To what extent did the United States successfully implement a foreign policy based on neutrality between 1790 and 1812?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that a case can be made that America did not involve itself in the affairs of world during this time period and followed through a policy of neutrality in a strong manner.  The nation seemed to follow the example of Washington in not really being involved in European Affairs.  While France and England were immersed in their own wars, America did its best to steer clear. Even in the Adams adminstration's attempts to involve itself in European matters, there was an undercurrent that indicated national interests are best pursued by not pursuing anything in Europe.  It becomes this mantra that the Republicans use to ride into office with Jefferson in 1800.  From this point, America was more concerned with the impact of how the Napoleonic Wars could benefit their own nation.  The acquisition of the Louisiana Territory and American obsession with expansion becomes a part of this, reflecting the idea that America was more concerned with how to avoid conflict around the world and opposed to seeking it.  Even when the impressment of American sailors end up becoming part of the landscape of the world, America sought neutrality.  In passing measures like the Embargo Act, whereby there was a forbidding of trading with both England and France so as to avoid any sort of impression that there could be a tilt towards one side, there seemed to be the desire to avoid conflict and pursue neutrality.  This, of course, would be reassessed with the War of 1812.

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