon, where he became friends with Norman Prince. After months of lobbying, Prince was able to convince the French military to create the Lafayette Escadrille, a squadron of flyers that mostly consisted of Americans, with some French officers. [2] : 44 Genet joined a year after its formation. Much to his happiness – as he had trouble with speaking French – he found several fellow Americans within the legion. He quickly became friends with Dr. David E. Wheeler, who had arrived earlier in the winter, becoming a Red Cross volunteer. He decided to join the Legion around the same time as Genet. The two served together until Wheeler was wounded in September 1915. [6]

After six weeks of training, Genet was sent to the front in eastern France. [2] : 55 Genet spent the next few months in the trenches seeing some action but nothing compared to what he would experience in late September. The Second Battle of Champagne started on September 25 and was the bloodiest battle of the war for the Legion. On 28 September, Genet's battalion attacked, losing their senior officers within moments of the attack. [5] : 116 Genet found himself at front of the attack with only one other legionary. Realizing that the advance had been stopped, they decided to retreat back to their trench. The other legionary was wounded or possibly killed on the way back. Genet was one of the 31 men out of 500 who survived the battle unscathed. [5] : 120 [2] : 138 The battle saw French casualties near 190,000 in just three weeks of fighting. [7] : 201

Later, Genet was back fighting in the Bois Sabot the rest of the company took shelter during an artillery barrage. A unit of Senegalese Tirailleurs took up the charge and Genet went with them. Genet was separated from his unit for three days, it was feared that he had been killed in the fighting and his death was reported in several papers. [2] : 100 [8] [9] Other papers only reported him missing. [10] Genet was proud of being an American, sought the company of his countrymen and for a while flew the Stars and Stripes on top of his tent. [2] : 67 In many of his letters home, he wrote about his love for his country. He wrote of his excitement about the upcoming July 4 celebrations. [2] : 178

Lafayette Escadrille Edit

Genet finally got his wish of flying. After a year in the Legion and over eight months of applying, he was accepted to aviation school to become a pilot. [2] : 178 He started school on 5 June 1916 and completed his training on 17 January 1917. During this time he promoted to corporal. [11] : 241 He joined the Lafayette Escadrille on 22 January 1917. Within a few days, Genet received his own Nieuport 21 fighter to use on his first mission on 29 January. [2] : 275 He was promoted to sergeant on 10 March, after completing over 20 sorties. [2] : 300 Genet was with the last American flyer to be killed before America entered the war. [11] : 343–344 On 19 March, Genet and James Rogers McConnell were flying over enemy lines near Verdun when they encountered two German aircraft. They each attacked an aircraft and both pilots became separated. Genet was wounded by a bullet that hit his cheek and his plane was badly damaged. [2] : 307 McConnell's body and his aircraft were found a few days later by advancing French soldiers. [11] : 343–344 Genet received the Croix de Guerre for this action. [11] : 241 Genet was a talented drawer and painter, covering the Escadrille mess hall with his scenes of aerial combat. One wall was filled with the Indian head that became a symbol of the Escadrille. [12] [2] : xiv

Genet died on 17 April 1917 in France he was 20 years old and had flown 37 sorties. [4] [13] On 16 April, he had flown a mission in the morning and came back feeling ill. He had been encouraged not to fly again that day as was scheduled but he was insistent and took off at 12:45pm. [11] : 244–245 Genet and his wingman were to fly towards St Quentin at an altitude of 2,500 m (8,200 ft). [13] : 412 Gervais Raoul Lufbery, one of the first members of the squadron and an ace pilot, flew as Genet's wingman. Because of low-cloud, they descended, which made them a target for anti-aircraft fire. Lufbery saw Genet turn but lost him in the clouds. After Lufbery returned to the base, the squadron received a call that Genet had crashed on a road 5 km (3.1 mi) from the French lines. It was believed that Genet was wounded by the anti-aircraft fire and lost consciousness. [5] : 254 [11] : 244–245 Due to the crash, which occurred at full-engine power, his body was so badly damaged that it was unclear if he had been wounded. Since he had been complaining of feeling ill, he might have lost consciousness due to that rather than being wounded. [2] : 321

