The French Revolution lasted from 1789 until 1799. The Revolution precipitated a series of European wars, forcing the United States to articulate a clear policy of neutrality in order to avoid being embroiled in these European conflicts. The French Revolution also influenced U.S. politics, as pro- and anti- Revolutionary factions sought to influence American domestic and foreign policy.
Americans Initially supported the French Revolution
When the first rumors of political change in France reached American shores in 1789, the U.S. public was largely enthusiastic. Americans hoped for democratic reforms that would solidify the existing Franco-American alliance and transform France into a republican ally against aristocratic and monarchical Britain. However, the revolutionary changes also brought political instability, violence, and calls for radical social change in France that frightened many Americans.
American political debate over the nature of the French Revolution exacerbated pre-existing political divisions and resulted in the alignment of the political elite along pro-French and pro-British lines. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson became the leader of the pro-French Democratic-Republican Party that celebrated the republican ideals of the French Revolution.