By May 1798, the U.S. war sloop Ganges was guarding the coast between Long Island and the Chesapeake, joined in June by the Constellation and the United States. In July 1798, Stephen Decatur, on the sloop Delaware, captured the French schooner Croyable off New Jersey. After the British navy defeated French forces in the Battle of the Nile (1 August 1798), the U.S. Navy drove the French away from the U.S. coast to the Caribbean. Ten important naval engagements ensued, six of them in February and March 1799. The Americans lost only once: the Retaliation (formerly the Croyable) was captured in November 1798.
In February 1799, the Constellation captured the frigate L’Insurgente. The French captain blamed U.S. Capt. Thomas Truxtun for provoking war between the United States and France.
Despite ship‐to‐ship actions and U.S. support for former slave Toussaint Louverture's independence movement on Haiti, neither side declared war.
Adams resisted Federalist pressure for war; while congressional Federalists created a provisional army with Washington as commander in chief and Alexander Hamilton as second in command, Adams favored a strong navy to make the United States independent of both England and France. The French Army, he told Hamilton, was more likely to invade heaven than the United States.
Napoleon's coup d’ état on 9 November 1799 changed French politics and policy. Needing the support of neutral Denmark and Sweden, he returned in December 1799 to the principle that neutral ships make neutral goods. American diplomats at the Hague (William Vans Murray) and Berlin (John Quincy Adams) sent word that France wanted to negotiate. In November 1799, Adams dispatched official envoys to France.