A. Plan of the Investigation
This study investigates how was the threat of war with France during John Adams’ presidency used by the Federalist party to attack the Republicans? It will look at the “Quasi-War’s” effects on the political attitudes of the time as well as legislation passed by John Adams and Congress. Specifically, the XYZ affair will be discussed as an example of the tense relations between the countries and a catalyst for the Federalist support used to gain an upper hand over the Republicans, and the Alien and Sedition Acts will be examined as an example of Federalist legislation passed against the Republicans. In addition, the reactions to the events of John Adam’s presidency and the Quasi-War will be examined. To do this, excerpts from secondary sources discussing John Adams’ entire life, as well as more focused secondary sources that examine the Alien and Sedition acts or the XYZ affair on their own will be used. Additionally, the viewpoints of Adams will be expressed primary quotes from Adams.
B. Summary of Evidence
In the late 1700s, France’s Alliance with the United States began to deteriorate due to the American passage of Jay’s Treaty with the British. In response to this they withdrew their foreign minister while refusing to accept that of the United States. In addition, they attacked American ships and stole their goods (Miller 4). This was the beginning of a period of tension that became known as the “Franco-American War”. However, war was never formally declared between the two countries (Allen 61). Over the course of this struggle, though, Adams encountered many difficulties, mainly stemming from the politics around him. In the 1790s, the French were well-liked in America, with the memory of their help in the War of Independence fresh in the minds of Americans (Taylor). In the dispute following Jay’s Treaty, which was created in order to keep peace between America and Britain, the Republicans sided with the French, and the Federalists with the British (Combs 187). Shortly afterward, Adams sent three delegates—Charles Pinckney, Elbridge Gerry, and John Marshall—to France to negotiate peace. However, they were instead presented with a proposal for the United States to finance a French loan in Dutch notes, apologize for Adams’ speech regarding the French government, and give a 50,000 pound bribe to Tallyrand. (Stinchcombe 3). Adams’ attempt at peace with France gave him respect from the Republicans, but the corruption present in the XYZ affair spread anti-French feelings throughout the nation (Stinchcombe 126) which would play an important role in the rest of Adams’ presidency.
Much of America wanted war with France, whether for patriotic reasons of the public (Kurtz 300) or for the political reasons of the Federalist party trying to dismantle the Republicans (Kurtz 299). As the Anti-French Federalists gained support over the Pro-French Republicans, they used their public popularity to attempt to gain an upper hand...