Monday, February 15, 2016

George Washington and the French Revolution

How our first President avoided the trap. To quote:
The new president saw that his country was deeply indebted and politically divided. Though France was America’s first ally, most U.S. trade post-independence was with Britain. The finances of the newly established federal government, set up by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, depended greatly on customs duties from foreign trade. But Britain angered many Americans by refusing to abandon its military forts on U.S. territory stretching from present-day Michigan to upstate New York along the Canadian border. The British also encouraged American Indian attacks on U.S. settlers. During such tension of the 1790s, some people — including a member of Washington’s Cabinet — got swept up in the emotion of France’s revolutionary fervor.

“Was ever such a prize won with so little innocent blood?” Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson wrote in a 1793 letter to William Short, an American diplomat in France. “My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to the cause, but rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated.”

That year was flush with: Louis XVI’s execution. France’s declaration of war vs. Britain. France’s fight against Spain, whose empire bordered America. (Read more.)

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