French Spoliation Claims

Do you want to know more about the French spoliation claims? Are you student of marine history with a keen interest in French spoliation claims? Read our guide for more information and facts...

People often wonder what French spoliation claims are because they were being made well into the 19th century. For a person who may be interested in marine history the study of French spoliation claims can be very interesting. This article will give you an introduction to French spoliation claims. These claims were made by the citizens of the United States against France, Spain and Holland.

The United States today enjoys good relationships with both France and the United Kingdom but in the late eighteenth century the relationship between the three countries were strained. France and Great Britain were at war against each other. The United States tried to remain neutral but any attempt at improving relationship with one country would equate to spoiling the relationship with the other. Meanwhile US ships and merchant vessels were being captured by both countries. However the Jay’s Treaty signed on November 19, 1794 between the US and the United Kingdom meant improved relationships between these two countries. But this act was seen by the French as a violation of a previous treaty with them. The French also blamed the US of violation of neutrality. In consequence an angry French government passed several decrees that allowed their privateers in the waters controlled by them to capture American vessels. These areas included the coasts of South and North America, Africa, Europe and the West Indies.

Even after many efforts the American side could not get the French government to see reason. These failed diplomatic efforts led to quasi war between the US and France since neither wanted to declare an open war. To beat the French privateers, the US formed a small navy and hired their own privateers to protect their vessels. All US merchant vessels were also permitted to arm themselves so they could thwart off any capture attempts. The US congress wanted to be ready for a possible all out war so they authorized the recruitment of regular army in anticipation of an invasion attempt. Of course all treaties signed with France were revoked.

The quasi war continued for almost 100 years till both countries signed the Convention of Mortefontaine on September 30, 1800. However even though this convention spelled the end of hostilities between the two countries it had no mention of how the claims of indemnity were going to be settled. The issue was simply left for the future. And it did go well into the future; claimants were waiting for a settlement of their claims for almost 300 years well into the twentieth century.

So the French spoliation claims are claims made by United States citizens for capture of their merchant vessels and any other property captured by the French at any time.

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Chris Poston says:

The Quasi-War lasted from 1798-1800, not for “almost 100 years” and “claimants were waiting for a settlement of their claims for almost 300 years…” is also incorrect. The last of the French spoliation claims were paid by 1924 – 1800 to 1924 is not 300 years.