Lesson 1: The United States Confronts Great Britain, 1793–1796

Matters of foreign policy dominated American political concerns in the final decade of the eighteenth century. In 1793 war broke out between Revolutionary France and Great Britain, and American commercial interests became a target for both countries.

This lesson will examine the ways in which Great Britain challenged American sovereignty. By looking at government documents and playing out commercial scenarios students will explore American interpretations of European actions, as well as the ways in which the George Washington administration chose to respond. Particularly, they will examine the 1794 effort by John Jay to settle the situation through diplomatic negotiation, and the resulting growth of domestic democratic activism it spawned.

Guiding Questions

How did British foreign policy decisions challenge American neutrality between 1793 and the ratification of the Jay Treaty?

Why was the Jay Treaty so controversial, and how did it stimulate internal democratic development?

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students should be able to: recognize the impact of the French Revolution upon American diplomacy.

Explain British attacks on American neutrality.

Explain the diplomatic logic behind the Jay Treaty.

Articulate domestic political opposition to the treaty.