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Edmond-Charles Genêt
""Edmond-Charles Genêt.jpg
Born Edmond Charles Genêt
(1763-01-08)January 8, 1763
"Versailles, "France
Died July 14, 1834(1834-07-14) (aged 71)
"East Greenbush, "New York, U.S.
Nationality French
Other names Citizen Genêt
Occupation Ambassador
""Edmond-Charles Genêt signature.svg

Edmond-Charles Genêt (January 8, 1763 – July 14, 1834), also known as Citizen Genêt, was the French ambassador to the "United States during the "French Revolution. His actions on arriving in the United States led to a major political and international incident, which was termed as the "Citizen Genêt Affair. Because of his actions, President George Washington asked the French government to recall him. During this time, the government in France changed and an arrest warrant was issued for Genêt. Fearing for his life, he asked for asylum in America, which was granted. Genêt stayed in US until his death.


Early life and education[edit]

Genêt was born in "Versailles in 1763. He was the ninth and final child of a French civil servant, Edmond Jacques Genêt (September 11, 1726 – September 11, 1781), who was a head clerk in the ministry of foreign affairs. The elder Genêt analyzed British naval strength during the "Seven Years' War and monitored the progress of the "American Revolutionary War. His eldest sister was "Jeanne-Louise-Henriette Campan, who became an educator and author.

Genêt was a prodigy who could read French, English, Italian, Latin, Swedish, Greek,[1] and German by the age of 12.

At 18, Genêt was appointed court translator, and in 1788 he was sent to the French embassy in Saint Petersburg to serve as "ambassador. Over time, Genêt became disenchanted with the "ancien régime, learning to despise not just the French monarchy but all monarchical systems, including Tsarist Russia under "Catherine the Great. In 1792, Catherine declared Genêt "persona non grata, calling his presence "not only superfluous but even intolerable." The same year, the "Girondists rose to power in France and appointed Genêt to the post of minister to the United States.


Citizen Genêt Affair[edit]

"President's House, "Philadelphia. Washington confronted Genêt in the presidential mansion in Philadelphia, then the national capital.

The Citizen Genêt affair began in 1793 when he was dispatched to the "United States to promote American support for "France's wars with "Spain and "Britain.

Genêt arrived in "Charleston, "South Carolina on the French frigate "Embuscade on April 8. Instead of traveling to the then-capital of "Philadelphia to present himself to "U.S. President "George Washington for accreditation, Genêt stayed in South Carolina. There he was greeted with enthusiasm by the people of Charleston, who threw a string of parties in his honor.

Genêt's goals in South Carolina were to recruit and arm American "privateers who would join French expeditions against the British. He commissioned four privateering ships in total, including the Republicaine, the Anti-George, the Sans-Culotte, and the Citizen Genêt. Working with French consul "Michel Ange Bernard Mangourit, Genêt organized American volunteers to fight Britain's Spanish allies in "Florida. After raising a militia, Genêt set sail toward Philadelphia, stopping along the way to marshal support for the French cause and arriving on May 18. He encouraged "Democratic-Republican societies, but President Washington denounced them and they quickly withered away.

His actions endangered American neutrality in the war between France and Britain, which Washington had pointedly declared in his "Neutrality Proclamation of April 22. When Genêt met with Washington, he asked for what amounted to a suspension of American neutrality. When turned down by "Secretary of State "Thomas Jefferson and informed that his actions were unacceptable, Genêt protested.[2] Meanwhile, Genêt's privateers were capturing British ships, and his militia was preparing to move against the Spanish.

Genêt continued to defy the wishes of the United States government, capturing British ships and rearming them as privateers. Washington sent Genêt an 8,000-word letter of complaint on Jefferson's and Hamilton's advice – one of the few situations in which the "Federalist "Alexander Hamilton and the "Republican Jefferson agreed. Genêt replied obstinately. President Washington and his Cabinet then demanded that France recall Genêt as its Ambassador.[3]

The "Jacobins, having taken power in France by January 1794, sent an arrest notice which asked Genêt to come back to France. Genêt, knowing that he would likely be sent to the "guillotine, asked Washington for asylum. It was Hamilton – Genêt's fiercest opponent in the cabinet – who convinced Washington to grant him safe haven in the United States.

Later life and death[edit]

Genêt moved to New York State and married Cornelia Clinton in 1794, the daughter of New York Governor "George Clinton. Their son was Henry J. Genet (1800–1872), a member of the State Assembly in "1832. Cornelia died in 1810, and on July 31, 1814, Genêt married Martha Brandon Osgood, the daughter of "Samuel Osgood, the United States' first "Postmaster General.

On July 30, 1800, "James Monroe, then governor of Virginia, wrote to Genêt concerning his son, who was suffering from whooping cough. [4]

On June 26, 1808, Genêt wrote an article, "Madison as a 'French Citizen,'" for the New York Register in an attempt to promote the prospects of his father-in-law, the incumbent Vice President George Clinton, over James Madison in the "presidential election of 1808. Noting the honorary French citizenship afforded Madison in 1792, Genêt reasoned that the "Embargo Act of 1807 had been intended by Secretary of State Madison to aid Napoleon in the enforcement of the "Berlin Decree, especially seeing that American trade with Britain was more important than that with France. Playing to a northeastern audience, Genêt continued that, judging by Jefferson's glorification of an agricultural lifestyle in "Notes on the State of Virginia, the Embargo was also acting as a covert means to destroy New England's commercial heritage. As such, New Englanders would be forced to turn to agriculture, and Virginia's dominance of American politics would continue. [5] Genêt lived on a farm he called Prospect Hill located in "East Greenbush, New York overlooking the "Hudson River. Living the life of a gentleman farmer, he wrote a book about inventions.

He died on July 14, 1834 and is buried in the churchyard behind the Greenbush Reformed Church, about two miles east of his farm.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chernow, Ron (2016-08-01). Alexander Hamilton. Head of Zeus. "ISBN "9781786690012. 
  2. ^ A Message of the President of the United States to Congress Relative to France and Great Britain Delivered December 5, 1793, With the Papers Therein Referred to, to Which are Added the French Originals, Published by Order of the House of Representatives. Philadelphia: printed by Charles and Swaine. 1793. pp. 28–29. Retrieved 14 April 2016 – via Google Books. 
  3. ^ "Founders Online: Editorial Note: The Recall of Edmond Charles Genet". 
  4. ^ Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971), pp. 185, 185n.
  5. ^ Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Fred L. Israel, and William P. Hansen, eds., History of American Presidential Elections: 1789-1968, vol. 1 (New York: Chelsea House, 1985), 234-35.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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