Official relations between the United States and metropolitan France were no more than a marginal factor in bringing matters to crisis point. The real key has to be looked for in the French West Indies. There, conditions of social upheaval and revolution, together with invasion by British military forces, had created a dynamic of its own. The consequences for American merchant shipping, as has already been seen, were little short of catastrophic. If there were any single undertaking by the American government in the closing years of the 18th century that could be rated as something close to a full practical success it was that of bringing the U.S. navy into being and the first Secretary of the Navy, Benjamin Stoddert. The officer who would emerge as a figure of national prominence during the Quasi-War, Thomas Truxtun, had commanded privateers but had never held a naval commission at all.
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