French Revolution and Jay`s Treaty

A Divided America:
The French Revolution
& Jay’s Treaty
Presentation created by Robert Martinez
Primary Source Content: America’s History
Images as cited.
America’s merchants profited
handsomely during the French
In 1793, President Washington
issued a Proclamation of Neutrality,
which allowed U.S. citizens to trade
with both the British and the French.
As neutral carriers, American merchants
were initially able to pass their ships
through the British naval blockade of
French ports; soon they dominated the
lucrative sugar trade between France and
its West Indian islands.
Commercial earnings rose
spectacularly, averaging $20 million
annually in the 1790s, twice the
value of cotton and tobacco exports.
As the American merchant fleet
increased dramatically, from 355,000 tons
in 1790 to more than 1.1 million tons in
1808, northern ship owners provided
work for thousands of shipwrights, sail
makers, laborers, and seamen.
Hundreds of carpenters, masons, and
cabinetmakers in the major seaports of
Boston, New York, and Philadelphia
found work building warehouses and
fashionable “Federal-style” town houses
for newly affluent merchants.
Even as they profited from the
European struggle, Americans
argued passionately over its
Most Americans had welcomed the
French Revolution of 1789 because
it abolished feudalism and
established a constitutional
There was much less consensus,
however, in 1792, when the French
formed a democratic republic. Many
Americans applauded the downfall of the
French monarchy.
Conversely, Americans with strong
religious beliefs condemned the new
French government because it rejected
Christianity and closed many churches,
instead promoting a “rational” religion
based on “natural morality.”
Wealthy Americans also condemned the
execution of King Louis XVI, three
thousand of the king’s aristocratic
supporters, and fourteen thousand other
These ideological conflicts
sharpened the debate over
Hamilton’s economic policies and
helped to stir up domestic
In 1794, farmers in western Pennsylvania
mounted the Whiskey Rebellion to
protest Hamilton’s excise tax on spirits,
which had raised the price, and cut the
demand, for the corn whiskey they
bartered for eastern manufactures.
Like the Sons of Liberty in 1765 and
the Shaysites in 1786, the Whiskey
rebels attacked both local tax
collectors and the authority of a
distant government.
They also waved banners
proclaiming the French
revolutionary slogan “Liberty,
Equality, and Fraternity!”
To uphold national authority and deter
secessionist movements along the
frontier, President Washington raised an
army of twelve thousand troops and
dispersed the Whiskey rebels.
Britain’s maritime strategy widened the
political divisions in America. In
November 1793, the Royal Navy began to
stop American ships carrying French
sugar, eventually seizing more than 250
Hoping to protect American property
rights through diplomacy, President
Washington dispatched John Jay to
Jay returned with a controversial
treaty that acknowledged
Britain’s right to remove French
property from neutral ships.
The treaty also required the U.S.
government to make “full and complete
compensation” to British merchants for
pre-Revolutionary War debts owed by
American citizens who refused to pay them.
In return, the agreement allowed American
merchants to submit claims of illegal
seizure to arbitration and, more important,
required the British to remove their military
garrisons from the Northwest Territory and
to end their alliance with the Indians there.
Jefferson and other Republicans
attacked the treaty for being too
conciliatory, but the Senate ratified it in
1795, albeit by the bare two-thirds
majority required by the Constitution.
As long as Hamilton and his
Federalist allies were in power, the
United States would have a proBritish foreign policy.