George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Citizens of Hartford, Connecticut, 2 August 1793

From the Citizens of Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford [Conn.] August 2d 1793


Solicitous for the continuance of that happiness, which so highly distinguishes our Country, and so essentially depends on the preservation of its Peace, Liberty & Sovereignty, We, the Inhabitants of the City of Hartford, in the State of Connecticut, beg leave to express our grateful acknowlegements for your patriotic measures to protect those invaluable blessings. Among these we view with singular pleasure your late Proclamation, on the subject of Neutrality towards the belligerent Powers in Europe.1

To give public notice of the existence of hostilities between foreign Nations, with whom we have continual intercourse, and to point out the line of conduct we ought to pursue, in respect to those contending Powers, we must consider as a constitutional Act, becoming the duty of the first Magistrate, highly necessary in our situation, and evidently dictated by that Paternal Care, so often exerted in promoting the welfare of the States.

The prerogative of Kings to make war at their sole will and pleasure, has for ages been wantonly exercised for the destruction of human happiness. Motives of personal resentment, cruelty and caprice, or the desire of conquest and aggrandizement, have often involved the world in desolation & carnage. Happy is the condition of our country! whose free Constitution secures to the People the sole right of declaring war by the voice of their Representatives, and imposes the most solemn obligations on the supreme Executor of its laws, to guard its peace, till such declaration be made of the public will.2 For this important right are our Allies, the French, contending at an infinite expence of blood and treasure. While we trust that the good sense of our Fellow citizents will preserve and perpetuate so essential a power, we ardently pray that it may be obtained by all nations. Then & not till then may we expect, that “Peace on earth and goodwill to men” shall become the Law of nations, as it is a precept of our holy Religion.3

Warmly attached to our Government, both by interest and affection, we take the liberty to assure you, that we shall ever stand ready by our utmost exertions, in every legal and constitutional way, to support the just measures of your administration; and to lend our assistance in maintaining the peace and harmony of the States, and in opposing the insidious designs of those Persons, if there be any so deluded, who may wish to subject the country to foreign influence, and involve it in the horrors of War.

We are fully convinced, that an impartial Neutrality is the wish of the Inhabitants of this State, and that your Proclamation was received by them with cordial satisfaction and approbation.

We are happy in this oppertunity of declaring, that we still retain, undiminished, that just gratitude for your services, and respectful attachment to your Person, which warmed and united all hearts, and was witnessed by affectionate Addresses from every part of the union, on your first inauguration, as President of the States.4 Signed by order,

Saml Wyllys Chairman5

DS, in Samuel Wyllys’ writing, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

2Article 1, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power “To declare War,” while Article 2, section 2 states that the president “shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.” Article 2, section 3 states that the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

3For the Treaty of Alliance signed by the United States and France in 1778, see Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed. Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America. Vol. 2, 1776-1818. Washington, D.C., 1931. description ends , 35–44. The biblical quotation is from Luke 2:14.

4GW’s first inauguration was in New York City on 30 April 1789. For the many letters of congratulations and praise sent to GW, see Papers, Presidential Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series. 17 vols. to date. Charlottesville, Va., 1987—. description ends , vol. 2.

5On behalf of the citizens of Hartford, Samuel Wyllys wrote Connecticut native Oliver Wolcott, Jr., the comptroller of the U.S. Treasury, on 3 Aug. to ask that Wolcott forward this address to GW and send to Wyllys “such answer, (if any) as the President should see fit to make” (DLC:GW). Wolcott then sent the address to GW with a brief cover letter of 7 Aug. 1793 (DLC:GW). A Hartford native, Wyllys (1739–1823) was a 1758 graduate of Yale and a Revolutionary War veteran. After the war he practiced law in Hartford, where he was town clerk, 1796–1805. He served as the secretary of state for Connecticut, 1796–1809, and he was a major-general in the state militia, 1793–1796.

GW’s reply to the citizens of Hartford on or about 19 Aug. reads: “The address of the Inhabitants of the City of Hartford contains sentiments too favorable to the public weal, too partial to myself not to claim & receive my affectionate acknowledgments.

“It, at the same time, affords a new proof of that characteristic love of order and peace, of that virtuous & enlightened zeal, for the public good, which distinguishes the Inhabitants of Connecticut.

“’Tis from dispositions like these that we may hope to avoid an interruption of the numerous blessings, which demand our gratitude to Heaven; or that we may be encouraged to meet with firmness, confiding in the protection of a just Providence, any attempts to disturb them, which intemperance or injustice, from whatever quarter, may at any time make it our duty to encounter” (LB, DLC:GW). Both addresses were printed in the Connecticut Courant (Hartford) on 19 August.

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