The Quasi-War (French: Quasi-guerre) was an undeclared war fought almost entirely at sea between the United States and France from 1798 to 1800, which broke out during the beginning of John Adams's presidency. After the French Monarchy was abolished in September 1792 the United States refused to continue repaying its large debt to France, which had supported it during its own War for Independence. It claimed that the debt had been owed to a previous regime. France was also outraged over the Jay Treaty and that the United States was actively trading with Britain, with whom they were at war. In response France authorized privateers to conduct attacks on American shipping, seizing numerous merchant ships, and ultimately leading the U.S. to retaliate.
The war was called "quasi" because it was undeclared. It involved two years of hostilities at sea, in which both navies and privateers attacked the other's shipping in the West Indies. Many of the battles involved famous naval officers such as Stephen Decatur, Silas Talbot and William Bainbridge. The unexpected fighting ability of the newly re-established U.S. Navy, which concentrated on attacking the French West Indian privateers, together with the growing weaknesses and final overthrow of the ruling French Directory, led Foreign Minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (known as Talleyrand) to reopen negotiations with the US. At the same time, President John Adams feuded with Alexander Hamilton over control of the Adams administration. Adams took sudden and unexpected action, rejecting the anti-French hawks in his own party and offering peace to France. In 1800 he sent William Vans Murray to France to negotiate peace; the Federalists cried betrayal. Hostilities ended with the signing of the Convention of 1800.
|Part of the French Revolutionary Wars and the War of the Second Coalition|
From left to right: USS Constellation vs L'Insurgente; U.S. Marines from USS Constitution boarding and capturing French privateer Sandwich
|Commanders and leaders|
A fleet of 54 including:|
Unknown fleet size|
Unknown number of sailors and Marines
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After U.S. military involvement:
When the United States won its independence it no longer had Britain's protection and therefore had the task of protecting its own ships and interests at sea. There were few American ships capable of defending the American coastline while trying to protect its merchant ships at sea. The Kingdom of France was a crucial ally of the United States in the American Revolutionary War. In March 1778, France signed a treaty of alliance with the rebelling colonists against Great Britain and had loaned the new Republic large sums of money. However, Louis XVI of France was deposed in September 1792. The monarchy was abolished.
In 1794 the U.S. government reached an agreement with Great Britain in the Jay Treaty, which was ratified the following year. It resolved several points of contention between the United States and Britain that had lingered since the end of the American Revolution. The treaty encouraged bilateral trade, and enabled expanded trade between the United States and Britain, stimulating the American economy. From 1794 to 1801, the value of American exports nearly tripled, from US$33 million to US$94 million. But the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans, who were pro-France, always denigrated the Jay Treaty.
The United States declared neutrality in the conflict between Great Britain and revolutionary France, and U.S. legislation was being passed for a trade deal with Great Britain. When the U.S. refused to continue repaying its debt, saying that the debt was owed to the previous government, not to the French First Republic, French outrage led to a series of responses. First, France authorized privateers to seize U.S. ships trading with Great Britain, and taking them back to port as prizes to be sold. Next, the French government refused to receive Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, the new U.S. Minister, when he arrived in Paris in December 1796, severing diplomatic relations. In President John Adams's annual message to Congress at the close of 1797, he reported on France's refusal to negotiate a settlement and spoke of the need "to place our country in a suitable posture of defense". Adams offered Washington a commission as lieutenant general on July 4, 1798, and as commander-in-chief of the armies raised for service in that conflict. In April 1798, President Adams informed Congress of the "XYZ Affair", in which French agents demanded a large bribe before engaging in substantive negotiations with United States diplomats.
Meanwhile, French privateers inflicted substantial losses on U.S. shipping. On 21 February 1797, Secretary of State Timothy Pickering told Congress that during the previous eleven months, France had seized 316 U.S. merchant ships. French marauders cruised the length of the Atlantic seaboard virtually unopposed. The United States government had nothing to combat them, as it had abolished the navy at the end of the Revolutionary War and its last warship sold in 1785. The United States had only a flotilla of small Revenue-Marine cutters and a few neglected coastal forts.