Genet was buried with full military honors in the military cemetery at Ham, Somme, in a driving snowstorm. [5] : 254 His final wish was to be buried wrapped in the French flag and have his coffin be covered with the French and American flags to "show that I died for the two countries". [2] : 327, 329–330 After the war, Genet, along with many other members of the Lafayette Escadrille were reburied at the La Fayette Escadrille Memorial Cemetery, in Marnes-la-Coquette, outside of Paris. [14] : 226 As a result of his lie about his age to the passport officer, his commanding officer Georges Thenault believed that he was four years older than he actually was. In the letter to Genet's mother, he expressed shock that Genet was actually 24 years of age as he looked so young. [2] : 327 In reality, Genet died at 20 years.

The American entry into World War I took place on 6 April. While Genet was not a member of the US military at the time, he is widely considered to be the first American to be killed after the declaration of war between the US and Germany. [11] : 245 [4] [5] : 254 [3] [15] : 193

When Genet left for France in January 1915, he had left the Navy without permission. This decision weighed heavily on him as time wore on, since he could be classified as a deserter. [2] : vii-viii The US was not yet formally in the war and his involvement in the French military was therefore not an official assignment by the US military. While the Navy did not attempt to seek Genet out, he felt unhappy over his absence, fearing the loss of his citizenship. [2] : 60, 88 The US was still neutral, being involved in the war might have been considered a treasonous act as it was a direct action in violation of US neutrality. [16] [2] : 148

Throughout his stay in France, Genet, along with other members of the Escadrille, participated in social events hosted by many American supporters of the war who lived in France. He was particularly celebrated, since it was known that he was the descendant of Citizen Genet. [2] : 87–88 As the prospect of American involvement in the war grew, he became increasingly worried and hopeful that his participation in the Escadrille would not be affected by the American entry into the war and sought the help of prominent Americans in France to help him resolve his status. Genet died shortly after the formal entry of the US into the war. Although other Americans had died as part of the Escadrille, he was the first one to do so after the US declaration, which made him the first official American casualty of the war, despite the fact that the US had not yet had time to organize or send any actual troops to Europe. [11] : 245 [5] : 254 President Woodrow Wilson sent a letter of condolences to Genet's mother, as did the French ambassador and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. [2] : 325–328 The war department posthumously sent his family a letter stating that his service was to be considered in all respects honorable. Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, wrote:

Edmond Charles Clinton Genet may properly be considered as having honorably terminated an enlistment with an ally, since he died on the field of battle. I, myself, am honored in having the privilege of deciding that the record of Edmond Genet, ordinary seaman, United States Navy, shall be considered in every respect as an honorable one. [1]

In 1918, Genet's letters from France were collected in a book, edited by Grace Ellery Channing. War Letters of Edmond Genet: The First American Aviator Killed Flying the Stars and Stripes was published in June 1918. [2] Author John Jay Chapman wrote the introduction. His son, Victor Chapman, served with Genet before his death in 1916. [3] The letters were written between 1914 and April 1917 and his last letter was written the day before his death. Most of them were addressed to his mother, others were to his brothers or to his Legion friend David Wheeler. The last section of the book was a series of letters written after Genet's death, including several from his commanding officers that were addressed to his mother. A few letters of condolences such as the one from President Woodrow Wilson can also be found in the book. Reviews of the book were quite positive. [3] [17]


Citizen Genet and Foreign Policy

After the execution of King Louis XVI in January 1793, Britain, Spain and Holland had become involved in war with France. According to the Franco-American Treaty of Alliance of 1778, the United States and France were perpetual allies, and America was obliged to help France defend the West Indies. However, the United States, militarily and economically a very weak country, was in no position to become involved in another war with major European powers. On April 22, 1793, Washington effectively abrogated the terms of the 1778 treaty that made American independence possible by proclaiming the United States to be "friendly and impartial toward the belligerent powers." When Genet arrived, he was cheered by many citizens, but treated with cool formality by the government. Angered, he violated a promise not to outfit a captured British ship as a privateer. Genet then threatened to take his cause directly to the American people, over the head of the government. Shortly afterward, the United States requested his recall by the French government.

