After George Washington’s two terms, John Adams was elected the second President.
The situation with France had changed from the time they helped America win Independence.
A French Revolution and an atheistic Reign of Terror resulted in 40,000 heads being chopped off in Paris, including King Louis XVI’s.
French privateers seized nearly 300 American ships bound for British ports.
Talleyrand, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, demanded millions of dollars in bribes to leave America’s ships alone.
Known as the XYZ Affair, the American commission of Charles Pinckney, John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry refused.
The cry went out across America, “Millions for defense, not a cent for tribute.”
As America and France came close to war, President John Adams asked George Washington, now retired at Mount Vernon, to again be Commander-in-Chief of the Army.
Just a year before he died, Washington agreed, writing on JULY 13, 1798:
“Satisfied…you have…exhausted, to the last drop, the cup of reconciliation, we can, with pure hearts, appeal to Heaven for the justice of our cause; and may confidently trust the final result to that kind Providence who has, heretofore, and so often, signally favored the people of these United States…
Feeling how incumbent it is upon every person…to contribute at all times to his country’s welfare, and especially in a moment like the present, when everything we hold dear and sacred is so seriously threatened, I have finally determined to accept the commission of Commander-in-Chief.
President Adams declared a Day of Fasting, March 23, 1798, and again, March 6, 1799:
“As…the people of the United States are still held in jeopardy by…insidious acts of a foreign nation, as well as by the dissemination among them of those principles subversive to the foundations of all religious, moral, and social obligations…
I hereby recommend…a Day of Solemn Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer; That the citizens…call to mind our numerous offenses against the Most High God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore His pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit, we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to His righteous requisitions…
That He would interpose to arrest the progress of that impiety and licentiousness in principle and practice so offensive to Himself and so ruinous to mankind;
That He would make us deeply sensible that ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation.'”
The prayers of the country were answered, and war with France was averted.
The Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.
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