Increased depredations by French privateers led to the government in 1798 to establish the Department of Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps to defend the expanding U.S. merchant fleet. Benjamin Stoddert was appointed as Secretary of Navy. Congress authorized the president to acquire, arm, and man not more than twelve ships of up to twenty-two guns each. Several merchantmen were immediately purchased and refitted as ships of war.
Congress rescinded the treaties with France on 7 July 1798. That date is now considered the beginning of the Quasi-War. Two days later Congress passed authorization for the U.S. to attack French warships in U.S. waters.
On 16 July Congress appropriated funds "to build and equip the three remaining frigates begun under the Act of 1794": USS Congress, launched at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 15 August 1799; USS Chesapeake, launched at Gosport Shipyard, Virginia,[a] on 2 December 1799; and USS President, launched at New York, New York, on 10 April 1800. To make the most effective use of his limited resources, Secretary Stoddert established a policy that U.S. forces would be concentrated on attacks against French forces in the Caribbean, where France still had colonies. At times he had to concede to merchant ships requests for escorts for defense.
Altogether the U.S. Navy now operated with a battle fleet of about twenty-five vessels, which patrolled the southern coast of the United States and throughout the Caribbean hunting down French privateers. Captain Thomas Truxtun's insistence on the highest standards of crew training paid dividends when the frigate Constellation captured the French Navy's frigate L'Insurgente and severely damaged the frigate La Vengeance. French privateers generally resisted, as did La Croyable, which was captured on 7 July 1798, by Delaware outside Egg Harbor, New Jersey.
By 1 July 1799, under the command of Stephen Decatur, USS United States had been refitted and repaired and embarked on its mission to patrol the south Atlantic coast and West Indies in search of French ships which were preying on American merchant vessels.
Enterprise also captured eight privateers and freed eleven U.S. merchant ships from captivity, while Experiment captured the French privateers Deux Amis and Diane. Numerous U.S. merchantmen were liberated by Experiment. Boston forced the Le Berceau into submission.
In April, 1800 Silas Talbot investigated an increase in merchant ship traffic near Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo, and discovered that the French privateer Sandwich had taken refuge there. On 8 May the squadron captured the sloop Sally, and Talbot devised a plan to capture Sandwich by using the familiarity of Sally to allow the Americans access to the harbor. First Lieutenant Isaac Hull led 90 sailors and Marines into Puerto Plata without challenge on 11 May, capturing Sandwich and spiking the guns of the nearby Spanish fort.
The U.S. Navy lost only one ship to the French, Retaliation. She was the captured privateer La Croyable, recently purchased by the U.S. Navy. Retaliation departed Norfolk on 28 October 1798, with Montezuma and Norfolk, and cruised in the West Indies protecting U.S. commerce. On 20 November 1798, the French frigates L'Insurgente and Volontaire overtook Retaliation while her consorts were away; they forced commanding officer Lieutenant William Bainbridge to surrender the out-gunned schooner.
Bainbridge was allowed to remain on board Retaliation, and after ten days of detainment was allowed to go ashore to Guadaloupe and negotiate terms of prisoner exchange with French General Desferneaux. The Governor promised to free officers and crew if Bainbridge, acting as a U.S. representative, would agree to declare Guadaloupe as neutral during the remainder of the war, with the hopes of commercial trade with the United States. Bainbridge, however, protesting the inhumane treatment of U.S. prisoners, maintained that his authority extended no further than to arrange for their exchange. Negotiations ultimately failed and Bainbridge was threatened with imprisonment if he did not comply with the wishes of the governor. Bainbridge, with his commitment to duty as a naval officer, again declined the governor's wishes. The governor, after further deliberations, and with earnest designs of forming his own cartel for purposes of trade with the United States, finally agreed to the release of prisoners and prepared a dispatch for Bainbridge to present to President Adams, assuring him of the neutrality of Guadaloupe. He released Retaliation to the command of Bainbridge with the stipulation that if their arrangement was not honored, Bainbridge and all released prisoners would be put to death if captured again. Bainbridge hence sailed for the United States and presented the Guadaloupe Governor's offer. Adams presented the offer to Congress, which was accepted, resulting in the passage of the Retaliation Act, allowing the United States to capture and punish any French citizens aboard any French vessels. Bainbridge was ultimately promoted to the rank of Master and Commander and assigned to Norfolk for immediate service.
