During the adminstrations of Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison, Europe was nearly constantly at war and it grew increasingly difficult for the new United States to stay out. Explain the situation, problems and ways these early presidents sought to stay out of war and why they ultimately failed and what the result was
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Washington's position of neutrality was clearly the correct one, and Adams walked a very fine line in dealing with France after the XYZ Affair. The political pressures were intense, both from the Hamiltonians within his own party, and the Republicans who advocated a concilatory position toward France. The "quasi-war" with France during this period was a far cry from a real war, and though Adams ultimately lost the election of 1800, he managed to keep the US out of war even though he did bow to Hamilton's demands to create a federal army and strengthen the navy. Jefferson weakened the navy, and as post #3 observes, attempted to institute an Embargo to avoid attacks on US shipping by French ships on the one hand, and British impressment of American sailors on the other. Madison inherited this situation, in addition to the problem of the British presence in the West, and, unlike Adams, was unable to avoid the war fever that broke out in this country, which resulted in the War of 1812.
It was impossible for the US to stay out of the wars because it depended so much on trade with the belligerent countries. When the US tried to stop trading (Jefferson's Embargo Act) its economy was badly damaged. This made it clear that the US had to keep trading, which exposed its ships to being captured by one side or the other. This is the sort of thing that ended up dragging the US into war.
Sometimes war is unavoidable. Madison in particular did not want to go to war, especially since Jefferson had avoided it as long as he could and basically dumped it in Madison's lap. Madison then got the brunt of the criticism.
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