The Genet incident strained American relations with France at a time when relations with Great Britain were far from satisfactory. British troops still occupied forts in the West, property carried off by British soldiers during the Revolution had not been restored or paid for, and the British navy was seizing American ships bound for French ports. To settle these matters, Washington sent John Jay, first chief justice of the Supreme Court, to London as a special envoy, where he negotiated a treaty securing withdrawal of British soldiers from western forts and London's promise to pay damages for Britain's seizure of ships and cargoes in 1793 and 1794. Reflecting the weakness of the U.S. position, the treaty placed severe limitations on American trade with the West Indies and said nothing about either the seizure of American ships in the future, or "impressment" -- the forcing of American sailors into British naval service. Jay also accepted the British view that naval stores and war materiel were contraband which could not be conveyed to enemy ports by neutral ships.

Jay's Treaty touched off a stormy disagreement over foreign policy between the Antifederalists, now called Republicans, and the Federalists. The Federalists favored a pro-British policy because the commercial interests they represented profited from trade with Britain. By contrast, the Republicans favored France, in large measure for ideological reasons, and regarded the Jay Treaty as too favorable to Britain. After long debate, however, the Senate ratified the treaty.


Citizen Edmond Genêt - History

Although one of the first tasks of the new government was to strengthen the domestic economy and make the nation financially secure, the United States could not ignore foreign affairs. The cornerstones of Washington's foreign policy were to preserve peace, to give the country time to recover from its wounds and to permit the slow work of national integration to continue. Events in Europe threatened these goals. Many Americans were watching the French Revolution with keen interest and sympathy, and in April 1793, news came that made this conflict an issue in American politics. France had declared war on Great Britain and Spain, and a new French envoy, Edmond Charles Genet -- known as Citizen Genet -- was coming to the United States.

After the execution of King Louis XVI in January 1793, Britain, Spain and Holland had become involved in war with France. According to the Franco-American Treaty of Alliance of 1778, the United States and France were perpetual allies, and America was obliged to help France defend the West Indies. However, the United States, militarily and economically a very weak country, was in no position to become involved in another war with major European powers. On April 22, 1793, Washington effectively abrogated the terms of the 1778 treaty that made American independence possible by proclaiming the United States to be "friendly and impartial toward the belligerent powers." When Genet arrived, he was cheered by many citizens, but treated with cool formality by the government. Angered, he violated a promise not to outfit a captured British ship as a privateer. Genet then threatened to take his cause directly to the American people, over the head of the government. Shortly afterward, the United States requested his recall by the French government.

The Genet incident strained American relations with France at a time when relations with Great Britain were far from satisfactory. British troops still occupied forts in the West, property carried off by British soldiers during the Revolution had not been restored or paid for, and the British navy was seizing American ships bound for French ports. To settle these matters, Washington sent John Jay, first chief justice of the Supreme Court, to London as a special envoy, where he negotiated a treaty securing withdrawal of British soldiers from western forts and London's promise to pay damages for Britain's seizure of ships and cargoes in 1793 and 1794. Reflecting the weakness of the U.S. position, the treaty placed severe limitations on American trade with the West Indies and said nothing about either the seizure of American ships in the future, or "impressment" -- the forcing of American sailors into British naval service. Jay also accepted the British view that naval stores and war materiel were contraband which could not be conveyed to enemy ports by neutral ships.