Montezuma and Norfolk escaped after Bainbridge convinced the senior French commander that those U.S. warships were too powerful for his frigates, and he should abandon the chase. The French renamed Retaliation as Magicienne, but on 28 June Merrimack fired a broadside and forced her to haul down her colors, and took the former privateer back into U.S. control.
Revenue cutters in the service of the U.S. Revenue-Marine (the predecessor to the U.S. Coast Guard), also took part in the conflict. The cutter USRC Pickering, commanded by Edward Preble, made two cruises to the West Indies and captured ten prizes. Preble turned command of Pickering over to Benjamin Hillar, who captured the much larger and more heavily armed French privateer l'Egypte Conquise after a nine-hour battle. In September 1800, Hillar, Pickering, and her entire crew were lost at sea in a storm. Preble next commanded the frigate USS Essex, which he sailed around Cape Horn into the Pacific to protect U.S. merchantmen in the East Indies. He recaptured several U.S. ships that had been seized by French privateers.
Although they were fighting the same enemy, the Royal Navy and the United States Navy did not cooperate operationally or share operational plans. There were no mutual understandings about deployment between their forces. However, the British sold naval stores and munitions to the U.S. government, and the two navies shared a signal system so they could recognise the other's warships at sea and allowed their merchantmen to join each other's convoys for safety.
By late 1800, the United States Navy and the Royal Navy, combined with a more conciliatory diplomatic stance by the government of First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte, had reduced the activity of the French privateers and warships. The Convention of 1800, signed on 30 September, ended the Quasi-War. It affirmed the rights of Americans as neutrals upon the sea and abrogated the alliance with France of 1778. However, it failed to provide compensation for the $20,000,000 "French Spoliation Claims" of the United States. The agreement between the two nations implicitly ensured that the United States would remain neutral toward France in the wars of Napoleon and ended the "entangling" French alliance. This alliance had been viable only between 1778 and 1783.
John Adams' First State of the Union Address was delivered on Wednesday, November 22, 1797, in the Congress Hall of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the time of the address, sickness was spreading through Philadelphia and Adams notes in his introduction that he was tempted to relocate the assembly of the national legislature but avoided this due to inevitable expense and general inconvenience.An Act further to protect the commerce of the United States
An Act further to protect the commerce of the United States, (5th Congress, Sess. 2, ch. 68, 1 Stat. 578) is an act of Congress approved July 9, 1798, authorizing the President of the United States to use military force in the Quasi-War with France.Anglo-Russian War (1807–1812)
During the Napoleonic Wars, the Anglo-Russian War (2 September 1807– 18 July 1812) was the phase of hostilities between the United Kingdom and Russia after the latter signed the Treaty of Tilsit that ended its war with France. Anglo-Russian hostilities were limited primarily to minor naval actions in the Baltic and Barents Seas.Benjamin Stoddert
Benjamin Stoddert (1744 – December 18, 1813) was the first United States Secretary of the Navy from May 1, 1798, to March 31, 1801.Convention of 1800
The Convention of 1800 or the Treaty of Mortefontaine between the United States of America and France ended the 1798–1800 Quasi-War, an undeclared naval war waged primarily in the Caribbean, and terminated the 1778 Treaty of Alliance.David Porter (naval officer)
David Porter (February 1, 1780 – March 3, 1843) was an officer in the United States Navy in the rank of captain and the honorary title of commodore. Porter commanded a number of U.S. naval ships, including the famous USS Constitution. He saw service in the First Barbary War, the War of 1812 and in the West Indies. On July 2, 1812, Porter hoisted the banner "Free trade and sailors' rights" as captain of USS Essex. The phrase resonated with many Americans. Porter was later court martialed; he resigned and then joined and became commander-in-chief of the Mexican Navy.Isaac Chauncey
Isaac Chauncey (February 20, 1772 – January 27, 1840) was an officer in the United States Navy who served in the Quasi-War, The Barbary Wars and the War of 1812. In the latter part of his naval career he was President of the Board of Navy Commissioners.List of privateers
A privateer was a private person or private warship authorized by a country's government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping. Privateers were an accepted part of naval warfare from the 16th to the 19th centuries, authorised by all significant naval powers.
