George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Philadelphia Merchants and Traders, 16 May 1793

From the Philadelphia Merchants and Traders

Philadelphia 16th May 1793


Sensible that nothing is wanting to the happiness of the People of the United States, but to continue in Peace, under their excellent Laws and Government, the Merchants and Traders of the City of Philadelphia beg leave to express to you the high sense they entertain of the wisdom and goodness which dictated your late Proclamation, declaring the Neutrality to be observed by the United States in the War, wherein several European Powers are now engaged;1 a War, which however it might serve the interests of their commerce for the time, they, as the friends of all men and of all nations, are bound to deplore.

Impressed too with an opinion, that in an unoffending conduct towards all the world, consists the true policy of America; it is their determination, not only to pay the strictest regard to the Proclamation themselves, but to discountenance in the most pointed manner, any contrary disposition in others; examples of which, they are persuaded, will seldom occur; the Sentiments just expressed, being, as they have the satisfaction to find, the common language of the Citizens of Pensylvania.2


On 18 May 1793 the Gazette of the United States (Philadelphia) printed this letter and reported that “Yesterday at noon a Committee of the Commercial and Trading interests, consisting of about one hundred Gentlemen, waited on the President of the United States at his house.” The letter also was printed in the National Gazette (Philadelphia) on 22 May.

1On GW’s policy of neutrality in the war between France and other European nations and for the promulgation of that policy, see GW to Cabinet, 18 April 1793, source note, and Neutrality Proclamation, 22 April.

2The letter-book copy says that this letter was “Signed by about 250 of the principal Merchts & traders in the City of Philadelphia,” and the two Philadelphia newspapers cited above reported that “about three hundred” signed it. In fact, the letter contains 320 signatures. For GW’s response, see his letter to the Philadelphia Merchants and Traders, c.17 May 1793. For more on the Philadelphia business community’s opinion of the war, see Edmund Randolph’s letter to GW of 18 May.

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