Jay's Treaty touched off a stormy disagreement over foreign policy between the Antifederalists, now called Republicans, and the Federalists. The Federalists favored a pro-British policy because the commercial interests they represented profited from trade with Britain. By contrast, the Republicans favored France, in large measure for ideological reasons, and regarded the Jay Treaty as too favorable to Britain. After long debate, however, the Senate ratified the treaty.


Career

Citizen Genêt Affair

The Citizen Genêt affair began in 1793 when he was dispatched to the United States to promote American support for France's wars with Spain and Britain.

Genêt arrived in Charleston, South Carolina on the French frigate Embuscade on April 8. Instead of traveling to the then-capital of Philadelphia to present himself to U.S. President George Washington for accreditation, Genêt stayed in South Carolina. There he was greeted with enthusiasm by the people of Charleston, who threw a string of parties in his honor.

Genêt's goals in South Carolina were to recruit and arm American privateers who would join French expeditions against the British. He commissioned four privateering ships in total, including the Republicaine, the Anti-George, the Sans-Culotte, and the Citizen Genêt. Working with French consul Michel Ange Bernard Mangourit, Genêt organized American volunteers to fight Britain's Spanish allies in Florida. After raising a militia, Genêt set sail toward Philadelphia, stopping along the way to marshal support for the French cause and arriving on May 18. He encouraged Democratic-Republican societies, but President Washington denounced them and they quickly withered away.

His actions endangered American neutrality in the war between France and Britain, which Washington had pointedly declared in his Neutrality Proclamation of April 22. When Genêt met with Washington, he asked for what amounted to a suspension of American neutrality. When turned down by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and informed that his actions were unacceptable, Genêt protested. [1] Meanwhile, Genet's privateers were capturing British ships, and his militia was preparing to move against the Spanish.

Genêt continued to defy the wishes of the United States government, capturing British ships and rearming them as privateers. Washington sent Genet an 8,000-word letter of complaint on Jefferson's and Hamilton's advice – one of the few situations in which the Federalist Alexander Hamilton and the Republican Jefferson agreed. Genet replied obstinately. President Washington and his Cabinet then demanded that France recall Genet as its Ambassador. [2]

The Jacobins, having taken power in France by January 1794, sent an arrest notice which asked Genet to come back to France. Genet, knowing that he would likely be sent to the guillotine, asked Washington for asylum. It was Hamilton – Genet's fiercest opponent in the cabinet – who convinced Washington to grant him safe haven in the United States.


Citizen Edmond Genêt - History


I am wrestling with how best to tell the tale of Edmond Charles Genet, the young Frenchman who came to America in the spring of 1793 to try to bring the United States into revolutionary France's war with Britain and Austria. My earlier draft went into great detail about Genet I find him fascinating. Within six months he went from the hero of two nations, cheered in both, active in both, to being a pariah in both. You have to work to get both George Washington and Maximillian Robespierre to declare you persona non grata, but Genet managed.

I need to check to see if there is a recent biography of him. There must be. If there is not, perhaps I will write one. . hmm, I see four books written between 1928 and 1946, mostly focusing on his diplomatic mission, a monograph on the Genet mission from 1976, several masters essays, and a 1969 microfilm edition of his papers. Genet's life beteen 1793 and his death in 1834 goes on my list of possible future projects.

Here is the section I am cutting out of the current chapter. The prose is adequate, though a bit rhetorical and a bit purplish.

