Be Washington: The Genet Affair

This page provides resources accompanying the Be Washington: The Genet Affair scenario. It contains primary and secondary sources on the Genet Affair, as well as helpful teaching materials. Use these resources to aid the Be Washington gameplay, learn more about Washington's presidency, and find useful learning materials!

The Genet Affair

The Genet Affair

The Genet Affair put the neutrality of the United States in jeopardy. American citizens were serving on French privateer ships that attacked the British. Washington was stuck - would he support the French allies, or stay firm in neutrality?

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Citizen Genet

Citizen Genet

On April 8, the French Ambassador Citizen Genet landed in South Carolina and started convincing American citizens to aid French ships. He believed this was acceptable under the Treaty of Alliance signed between the United States and France.

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The Genet Affair

1789
1794
Washington is elected
The King of France is pressured
The French Revolution begins
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
The French Monarchy is abolished
France declares war
Washington is re-elected
Louis XVI is executed
Ambassador Genet arrives
U.S. Statement of Neutrality
A ship is captured
Henfield is arrested
Henfield is prosecuted
Chaos in France
Genet Plans
Henfield is acquitted
Genet's plans collapse
The French recall Genet
Congress passes the Neutrality Act

February 4, 1789

Washington is elected

Washington is unanimously elected as the first President of the United States.

The King of France is pressured

The “common people” of France form the National Assembly to pressure the King and aristocracy to distribute their money and property.

The French Revolution begins

The Storming of the Bastille, the iconic fortress in Paris used to hold political opponents, by French insurgents marks the “official” beginning of the French Revolution.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

Introduced by Lafayette, the French National Assembly publishes the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, a statement of principles based on the writings of Thomas Jefferson.

The French Monarchy is abolished

The French National Convention abolishes the monarchy, creating the French First Republic.

France declares war

Already at war with Austria and Prussia, France declares war on Great Britain and the Dutch Republic.

Washington is re-elected

Washington is unanimously re-elected as President of the United States.

Louis XVI is executed

Louis XVI is executed by guillotine in Paris.

Ambassador Genet arrives

Ambassador Genet arrives in Charleston, SC. He begins to encourage Americans to fight on behalf of France as he travels up to Philadelphia.

U.S. Statement of Neutrality

Washington issues a proclamation of Neutrality on behalf of the United States. He hopes that this will appease both the French and the British.

A ship is captured

A French Privateer captures the British merchant ship William in American waters near Philadelphia.

Henfield is arrested

The American sailor Gideon Henfield is arrested by U.S. authorities on charges of disturbing the peace and violating the proclamation of neutrality when he brings the William into the port of Philadelphia.

Henfield is prosecuted

The Washington administration decides to prosecute Henfield as a test case in enforcing a strict neutrality.

Chaos in France

The Jacobins faction takes charge in France and chaos increases. This news will not reach the U.S. for two months.

Genet Plans

Genet begins plans to invade Spanish Florida and Louisiana and British Canada using American citizen volunteers.

Henfield is acquitted

A sympathetic Philadelphia jury acquits Henfield, finding him not guilty due to ambiguous U.S. laws on the mater.

Genet's plans collapse

Genet’s plans for invading Florida, Louisiana, and Canada collapse from his inability to acquire American volunteers.

The French recall Genet

The French government decides to recall Genet, looking to have a friendlier relationship with the Americans based on trade rather than spreading revolution.

Congress passes the Neutrality Act

Congress concurs with Washington’s plan for neutrality and passes the Neutrality Act.

The Bastille Key

The Bastille Key

Washington received this key from the Marquis de Lafayette at the beginning of the French Revolution. The Bastille was a symbol of royal power, and by overtaking it, France was challenging its monarchy.

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