George Washington Papers

Neutrality Proclamation, 22 April 1793

Neutrality Proclamation

[Philadelphia, 22 April 1793]

Whereas it appears that a state of war exists between Austria, Prussia, Sardinia, Great-Britain, and the United Netherlands, of the one part, and France on the other, and the duty and interest of the United States require, that they should with sincerity and good faith adopt and pursue a conduct friendly and impartial toward the belligerent powers:

I have therefore thought fit by these presents to declare the disposition of the United States to observe the conduct aforesaid towards those powers respectively; and to exhort and warn the citizens of the United States carefully to avoid all acts and proceedings whatsover, which may in any manner tend to contravene such disposition.

And I do hereby also make known that whosoever of the citizens of the United States shall render himself liable to punishment or forfeiture under the law of nations, by committing, aiding or abetting hostilities against any of the said powers, or by carrying to any of them those articles, which are deemed contraband by the modern usage of nations, will not receive the protection of the United States, against such punishment or forfeiture: and further, that I have given instructions to those officers, to whom it belongs, to cause prosecutions to be instituted against all persons, who shall, within the cognizance of the courts of the United States, violate the Law of Nations, with respect to the powers at war, or any of them.

In testimony whereof I have caused the Seal of the United States of America to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my hand. Done at the city of Philadelphia, the twenty-second day of April, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the seventeenth.

Go. WASHINGTON.

By the President.
Th: Jefferson.

Printed copy, DNA: RG 46, Third Congress, 1793–95, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages; LB, DLC:GW.

Although Alexander Hamilton had requested, and received, an outline of a proclamation of neutrality from John Jay, there is no evidence to suggest that GW saw this draft or that it influenced the wording of the final proclamation (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 14:299–300, 307–10). Attorney General Edmund Randolph wrote the final proclamation, following cabinet deliberations on 19 and 22 April (GW to Cabinet, 18 April, and source note, and Minutes of a Cabinet Meeting, 19 April; JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 117).

Thomas Jefferson, at the behest of the president, enclosed printed copies of the proclamation in letters to state governors and to American and European foreign ministers. He submitted a “draught of a letter for the Ministers of France, England & Holland” to GW under cover of a letter of 23 April (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Tobias Lear wrote Jefferson on that same date of GW’s approval (DLC: Jefferson Papers; see also JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 118). For the final version of 23 April sent to Jean-Baptiste Ternant, George Hammond, and Franco Petrus Van Berckel, see Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 25:583–84. Jefferson also submitted drafts of the letters he sent to the governors of the states and to the U.S. ministers Gouverneur Morris, Thomas Pinckney, and William Short. He received GW’s approval in a letter from Lear of 26 April (DLC: Jefferson Papers; see also JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 118, 120). For these letters, dated 26 April, see Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 25:588–89, 591–92. Newspapers quickly printed the Neutrality Proclamation, and it circulated as a broadside as well (National Gazette [Philadelphia], 24 April; Pennsylvania Gazette [Philadelphia], 24 April; broadside, Nc-Ar).

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