Notable privateers included:
Victual Brothers or Vitalians or Likedeelers 1360–1401
Gödeke Michels (leader of the Likedeelers) 1360–1401
Klaus Störtebeker, Wismar, (leader of the Likedeelers), 1360–1401
Didrik Pining, German, c. 1428–1491
Paul Beneke, German, born in Hanseatic City of Danzig, Pomerelia c. 1440s–1490s
Kemal Reis, Turkish, c. 1451–1511
Oruç Reis (Barbarossa), Turkish, c. 1474–1518
Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha, Turkish, 1478–1546
Turgut Reis (Dragut), Turkish, c. 1485–1565
Timoji, Hindu, 1496–1513
Murat Reis the Older, Turkish, c. 1506–1609
Sir Francis Drake, English, c. 1540–1596
Sir George Somers, English 1554–1610
Captain Christopher Newport, English, c. 1561–1617
Magnus Heinason, Faroese, c. 1568–1578 privateer in Dutch service under the Dutch revolt and 1580s, and privateer and merchant in Danish service on the Faroe Islands c. 1578–1589
Piet Hein, Dutch, 1577–1629
Alonso de Contreras, Spanish, 1582–1641, privateer against the Turks under the banner of the Order of Malta and later commanded Spanish ships
James Erisey, English, 1585–1590s
Peter Easton, England/Newfoundland, c. 1611–1614
Sir Henry Morgan, Welsh, 1635–1688
Jean Bart, French, 1651–1702
William Dampier, English, 1652–1715
Nicolas Baeteman, Dunkirker 1659–1720
Alexander Dalzeel, Scotland, c. 1662–1715
René Duguay-Trouin, French, 1673–1736
Kanhoji Angre, Maratha, 1698–1729
Lars Gathenhielm, Swedish, 1710–1718
Ingela Gathenhielm, Swedish, 1710/18–1721
Fortunatus Wright, English of Liverpool, 1712–1757
David Hawley, colonial United States, 1741–1807
Jonathan Haraden, colonial United States, 1744–1803
William Death, English, 1756
Alexander Godfrey, colonial Nova Scotia, 1756–1803
Jose Campuzano-Polanco, colonial Santo Domingo, 1689-1760
Etienne Pellot, aka "the Basque Fox", French, 1765–1856
Noah Stoddard, United States, 1755-1850
Robert Surcouf, French, 1773–1827
David McCullough, colonial United States, 1777-1778
Jean Gaspard Vence, French, –1783
Joseph Barss, Colonial Nova Scotia, 1776–1824
Jean Lafitte 1776–1854, French Louisiana hero in the Gulf of Mexico
John Ordronaux (privateer), United States, 1778–1841
Ephraim Sturdivant, United States, 1782–1868
Hipólito Bouchard, Argentina, 1783–1843
Louisa, ship, of Philadelphia United States, 1800s during Quasi-War with the French
Otway Burns, North Carolina, United States 1775–1850Robert Gray (sea captain)
Robert Gray (May 10, 1755 – c. July, 1806) was an American merchant sea captain who is known for his achievements in connection with two trading voyages to the northern Pacific coast of North America, between 1790 and 1793, which pioneered the American maritime fur trade in that region. In the course of those voyages, Gray explored portions of that coast and, in 1790, completed the first American circumnavigation of the world. Perhaps his most remembered accomplishment from his explorations was his coming upon and then naming of the Columbia River in 1792, while on his second voyage.
