Alexander Hamilton Papers

Cabinet Meeting. Opinion on a Proclamation Against Forces to Be Enlisted in Kentucky for the Invasion of Spanish Territory, [18–19 March 1794]

Cabinet Meeting. Opinion on a Proclamation
Against Forces to Be Enlisted in Kentucky
for the Invasion of Spanish Territory1

[Philadelphia, March 18–19, 1794]

By the President of the United States.

A Proclamation.

Whereas I have received information that certain persons in violation of the Laws, have presumed under colour of a foreign authority to enlist, within the state of Kentuckey, citizens of the United States, and have there assembled an armed force for the purpose of invading and plundering the territories of a nation at peace with the said United States: And Whereas such unwarrantable measures, being contrary to the Laws of nations and to the duties incumbent on every citizen of a neutral state, tend to disturb the Tranquility of the United States and to involve them in the calamities of war: And whereas it is the duty of the Executive to take care that such hostile proceedings should be suppressed [the offenders brought to justice]2 and all good citizens cautioned against measures likely to prove so pernicious to their country & themselves should they be seduced into similar infractions of the Laws.

Therefore, I have thought proper to issue this Proclamation, and I3 do hereby strictly prohibit and forbid any person or persons, not authorized by the Laws, to enlist any citizen or citizens of the United States or to levy Troops, or to collect any assemblages of persons within the United States, for the purposes aforesaid [or to proceed in the execution thereof:] & I do also admonish and require all citizens to refrain from enlisting, enrolling or assembling themselves for such unlawful purposes, [and from being in anywise concerned in aiding or abetting therein] as they tender their own welfare, inasmuch as all lawful means4 will be strictly [vigorously] put in Execution for securing obedience to the Laws and punishing [such dangerous & daring infractions thereof].

And I do moreover charge and require all Courts, Magistrates, Officers & ministers of Justice [& other officers whom it may concern] according to the duties of their several offices to exert the powers in them severally vested to prevent & suppress all such unlawful assemblages & proceedings, [and to bring to condign punishment those who may have been guilty thereof] as they regard the due authority of Government and the peace and Welfare of the United States.5

March 19. 1794.

I do not think, that the proclamation ought to say, that the President forbids; because it is the law which forbids. May not the word infractions be changed to violation.

E. R.

[The president is understood to forbid in the name of the law and may therefore with propriety do it. But as this form of expression may be liable to cavil it may be adviseable to vary it if it can be done without losing the requisite energy. Some additions are suggested for consideration.]6


Approved H Knox

D, in the handwriting of William Bradford, with interlineations by H and Edmund Randolph, and signed by Randolph, H, and Henry Knox, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

1See “Proposed Presidential Message to Congress Concerning Revocation of Edmond Charles Genet’s Diplomatic Status,” January 6–13, 1794, note 1; “Cabinet Meeting. Opinion on Expeditions Being Planned in Kentucky for the Invasion of Spanish Dominions,” March 10, 1794.

On March 10, 1794, the cabinet had agreed that the President should issue a proclamation in an effort to stop the expeditions that were being planned in Kentucky to invade Spanish territory. On March 18, 1794, Bradford presented this draft of a proclamation at a meeting of the cabinet (Randolph to George Washington, March 19, 1794 [AL, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, 1790–1799, National Archives]), where it was discussed on that day and on the next day. On March 24, 1794, Randolph wrote to Washington enclosing the draft so that the President could decide on two amendments which Randolph had suggested. He also enclosed a copy of the draft “upon the supposition, that the President would direct it to issue in the form, which the three other gentlemen had approved” (AL, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, 1790–1799, National Archives).

2The material within brackets in this document is in the handwriting of H.

3The words “have thought proper to issue this Proclamation, and I” are in Randolph’s handwriting.

4The words “all lawful means” are in Randolph’s handwriting.

5Randolph substituted the words “the United States” for “this Country.”

6The proclamation which Washington approved on March 24, 1794, contained all the interlineations by H and Randolph. Washington also used Randolph’s first suggestion and changed the word “infractions” at the end of the second paragraph to “violations” (GW description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (Washington, 1931–1944). description ends , XXXIII, 304–05).

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