Lesson 2: The United States, France, and the Problem of Neutrality, 1796–1801

Matters of foreign policy dominated American political concerns between 1790 and 1800. 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 France challenged American sovereignty between 1796 and 1801. By looking at government documents students will explore American interpretations of French actions, as well as some ways in which the John Adams administration chose to respond.

Guiding Questions

How did French foreign policy decisions challenge American sovereignty in the late 1790s?

How did the Adams administration respond to this challenge?

Learning Objectives

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

identify French attacks on American neutrality

articulate American responses to French depredations