For a Kinder, Gentler Society
James Monroe
Diplomatic Correspondence, Paris, 1794-1796
  • Brett F. Woods
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James Monroe. Diplomatic Correspondence, Paris,  1794-1796
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In 1789, George Washington took office as the first American president — just as the French Revolution was about to erupt; in 1794, while Paris was still reeling from the Reign of Terror, he sent James Monroe to serve as his Minister to France.

As the first international ambassador to arrive in Paris after the French Revolution, Monroe was resourceful in getting his bearings in the shifting social and political sands. His chief assignment was to convince everyone of U.S. neutrality between France and Great Britain, despite appearances; and he worked tirelessly to demonstrate to the French people and their leaders that as brand new republics, the Americans found themselves natural allies and friends of the new France. 

His letters provide our best window into his thinking and that of his correspondents, the  prevailing atmosphere in that turbulent era, and the efforts he made to perform his duty in good faith. 


About the Author

Brett F. Woods, Ph.D., is a professor of history for the American Public University System. He received his doctorate from the University of Essex, England, and maintains an active research agenda, primarily directed to the Anglo-American colonial experience and British imperial studies.

Dr. Woods has written widely on political, military, and diplomatic history and is a regular contributor to ABC-CLIO’s military and political history reference collections. He has also been published numerous academic and mainstream publications including the Canadian Journal of History, the Asian Studies Review, the California Literary Review, and the Richmond Review (London).

He has published several books with Algora — volumes of annotated correspondence that illuminate our understanding of key figures in early American history.

About the Book

While James Monroe is responsible for a large body of correspondence, this is the first time an editor has focused principally on his written communications during this delicate and grueling service. A prominent Democrat-Republican, along with...

While James Monroe is responsible for a large body of correspondence, this is the first time an editor has focused principally on his written communications during this delicate and grueling service. A prominent Democrat-Republican, along with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, he was naturally inclined to foster the idea of brotherhood with the new French Republic, which was his job; but he was left hanging for months on end, without information and without guidance, at many critical junctures.

The format of the selected letters, as Monroe wrote them, is preserved whenever possible, and they are presented for the interest of a general readership as well as for students of military, diplomatic, or political history. The addressees are identified, particularly those who have been lost to history, and, where indicated, explanatory notes are provided to assist the reader in placing the correspondence in its particular historical, political, or conceptual context. Readers are encouraged to arrive at their own conclusions as to the intention of a specific piece of correspondence.

Monroe's letters from Paris during this period offers a number of unique vignettes such as the protection of U.S. trade from French attacks, and the release of author/American patriot Thomas Paine and Adrienne de Lafayette, the wife of the Marquis de Lafayette, from French jails. 

But, arguably, the most significant aspect of his time was his official recall by President Washington. The French Revolution led to war between Britain and France in 1793, and after Monroe arrived in France the U.S. and Great Britain concluded the Jay Treaty. The treaty outraged the French due to the fact that (among other things) it conceded that the British could seize U.S. goods bound for France if they paid for them, and allowed them to confiscate without payment French goods on American ships. 

Monroe had not been fully informed about the treaty prior to its publication, but he was tasked with repairing the rift caused by the treaty in US–French relations. Indeed, he achieved some success in what was probably an impossible task. Nevertheless, Washington was unhappy with Monroe's inability to convince the French of the benign nature of the Jay Treaty, and generally with Monroe's failure to project a posture of neutrality. 

Washington recalled Monroe from his post in November 1796 and he returned to the United States, where he wrote a 400-page defense of his tenure as ambassador. In the report he was critical of Washington's desire to pursue closer relations with Britain at the expense of relations with France, which had effectively obliterated all his efforts. Indeed, as French Foreign Minister Charles Delacroix tactfully pointed out to Monroe, he had not failed; his government had.

Pages 354
Year: 2021
BISAC: HIS036030 HISTORY / United States / Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)
BISAC: BIO011000 BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Presidents & Heads of State
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-1-62894-452-5
Price: USD 26.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-1-62894-453-2
Price: USD 36.95
ISBN: 978-1-62894-454-9
Price: USD 26.95
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