The Treaty of Mortefontaine

The Treaty of Mortefontaine

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Treaty with the United States (at Mortefontaine).

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: July 2008

Historical context

The Near war, a Franco-American conflict

A few years after the epic of La Fayette and Rochambaud who came to help the insurgents Americans in their rebellion against British rule, the French and Americans violently oppose each other in a conflict that nearly turns into a real war. July 7, 1798, it is the rupture: the American Senate cancels all the bilateral treaties signed with France, President Adams decides on the total embargo on French products, the hunting of their ships near the American coasts and goes even to bring aid to a rebellion in Haiti. The 22 boarded French ships respond to around 2,000 French catches, in just two years!

Image Analysis

The Mortefontaine Treaty, resumption of bilateral relations

The French engraving was executed from an original American drawing, which can be thought to have been brushed after the scene of September 30, 1800. The composition of the image is very classic for the time, recalling many illustrations and representations on the same theme, as highlighted by the elements of the decor - tent, flags and symbols, thick rugs - or the postures of the signatories and emissaries from both camps. On the left, standing, are the French, among whom we can distinguish the signatories Charles Pierre Claret Fleurieu (State Councilor, member of the National Institute and of the Office of the Longitude of France) and Pierre-Louis Roederer (Councilor of State, President of the Navy, member of the National Institute of France, President of the Interior Section). On the right, seated around the negotiating table, the Americans William Richardson Davie, Governor of North Carolina, and William Vans Murray, Resident Minister in The Hague. In the center, in an inverted position, negotiate Joseph Bonaparte (on the right, recognizable by the white scarf which encircles him) and Olivier Ellsworth, the President of the Supreme Court of the United States.


Two friendly powers

Despite this short and intense period of conflict, France and the United States have shown, through this limited conflict, that they have far too much to lose by going to war with each other instead of expanding their trade relations. The French luxury goods industry, mechanical engineering, textiles and chemicals were in need of the American market outlets; the New World had to equip itself as quickly as possible to hope to join the great European powers. Four years later, Napoleon Bonaparte even sold Louisiana to the Americans, on credit, since the sum requested far exceeded the national Gross Domestic Product. France is thus contributing to the doubling of the surface area of ​​the United States, while believing itself to become the creditor of the rising power.

  • Consulate
  • United States

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The Treaty of Mortefontaine"

Video: Party Politics 1788 to 1800


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