Skip to main content

Strength And Complexity

December 2023
1min read


In response to Richard Brookhiser’s article “France and Us” in your August/September 2003 issue, it’s worth adding that the Mortefontaine Treaty negotiated by John Adams with Bonaparte not only ended an undeclared naval war but also formally (but not finally) dissolved our Revolutionary alliance with France. Adams, like Washington, believed in the need for American neutrality regarding all things European, and he set a bold, independent course for America by dissolving our tie with France.

In effect Adams was announcing to France and all Europe that America would not be an outpost for European bickering, that America would forge its destiny alone in the New World, not throw its lot in with that of European history. Adams wrote in one letter to Congress that no European nation, “not even Spain or France, wishes to see America rise very fast to power. We ought, therefore, to be cautious. . . . Let us, above all things, avoid, as much as possible, entangling ourselves with their wars or politics. Our business with them, and theirs with us, is commerce, not politics, much less war.” With the exception of few very big wars, our history with Europe has been mostly that.

Still, it’s a testament to the strength and complexity of Franco-American relations that Adams could dissolve our Revolutionary alliance with France on paper but not in the sympathies of the French and American people, despite so much that has been endured.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.

Donate