Letitia Hall, "Threshold of a Century: the Diary of Louisa Adams Park, 1800-1801"


restrictions of trade if its ally lost. George Washington had chosen in 1793 to remain neutral. France responded by issuing Letters of Marque, essentially licenses for piracy, that allowed private French ships, called privateers, to capture American merchant ships and sell any cargo considered contraband. In 1798, during John Adams' presidency, the United States Navy and Marine Corps were created and the first fleet sent to the Caribbean where French predation on American shipping was most intense.4

Louisa reported news of France in her letters to her husband. On January, 26, 1800 she wrote:

Ben Russell, in yesterday's Centinel says-"Tis certain there has been an entire Revolution in France–that the Council of Five Hundred are entirely silenced–that Bonaparte is at the head of everything–that in Europe, Peace is expected this Winter–and that the new government in France is favorable both to Peace and America." If all this be so, may I not expect to see you in the Spring? I know not whether to wish for it or not.5
Louisa was not the only American who did not know whether or not to wish for peace. Diplomatic relations with France had been difficult for years. Early American enthusiasm for the French Revolution had chilled following the execution of Louis XVI and the Reign of Terror in 1793 and 1794. France still had supporters in the United States, but to many Americans, particularly New Englanders, the French Revolution meant atheism, violence, mob rule, and disrespect for order and tradition.6  The United States had no standing army because of fears that a professional military would impinge on the freedom of the people, so the news that Bonaparte,

4. Bernard A. Weisberger, America Afire: Jefferson, Adams, and the Revolutionary Election of 1800 (New York: William Morrow, 2000) 188 - 190.
5. Louisa Adams Park, to John Park, January 26, 1800. The quotation is from the Columbian Centinel and Massachusetts Federalist, January 25, 1800.
6. Weisberger, America Afire, 131.
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