66 pages 2 hours read

Ron Chernow

Alexander Hamilton

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 2004

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Chapters 23-28

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 23 Summary: “Citizen Genet”

Jefferson received word of the escalating violence of the French Revolution. On January 21, 1793, Louis XVI (a supporter of the American Revolution) was executed by guillotine. Jefferson, Madison, and the Republicans applauded the actions of the French rebels, but Washington and most Hamiltonians took issue with the bloodshed. Hamilton condemned the carnage in Paris. He believed the revolutionaries had “emphasized liberty to the exclusion of order, morality, religion, and property rights” (519).

In April, reports arrived that France had declared war on England, Spain, and other royal powers in Europe. During a congressional session on April 19th, at which Hamilton and Jefferson both spoke, the cabinet forbade anyone from pursuing hostilities on behalf of the French. On April 22, Washington issued an official “Proclamation of Neutrality” (521).

The new French minister to the United States, Edmond Genet, arrived on April 8, 1793. Genet wanted America’s help in disrupting Britain’s commerce by hiring private American ships to prey on British shipping vessels. After hiring four ships, he also raised a militia and used them to fight against British ships wherever he could find them. He would then rearm the ships and stock them with his own soldiers. Hamilton and Washington were unsettled by the support Genet received wherever he went, and reiterated frequently that America would not join France’s war against England.