Navigating Neutrality Early American Governance in the Turbulent Atlantic

This is a cover image. The text on the title reads: Navigating Neutrality Early American Governance in the Turbulent Atlantic. Sandra Moats. The image in the bottom half of the cover is of two sailing vessels in the ocean with blue water and a light blue sky with clouds above it.
Moats, S. Navigating Neutrality Early American Governance in the Turbulent Atlantic. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2021.

IRH Fellow:

Sarah Moats, 2017-2018 UW-System Fellow

Synopsis:

Navigating Neutrality explores the unexpected role George Washington’s 1793 Neutrality Proclamation played in energizing the U.S. government’s constitutional responsibilities to support and promote America’s commercial and sovereign interests. Designed to avoid warfare as Great Britain and France battled in the Atlantic during the French Revolutionary Wars, neutrality encompassed a wide range of issues, including diplomacy, law, defense, commerce, and domestic politics.

Proclaiming neutrality proved easier than enforcing it. American citizens eagerly accepted lucrative French privateering commissions, and Britain retaliated by attacking American ships, cargos, and sailors. In response, Washington and his cabinet formulated policies to enforce neutrality across all three branches of the government and around the globe. Maritime citizens, stranded in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, especially came to appreciate the government’s rescue efforts. As Sandra Moats shows, enforcing neutrality galvanized all three branches of the nascent U.S. government, serving as a manifesto of the young nation’s quest to be respected in its independence and helping to build a U.S. government capable of supporting its global aspirations.