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The Genet Affair > American History > New Nation > Major Events >
1793 Genet Affair
1793-­ Genet Affair
Citizen Genet was sent by France to be its new ambassador to
the United States. Genet's instructions were to use the United
States as a base to equip privateers against the British. He was
also determined to do his utmost to embroil the US in the war with
the British. He then attempted to bring about change in the
American government. The US government unanimously
requested his recall.
News of the French Revolution was greeted with enthusiasm in United States.
To Americans, it was a confirmation of their own revolution. The French
Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens were clearly following American.
As the French Revolution became ever more violent, however, some of the
American enthusiasm began to wane. In February 1793, France declared war on
England. The French appointed Edmound Charles Genet, a 30 year old man, to
be the French Minister to the United States. Genet's task was to stir up trouble
for the British and Spanish in North America. Furthermore, he was to outfit
privateers to attack British ships. Genet also aimed to strengthen the AmericanFrench treaty. Furthermore, Genet was to convince the Americans to prepay
their debt to France.
When Genet arrived in Charleston on April 8, 1793. he was met with jubilation.
He immediately commissioned four privateers. On April 18th, he headed for
Philadelphia, the seat of the federal government. It took Genet 28 days to make
the journey, and all along the way he was greeted enthusiastically.
While Genet was arriving in the United States; Washington was meeting with
Hamilton and Jefferson, his Secretary of Treasury and State respectively, to
discuss American reactions to the French war. They decided that the President
would issue a simple declaration of neutrality, stating that United States was not
a belligerent in the war. Washington also decided to receive Genet without
reservation, thus rejecting Hamilton's position that the treaty between the United
States and France was no longer in effect due to change in government in
When Genet finally arrived in Philadelphia, he was toasted by many of the
citizens of the city. He was officially received by Washington on the afternoon
of May 18th.
Washington, however, soon turned down Genet's two most important requests:
the right of the French to arm privateers in American ports and the early
payment of the debt owed to France.
Believing that he could convert the sympathy that he had received into
opposition to the policies of Washington, Genet threatened to go directly to the
people against the government. Furthermore, Genet had defied Washington's
ban on outfitting privateers by outfitting a captured British ship, called the
ÒLittle Democrat," and sending her to sea. Washington was livid, and demanded
that recall of Genet. Genet never returned to France, since he probably would
have faced the guillotine there. He remained in the United States, and went on
to marry the daughter of New York's Governor DeWitt Clinton. Genet and his
wife had six children. After his wife's death, Genet married Martha Osgood and
had five more children, lived a good life in the Hudson Valley and became an
American citizen.
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