Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

James D. Mochoruk


The Quasi-War was an undeclared conflict fought between the young United States of America and the French Republic at sea during the years 1798-1801. It began when the French mounted a guerre de course against the significant American blue-water merchant marine in response to America concluding Jay's Treaty with Great Britain. At the time, the U.S. had no navy whatsoever with which to combat these French corsairs primarily operating from bases in the West Indies. Seeing there was little hope of immediately ending the matter diplomatically after the infamous XYZ Affair, President John Adams convinced a normally divided Congress to build a small but effective navy.

However, the Americans were lacking in needed resources and ordnance to construct and arm a fleet which could keep the sea in the distant Caribbean, which became the primary theatre of war. Fortunately, Great Britain, America's great trading partner, and ironically her former enemy in the Revolutionary War, was also at war with France in the Wars of the French Revolution. This thesis examines the informal naval alliance which formed between the two former enemies during the Quasi-War. It argues that the British were instrumental in providing the material aid which allowed John Adams to build his new navy, and that the U.S. Navy was in many ways modeled after Britain's venerable Royal Navy. It also examines the informal naval cooperation which developed between serving units of the two fleets in the West Indies. This impromptu relationship would be tested by ongoing disputes between the United States, namely impressment of American seamen, and British seizure of technically neutral, American merchantmen trading to England's non-French enemies in the islands. Despite these stressors, it would last to the end of the Quasi-War. The work also examines U.S./British naval involvement with Toussaint l'Ouverture on St. Domingue, now known as Haiti.