1& THE WAR WITH FRANCE. The outbreak of war in 1793 between Great Britain and the French Republic placed the United States in a most embarrassing position. Presi dent Washington determined to adopt a policy of neutrality, but for two reasons he found it very difficult to do so. In the first place were the treaties concluded with France in 1778. The treaty of alliance guaranteed forever the integrity of the French possessions in America, and the treaty of commerce provided that French privateers and their prizes should have shelter in United States ports, a favor which was denied to the enemies of France. The question of the privateers gave most trouble. If the United States had adhered strictly to the obligations of the treaty they could not have preserved neutrality. Fortunately, at a critical time, the President's position was strengthened by the intemperate conduct of the French Min ister, Citizen Genet (q.v.). The encroachments of the belligerents upon our trade rights con stituted a second obstacle to the maintenance of a neutral policy. The British and French appeared to vie with each other in their zeal for seizing and confiscating American merchantmen and their cargoes. Many of these outrages could not be justified even under their own extrava gant interpretation of the principles of interna tional law. The partial compromise of the troubles with Great Britain in 1794 served to increase the hostility of France.
In March 1797, just after the inauguration of President Adams, news was received that the French Directory had refused to accept Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, who had been sent to supersede Monroe as Minister. Desiring to bring about a peaceful settlement if possible, Adams sent Elbndge Gerry and John Marshall to join Pinckney in a special mission. Shortly after their arrival in Paris they were approached by some agents of Talleyrand, who informed them that the Directors were much annoyed at certain remarks made by President Adams in a recent speech, but that a douceur of 1,200000 Tires would probably mollify their wrath. Ne gotiations went on for several weeks, but as the commissioners refused to submit to black mail, nothing was accomplished. On 5 March 1798 the President informed Congress that cer tain dispatches had been received from France, which he would lay before them as soon as they could be deciphered and translated. A second message dated a fortnight later stated that the peace mission had been a failure and urged Congress to prepare for war. The Federalists were jubilant and the Republicans very much disconcerted. The publication of the dispatches, however, aroused such strong popular feeling against France that the moder ate Republicans gave up their opposition. These documents became known as the X.Y.Z. Cor respondence (q.v.), because the government used those letters in referring to Talleyrand's representatives. Both houses of Congress agreed by large majorities to support the President's policy. An act was passed estab lishing the Navy Department, and Benjamin Stoddert of Maryland was appointed as the first secretary. Previous to this time naval 'affairs
had been in charge of the War Department. Money was appropriated to equip the navy, to strengthen the coast defenses and to buy arms and ammunition. An act of 14 July 1798 levied a tax on houses, land and slaves, the first national direct tax ever imposed in the United States. Of more doubtful wisdom were the Naturalization, Alien and Sedition acts, which were directed against French sympa thizers.
The President's course was approved with as much enthusiasm by the public as it was by Congress. Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute,° became the popular cry. Scores of patriotic war songs were written, among them being °Adams and and `Hail, Columbia' 'Monster mass meetings were held throughout the country, militia companies were organized and liberal contributions were made for the support of the infant navy. The President continued his preparations for war, then, with evefy assurance that the nation would support him. Washington was called from re tirement to assume the duties of lieutenant general and commander-in-chief of the army. Naturally much was left to his discretion in the choice of subordinates. Hamilton, Knox and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney were, at his suggestion, commissioned as major-generals. An unfortunate controversy at once arose in regard to the question of seniority. Adams favored Knox, and gave an order that his com mission should be made out before the other two. This plan was so strongly disapproved by Washington that the President finally yielded, and Hamilton was made second in command. Four brigadiers were appointed, and steps were taken to increase the army to a war footing. These elaborate preparations for the strength ening of the land forces seem somewhat pre mature. It was not at all likely that France would attempt an invasion, and, unless Spain should be drawn into the conflict, there was no territory in America which we could attack. As a matter of fact, hostilities were confined to a few minor naval engagements. Early in July 1798 Stephen Decatur, the elder, in command of the sloop of war Delaware seized a French privateer mounting 20 guns. The prize was re fitted, named the Retaliation and placed under the command of Captain Bainbridge. The most serious battle of the war was fought off the island of Saint Kitts in February .1799. After a chase of three hours and a fight of an hour and a quarter, Commodore Truxtun's flag ship, the Constellation, forced the French frigate L'Insurgente to Jower its colors. La Vengeance, another French frigate, attacked by Truxtun in February 1800, escaped only as the result of an accident. Just as the victory was almost won the foremast of the Constellation fell over the side, drowning a young midship man and several of the crew and making it im possible to continue the pursuit of the enemy.