Gray's earlier and later life are both comparatively obscure. He was born in Tiverton, Rhode Island, and may have served in the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War. After his two famous voyages, he carried on his career as a sea captain, mainly of merchantmen in the Atlantic. This included what was meant to be a third voyage to the Northwest Coast, but was ended by the capture of his ship by French privateers, during the Franco-American Quasi-War, and command of an American privateer later in that same conflict. Gray died at sea in 1806, near Charleston, South Carolina, possibly of yellow fever. Many geographic features along the Oregon and Washington coasts bear Gray's name, as do numerous schools in the region.Thomas Truxtun
Thomas Truxtun (or Truxton) (February 17, 1755 – May 5, 1822) was an American naval officer after the Revolutionary War, when he served as a privateer, who rose to the rank of commodore in the late eighteenth century and later served in the Quasi-War with France. He was one of the first six commanders appointed to the new US Navy by President Washington. During his naval career he commanded a number of famous U.S. naval ships, including USS Constellation and USS President. Later in civilian life he became involved with politics and was also elected as a sheriff.USS Chesapeake (1799)
Chesapeake was a 38-gun wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy. She was one of the original six frigates whose construction was authorized by the Naval Act of 1794. Joshua Humphreys designed these frigates to be the young navy's capital ships. Chesapeake was originally designed as a 44-gun frigate but construction delays, material shortages, and budget problems caused builder Josiah Fox to alter her design to 38 guns. Launched at the Gosport Navy Yard on 2 December 1799, Chesapeake began her career during the Quasi-War with France and saw service in the First Barbary War.
On 22 June 1807 she was fired upon by HMS Leopard of the Royal Navy for refusing to comply with a search for deserters. The event, now known as the Chesapeake–Leopard Affair, angered the American populace and government and was a precipitating factor that led to the War of 1812. As a result of the affair, Chesapeake's commanding officer, James Barron, was court-martialed and the United States instituted the Embargo Act of 1807 against Great Britain.
Early in the War of 1812 she made one patrol and captured five British merchant ships before returning. She was captured by HMS Shannon shortly after sailing from Boston, Massachusetts, on 1 June 1813. The Royal Navy took her into their service as HMS Chesapeake, where she served until she was broken up and her timbers sold in 1819; they are now part of the Chesapeake Mill in Wickham, England.USS Congress (1799)
USS Congress was a nominally rated 38-gun wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy. She was named by George Washington to reflect a principle of the United States Constitution. James Hackett built her in Portsmouth New Hampshire and she was launched on 15 August 1799. She was one of the original six frigates whose construction the Naval Act of 1794 had authorized. Joshua Humphreys designed these frigates to be the young Navy's capital ships, and so Congress and her sisters were larger and more heavily armed and built than the standard frigates of the period.
Her first duties with the newly formed United States Navy were to provide protection for American merchant shipping during the Quasi War with France and to defeat the Barbary pirates in the First Barbary War. During the War of 1812 she made several extended length cruises in company with her sister ship President and captured, or assisted in the capture of twenty British merchant ships. At the end of 1813, due to a lack of materials to repair her, she was placed in ordinary for the remainder of the war. In 1815 she returned to service for the Second Barbary War and made patrols through 1816. In the 1820s she helped suppress piracy in the West Indies, made several voyages to South America, and was the first U.S. warship to visit China. Congress spent her last ten years of service as a receiving ship until ordered broken up in 1834.USS Constellation (1797)
USS Constellation was a nominally rated 38-gun wooden-hulled, three-masted frigate of the United States Navy. She was named by George Washington to reflect a principle of the United States Constitution. She was built under the direction of David Stodder at his naval shipyard on Harris Creek in Baltimore's Fell's Point maritime community, and she was launched on 7 September 1797. She was one of the original six frigates whose construction the Naval Act of 1794 had authorized. Joshua Humphreys designed these frigates to be the young Navy's capital ships, and so Constellation and her sisters were larger and more heavily armed and built than standard frigates of the period. Her first duties with the newly formed US Navy were to provide protection for American merchant shipping during the Quasi-War with France and to defeat the Barbary pirates in the First Barbary War.USS Constellation vs L'Insurgente
USS Constellation vs L'Insurgente, or the Action of 9 February 1799, was a single-ship action fought between frigates of the French Navy and the United States Navy during the Quasi-War, an undeclared war that lasted from 1798 to 1800. The battle resulted in USS Constellation's capture of L'Insurgente, after an intense firefight in which both sides exchanged heavy broadsides and musket fire.
