French Decrees

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FRENCH DECREES. The French decrees from 1793 to 1812 were enacted by the French government to inhibit Britain's ability to trade with other countries, including the United States. In retaliation, the British seized American ships bound for France. Thus, the United States was deprived of its two most important trading partners. A decree from France in 1794 included a threat to seize neutral ships as pirates. America gained exemption from this decree in 1795, but it was reinstated in 1796. Another decree in 1798 declared that neutral vessels carrying goods to or from Britain would be treated like British ships—as enemies. The Franco-American convention of 1800 ended French interference with American shipping, but beginning with a new decree in 1806, followed by others in 1807 and 1808, France declared a full blockade of the British Isles and authorized the seizure of neutral ships visiting Britain. Only with the outbreak of the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain did France rescind its ban on American ships.


Sweeney, Jerry K., Stephen J. Valone, and Margaret B. Denning. America and the World, 1776–1998: A Handbook of United States Diplomatic History. Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press, 2000.

Kirk H.Beetz

See alsoEmbargo Act ; France, Quasi-War with ; Nonintercourse Act ; XYZ Affair .