America’s first two presidents, George Washington and John Adams, both resolutely
adhered to the idea that America should endeavor to stay out of war at all times, and did
everything in their power to evade declaring and entering into war. Throughout their
reigns, war was ubiquitous in Europe, and many countries (especially Britain and France)
made numerous attempts to obtain and secure America’s support. Washington and
Adams both believed that America should not side with any foreign country during times
of war making the fundamental purport of America’s first foreign policy the elusion of
war at all costs. This policy was manifested throughout Washington and Adams’
involvement in, and reactions to the following affairs: the Citizen Genet controversy, the
Jay Treaty, and the XYZ Affair.
One of Washington’s initial attempts to pursue this policy was his counteraction
to the Genet Affair. In 1793, George Washington proclaimed neutrality, thus declaring
America an uninvolved, nonpartisan country in times of war. Simultaneously, Edmond
Charles Genet was sent to the United States as a special representative from France to
implore support in the French Revolution. Genet had previously resolved that th
In addition to Washington"tms response to the Genet affair, he further strived toavert involvement in war by signing the Jay Treaty. Washington nonetheless held firmly to his foreign policy, advocating it to his successorand the American people in his "Farewell Address"tm. Adams, who was neverextremely popular, was now seen as a national hero. John Adams became president in 1796 and continued to preserve Washington"tmsforeign policy. The risks taken by both presidents, and the end results of the Genetcontroversy, Jay Treaty, and XYZ affair, substantiated their policy by verifying theimportance of avoiding war and presenting the drastic measures taken by Washingtonand Adams to avoid war. One example that exhibits this was the XYZ Affair. This demand was later made by two other agents known asY and Z. The Americans refused and the talks eventually ended. In an attempt to deplete the threat ofAmericans supporting the French, he avowed that Genet would be expelled. This incident is a lucid manifestation of Washington"tmsample efforts to avoid war. John Adamsthen appointed three commissioners, Charles Pinckney, John Marshall and ElbridgeGerry, to try and arrange a moderate settlement that would eliminate their differenceswithout mentioning the merits. In corroboration with the previous examples, Washington and Adamsdeterminedly did all they could to avoid war at all costs and follow through with theirforeign policy. Commencing in Charleston, South Carolina, Genet traveledthroughout the United States presenting his credentials. Not declaring war and adhering to his foreign policy further evinced the fact that Adamswas willing to risk losing his increasing popularity, and therefore America did notofficially enter into war.