French privateering attacks against American vessels, begun a year prior, caused the conflict between the United States and France. An American squadron under Commodore Thomas Truxtun had been sent to patrol the Caribbean waters between Puerto Rico and Saint Kitts with orders to engage any French forces they found in the area. While Truxtun was sailing independently of his squadron in Constellation, his flagship, he met and engaged L'Insurgente. After chasing the French ship through a storm, Constellation forced L'Insurgente into an engagement that lasted an hour and fourteen minutes before the French frigate surrendered. The French sustained heavy casualties in the action, while the numbers of American dead and wounded were low.
After the action, L'Insurgente was taken to Saint Kitts and commissioned into the United States Navy as USS Insurgent. With this and later victories, American morale soared, and Truxtun returned home to honor and praise from the American government and the public at large.USS Insurgent
Insurgente was a 40-gun Sémillante-class frigate of the French Navy, launched in 1793. USS Constellation, Captain Thomas Truxtun in command, captured her off the island of Nevis during the Quasi-War. After her capture she served in the US Navy, patrolling the waters in the West Indies. In September 1800 she was caught up in a severe storm and was presumed lost at sea.USS John Adams (1799)
The first John Adams was originally built in 1799 as a frigate for the United States Navy, converted to a corvette in 1809, and later converted back to a frigate in 1830. Named for President John Adams, she fought in the Quasi-War, the First and Second Barbary Wars, the War of 1812, the Mexican–American War and the American Civil War. At the end of her career, she participated in the Union blockade of South Carolina's ports. She then participated in a historic raid that Harriet Tubman, the former slave and Union operative, organized with Union colonel Montgomery. John Adams led three steam-powered gunboats up the Harbor River to Port Royal. The squadron relied on local black mariners to guide it past mines and fortifications. The squadron freed 750+ slaves and unsettled the Confederacy. Tubman was the first woman in U.S. history to plan and execute an armed expedition.This John Adams should not be confused with the frigate USS Adams.USS United States (1797)
USS United States was a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy and the first of the six original frigates authorized for construction by the Naval Act of 1794. Joshua Humphreys designed the frigates to be the young Navy's capital ships, and so United States and her sisters were larger and more heavily armed and built than standard frigates of the period. She was built at Humphrey's shipyard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and launched on 10 May 1797 and immediately began duties with the newly formed United States Navy protecting American merchant shipping during the Quasi-War with France.
In 1861 United States was in port at Norfolk and was seized by the Virginia Navy and subsequently commissioned into the Confederate navy as CSS United States, but was later scuttled by Confederate forces. Union forces raised the scuttled ship, and retained control of the ship until she was broken up in 1865.William Ward Burrows I
William Ward Burrows I (January 16, 1758 – March 6, 1805) was the second Commandant of the Marine Corps. His son, William Ward Burrows II, was a decorated officer in the United States Navy.XYZ Affair
The XYZ Affair was a political and diplomatic episode in 1797 and 1798, early in the presidency of John Adams, involving a confrontation between the United States and Republican France that led to the Quasi-War. The name derives from the substitution of the letters X, Y and Z for the names of French diplomats Hottinguer (X), Bellamy (Y), and Hauteval (Z) in documents released by the Adams administration.
An American diplomatic commission was sent to France in July 1797 to negotiate a solution to problems that were threatening to break out into war. The diplomats, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, John Marshall, and Elbridge Gerry, were approached through informal channels by agents of the French Foreign Minister Talleyrand, who demanded bribes and a loan before formal negotiations could begin. Although such demands were not uncommon in mainland European diplomacy of the time, the Americans were offended by them, and eventually left France without ever engaging in formal negotiations. Gerry, seeking to avoid all-out war, remained for several months after the other two commissioners left. His exchanges with Talleyrand laid groundwork for the eventual end to diplomatic and military hostilities.
The failure of the commission caused a political firestorm in the United States when the commission's dispatches were published. It led to the undeclared Quasi-War (1798–1800). Federalists, who controlled both houses of Congress and held the presidency, took advantage of the national anger to build up the nation's military. They also attacked the Democratic-Republicans for their pro-French stance, and Elbridge Gerry (a nonpartisan at the time) for what they saw as his role in the commission's failure.
Armed conflicts involving the United States Armed Forces
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