The French Revolution arrived in the United States in April of 1793 in the form of a young well-spoken man. Edmond Charles Genet, known by his revolutionary salutation as Citizen Genet, was the representative of that French republic that had been created after the king was deposed. The winds were a potent omen of Genet's future, blowing him off course on his initial journey so that he landed in South Carolina rather than his intended destination of Philadelphia. He set foot in Charleston on April 8th, about two weeks after the United States learned of the French regicide. Genet was friendly with the Gironde and shared their romantic expansionism and their belief in an international revolution that would free people everywhere to partake in their innate rights. He hoped to bring the United States into an alliance with its sister republic, and he did his best to bring the United States into the existing war. After landing in Charleston Genet tarried for a few days, issuing letters of marque and reprisal to four privateers which would be manned by American sailors and arranging with the French consul in Charleston to set up a prize court. On April 18 Genet left for Philadelphia so that he could officially be received by the United States Government. Genet chose to travel by land, calculating that the enthusiastic reception he had received on the docks of Charleston might well be repeated along his journey. He calculated correctly, for every village and hamlet along the 28 day journey turned out to cheer the personification of the French Revolution. His trip was a grand progress and not a simple journey. When Genet arrived in Philadelphia on May 16, he was greeted with an even more enormous festival. The American Revolution had engaged in a few moments of dramatic public theater, but only in a few. The French Revolution had used political theater at every instant, from dramatic confrontations to formal set pieces. The king had his long tradition of pageantry and spectacle, and the French Revolutionaries countered with their own pageants, their own stylized gestures. Genet brought this theatricality, this sense of making grand gestures and of playing to the balconies, with him to Philadelphia.

Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and the other American leaders were very familiar with the politics of personal presentation. Their accustomed venue was not a street full of cheering citizens but a drawing room or other circumscribed site. The American cabinet tried to decide what to do with this flamboyant and charismatic Frenchman. They had a good idea of his intentions, having quickly heard of the privateers and of his attempts to raise a force of American soldiers to spread the principles of the French Revolution to Louisiana, Florida, and Canada. They soon learned from Genet that he also wished the United States to liquidate its debt to France as quickly as possible and to enter into new treaties of commerce and amity. While the cabinet deliberated on Genet and worked out a policy towards the new French republic, Philadelphians competed with one another to fete the French Revolution and its ambassador. Genet used the politics of personality and the politics of theater to pressure the cabinet. The most visible and influential expression of this Revolutionary support was the network of Democratic-Republican clubs.

During the 1790s it appeared that other aspects of the French Revolution had followed Jefferson across the water, especially the political clubs that had done so much to radicalize French politics. The Philadelphia Democratic-Republican club was formed in May of 1793 as part of the American celebration of Citizen Genet and, through him, the French Revolution. The Democratic clubs were modeled in part after the Jacobin clubs, in part after the clubs for socializing and discussion that were already popular among men of the era. Democratic societies sprung up all across the nation to hear the news from France, and to discus the principles of the French and American Revolutions. They were largely debating clubs and celebratory societies, but they were debating and celebrating radical politics and radical republicanism. Similar Jacobin clubs and corresponding societies had appeared in England, Belgium and most of Europe in 1792 and 1793, and the American clubs appeared to be similarly radical. They were formed amid widespread approval of the French Revolution. Despite the hesitations caused by the regicide and the September massacres, many Americans in 1793 still addressed one another as citizen and some even wore the red Phrygian caps that symbolized sans-cullote radicalism. Support for the French Revolution was not limited to future radicals: Reverend Jedediah Morse of Charlestown, Massachusetts, preached several sermons praising the revolution as a continuation of the American revolution. Later, in 1798, Morse would lead the crusade against the French Revolution and against enlightenment ideals. In 1793, however, radicals and conservatives alike saw France catching contagious liberty from the United States, and Americans praised themselves for their good example. It appeared that the American Revolution had shown a light unto all the world, and that others were attending to it. The Puritan vision of creating an exemplary commonwealth that all would follow was realized in a republican form in the early 1790s. It was only realized for a brief moment before events proved to Americans that the French Revolution was different from their revolution.

In America, political leaders were vigilant against any Americanization of French radicalism and any attempt to extend the logic of the American Revolution into current politics. They feared an American commune, and they feared that backwoods farmers would constitute that commune. Backwoods radicalism in the Fall of 1793 coincided with a plague crisis in the capital, fears fed on fears, and a rural tax revolt and a few debating clubs took on the aspect of a serious challenge to the legitimacy of the Federal government. The yellow fever epidemic of September 1793 killed 3,000 to 4,000 people in a city of about 40,000. It was a devastating scourge, and a terrifying scourge. Those who could, fled the city. Those who could not flee, prayed, mourned, and did what the could to ease their neighbors' suffering. Congress adjourned to the suburb of Germantown, but little business was done. In the midst of this calamity Philadelphians heard that Western Pennsylvanians had gone from protesting the excise tax and threatening the tax collectors to forming mobs and in one instance seizing the house of a tax collector. In the midst of the panic induced by pestilence in the capital and war abroad, this back-country insurrection appeared to be the first step in a second, more radical, American revolution. Frontier unrest in Massachusetts had sparked one constitutional reaction, and the Pennsylvania rebellion appeared to be a direct frontier challenge to the authority of the new federal government. More, the frontier rebels were speaking the same language that the men now sitting in Congress had themselves used against British rule, and the rebellion was being reported in a city where people were wearing red caps to show their support for the French Revolution and for the ideals of liberté égalité and fraternité. Washington and the cabinet members felt that the nation was being drawn into the worldwide wars and the worldwide revolution. Hamilton organized and Washington himself led a force of 15,000 militia across the Alleghenies to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. The rebels, who had never been as organized or intransigent as Philadelphians had feared, never contested Washington's advance. He arrested a few of the leaders, and then marched back home again. The leaders were tried for treason and acquitted. Chastised by the experience, they curtailed their political activities. Jeffersonian leaders who had been accused of encouraging the rebels quickly disavowed any connection.

Citizen Genet failed in his mission. Washington and the cabinet chose to interpret neutrality more strictly than Louis XVI's government had done in 1775 and 1776. They forbade French privateers from basing themselves in American Ports. They blocked Genet's plans for a land conquest of the West, and although they did accelerate some of the debt repayment they were otherwise unhelpful in the matter of commercial treaties. Genet had gotten the impression from Jefferson that much of the cabinet would have preferred closer ties with France, and certainly the cheers of the crowds convinced him that the American people favored the French Revolution. He burned his bridges by demanding that the United States agree with his plans, and then threatening to appeal directly to the American people if his demands were not met. Genet threatened a radical revolution in the United States if it did not become a client state of the French Revolution. This was too much even for Jefferson, and the cabinet refused the demand, revoked Genet's credentials, and leaked his threats to the nation. Genet had misjudged the cabinet, and he had misjudged the nation. American much preferred Washington to Genet, their cabinet and elected officials to the Constituent Assembly in France, and their rule of law to the imperial demands of revolutionary necessity. Genet's failure discredited the French Revolution for many and encouraged Americans to think of France as a threat and not as a friendly nation. It predisposed them to look for French attempts to subvert other nations according to the demands of revolution and of necessity. Genet never returned to France. He was recalled by the Jacobins following their coup in the summer of 1793 at about the same time that his credentials had been rejected by the United States government. Genet retired to private life rather than re-crossing the Atlantic, and settled in the Hudson river valley. There he married the daughter of New York governor Henry Clinton. Genet's story had a happy ending, although far from the ending he had anticipated when he left France.

EDIT - corrected references, added a paragraph that had been in a different place in the out-takes file.

Posted by Red Ted at January 23, 2004 08:31 AM | TrackBack

In case you care to know, I have just finished an extensive biography of Citizen Genet in French based on materials in French Foreign Ministry archives and the Library of Congress. i'm still searching in Paris for a publisher who would care a damn about this forgotten phenomenon.

Posted by: claude Moisy at May 13, 2006 03:58 AM

claude Moisy: How can I contact you?
Danny (daniel (at) flam (dot) co (dot) il)


The Citizen Genet Affair

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. Genêt’s recall ultimately resolved the controversy from his position. As a result of the Citizen Genêt affair, the United States established a set of procedures governing neutrality.

The Impact of the French Revolution on US Foreign Policy Edit

The events surrounding the French Revolution dominated American foreign policy in the 1790s. 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.


Watch the video: Edmond Genet (October 2022).

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